Date(s) - 16/04/2020
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Campus Can Benet Vives
Categories No Categories
the maenads were intoxicated female worshippers of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, known for their “ecstatic revelations and frenzied dancing”. The mythical female followers of Dionysus, including bacchants and thyai as well as maenads, were said to have sought the “wild delirium” of possession by the god so they could “get out of themselves”, which was called “ekstasis“. The male counterparts of the Maenads were the Korybantes (Greek: Κορύβαντες), armed and crested ecstatic dancers who worshipped the Phrygian goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing. They were the offspring of the muse Thalia and the god Apollo. The Greeks often confused them with other ecstatic male confraternities, such as the Idaean Dactyls (Greek: Δάκτυλοι Ἰδαῖοι) or the Cretan Kouretes (Κουρῆτες), spirit-youths (kouroi) with magical powers who acted as guardians of the infant Zeus.
The myths gave rise to ancient Greek practices in honour of Dionysus. The oreibasia (“mountain dancing”) was a midwinter Dionysian rite practised by women, and said to be originally an “unrestrained, ecstatic dance where the ‘human’ personality was temporarily replaced by another”, though it eventually became structured into a definite ritual.
The theologian W. O. E. Oesterley argues that Old Testament passages such as 1 Kings 18:26, “They [The prophets of Baal] limped about the altar they had made”, and 1 Kings 18:21, “How long will ye limp upon two legs?” describe a kind of ecstatic dance used for pagan worship in which the knees were bent, one after the other, to give a kind of limping step repeated for each leg. He notes that the dance increased “to an orgiastic frenzy”, as by 1 Kings 18:28 the dancers are crying aloud and cutting themselves “with knives and lances”. He suggests that this might have been intended to awaken the god’s pity and hence answer the people’s prayers. Oesterley compares this to Apuleius‘s account in his 2nd century The Golden Ass 8:27-28 of the ecstatic dance of the priests of the Syrian goddess, in which “they began to howl all out of tune and hurl themselves hither and thither as though they were mad. They made a thousand gest[ure]s with their feet and their heads; they would bend down their necks, and spin round so that their hair flew out at a circle; they would bite their own flesh; finally, everyone took his two-edged weapon and wounded his arms in divers[e] places.”
Oesterley notes also that Heliodorus of Emesa recorded in his 3rd century Aethiopica 4:16ff that sailors from Tyre performed a dance worshipping their god Herakles, to the “quick music” of flutes, hopping, jumping up, “limping along on the ground, and then turning with the whole body, spinning around like men possessed.”