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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011
  • First published in: 1909

CHAPTER V - DIONYSIAC RITUAL

Summary

The previous sketch has not clearly revealed any salient difference between Dionysos and the other high divinities of Hellas. It is rather through the minute study of the ritual that the distinctive and characteristic features of this religion emerge, and these are of equal interest for the students of primitive as of advanced religious ideas. The more striking phenomena of the aboriginal religion are found to have been the wild and ecstatic enthusiasm that it inspired, the self-abandonment and communion with the deity achieved through orgiastic rites and a savage sacramental act, and the prominence of women in the ritual, which in accordance with a certain psychic law made a special appeal to their temperament. It becomes then our first task to consider how far these features are reflected, clearly or dimly, in the cult-practices of the civilized Greek states; and, as the record is defective and confused, we must supplement it by every kind of indirect evidence within our reach.

That the mortal might be temporarily charged with the personality or spirit of the divinity, at exceptional times and through exceptional means, is an idea that may be traced here and there in the older Greek religion.

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