Wednesday, 2 December 2009


"Lillian Lawler, writing in the 1960s, leaves no doubt that ecstatic dancing was indigenous to the mainstream Greek tradition... Within the ancient Western world, many deities served as the objects of ecstatic worship... But there was one Greek god for whom ecstatic worship was not simply an option; it was a requirement. To ignore his call was to risk a fate worse than death or even physical torture; those who resisted him would be driven mad and forced to destroy their own children. This god, source of both ecstasy and terror, was Dionysus or, as he was known to the Romans, Bacchus.

"His mundane jurisdiction covered vinyards and wine, but his more spiritual responsibility was to preside over the orgeia (literally, rites performed in the forest at night, from which we derive the word orgy), where his devotees danced themselves into a state of trance.

"The fact that the Greeks felt the need for such a deity tells us something about the importance of ecstatic experience in their world; just as their pantheon included gods for love, for war, for agriculture, metalworking, and hunting, they needed a god to give the experience of ecstasy a human form and face."

- Dancing in the Streets, Barbara Ehrenreich p 32-33

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