The price of existence is eternal warfare.Speaking as an Irishman, I prefer to say:The price of eternal warfare is existence.And melancholy as existence is, the price is well worth paying.Is there is a Government? Then I'm agin it!To Hell with the bloody English!“O FRATER PERDURABO, how unworthy are these sentiments!”“D'ye want a clip on the jaw?”- Aleister Crowley, The Book of Lies.
“Brass-beating Salians, ministers of Mars, who guard his arms the instruments of wars
Whose blessed frames, heav'n, earth, and sea compose, and from whose breath all animals arose: Who dwell in Samothracia's sacred ground, defending mortals thro' the sea profound. Deathless Curetes, by your pow'r alone, initial rites to men at first were shewn: Who shake old Ocean thund'ring to the sky, and stubborn oaks with branches waving high. 'Tis your's in glittering arms the earth to beat, with lightly-leaping, rapid, sounding feet; Then every beast the noise terrific flies, and the loud tumult wanders thro' the skies: The dust your feet excites with matchless force, flies to the clouds amidst their whirling course; And ev'ry flower of variegated hue, grows in the dancing motion form'd by you. Immortal dæmons, to your pow'rs consign'd the talk to nourish, and destroy mankind. When rushing furious with loud tumult dire, o'erwhelm'd, they perish in your dreadful ire; And live replenish'd with the balmy air, the food of life, committed to your care. When shook by you, the seas, with wild uproar, wide-spreading, and profoundly whirling, roar: The concave heav'ns, with Echo's voice resound, when leaves with ruffling noise bestrew the ground. Curetes, Corybantes, ruling kings, whose praise the land of Samothracia sings: From Jove descended; whose immortal breath sustains the soul, and wafts her back from death; Aerial-form'd, much-fam'd, in heav'n ye shine two-fold, in heav'n all-lucid and divine: Blowing, serene, from whom abundance springs, nurses of seasons, fruit-producing kings.”- Orphic Hymn #37: To the Curetes.
“But some historians, and Ephoros is one of them, record that the Daktyloi Idaioi (Idaean Dactys) [i.e. the Kabeiroi or Korybantes] were in fact born on the Mt. Ide which is in Phrygia and passed over to Europe together with Mygdon; and since they were wizards (gonta), they practiced charms and initiatory rites and mysteries, and in the course of a sojourn in Samothrake they [as Kabeiroi or Korybantes] amazed the natives of that island not a little by their skill in such matters. And it was at this time, we are further told, that Orpheus, who was endowed with an exceptional gift of poesy and song, also became a pupil of theirs, and he was subsequently the first to introduce initiatory rites and Mysteries to the Greeks.”
- Diodorus Siculus, Library of History. (Source.)
|Zeus, possibly with the Curetes depicted with wings beside him.|
[Excerpts from Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religon by Jane Ellen Harrison. 1912.]
“The myth of the birth of Zeus and its ritual enactment is recounted by Stabo as follows. After mentioning the mysteries of Demeter and Dionysos, he says, 'These things in general and the sacred ceremonies of Zeus in particular, are performed with orgiastic rites and with assistance of attendants similar to the Satyrs that attend Dionysos. These attendants they call Kouretes; they are certain young men who perform armed movements accompanied by dancing. They allege as their reason the myth about the birth of Zeus, in which Kronos is introduced with his habit of swallow his children immediately after birth, and Rhea trying to conceal her birth-pangs and to get the new-born child out of the way and doing her utmost to save it. With a view to this she enlists the Kouretes. They surround the goddess and with drums and with the din of other instruments try to strike terror into Kronos and to escape notice whilst trying to filch away the child. The child is then given over to them to be reared with the same care by which it was rescued.'
A little earlier in his discussion of the functions of the Kouretes he says they are 'daimones or attendants on the gods, similar to the Satyroi, Seilenoi, Bacchoi and Tityroi, and this is expressly stated by those who hand down the tradition of Cretan and Phrygian ceremonies, these being involved with certain sacred rites, some of them mystical, others relating to the child-nurture of Zeus and the orgiastic rites of the Mother of the Gods in Phrygia and in the region about the Trojan Ida.'
Strabo thought that the child reared and protected by the Kouretes was Zeus, but our ritual Hymn knows him only as Kouros. It need not therefore surprise us that the Kouros appears elsewhere with other names. He is sometimes Dionysos, sometimes Zagreus.”
(P. 13 – 14.)
“This does not, however, imply, as is sometimes supposed, that ritual is prior to myth; they probably arose together. Ritual is the utterance of an emotion, a thing felt, in action, myth in words or thoughts. The arise pari passu.”
“At and through his initiation the boy is brought into close communion with his tribal ancestors: he becomes socialized, part of the body politic. Henceforth he belongs to something bigger, more potent, more lasting, than his own individual existence: he is part of the stream of totemic life, one with the generation before and yet to come...
The ritual, then, commemorated and perhaps in part enacted in our Hymn is the ritual of tribal Initiation. The Kouretes are Young Men who have been initiated themselves and will initiate others, will instruct them in tribal duties and tribal dances, will steal them away from their mothers, conceal them, make away with them by some pretended death and finally bring them back as new-born, grown youths, full members of the tribe...”
(P. 19 – 20)
“Primarily then the Koretes are, in their capacity of Initiators, Child-Nurturers, Guardians. Strabo is on this point emphatic. 'In the Cretan discourses,' he says, 'the Kouretes are called the nurses and guardians of Zeus,' and again in trying to explain the word Kouretes he says, 'they were so called either because they were young and boys, or because of their rearing of Zeus.' They earned this title, he adds, through being 'as it were Saturs attendant on Zeus...' In the light of this initiation nurture the other functions of the Kouretes fall easily and naturally into place.
The Kouretes are armed and orgiastic dancers. Strabo says they are certain youths who execute movements in armour; it is especially as inspired dancers that they fulfill their function as ministers in sacred rites. 'They inspire terror by armed dances accompanied by noise and hubbub of timbrels and clashing arms and also by the sound of the flure and shouting.' Nursing young children or even drilling young boys are functions that seem to us scarcely congruous with the dancing of armed dances... But the Kouretes as Initiators continue their incongruous functions. Pantomimic dancing is the essence of each and every mystery function. To disclose the mysteries is as Lucian puts it 'to dance out the mysteries'...”
(P. 23 – 24.)
“The ancient Kouretes were not merely young men; they were half divine, Daimones. The Kouros in the Hymn is bidden to come at the head of his Daimones. As daimones the Kouretes resembled, Strabo says, Satyrs, Seilenoi, Bacchoi, Titroi. Divine but not quite gods, they are as we shall presently see the stuff of which ancient gods are made. Hesiod, and Hesiod only, calls them actually gods. He tells of:
… the worthless idle race of Satyrs,And the gods, Kouretes, lovers of sport and dancing.
In the light of initiation ceremonies we understand why the Kouretes and Korybantes though they were real live youths are yet regarded as [daimones], as half divine, as possessed, enthusiastic, ecstatic, and why their ceremonies are characterized by Strabo as orgiastic. The precise meaning of orgies will concern us later; for the present it is enough to note that in most savage mysteries** it is a main part of the duty of initiators to impersonate gods or demons. The initiators dress up as the ancestral ghosts of the tribe, sometimes even wearing the actual skulls*** of their ancestors, and in this disguise dance round the catechumens and terrify them half out of their senses. It is only when fully initiated that the boys learn that these terrific figures are not spirits at all but just their living uncles and cousins...
As [daimones] whether wholly or half divine the Kouretes have all manner of magical capacities. These capacities are by Strabo rather implied than expressely stated and are especially noticeable in their Phrygian equivalents, Korybantes. The Korybantes bind and release men from spells, they induce madness and heal it. The chorus asks love-sick Phaedra:
Is this some Spirit, O child of man?Doth Hecat hold thee perchance, or Pan?Doth She of the Mountains work her ban,Or the dread Corybantes bind thee?
The Kouretes are also, as all primitive magicians are, seers. When Minos in Crete lost his son Glaukos he sent for the Kouretes to discover where the child was hidden. Closely akin to this magical aspect is the fact that they are metal-workers. Among primitive people metallurgy is an uncanny craft and the smith is half medicine man. The metal-working side of these figures comes out best in the kindred Daktyls and Telchines. A step more and the magicians become Culture-Heroes, inventors of all the arts of life, house-building, bee-keeping, shield-making, and the like. As culture-heroes they attend the Kouros in the hymn...”
(P. 25 – 27.)
“We are in the palace of Minos in Crete.A child has been born to the royal house, a portent, the monstrous Minotaur. Minos is troubled, he will purify the palace, will ask the meaning of the portent... Minos then sends for the priests and medicine men, the Idaean Daktyls, presumably to purify the palace and bring peace and understanding. They leave their secret sanctuary on Ida – the strange manner of its building they describe, they come in white robes to the terror-stricken palace and in solemn anapaests tell of the manner of their life on Mount Ida and of the initiation ceremonies that have made them what they are and have given them authority to cleanse and interpret.
Their avowal of ritual acts performed on Mount Ida is as follows:
There in one pure streamMy days have run, the servant IInitiate of Idaean Jove;Where midnight Zagreus roves, I rove.I have endured his thunder-cry,Fulfilled his red and bleeding feasts;Held the Great Mother's mountain flame;Enhallowed I and named by nameA Bacchos of the Mailed Priests.Robed in pure white I have borne me cleanFrom man's vile birth and coffined clayAnd exiled from my lips alwaysTouch of all meat where Life hath been.
The analogies between these rites and the initiation rites discussed in the last chapter are obvious. We have, here as there to do with mysteries performed by the 'mailed priests,' the Kouretes, and these mysteries are the mysteries of Zagreus, and of the Great Mother, and of Zeus. But, be it noted, it is Idaean, not Diktaean Zeus whom the Kouretes now serve. This leads us to suspect – what is indeed I believe the fact – that we have to do with initiation ceremonies of a later and more highly developed type, initiation ceremonies not merely tribal and social, whether of infancy or adolescence, but ceremonies that have become in the later sense mysteries, rites which only a chosen few were admitted... Moreover the initiated man in these rites was, when fully consecrated, called a Bacchos, and the Bacchoi were always a select congregation. Plato tells us that those concerned with rites of initiation used to say: Few are the Bacchoi, many bear the Wand.
It may be conjectured that the rite here administered by the Kouretes was some sort of rite of ordination of a medicine-man. In this connection it is interesting to note that Epimenides of Crete, the typical medicine-man of antiquity, was called by his contemporaries the 'New Kouros.' Plutarch in his account of the purifications of Athens in the days of Solon says of Epimenides that he was a man of Phaistos, son of the nymph Balte, 'beloved of the gods,' and 'an adept in religious matters dealing with the lore of orgiastic and initiation rites.' It was because of this that he was reputed to by the son of a nymph and gained the title of Koures. Koures, as has already been noted, can only mean Young Man in a specialized sense. We may conjecture – though it is only a conjecture – that the Kouretes were Young Men selected from the general band of initiated youths. One of their functions was, it appears, the consecration of the Bacchoi.
Plutarch naturally regards Epimenides as 'dear to the gods,' and an adept in matters religious, but the traditions gathered round his name are those of magic and medicine rather than of religion. He is credited indeed, and perhaps rightly, with the authorship of a Theogony as well as an Argonautika, a Kretika, Purifications, Sacrifices, and Oracles, and a notable fact, a Birth of the Kouretes and Korybantes; but when we come to his life and acts his true inwardness as a medicine-man emerges.”
(P. 50 – 53.)
“Io, Kouros most Great, I give thee hail, Kronian, Lord of all
that is wet and gleaming, thou art come at the head of thy
Daimones. To Dikte for the Year, Oh, march, and rejoice in the
dance and song,
That we make to thee with harps and pipes mingled together,
and sing as we come to a stand at thy well-fenced altar.
For here the shielded Nurturers took thee, a child immortal,
from Rhea, and with noise of beating feet hid thee away.
And the Horai began to be fruitful year by year (?) and
Dike to possess mankind, and all wild living things were held
about by wealth- loving Peace.
To us also leap for full jars, and leap for fleecy flocks, and leap
for fields of fruit, and for hives to bring increase.
Leap for our Cities, and leap for our sea-borne ships, and leap
for our young citizens and for goodly Themis.”
- Hymn of the Kouretes, (taken from Themis Chapter 1, P. 7-8 by Jane Ellen Harrison. 1911.)
* Thiasos: a band or company assembled in honor of a divinity.
** This book would be awesome in an utterly amazing way if it were not for some of the early 21st century word choices.
*** Masks, mofo. Can you dig how to use them?
*** Masks, mofo. Can you dig how to use them?