The psychology of the seasons is still an obscure subject, but common experience indicates its salient principle: at certain junctures of the year there arises among individuals a general fever of the blood, a sort of common malaise, a complex yearning for something outside the ordinary round of life. The calendrical malaise, however, is inextinguishable; it returns each year with the moment that excites it.One way or another the urge of a season finds its outlet.
Twenty-five hundred years ago this spring, Greek maidens were dancing wildly on Mount Parnassus to honor the great god Dionysus. Four thousand years ago this spring, Babylonians were taking part in mock battles and stripping their king of his official regalia. These were the magical rites of spring, carried out to ensure the renewal of the earth’s fertility, the celebrations of ancient people steeped in superstition. When James Fraser published The Golden Bough, his Victorian readers concluded that modern society in his marvelous progress had laid aside such childish practices. Clearly, we are not that certain that ancient festivals were quite so juvenile or that the need for seasoned rituals was only the province of myth-ridden barbarians.
The central theme of spring-the annual renewal of life, runs like a bright thread through an enormous tapestry of ancient rites and enduring myths. Humankind has never failed to respond to that annual renewal of life. It arises within us as the fever in the blood known as spring.
Nietzsche:In the same place Schopenhauer also described for us the monstrous horror which seizes a man when he suddenly doubts his ways of comprehending illusion, when the sense of a foundation, in any one of its forms, appears to suffer a breakdown. If we add to this horror the ecstatic rapture, which rises up out of the same collapse of the principium individuationis from the innermost depths of human beings, yes, from the innermost depths of nature, then we have a glimpse into the essence of the Dionysian, which is presented to us most closely through the analogy to intoxication.
Either through the influence of narcotic drink, of which all primitive men and peoples speak, or through the powerful coming on of spring, which drives joyfully through all of nature, that Dionysian excitement arises. As its power increases, the subjective fades into complete forgetfulness of self. In the German Middle Ages under the same power of Dionysus constantly growing hordes waltzed from place to place, singing and dancing. In that St. John’s and St. Vitus’s dancing we recognize the Bacchic chorus of the Greeks once again, and its precursors in Asia Minor, right back to Babylon and the orgiastic Sacaea [a riotous Babylonian festival]. Read More:http://www.denisdutton.com/nietzsche.htm
So is it true? Was there such a resurrection of Dionysus in ancient mythology? My first possible reference for the resurrection of Dionysius is Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, 35. But if you look, you don’t find our starting point. Where next?…
Many of these legends have some kind of link to J. G. Frazer’s Golden Bough. In vol. 1 of the 1894 edition — later editions seem to omit this material – on p.318 I find a claim that Hero
s (book ii. 49) “found the similarity between the rites of Osiris and Dionysus so great, that he thought it impossible the latter could have arisen independently” — perhaps so — and then mention of Plutarch, Isis and Osiris, 35. Do these give us what we want? But the Plutarch passage is not really the same idea. On p.322 of Frazer we read:
Like the other gods of vegetation whom we have been considering, Dionysus was believed to have died a violent death, but to have been brought to life again ; and his sufferings, death, and resurrection were enacted in his sacred rites. But no reference is given….Read More:http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/?p=6102
….Now if we look at the first reference, to Diodorus, we get a long series of legends about Dionysus. But there is nothing in this about a death and resurrection; he undergoes three births, and he gets identified with vegetation as well as with the Earth-mother. The labours of Bill Thayer have made the translation available to us all:
Furthermore, the early men have given Dionysus the name of “Dimetor,” reckoning it as a single and first birth when the plant is set in the ground and begins to grow, and as a second birth when it becomes laden with fruit and ripens its clusters, the god, therefore, being considered as having been born once from the earth and again from the vine. And though the writers of myths have handed down the account of a third birth as well, at which, as they say, the Sons of Gaia tore to pieces the god, who was a son of Zeus and Demeter, and boiled him, but his members were brought together again by Demeter and he experienced a new birth as if for the first time, such accounts as this they trace back to certain causes found in nature. For he is considered to be the son of Zeus and Demeter, they hold, by reason of the fact that the vine gets its growth both from the earth and from rains and so bears as its fruit the wine which is pressed out from the clusters of grapes; and the statement that he was torn to pieces, while yet a youth, by the “earth-born” signifies the harvesting of the fruit by the labourers, and the boiling of his members has been worked into a myth by reason of the fact that most men boil the wine and then mix it, thereby improving its natural aroma and quality. …Read More:http://www.roger-pearse.com/weblog/?p=6102