Roman Greek Festival Glossary
  aulos || bassaris || bull ||Ecstasy ||Entheogen ||Eleusinian Mysteries || Euripides  ||Gender || Hieros Gamos || HYGIENE [ROMAN] || Initiation||Ivy || kantharos ||Katabasis || Kraters ||masks || nebrex|| pagan|| panther ||phallos ||Pythagoras|| Religion|| Serpent ||THIASOS || Theseus|| Thyrsos|| toga virilis || tympanon ||Wine
Saturnalia || CALCULATING EASTER || Roman Festivals Roman Greek Festival Glossary
AMPHORA -Double-handled storage or transport jar of clay or bronze, especially for oil or wine.


APHRODITE (Venus) was the great Olympian Goddess of Beauty, Joy, Love, fertility, beauty and Sex. Her wrath fell primarily upon those who failed to show her due reverence and upon those who scorned love.   When Zeus killed his father, Uranus, he cut off his father's genitals and cast them into the sea. The sea foamed and boiled and Aphrodite arose from the waters. As Aphrodite stepped from the ocean, flowers grew wherever her feet touched. Paphos, the place where Aphrodite supposedly rose from the waters, was her most important place of worship, and at Corinth she was worshiped with sacred whores. Aphrodite is clearly related to Ishtar and Astarte and very much loves the company of the male gods. While married to Hephaestus, she also dallied with Ares, Poseidon, Adonis, and Dionysus.

APOLLO God of light, god of prophecy and music, god of medicine, god of flocks and herds, the divine archer, a pastoral god. Wise, beauteous, all-knowing, ever just, ever young. Apollo urges forgiveness to all offenses, even the blackest of crimes, so long as the offender was truly penitent. After Zeus and Athene, the greatest of the Gods. Apollo's most important place of worship was the famous temple at Delphi, where oracles prophesied in his name. The Sybil at Cumae in southern Italy also foretold the future in his honor. Paintings and statuary show him with his bow and lyre, which were a gift from the infant Hermes. Apollo loved young men and young women alike, though his affairs usually ended unhappily. Artemis is his twin sister, and Horus is his counterpart in the Egyptian pantheon.

ARTEMIS Fertility goddess, patron of maidens, goddess of childbirth. Identified with the moon, as her brother Apollo is identified with the sun. The Virgin Huntress, Mistress of Beasts, Lady of All Wild Things, A Lion unto Women. Usually benevolent, but stern and demanding, dangerous to cross. Artemis lived in Arcadia with a band of nymphs subject to her strict discipline; those who dallied with men, as did Callisto, might be shot down with an arrow or otherwise punished. No man or god ever gained the love of Artemis. Artemis is virtually unbeatable in combat. The only one of the immortals who ever bested her was Hera, who defeated Artemis on the battlefield at Troy, whipped her with her own bow, and sent her fleeing in tears.

aulos The ancient Greek aulos, often mistranslated as "flute", was a double-piped reed instrument. Archeological finds indicate that it could be either single-reeded, like a clarinet, but more usually double-reeded, like an oboe. Unlike the lyre, which could be mastered by any aristocrat with sufficient leisure to practice it, the aulos was an instrument chiefly associated with professional musicians, often slaves. The aulos, the double flute, was the trance instrument par excellence among the Greeks. Entranced persons could be said to be en-aulized.

 Female aulos-players were a fixture of Greek drinking parties, and male and female aulos players often doubled as prostitutes.

The aulos accompanied a wide range of Greek activities: it was present at sacrifices, dramas and even wrestling matches, for the broad jump, the discus throw, sailor's dances on triremes. Plato associates it with the ecstatic cults of Dionysus and the Korybantes. In his writings, Plato banned the aulos from his Republic but reintroduced it in "Laws".

BASILEUS - Originally king, it became the title of the chief arkhon with jurisdiction over state religious observances. The plural is basileis.
bassaris Dionysus wears the "bassaris" or fox-skin, symbolizing new life
bull From earliest times the bull was lunar in Mesopotamia, its hornsDownload representing the crescent moon. For the Greeks, the bull was strongly linked to the Bull of Crete: Theseus of Athens had to capture the ancient sacred bull of Marathon (the "Marathonian bull") before he faced the Bull-man, the Minotaur. Of all of the animals that man has domesticated, few of them possess the strength, power, and virility of the bull. Dionysos was frequently called the Horned God, and specifically the Bull-horned God. Dionysus is invoked by his devotees as both raging bull and a panther, each creatures of ferocious strength and aggressiveness. In the Bacchae of Euripides, Pentheus comes to gloat over his captive, only to find the beautiful stranger vanished, and in his place a raging bull. He was also invoked as a 'thousand-headed serpent' in the Bacchae, and was often shown with serpents.
The sacred bull survives in the constellation Taurus.


Constantine 272 - 337 AD

 Constantine marked out the perimeter of his new city, Constantinopleon November 8, 324 AD not long after he had taken control of the east, including Egypt, from his rival. By 324 AD, Constantine ruled the whole empire. One important step in this rise had been his invasion of Italy from Gaul in 312 AD. In 325 AD, Constantine the Great convened the first church council. Here the Nicene Creed was formulated and the Arian heresy condemned. He converted to Christianity and established Constantinople as the new capital of the empire. Constantine made his councilor entrance into the Church of Hagia Sophia, thereby establishing the tradition of sartorial magnificence that was to earn the Byzantine emperors such an undeserved reputation for effeminacy in later centuries.
DAIMON - An intermediatory between man and a God often in the form of a spirit. Sokrates believed a daimon acted as a guardian and counselor during his career. Daimones (pl.) can be either or neither benevolent or malevolent.
Drugs The Dionysian cult used not just wine but an hallucinogenic brew and that the maenads were reputed to have red eyes with dilated pupils from the ingestion of tropanes from mandrake and related plants. Other psychotropics have also been suggested as well.
Ecstasy Dionysian ecstasy is a mass phenomenon and spreads almost infectiously. This is expressed mythically by the fact that the god is always surrounded by his swarm of followers. This can also be called madness.

enthousiasmos ("having the god in us", compare enthusiasm: en="in", thou="god", compare "theo" in theology)

ekstasis ("standing outside of ourselves" wherein we "lose ourselves" in the group experience:

enthousiasmos and ekstasis combined together express the "loss of self" when the god "enters us"-- the notion that the individual, in Dionysiac cult and thinking,  is lost to his/her enthusiasm for the GROUP experience

  Everyone who surrenders to this god must risk abandoning his everyday identity and becoming mad: both god and follower can be called Bacchus. Dionysus when he is "in us" causes us to "stand outside ourselves" with the group and enjoy the irrational side of our nature.

"The name Bacchus for Dionysos is inseparable in Greek from a verb meaning "to act like a Bacchant"--that is, to become agitated, to cry out, to fall into a trance, to act crazily. the ancient trance and excitement. Translators have had trouble finding the worlds to describe that frenetic madness without falling into the vocabulary of pathology." Ginnette Paris Pagan Grace

"Early worshippers of Dionysos reenacted this gruesome scene by whipping themselves into a frenzy and tearing a live bull to pieces with their hands and teeth. These grisly rites, accompanied by loud music and the crashing of cymbals, were intended to propel the revelers into a state of ecstasy, a word literally meaning 'outside the body' to the Greeks. Through this ecstasy, the cultists hoped to transcend their earthly bonds and allow the soul a temporary liberation from the body. Only in this way could the soul achieve a condition of enthousiasmos, meaning 'inside the god,' which the worshipers believed was a taste of what they might one day enjoy in eternity."
     - The Search for the Soul 

"Following the torches as they dipped and swayed in the darkness, they climbed mountain paths with head thrown back and eyes glazed, dancing to the beat of the drum which stirred their blood…. In the state of ekstasis or enqousiasmos, they abandoned themselves, dancing wildly…. and calling 'Euoi!' At that moment of intense rapture they became identified with the god himself…. They became filled with his spirit and acquired divine powers".
Peter Hoyle, Delphi (London: 1967), p. 76.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were annual initiation ceremonies based at Eleusis near Athens in ancient Greece. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times these were held to be the ones of greatest importance. The Mysteries were based on the archetypal myth of death and rebirth where Demeter's daughter, Persephone, is kidnapped by Hades, the god of death and the underworld. Demeter was the goddess of life, agriculture and fertility. Demeter neglected her duties while searching for her daughter; causing a severe drought where the people starved. Finally Demeter was reunited with her daughter and the earth came back to life— the first spring. Persephone was unfortunately unable to stay permanently in the land of the living, because she had eaten six seeds of a pomegranate that Hades had given her. A compromise was worked out and Persephone stayed with Hades for one third of the year.

After as long as 2000 years The Roman emperor Theodosius I closed the sanctuaries by decree in CE 392 in an effort to destroy pagan resistance to the imposition of Christianity as a state religion


ERANOS - Sacred banquet. The eranos was also provided by associations devoted to sacred meals. The plural is eranoi.
Eris is the ancient Greek goddess of discord, daughter of Zeus and Hera and frequent companion of her brother (some say twin) Ares. The Romans associated her with their goddess Discordia… The most famous tale of Eris ("strife") recounts her initiating the Trojan War. The goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had been invited along with the rest of Olympus to the forced wedding of Peleus and Thetis, who would become the parents of Achilles, but Eris had been snubbed because of her troublemaking inclinations. She therefore tossed into the party a golden apple inscibed "Kallisti" -- "For the most beautiful one"-- provoking the goddesses to begin quarreling about the appropriate recipient. The hapless Paris, Prince of Troy, was appointed to select
the most beautiful….  each of the three goddesses immediately
attempted to bribe Paris to choose her. Hera offered Paris power. She offered to give him all of Asia, and great power, Athena offered him great wisdom, and great luck in battle. He would be the best strategist in the world. He loved this idea, but he waited to hear Aphrodite's offer.

Aphrodite offered him two things. The first was his body, and the second was the perfection of beauty, the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen., wife of Menelaus of Sparta. Since Paris's first love was women, he decided to pick Aphrodite's offer. Hera and Athena vowed vengeance.
world, Helen.

EROS God of love both heterosexual and homosexual, though his domain is not limited solely to sexual love and includes love in all its broadest senses. One of the oldest of the gods, the center of his worship was at Thespiae. The ancient Greeks feared Eros. Eros can cause havoc, and there is an air of maliciousness about him. Eros can drive men and women to noble self-sacrifice, but he can also torture them to madness and drive them to self-destruction. Lacking wisdom, moderns have made Eros contemptibly cute and sweet, and somewhat prankish.
Entheogen: The term "entheogen" was coined in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists and scholars of mythology  as a replacement for the term "hallucinogen" In its strictest sense the term refers to a psychoactive substance (most often some plant matter) that occasions enlightening spiritual or mystical experience, within the parameters of a cult. That certain drugs can facilitate the experience of states of consciousness that are then described by the experiencing subjects in words that are indistinguishable from many reports of religious experiences without drugs remains a controversial subject. Many scholars believe the Greeks who mixed many ingredients into their kantharos before imbibing at symposiums used entheogens.

EVOCATION - The calling forth of daimons into visible and sometimes tactile presence.

The Roman state wanted fertility among mothers. Widows were not allowed to remarry. Husbands went out of their way to keep
their own wives locked up like slaves. They deprived their wives of a life outside the home. It was forbidden for wives to
possess money. The legal age for marriage in Ancient Rome for a woman was age 12, whether she had reached puberty or not.
Virginity upon marriage was valued. Roman men were allowed to engage in adultery, but their wives were not. Female sexuality
was entirely defined in their patriarchical value: sex with wives for legitimate children and procreation of a man's children
and prostitutes, concubines and slaves for a man's sexual leisure, rape for power over any woman.

GAIA "Mother of all things." The Earth itself, mother of the Titans, the old gods. Usually represented as a giant woman. Before anything else existed, there was only Chaos (the Void, the Nothingness, the Emptiness) and the Earth. Gaia nurses the ill and watches over marriages. Gaia is an oracle as well, and the temple at Delphi was hers before it was Apollo's. The Greeks had no tales about Gaia, because she belonged to the distant past.

HADES, also PLUTO "The Unseen," "the Rich." God of wealth and the underworld. Hades is stern but perfectly just, and rejects all pleas for mercy, but he is in no sense evil or destructive. His realm is not a place of flames and torment, as is the Christian hell. Most dead souls dwell on the plain of Asphodel, where they wander aimlessly as mere shadows of their earthly selves. The blessed go to the Elysian Fields, a place of great joy and beauty, while the abominably wicked go to the dismal plain of Tartarus. You're born, you live, you die, you go to Hades.
Hellenistic The history of the ancient world is used to refer to the shift from a culture dominated by ethnic Greeks, however scattered geographically, to a culture dominated by Greek-speakers of whatever ethnicity, and from the political dominance of the city-state to that of larger monarchies. In this period the traditional Greek culture is changed by strong Eastern, especially Persian, influences, in aspects of religion, attitudes towards a monarch and other areas. Cultural centers shifted away from mainland Greece, to Pergamon, Rhodes, Antioch and Alexandria.

Modern historians see the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC as the beginning of the Hellenistic period. Alexander and the Macedonians conquered the eastern Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, and the Iranian plateau, and invaded India; his successors held on to the territory west of the Tigris for some time and controlled the eastern Mediterranean until the Roman Republic took control in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC. Most of the east was eventually overrun by the Parthians, but Hellenistic culture held on in distant locations like Bactria or the Cimmerian Bosporus.

Following Alexander's death, there was a struggle for the succession, known as the wars of the Diadochi (Greek, "successors"). These ended in 281 BC with the establishment of three large territorial states:
  • the Ptolemaic dynasty in Egypt based at Alexandria
  • the Seleucid dynasty in Syria based at Antioch
  • the Antigonid dynasty in Macedonia and the mainland of Greece

HERA; to the Romans, JUNO Wife of Zeus, queen of the gods. Zeus is quite a randy god, and Hera's domestic life with him is always stormy. Zeus and Hera were on opposite sides during the Trojan War, and they squabble all the way through the Iliad. At first a sky goddess, Hera later became the embodiment of womanliness. Like Dionysus, Hera is a pre-Olympian deity whose cult was so strong that it had to be adopted by the Dorian Greeks. Hera was worshiped in high places, and her temples were built on mountain peaks. Her festival, held at Argos and called the Heraia, involved athletic contests.

HERMES; to the Romans, MERCURY The messenger of the gods, the god of eloquence, the god of luck. God of travelers, merchants and athletes. Originally a pastoral and fertility god in Arcadia, in his oldest monuments Hermes is represented simply as a phallus. Easygoing, kind and obliging, Hermes is quite helpful to both gods and men, though he appears in some stories as a trickster. Hermes invented the lyre, which he gave to Apollo to get out of a mess he'd made by stealing Apollo's cattle. Hermes' image was often found at crossroads and junctions, and he is shown with winged sandals and a winged helmet. Hermes was quite popular.

HERO - A mortal divinized after stasis, to whom sacrifices and honours are paid. In Hesiodos the heroes are an intermediate generation between gods and mortals (demi-god).
Hieros Gamos  In Greece, ritual sex was referred to as the Hieros Gamos;  Hints from various ancient sources indicate that a Hieros Gamos may have been part of the Eleusinian mysteries. Clearly the rites of sacred marriage were central to ancient paganism. From an image of sacred fertility, to an image of sacred kingship, to an image of initiation, they worked on many levels, perhaps as far back as the Neolithic on all three at once.The Sumerians performed the Sacred Marriage, a union between a priestess of their goddess, Inanna, with a priest-king, as a means of obtaining the favor of this goddess for their cities.and evidence indicates that it was also practiced by the Egyptians in the cult of Isis up until the Roman era.

"The 'heiros gamos,' the sacred prostitute was the votary chosen to embody the goddess. She was the goddess' fertile womb, her passion and her erotic nature. In the union with the god, embodied by the reigning monarch, she assured the fertility and well-being of the land and the people. . . she did not make love in order to obtain admiration or devotion from the man who came to her, for often she remained veiled and anonymous; her raison d'ętre was to worship the goddess in lovemaking, thereby bringing the goddess love into the human sphere. In this union -- the union of masculine and feminine, spiritual and physical -- the personal was transcended and the divine entered in. As the embodiment of the goddess in the mystical union of the sacred marriage, the sacred prostitute aroused the male and was the receptacle for his passion . . . . The sacred prostitute was the holy vessel wherein chthonic and spiritual forces united."

Nancy Qualls-Corbett, The Sacred Prostitute: Eternal Aspect of the Feminine (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1988), pp. 39-40.

Homoerotism The contrast between Roman and Greek homosexuality is most striking in how the two societies tried to regulate the sexual relations of adult citizens and freeborn boys. In Athens, ideally, both parties were freeborn and social equals; the tie between them was consensual; and (in some instances) educational as well as sexual.
At Rome, the typical same-sex relationship was between a citizen (active) and his adolescent slave (passive). For free-born Romans, the slave had no rights, while the rights of the master included unrestricted sexual access to the slave's body. What mattered more was role, age, and status. The freeborn adult Roman who liked to copulate with males penetrated slave boys, eunuchs, and male prostitutes with as little reproach as he penetrated his female slaves, his female concubine, or female prostitutes. Most Romans thought it self-evident law of nature that attractive adolescent males, before they grew up and began to be desired by women, should be desired by men. 
The origin of initiation is as old as the earliest civilizations. In ancient times, the word mystery did not mean "strange" or "weird". Rather, it referred to a unique gnosis - knowledge which was to be revealed to the candidate for initiation. In fact, in ancient Rome the mysteries were called initia. The initiates were called mystae. The Latin word initiare meant "to Inspire".

INITIATE - A person who has undergone, or is about to undergo, the primary rite of entry into a ancient religion or mystery.
INO Daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia who nursed the infant Dionysus after Semele's death. When Hera drove her mad, she threw herself into the sea and was transformed into Leucothea, the white goddess of sea foam, a friend to sailors.
"Florence Dupont (Daily Life in Ancient Rome) writes that it was for reasons of ritual that the Romans washed frequently. And she adds that ". . . even in very ancient times and even in the depth of the country, Romans, including women and slaves, would wash every day and would have a thorough bath on every feast day if not more often. At Rome itself, baths were taken daily.

Hygiene in the Roman World was available to the rich and anyone who could afford the public baths or thermaes. Running water from lead pipes connected to the aqueducts was available in many homes. If you were not so rich folks relieved themselves in pots or commodes which were emptied into vats located under staircases and these emptied into cesspools throughout the city. At Pompeii, for instance, all houses except the poorest had water pipes fitted with taps, and the waste water was piped away into sewer or trench.

Ivy Dionysos and his Maenads are often pictured wearing the ivy  crown, Dionysos was called Kissos, "the Ivy", and with the vine, it is his most common symbol. Ivy is a plant that, like Dionysos, has two births. The first birth is when it sends out its shade-seeking shoots, with their distinctive leaves.


I am raised up and I will not reject the flute,
O ruler of my mind. Look, he stirs me up,
Euoi, the ivy now whirls me round in Bacchic contest. -Sophocles

 But after the dormant months of winter, when the God himself is reborn, it sends out another shoot, one that grows upright and towards the light, thus honoring the return of the vibrant God

kantharos The kantharos was a special drinking cup, said to be invented by the God himself. Unlike the skyphos, which was round, with small handles, the kantharos had a high base and projecting handles that stretched from the rim to the foot of the cup.

Kraters used to mix water and wine. In Greek Art the frolicking of Maenads and Dionysus is often a theme depicted on Greek kraters. At a Greek symposium, kraters were placed in the center of the room. They were quite large, so they were not easily portable when filled. Thus, the wine-water mixture would be withdrawn from the Krater with other vessels. Since kraters could be seen into, they were glazed on the interior for aesthetic reasons.

Robert Graves has argued that the original Dionysian rites were only partially wine-inspired. He has insisted, through his combination of sound scholarship and poetic insight, that the worship of Dionysus once also involved the ingestion of the hallucinogenic fly-agaric mushroom, Amanita muscaria.

As befits a psychedelic god, Dionysus was given to a bewildering series of mutations and transformations. Again echoing shamanism, with its traditions of shape-shifting,

Katabasis : (kuh-TAB-uh-sis): The literature of descent (from the Greek verb for ‘going down’, katabaino^).
Katabasis: ‘a Journey of the Dead made by a living person in the flesh who returns to our world to tell the tale’
 A technical term for a trip to the underworld
The first instance in Western literature of katabasis is that of Odysseus descending to Hades. He meets many souls there, including his mother and Teiresias, the blind prophet. Book 11 of The Odyssey, which relates the tale, is referred to as "The Nekuia." Orpheus, Dionysus,Hercules, Theseus, Aeneus, Vergil, and Dante are also all said to have made such a trip.
Entheogens and techniques of dreaming, trance, near death and even actual death itself were amongst the ways considered to be ways of entering the underworld.
KATHARSIS - Purification or cleansing of oneself through undergoing an overwhelming emotional experience. Originated from Aristoteles' description of tragic drama, "a katharsis of pity and terror".
KERYKES - Eleusinian family from which priests of the mysteries were chosen. Kerykes means "Heralds" in Ancient Hellas.
LEITOURGOS - "public worker". Wealthy citizen who finances a public event or possession (play, library, etc.)
LETHYKOI - highly decorated flasks containing exotic oils used both for offerings and for grave goods.
LIBATION - A portion of drink or food given to a deity, ancestor, or daimon during a ritual.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Lyre is the ancient stringed musical instrument similar to a guitar. The mythical stories of the Ancient Greeks were accompanied by it. Said to have been invented by the young trickster god Hermes from the body of a large tortoise shell (khelus) which he covered with animal hide and antelope horns. Lyres were associated with Apollonian virtues of moderation and equilibrium contrasting the Dionysian pipes which represented ecstasy and celebration.
MAGEIA - The art of causing change in the manifest world through the Unmanifest, sometimes refered to as magik. Magik is neither positive or negative. It is the use of the power that determines the path it will take.
MAGEIA ONOMOS - A name given to an initiate, or chosen by the one who is self-initiated, to signify the passing of the old life and the birth into the magikal life.
Downloadmasks Masks were used in the rituals of Dionysos, both those that led to the creation of drama, and after. Sometimes  individuals would don masks of the God or of his satyr companions, and would either act out parts, or become possessed by the God or spirit.
nebrex Like shamans the world over, the ecstatic female worshippers of Dionysos had a special animal skin cloak that they put on when reveling in his honor. It was made out of fawnskin and was called a nebrix. With the ivy crown and thyrsos it comprised the "outfit" of the Maenad. Saffron robes were also worn by celebrants.
ORACLE - A place where Goddesses or Gods can be consulted for advice or prophesy. The most famous oracle in ancient Hellas was the one found in Delphoi.
OREIBASIA - A nocturnal ceremony of the Dionysic women. Oreibasia literally means "mountain-treading".
ORGIA - General term for sacred rites, often with special reference to secret rites.
OSIRUS Egyptian guide and judge of the dead, brother and husband of Isis, and (posthumously) father of Horus. He underwent sparagmos, resurrection, and deification, which suggested to the Greeks that he was an African manifestation of Dionysus.
"A puritanical streak runs through the Levantine (Christianity, Islam, Judaism)  religions which inevitably suggests a lesser valuing of the temporal world compared with, if not humanity, at least with, divine spirit. In paganism, the world or nature is itself divine - and as divine as either humanity or the numinal or both.

"So in answer to the question how does the contemporary Western pagan recognize that Chinese folk religion, Confucianism, Shinto, Siberian shamanism, Kahuna, Australian aboriginal religion, Amerindianism, the Afro-Atlantic practices of Santeria, Macumba and Voodoo, various tribalisms of sub-Saharan Africa, and so forth are pagan is because they are pagan. They all share in an essential this-worldliness. Earth is sacred, the sacred source or mother of existence. The material is understood as the matrix in which and from which the world, the human and the gods have their being, though not necessarily their end. In each of these religions we have the implicit pantheism, animism and polytheism that Margot Adler recognized as the constituent features of paganism. I would also add humanism and naturism. There is neither the denial of phenomenal reality as we have in Hinduism and Buddhism, nor the exclusion of humanity from godhead as we have in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

"Consequently, paganism can be understood as both a behavior and a religion. As a behavior it is to be seen in the spontaneous and auto-reflexive quality as well as venerational ritual of cultic expression. The cultic is the passionate, and while all passion may not be cultic, all cult is something which is emotionally intense. The very term itself derives from cultus, the Latin past participle of a verb meaning "to till the earth, to cultivate, to pray or worship." In other words, the origins of pagan cultivation and worship are directly connected with the earth and assisting its growth and produce. Cultic behavior and pagan behavior are in origin one and the same.
Defining Paganism by Michael York

Dionysus in Neopaganism

Modern Neopagans view Dionysus in different lights, depending largely on the individual sects and the other gods worshipped by a sect. Dionysus is often seen as the god of Earthly Delights and is thought to play a role in euphoria. In the United States, some Hellenistic Neopagan sects forbid the worship of Dionysus, because Dionysus worship is associated with hedonism.

Sects which worship Hera and Themis in particular may forbid Dionysus worship. However, there are sects that make Dionysus a central figure of their faiths. Many sects may include both the worship of Themis and Dionysus, holding that moderation is key to virtue and that earthly delights are virtuous when maintaining responsibility and moderation. Depending on individual sects, and the other gods within the sect, worship of Dionysus can take many forms. Sects that include worship of Themis and Hera for instance may allow the drinking of wine and various festivities, but actively discourage "decadence" and promiscuity.

Those sects who worship Dionysus exclusively, or in more common cases Dionysus and Aphrodite, are sometimes known to conduct orgiastic rituals and use numerous intoxicants in attempts to reach earthly gratification and euphoria (Such sects are often considered cults even by Neopagan standards). Most sects agree that it is unwise to trade future well being for a moment's pleasure. However, some followers of Dionysus believe that they are inspired to relish in earthly delights, ignoring any consequences.


panther All wild animals are connected to Dionysos, but none more so than the lion or panther. The supple, feline elegance of its body, the ferocious and easily provoked temper, the boundless appetite, and uncanny intelligence of the creature make it uniquely and inevitably linked to the Dionysiac sphere - and indeed, the wild cat is frequently depicted in the company of the wild God.
PANATHENAIA - Athenaion national festival of Athena. A Great Panathenaia was held one year in four.

PERSEPHONE, also KORE "Maiden." Daughter of Demeter, wife of Hades. Hades kidnapped Persephone and took her to the underworld to be his queen. When Demeter heard, she wandered the earth in mourning, abandoning her responsibilities, and the earth grew gray and barren. The growing famine forced Zeus to demand that Hades return Persephone to the surface world. But Persephone had eaten part of a pomegranate, and eating of the food of the dead bound her to their world. Zeus and Hades struck a bargain -- Persephone would spend seven months a year in the world of the living and five in the world of the dead. When Persephone is in the world, her mother Demeter is content, and the world blooms and lives. When she is in the underworld, Demeter mourns, the world languishes, and we have winter.


large phallic pillar outside Dionysus shrine, one of two
Delos. Credits: Barbara McManus, 1980

The phallos was ubiquitous in connection with Dionysos as a symbol of the source of life, and is a symbol of virility, courage, and power.- it was carried in processions, herms and other phallic monuments were erected in his honor.

 "the phallus served as a kind of axis mundi, a locus for the ideals of Greek civilization, it also served, in a Hermetic context, to mark the periphery, that edge beyond which one dare not go. Yet going beyond all edges is precisely what Dionysos does, in myth and in cult; he is a god of extremes and a breaker of boundaries. The phallic in a Dionysian context, far from guarding a boundary, marks the dramatic penetration of barriers, a forceful intrusion of the wild, chaotic and mysterious god into the rational, restrained confines of the Greek psyche. The Dionysian phallus is therefore a threat to, rather than a reinforcement of, the established social order."  The Ivied Rod: Gender and the Phallus in Dionysian Religion by Delia Morgan


DownloadPriapus This god is mainly known for his huge virile member, and the size of it is so enormous that it has been called "column", "twelve-inch pole", "cypress", "spear", "pyramid", and many other names of the same kind referring to the dimensions of his penis.

With Aphrodite, Dionysos had a son, Priapus, a hideous being whose penis was so large that he had to support it by means of a pulley and strings. Representations of Priapus were installed in gardens, both to encourage fertility and the growth of their fruit, but also to protect the garden from thieves. Those who were caught trespassing were punished by being placed on the Garden God's erect member. Priapus warned, "si fur veneris, impudicus exis" ("In a thief and out a faggot."

PSYKHOPOMPOS - Deity responsible for guiding the souls of the departed to their appointed places. The "Guide of Souls".  Hermes is a pyschopomp
Religion - Etruscan pre-Roman Religion

The Etruscans believed in predestination. Although a postponement is sometimes possible by means of prayer and sacrifice, the end is certain. According to the libri fatales as described by Censorinus, Man had allocated to him a cycle of seven times twelve years. Anyone who lived beyond these years, lost the ability to understand the signs of the Gods.

The Etruscans also believed the existence of their people was also limited by a timescale fixed by the gods. According to the doctrine, ten saecula were allotted to the Etruscan name. This proved very accurate, and it is often said that the Etruscan people predicted their own downfall.
Roman Religion

Gods were not personified, unlike in Ancient Greece. Romans also believed that every person, place or thing had their own genius such as say family guardian spirits).
As contact with the Greeks increased, the old Roman gods became associated with Greek gods.
Just as the sun was Lord of the Heavens so the Roman Emperor was Lord of the Earth. As long as everyone could accept this, imperial temporal authority was strengthened, but everyone could continue to revere their own celestial or spiritual god. Most did! The notable exceptions were Jews and Christians.
The Romans were tolerant of religious differences partly because they were indifferent to blasphemy. To a Roman it was absurd for a mortal to take up cudgels to defend a god. Romans sincerely believed that the gods were sensitive, petulant, and ready to intervene in the lives of mortals. If a god were offended by a mortal then the poor fellow had better watch out—at the very least he'd find his luck was out. Romans thought Christians courted disaster by deriding Pagan gods as devils but they did not take personal offence. What did worry them was that vengeful gods might not be too discriminating, and innocent bystanders might suffer. It was this generalized fear of divine anger rather than intolerance of blasphemy that invited Roman displeasure.
So Imperial policy was that, subject to the requirement to honour the Genius of the Emperor, Romans could worship whoever or whatever they liked and how they liked as long as they respected and did not interfere with others and the ceremonies were respectable. However clandestine meetings were not allowed since they could be a cover for subversive plots. The priests and priestesses of the gods of the Empire were generally celibate and even Bacchanialian "orgies", by the intertestamental period, were merely drunken, not licentious.
The transference of the anthropomorphic qualities to Roman Gods, and the prevalence of Greek philosophy among well-educated Romans, brought about an increasing neglect of the old rites, and in the 1st century BC the religious importance of the old priestly offices declined rapidly, though their civic importance and political influence remained. Roman religion in the empire tended more and more to center on the imperial house, and several emperors were deified after their deaths.

Spread of Eastern Religions
Under the empire, numerous foreign cults grew popular, such as the worship of the Egyptian Isis and the Persian Mithras. Despite persecutions, Christianity steadily gained converts. It became an officially supported religion in the Roman state under Constantine I. All cults save Christianity were prohibited in AD 391 by an edict of Emperor Theodosius I.

Spread of Christianity

The early Christians acknowledged that Dionysus (his Greek name) / Bacchus (his Latin name) came before Jesus. when the Christian Father Justin Martyr, writing in the 100s AD, wrote that the Devil reading the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah sent Bacchus early, to trick men about Jesus: "The devils, accordingly, when they heard these prophetic words, said that Bacchus was the son of Jupiter, and ...having been torn in pieces, he ascended into heaven." [Justin Martyr, First Apology, 54]

Despite desultory persecutions, usually at times of civic tensions beginning with Nero, and more throrough persecutions beginning under Diocletian, Christianity steadily gained converts. It became an officially supported religion in the Roman state under Constantine I, who ruled as sole emperor from AD 324 to 337. All cults save Christianity were prohibited in AD 391 by an edict of Emperor Theodosius I. Destruction of temples and desecration of the fanes began immediately, with the sacking of the Serapeum in Alexandria as an encouraging example.

After the Fall of Rome
After the fall of the city of Rome and the Western Empire the state continued its existence as the Byzantine Empire, which is conventionally treated as a separate entity in history books. Also the Holy Roman Empire and Russia have claimed the "Roman" legacy after the fall of Constantinople

RITUAL - A formalized series of actions both mental and physical by which magikal potency is released and directed toward the fulfillment of a specific desire.
SHRINE - An altar or niche dedicated to a particular Goddess or God and held to be sacred.
SISTRUM - A musical instrument and sacred symbol of Kybele, Dionysos, Ishtar, Isis, and Hathor which consists of a handle attached to a frame of rigid metal which runs through perforated metal rods or disks. The rods and disks are shaken to create a percussive jangling sound.
SEMELE [SEM-uh-lee] Daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia, sister of Agave, and mother (by Zeus) of Dionysus, she was consumed in Zeus's lightning when she demanded to see him in his true form. Dionysus later rescued her from Hades and escorted her to heaven.
Serpent Because a snake sheds its skin and comes forth from the lifeless husk glistening and fresh, it is a universal symbol of "renewal", and the regeneration that may lead to immortality. Serpent is a word of Latin origin (serpens, serpentis) that is normally substituted for "snake" in a specifically mythic or religious context, in order to distinguish such creatures from the field of biology. The archetype of the serpent, exemplifies the death of the self and a transcendent rebirth. A snake coils about the secret basket of the mysteries. wiki/Serpent


We need to repair our metaphors of ‘what the Sun is’, as a species.

Not with science, or a new system or expert — with experiential contact.

SYNCRETISM - The process of merging various religious or philosophical beliefs into a single school of thought to reconcile possible differing or conflicting viewpoints.
Theatres: All the theatres however which were constructed in Greece were probably built after the model of that of Athens, and with slight deviations and modifications they all resembled one another in the main points, as is seen in the numerous ruins of theatres in various parts of Greece, Asia Minor, and Sicily. Some of them were of prodigious dimensions. The great number of ruins of theatres tell us the Greeks preferred magnificent buildings with gigantic dimensions. The ruins of the theatre at Argos enclose a space of 450 feet in diameter; the theatre of Ephesus is even 660 feet in diameter. The Attic theatre was, like all the Greek theatres, placed in such a manner that the place for the spectators formed the upper or north-western, and the stage with all that belonged to it the south-eastern part, and between these two parts lay the orchestra.
THIASOS - A group with whom you feel an association of oneness. Euripides, in the Bacchae, explains that  the individual to whom divinity is promised in Dionysian mysteries can only expect to experience it in the thiasos collectively An association for religious purposes. The plural is thiasoi.
Theseus was a founder-hero, like Perseus, Cadmus or Heracles, all of whom battled and overcame foes that were identified with anDownload archaic religious and social order. As Heracles was the Dorian hero, Theseus was the Ionian founding hero, considered by Athenians as their own great reformer. His name comes from the same root as θεσμoς ("thesmos"), Greek for institution. In The Frogs Aristophanes credited him with inventing many everyday Athenian traditions.
In the mid-second millennium BCE, Athens was required to pay a horrible tax to Crete, the controlling power in the region: each year, seven young men and seven young women were to be sent to Crete as sacrifices to the Minotaur, a monster in the Labyrinth constructed by Daedalus. Theseus, determined to end this horror, volunteered to be one of the sacrifices, and the fourteen chosen sailed off to Crete on a ship with black sails, for mourning.
In Plutarch's version of this story, soon after the Athenians arrived in Crete, King Minos raped one of the young women. Theseus protested and boasted of his parentage, as a son of Poseidon. Minos demanded he prove his claim by bringing up a golden ring he threw into the ocean, and in this Theseus was more than successful in that he not only recovered the ring, but also brought up a crown of Thetis that Ariadne was to wear.
Ariadne was a consort of Dionysus. However, she betrayed the old order when she fell in love with Theseus and gave him a magic sword with which to kill the Minotaur, and a spool of thread. Theseus unwound the thread as he made his way to the center of the Labyrinth searching for the Minotaur, so that he could find his way out of the maze again. Theseus after killing the Minotaur with the magic sword, Theseus married and fled Crete with Ariadne, but then abandoned her, at Athena's demand, on the island of Naxos.

He is always shown as a youth and usually as a traveller, with a broad-brimmed cap (petasos), often supported by Athena. His story was developed to rival that of Herakles, by devising for him a series of adventures he is said to have had on his way to Athens from his birthplace at Troezen: see Sinis, Skiron, Procrustes. In Athens he is recognized by his father Aigeus, and encounters Medea who tries to poison him. Later with his companion Peirithoos he abducts Helen, the Amazon Antiope and attempts Persephone; he also fights beside Peirithoos when the latter's wedding is disrupted by Centaurs. For this they are imprisoned in Hades, whence only Theseus is rescued by Herakles.

Thyrsos a (thyrsus)  was a giant fennel  staff covered with ivy vinesDownload  and leaves and topped with a pine cone. The thyrsus is a composite symbol of the forest (pine cone) and the farm (fennel).  Dionysus (or Bacchus) and his followers, the Satyrs and Maenads carried this symbolic staff. Sometimes the thyrsus was displayed in conjunction with a wine cup, forming a male-and-female combination like that of the royal scepter and orb. The thyrsus  has been interpreted as a phallic symbol. The maenads, followers of Dionysos, pound the ground with the thyrsus, which drips honey and causes milk and wine to gush up from the earth.


toga virilis On March 17, during the Roman festival of Liberalia, held in honor of Liber (Dionysos), Libera (Ariadne or Persephone), and Ceres (Demeter) the toga virilis or toga libera was donned. This was a white toga symbolizing that the boy (usually around 14-17) had passed from childhood and was now iuvenis, a young man.  It was customary to select the date for the coming of age ceremony according to the birthday that came nearest to March 17, the Liberalia (the festival of Liber).

A boy's coming-of-age ceremony began when the boy laid his bulla and bordered toga before the lares of the house in the early morning The purple-edged toga praetexta of childhood was put away and sacrifices were offered to Juventas, Goddess of childhood, in the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus. The boy then dressed himself in a white tunic, adjusted by his father.  Over this was draped the toga virilis (toga of the grown man). When the boy was ready, the procession to the Forum began. The father had gathered his slaves, freedmen, clients, relatives and friends, using all his influence to make his son's escort numerous and imposing. Here the boy's name was added to the list of citizens, and formal congratulations were extended. Then the family climbed up to the temple of Liber on the Capitoline Hill, where an offering was made to the god. Finally they all returned to the house, where the day ended with a dinner party given by the father in honour of the new Roman citizen.

Ovid says that Dionysos is associated with the toga virilis either because he is depicted as a young man, midway between childhood and adulthood, or because he is a father, and it is into his care that fathers place their sons.

While no special public ceremony marked a Roman girl's passing into womanhood, Pompeii's Villa of Mysteries shows that the story of Dionysus and Ariadne

himation: a cloak worn by men in ancient Greece and Rome;
chiton: a woolen tunic worn by men and women in ancient Greece 

tympanon The tympanon is a tambourine-like hand-drum used especially in the rites of Dionysos and the Magna Mater Kybele. The monotonous rhythm of the drumming - along with the sound of the flute, singing, dancing, the fire and darkness, and wine - contributed to an overpowering situation that we would call an altered state of consciousness, but which the Greeks themselves called ekstasis or "stepping out of one's self" and enthusiasmos or "a God is within me". While in these states, people would experience visions, prophecy, and undergo communion with or possession by the Gods
VISUALISATION - The practice of imagining a place, person, thing, or event with unusual clarity and intensity. Often it is done in a ritual context and reinforced by repetition.
Wine   The Greeks called wine a terrible conqueror, and said that even other Gods and the kentaurs fell victim to its baneful effects. Hence, moderation was suggested, even by the Dionysus himself, who time and again taught people to mix his gift with water to dilute its power.

Horace, in addressing the God, says: "You move with soft compulsion the mind that is often so dull, you restore hope to hearts distressed, give strength and horns to the poor man. Filled with you he trembles not as the truculence of kings or the soldiers' weapons."


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