Cock Pillar of Greek God Dionysus At Stoivadeion in Delos

Dionysus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. His name in Linear B tablets shows he was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete. His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek. In some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner; in others, from Ethiopia in the South. He is a god of epiphany, “the god that comes,” and his “foreignness” as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults. He is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religion, and is included in some lists of the twelve Olympians. His festivals were the driving force behind the development of Greek theatre. He is an example of a dying god.

Prosymnus: A better-known story is that of his descent to Hades to rescue his mother Semele, whom he placed among the stars. He made the descent from a reputedly bottomless pool on the coast of the Argolid near the prehistoric site of Lerna. He was guided by Prosymnus or Polymnus, who requested, as his reward, to be Dionysus’ lover. Prosymnus died before Dionysus could honor his pledge, so in order to satisfy Prosymnus’ shade, Dionysus fashioned a phallus from an olive branch and sat on it at Prosymnus’ tomb. This story survives in full only in Christian sources whose aim was to discredit pagan mythology. It appears to have served as an explanation of the secret objects that were revealed in the Dionysian Mysteries.

Parallels with Christianity:

The earliest discussions of mythological parallels between Dionysus and the figure of the Christ in Christian theology can be traced to Friedrich Hölderlin, whose identification of Dionysus with Christ is most explicit in Brod und Wein (1800–1801) and Der Einzige (1801–1803).

Modern scholars such as Martin Hengel, Barry Powell, and Peter Wick, among others, argue that Dionysian religion and Christianity have notable parallels. They point to the symbolism of wine and the importance it held in the mythology surrounding both Dionysus and Jesus Christ; though, Wick argues that the use of wine symbolism in the Gospel of John, including the story of the Marriage at Cana at which Jesus turns water into wine, was intended to show Jesus as superior to Dionysus.

Scholars of comparative mythology identify both Dionysus and Jesus with the dying-and-returning god mythological archetype. Other elements, such as the celebration by a ritual meal of bread and wine, also have parallels. Powell, in particular, argues precursors to the Catholic notion of transubstantiation can be found in Dionysian religion.

Another parallel can be seen in The Bacchae where Dionysus appears before King Pentheus on charges of claiming divinity which is compared to the New Testament scene of Jesus being interrogated by Pontius Pilate.

E. Kessler in a symposium Pagan Monotheism in the Roman Empire, Exeter, 17–20 July 2006, states that Dionysian cult had developed into strict monotheism by the 4th century CE; together with Mithraism and other sects the cult formed an instance of “pagan monotheism” in direct competition with Early Christianity during Late Antiquity.

phallus is an erect penis, a penis-shaped object, or a mimetic image of an erect penis. Any object that symbolically resembles a penis may also be referred to as a phallus; however, such objects are more often referred to as being phallic (as in “phallic symbol”). Such symbols often represent the fertility and cultural implications that are associated with the male sexual organ, as well as the male orgasm.

The Stoivadeion is a temple to Dionysos located on the Greek island of Delos. The Stoivadeion contains a rectangular platform containing a statue of Dionysos which was flanked by two actors impersonating Paposilenoi. These actors are now in the Delos Museum for protection. Two pillars, one on each side of the platform, each support a huge phallus, the symbol of Dionysos. The southern pillar is decorated with relief scenes of a Dionysiac circle. Three sides of the southern pillar have relief representations: the central scene shows a cockerel whose head and neck are elongated into a phallus, on either side are groups containing Dionysus and a Maenad, with a small Silenus on one side and a figure of Pan on the other. The southern pillar bears an inscription that it was erected ca. 300 B.C. by a Delian named Carystios in celebration of a victorious theatrical performance he sponsored.

The island of Delos near Mykonos, near the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, is one of the most important mythological, historical and archaeological sites in Greece. The excavations in the island are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean; ongoing work takes place under the direction of the French School at Athens and many of the artifacts found are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Delos and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Delos had a position as a holy sanctuary for a millennium before Olympian Greek mythology made it the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. From its Sacred Harbour, the horizon shows the two conical mounds that have identified landscapes sacred to a goddess in other sites: one, retaining its pre-Greek name Mount Kynthos, is crowned with a sanctuary of Zeus.

The platform of the Stoivadeion dedicated to Dionysus bears a statue of the god of wine and the life-force. On either side of the platform, a pillar supports a colossal phallus, the symbol of Dionysus. The southern pillar, which is decorated with relief scenes from the Dionysiac circle, was erected c. 300 BC to celebrate a winning theatrical performance. The statue of Dionysus was originally flanked by those of two actors impersonating Paposilenoi (conserved in the Archaeological Museum of Delos). The marble theatre is a rebuilding of an older one, undertaken shortly after 300 BC.

The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state. It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek society: women, slaves and foreigners. In their final phase the Mysteries shifted their emphasis from a chthonic, underworld orientation to a transcendental, mystical one, with Dionysus changing his nature accordingly (similar to the change in the cult of Shiva). By its nature as a mystery religion reserved for the initiated, many aspects of the Dionysian cult remain unknown and were lost with the decline of Greco-Roman polytheism; our knowledge is derived from descriptions, imagery and cross-cultural studies.

Female initiation rituals: In contrast, the female initiate was prepared as Ariadne (bride of Dionysus), and united with him in the underworld. In reference to this, the ritual symbol of Dionysus—hidden in theliknon until the culmination of the female rites—was first a goat’s penis, and later a fig-wood phallus. After this rite, she participated in a similar communion or wedding feast. Flagellation also seems to have been a basic ordeal (at least for women, according to depictions of Dionysian initiations), and there may have been ritualised hangings. The female rituals took place at the same time as the traditional Dionysian revelries.

Mystery and public rites: …. Within the public rituals were the secret rites of initiation, the public festivals largely setting the stage for these private rites:

“Whatsoever may have remained to represent the original intent of the rites, regarded as Rites of Initiation, the externalities and practice of the Festivals were orgies of wine and sex: there was every kind of drunkenness and every aberration of sex, the one leading up to the other. Over all reigned the Phallus, which—in its symbolism à rebours—represented post ejaculationem the death-state of Bacchus, the god of pleasure, and his resurrection when it was in forma arrecta. Of such was the sorrow and of such the joy of these Mysteries”.

The phallus appears to have been a connecting link between the outer and inner rites. Not only was it prominent in the Bacchic carnival in Rome (carried by the Phallophoroi at the head of the procession), it also appears to have been the secret object in the liknon (the sacred basket, or Arc, revealed only after final initiation). Other possible contents could have been sacred fruit, leaves or loaves (possibly with entheogenic qualities). Some sources suggest that the phallus was made from fig wood (Prosymnus), while even older sources indicate it may have once been the phallus of a sacrificed goat. The contents probably changed over the centuries and in different modes of initiation, the general idea being that the final stage of the initiation involved the revelation of the god in one form or another.

– Gameness til the End




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