Sunday, July 6, 2014

These dialogues are riddled with hostility, and generally divisive overall. [EDITED]

"What happens if Dionysus’ ecstasy is not balanced by the tempering influence of Apollo’s cool rationality?"
- John Halstead.

What happens when we ignore the purificatory functions of ecstasy? What happens when we forget that Dionysos is not merely a god of ecstasy, but also of liberation - both temporally during life* - and after death? What happens when we pre-suppose a God associated with the arts, the Muses, and an ecstatic oracular center (the Delphic Oracle) is composed of 'cool rationality'? What happens when we forget that Apollo had ecstatic cults associated with him, such as the Hirpi Sorani? What happens when you ask inapt questions rather than read, say, the Orphic Hymns or translations of Orphic tablets and gold-leaf inscriptions and try to formulate an idea about the over-arching cosmology in which the cultists themselves felt they lived, and the literary bricollage which inherently aided them in their spiritual tasks?

What happens is that we end up with an easily reductive, simplistic view of the devotees to those Gods, and forget that even when one was devoted to a particular deity, that deity still existed within a rich tapestry that does, indeed, balance out quite nicely. It demonstrates the very Pantheon that Mr. Halstead reveres, but never bothered to look into. He need only have visited the Thiasos of the Starry Bull blog and hovered his mouse over "prayers" to have seen prayers to both Dionysos and Apollon, thereby invalidating his comparisons entirely.**

Even in the Orphic tablets and gold-leaf instructions for the Netherworld, we are presented with a vast array of Principalities and Powers, of which Bacchus plays a special role... But he is hardly alone:
You have just died and have just been born, thrice happy, on this day.
Tell Persephone that Bacchus himself has liberated you.
A bull, you leapt into the milk.
Swift, you leapt into the milk.
A ram, you fell into the milk.
You have wine, a happy privilege
and you will go under the earth, once you have accomplished the same
rites as the other happy ones.

—  L 7a-b Two tablets from Pelinna, 4th cent. B.C., 1st edition Tsantsanoglou and Parassoglou (1987) 3 ff. (From Bernabe & Christophe, Instructions for the Netherworld. P. 62)
 Or we could look here:
This is the work of Mnemosyne. When he is on the point of dying
Toward the well-build abode of Hades, on the Right there is a Fountain,
And near it, erect, a white cypress tree.
There the souls, when they go down, refresh themselves.
Don't come near this fountain!
But further on you will find, from the lake of Mnemosyne,
Water freshly flowing. On its banks there are guardians.
The will ask you, with sagacious discernment,
Why you are investigating the darkness of gloomy Hades.
Say: “I am a son of Earth and Starry Heaven;
I am dry with thirst and dying. Give me, then, right away,
Fresh water to drink from the lake of Mnemosyne.”
And to be sure, they will consult the Subterranean Queen,
And they will give you water to drink from the lake of Mnemosyne,
So that once you have drunk, you too will go along the Sacred Way,
By which the other mystai and bacchoi advance, glorious.”
- Tablet from Hipponion (c. 400 BCE). Museo Archeologico Statale di Vibo. First edition, Pugliese Carratelli (1974) 108 f. (ibid, P.8)
Halstead writes:
"Fortunately, not all Pagan priests identify so completely with the object of their devotion, and not all deities are as destructive as Dionysus.  But, as a Jungian Neo-Pagan*, I think the danger is always there in focusing exclusively on one god or goddess."
And yet he remains in the dark, apparently incapable of using either Google, or academic texts, to see if any of his assumptions are even remotely correct. Which, ultimately, is why these dialogues are riddled with hostility, and generally divisive overall. But even then, I can forgive Mr. Halstead for the flaws inherent in his comments, because he is neither involved with Bacchic Orphism, nor has he probably been exposed to the idea that we worship more than one god. The problem remains that he could have bothered to make sure he was on the mark before he wrote his column, rather than instead cherry-picking troublesome elements from a dispersion of blog entries that he imagined sufficed for his task.

I, for one, invite Mr. Halstead to become a Child of Earth and Starry Heaven, or at least take the time to contemplate the ramifications of such a statement. For within that statement of being is something I think a Jungian Neo-Pagan could agree with.

* Dionysos is the cause of release, whence the god is also called Lusios. And Orpheus says: “Men performing rituals will send hekatombs in every season throughout the year and celebrate festivals, seeking release from lawless ancestors. You, having power over them, whomever you wish you will release from harsh toil and the unending goad.”
- Damascius, Commentary on the Phaedo 1.11 
** I was incorrect in assuming a prayer to Apollo Soranus had already been written, and made the same mistake that I criticize Mr. Halstead for. This was a major failboat on my part. So I suggest anyone who balks at my tone - which could have been better (I was intensely irritated to see Dionysos characterized as a 'destructive god' in an overly simplistic fashion) - take my hyperbolic annoyance with a grain of salt. We all make mistakes, and I should just let Mr. Halstead be. Which, henceforth, I shall. But seriously, we do venerate Apollo.

1 comment:

Ariadne in Exile said...

This was one of those rare things I actually paid attention to (usually I stay out of the pagan blogosphere kerfuffles) but I absolutely agree with the spirit of your post. He was so blatantly cherry-picking. Whether to prove his point, push buttons, or out of laziness. It's that, and not differences of opinion on the original topic, which is problematic.