and the Drug Propaganda: Dionysos
The Hymn To Demeter, written down c.700 BC, is the foundation
legend of Athenian culture, as the legend of Moses on the Mountain is
the founding legend of Israeli culture. Classical writers and the Hymn
itself attribute the origin of the Great Mysteries at Eleusis, 14 miles
from Athens, to Crete. 'Persephone' means 'she who brings destruction.'
Her shamanic trip into winter is described in the first lines of the
Hymn To Demeter: "I begin to sing of rich-haired Demeter, awful goddess
- of her and her trim-ankled daughter whom Aidoneus rapt away, given
to him by all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer."
"It was a thing of awe whether for deathless gods or mortal men to
see: from its root grew a hundred blooms and it smelled most sweetly,
so that all wide heaven above and the whole earth and the sea's salt
swell laughed for joy. And the girl was amazed and reached out with
both hands to take the lovely bauble; but the wide-pathed earth yawned
there in the plain of Nysa, and the lord, Host of Many, with his immortal
horses sprang out upon her - the Son of Kronos, He who has many names."
The root of narkissos, the fragrant 'narcissus' of a hundred
blooms that ensnared Persephone, is narki, 'drowsiness,' likewise
the root of narkotikos, 'narcotic.' 'Ivy' is kissos: Pausanias:
"they speak of the Singer Dionysos and of Ivy as the same god." The
Hymn, then, describes a 'narcotic ivy' of a hundred flowers that Persephone
picked on the plain of Mount Nysa, in Crete, satyric gift of the Zeus
of Nysa, Dionysos. The Cretan signet ring below, c. 1500 BC, pictures
Demeter handing three bulging opium poppies to Persephone .
Persephone was also known as 'Korykia,' 'Lady of the Bulb,' from krokus,
bulb. Greek midwives carried the staff of the winged snake-nymph Korykia,
below, the entwined psychopompic snakes that escorted their charges
into the precincts of the Goddess. This is the same staff, the kerykeion,
in Latin 'caduceus,' that became the symbol of modern medicine. Hippokrates
got it from Korykia. Both images below date to c.500 BC. Korykia, Iris
of the Rainbow, is the prototype of Hermes.
Evans says the word 'Korykia' may be derived from krokus, which
he identifies with Crocus sativus, saffron, the most important
Cretan dye and perfume plant. Saffron was used to dye the robes of ecstatic
dancers. Saffron is identified as a promoter of menstruation by Grieve,
and so, possibly, is an abortifacient as well if taken in large doses.
Krokus is the old Hebrew karkom. (S.of Sol:4:14) Whether Korykia's
krokus was saffron or some other powerful bulb, it does seem that Korykia
was Eileithyia, Demeter, Persephone, Artemis or Iris in her incarnation
as 'Lady of the Bulb.'
Persephone's need to return underground for a third of the year was
insured by Aidoneus' gift of a single pomegranate seed. This is a symbolic
entheogen: the blood red pomegranate seed, Rhoa, was a reference
to the ancient aspect of Demeter, Rhea, whose spell cannot be broken.
It is the seed that must be reborn. Below is a cult plate from Marathon,
c.550 BC. Persephone holds a pomegranate flower. Aidoneus holds his
horny cornucopia. The plate, to judge from its design, seems to have
held sacramental bulbs.
Six psychoactive bulbs are pictured on an elaborate ritual cup from
Knossos, c. 1450 BC, one of which is painted with the floating eyes
and menacing stare of a gorgoneion, a shaman keeper of the mysteries.
As we have seen, sprouting Korykian bulbs are shown supporting Cretan
shrines on many stamp seals and signet rings. The winged Gorgon below
is from the island of Rhodes, c.700 BC.
The first lines of The Bacchae, which won for Euripides the
prize at the Great Dionysia, are these: "I, Dionysos, son of Zeus, am
back in Thebes./I was born here, of Semele, daughter of Cadmus,/blasted
from her womb by a bolt of blazing thunder." Later the Chorus of Maenads
explains: "Him,/whom his mother carried/to premature and painful birth/when
in a crash of thunder/she was death-struck by a fiery bolt./But quicker
than death,/Zeus swept him up and plunged him/into a makeshift womb-/secure
from Hera's eyes-/in the thick of his thigh,/stitched with stitches
of gold./As time ripened into fate/he delivered the bull-horned God/and
crowned him with a crown of serpents./Thus was created the custom/for
thyrsos-carrying maenads/to twine snakes in their hair./Oh, Thebes,
Semele's nurse,/crest your walls with ivy./Burst into greenness, burst/into
a blaze of bryony,/take up the bacchanalian beat/with branches of oak
and of fir,/cover your flesh with fawnskin/fringed with silver-white
fleece/and lifting the fennel,/touch God/in a fit of sanctified frenzy./Then
all at once, the whole land will dance!"
The design on the sacramental vase below, which dates to the time of
Euripides, illustrates the function of the contents of the vase, that
is, the function of the Great Dionysia.