Nathan (vovat) wrote,
Nathan
vovat

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Rock Us, Bacchus



I feel I would be remiss in my continuing quest to acknowledge obscure holidays if I didn't mention the Bacchanalia, a feast of drunkenness and orgies celebrated by the Romans on the sixteenth through seventeenth of March. Actually, there were apparently Bacchanalia celebrated throughout the year, but that appears to have been the main time for the festival. The celebrations were banned by the Senate in 186 BC, although there was a stipulation that the Senate could approve Bacchanalia if they deem them necessary. I can only imagine the paperwork that was necessary to petition for one.

As you probably know, Bacchus was the Roman equivalent of the Greek Dionysus. As the god of wine, Dionysus was associated with drunken revelry, and was said to be attended by wild women known as Maenads. But he was also the subject of a mystery cult, and followers claimed to feel his presence inside of them. According to some scholars, his essence was said to enter the wine that believers drank, so that they were symbolically drinking the god himself. Sound familiar? He was also a resurrected deity, although not quite in the same manner as Jesus. After his mortal mother Semele died from seeing Zeus's true form, the King of Olympus had the fetus stitched into his own thigh. An alternate myth says that the infant Dionysus was torn apart by Titans, but Zeus resurrected him from his heart. When listing parallels between Dionysus and Jesus, there's also the latter's transformation of water to wine at the wedding in Cana. The importance of wine in the Gospels makes me wonder how some branches of Christianity are teetotal. There are plenty of good reasons to abstain from alcohol, but I don't think Jesus is one of them. The Son of God seemed to be in favor of alcohol, at least on special occasions. But I digress.

We've already discussed how the Romans imported the Greek gods, but didn't always view them in the same way the Greeks did. In this case, I get the impression that the Romans had less respect for Bacchus than the Greeks did for Dionysus. While the Dionysian mystery religion did spread into Rome, the general Roman conception of the god seemed to be more akin to the lovable town drunk type that we see in Fantasia.



If all goes according to plan, I'll be getting into the Easter spirit next week by looking at a god who sacrificed himself on a tree. Yes, none other than Odin, leader of the Norse pantheon.
Tags: drinks, history, holidays, mythology, religion
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