Tuesday, 11 March 2008


Black Bile on Fire

A most intriguing explanation for the importance of the figures of Arcadian shepherds in the Renaissance relates to the occult philosophy of the period. It must first be realised that there was at that time a necessity of finding a sanction within the traditions of the then dominant religion – Christianity – for reclamation of the beautiful treasures of the culture of pagan Greco-Roman Antiquity that were coming to light. If a validation for elements of that culture could be found of sufficient elegance, brilliance, and superhuman interconnectivity, it would seem to have divine support. Such an idea was found, still potent enough to fill the body with shivers, and I shall do my best to explain it as well as I can here.
A text named Aristotle's Problem XXX was considered until the 17th century to have been written by Aristotle himself. It was next assigned to the non-specific authorship of a “Pseudo-Aristotle”, and more recently it has been thought by some to be the work of Theophrastus, Aristotle’s successor. Working from the idea expressed in Plato’s Phaedrus that “frenzy, provided it comes as the gift of heaven, is the channel by which we receive the greatest blessings”, the “Artistotle” text described how the humor of melancholy could become this kind of frenzy. This idea was taken on by Marsilio Ficino, founder of the Platonic Academy of Renaissance Florence, who wrote, in De vita triplica, that there is a type of melancholy that ignites and burns in a spiritual way. This melancholy ignited into a fiery ecstasy, incidentally, was the explicitly stated aim of the song Feel So Sad by the retro indo-rock band Spiritualised, and although Jason Pierce did not, in the interview, reference Ficino, the song provides a clear experiential understanding of the state Ficino was talking about. But what has this to do with the Shepherds of Arcadia?

Shepherds of Arcadia I
Virgil : New Ager
The concept of inspired melancholy was taken on by Henricus Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, and expressed in his De Occulta Philosophia. Developping Ficino’s ideas, he spoke of three types of gift-giving melancholy. “The humor melancholius, when it takes fire and glows, generates the frenzy which leads to wisdom and revelation, especially when it is combined with a heavenly influence, above all with that of Saturn.” We are told how through this inspired melancholy people have become, variously, prophetic Sybils, poets, and other types of genius. The first type of melancholy was said to attract Earth spirits, i.e. elementals, or faeries, resulting in “wonderful instruction in the manual arts; thus we see a quite unskilled man suddenly become a painter or architect.” The second type involves different types of spirits, and results in skills of philosophy and oratory, we are told, while the third kind attracts beings from the angelic realms and results in inspired spiritual wisdom. In this model all three types involve prophesy, and it is the type of philosophy that comes through in the third type that is of interest with regard to the Shepherds of Arcadia. This type of prophesy could show us “approaching prodigies, wonders, a prophet to come, or the emergence of a new religion, just as the Sybil prophesied Jesus Christ long before he appeared,” according to the text.
This was a direct reference to Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue, which was believed to refer to a prophesy of the coming of Christ. I’m using here the rendering into English prose by Lonsdale and Lee first published in 1871.
“Now has come the latest age of the Cumaean hymn,” wrote Virgil, referring to the Italian oracular sibyl of Cumae, “the mighty line of cycles begins its round anew. Now to the maiden Astraea returns.” Astraea is the personification of justice; it was said that she had left the Earth and gone into the stars as the constellation of Virgo holding Libra, the Scales of Justice. The return to Earth represents a return of justice, of good men rewarded. Virgil continues: “The reign of Saturn returns.” Saturn was said to have ruled during the ancient Golden Age; the age before bronze and iron – before weapons and warfare, in other words. The people of Arcadia, the oldest and most aboriginal of people, were thought to have maintained their simple culture from that time. “Now a new generation of men is sent down from heaven,” continues Virgil. “Only be thou gracious, Lucina,” (the Roman goddess of childbirth), “to the birth of the child, beneath whom the iron race shall begin to fail, and the golden race to arise in the world.”

Shepherds of Arcadia II

But these vague connections between a figure who shares divine child symbolism with Christ and a people loosely associated with Arcadia are just the beginning of the complex, beautiful Renaissance idea of which I am speaking. The key idea of which to take note is that the Arcadian Academy of Rome saw it as particularly significant that shepherds watching their flocks in the fields had been the first to hear word from the angel of the birth of Christ. Virgil’s Fourth Eclogue is just that - one of the Eclogues - pastoral poems sung by shepherds in rustic settings. Hearing word of the coming birth of Chirst, as when the shepherds received word from the angel Gabriel, is, in fact, prophetic insight. Furthermore, pastoral poems were traditionally melancholic in nature, the most obvious theme being yearning for love, and in Virgil the shepherds display a poetic skill seemingly more civilized than their general way of life, and the influence for this could easily be ascribed to the nymphs, the elementals of the Earth. In the earliest known examples of the genre, by Theokritus, the shepherd Daphnis actually died for love. Their simple lifestyle is of the type that goes back to the age before bronze and iron, back to the age of Saturn, who in the Renaissance view was their obvious ruling planet anyway, as they were inspired melancholics. The people of Arcadia were held to be the most skilled in the playing of country music, and this again could be seen as being a result of this same type of inspiration. And so we move on to the big BINGO moment.

Jerome in his Cell

Poussin: New Ager

How does this connect in particular to Poussin and his own depiction of the Shepherds of Arcadia? It has been observed that for the figure of the kneeling bearded shepherd in The Shepherds of Arcadia II, Poussin simply borrowed a figure from another of his paintings as the model. But wait ‘til you hear which figure he used - that of a shepherd kneeling in adoration of the new born Jesus in his painting of the Adoration of the Shepherds! Here then is an Arcadian shepherd who is also one of the shepherd-prophets of Christ. But what of the skull on the tomb in his earlier Shepherds of Arcadia I?

This skull in fact simply confirms that the painting relates to the tradition of inspired melancholy, for it goes back to Dürer’s engraving St Jerome in His Cell, which was sold as part of a pair with his engraving Melancholy I.

St Jerome in His Cell shows the melancholy genius at work, with a skull prominently displayed on the window sill, a memento mori, by this time a symbol of a melancholic contemplation of the shortness of our stay in this realm.

So the Shepherds of Arcadia are divinely inspired melancholic prophets of a coming Golden Age. But what then of the river god who pours out water from a jar in The Shepherds of Arcadia I? The simplest reading of the symbolism is that the coming age is not that of Pisces, which was already three quarters through in Poussin’s time, but of the Age of Aquarius, making Poussin or his commissioners the earliest of the New Agers looking forward to the Age of Aquarius.

The poetic products of the Arcadian Academy of post-Renaissance Rome are not judged to be any match for the works of, for example, Virgil, but that is not really the point. The real value of the brilliant Renaissance Arcadia idea is that it allowed elements of the beautiful culture of Classical Antiquity, vessels of the European Dreamtime, to be sanctioned and thus continued even during the dominance of the anti-pagan Christian religion, like the ark allowing the animals and plants to sail over the flood and plant themselves now in less restricted and contrived forms in these more liberal times, at the end of what astrologers call the Age of Pisces.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Dionysiac Double Solomon Seal

first the pics, for the lazyites:

Roman theatre and its essential construction geometry, as described by Vitruvius

The Greek Theatre, with geometry based on four squares

The Greek Theatre, with geometry based on interlocking triangles and a geometrically interrelated square

Then the extract from Amazement Arcadia [last part of chapter 2]:

Let us follow a different lead. We’ve seen how Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne depicts the Boötes constellation, and have mentioned that, as observed by Phillip Coppens, Poussin’s Shepherds of Arcadia II also depicts Boötes, as well as the nearby figure of Hercules. We know that another name for the Boötes constellation was Ikarios, who is the archetypal Dionysian initiate in that he is raised from the tomb, and passes on the Dionysian gifts and celebrations, perhaps also the accompanying Mysteires. We may note that it was not Poussin’s Arcadian Shepherds paintings that first carried the phrase Et In Arcadia Ego, but a painting by Guercino. This same painter also painted a raising of Lazarus that is strongly suggestive of the raising of the initiate in the Third Degree of Freemasonry. In this Masonic initiation the candidates are raised from the tomb; are asked to consider their mortality, and also the rising of their spirit from the grave to shine eternally like the stars. This, of course, is what happens to Ikarios when he rises up as the Boötes constellation. Could it be that this Freemasonic raising goes back to Dionysian initiation? Well funnily enough, there is a Freemasonic tradition which claims that the proto-Freemasons of ancient times were a group called the Dionysiac Artificers. These were said to be a group with Greek roots who lived in the Phoenician city of Tyre in the Lebanon, and who were employed by Solomon in the construction of the Temple of Solomon. Their chief architect was said to be a figure called Hiram Abiff, who suffered a fate similar to Ikarios, even being buried at the foot of a tree, as Ikarios was. So those masons at work in the Temple of Solomon were Phoenicians from Tyre, according to the Masonic tradition, and as it happens the ancient novel Leucippe and Clitophon by Tatius provides us with a version of this very Ikarios story that is set in Tyre. Paraphrasing from the recent translation by Tim Whitmarsh (Oxford World's Classics):- The inhabitants of Tyre consider Dionysos to be a local god.... They say they were the first to receive the gift of wine...the original mother of wines had her birth there. They tell a story of a local hospitable shepherd who they claim to be an equivalent of the Athenian figure of Ikarios. Dionysos visited this herdsman, who gave him gifts of all the pastoral produce he possessed. Dionysos thanked him, and gave him a cup of wine out of gratitude. He drank it and went into a rapture of ecstasy at the taste, asking what it was."This is Autumn's Liquid," replied the god. "This is the blood of the grape cluster." What could a group of artisans devoted to Dionysos have had to do with the Temple of Solomon? We may recall here that over the years Solomon has come to be associated with a particular geometric figure – the Seal of Solomon, also known as the hexagram made from interlocking equilateral triangles. We shall see soon that this geometry does in fact link into the heart of the traditions of the Artisans of Dionysos in Antiquity. Freemasonry evolved amongst guilds of stonemasons. Turning our attention to the guilds present in the earlier period in Athens, we note that they could have their own Mysteries. So, for example, the Praxiergidai who carried out some secret ceremony during the festival in which a sacred statue of Athena on the Acropolis in Athens was given a new robe were probably an ancient guild, according to R.J.Hopper in The Acropolis, p.65. Turning our attention to the Greek stonemasons, there are some myths that seem to have been particularly favoured by them. The Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs was carved in many places: onto the Parthenon on the Acropolis, the Hephaestum temple in the Agora in Athens (formerly called the Theseum perhaps for this reason, since Theseus is a prominent figure in the story), and also the Athenian Treasury of Delphi, all of which might not seem so strange with Theseus being a legendary figure important to the Athenians. However the myth is not set in Athens, but in Thessaly, and scholars have long puzzled over the question of why this same myth should also have been carved onto the Temple of Apollo in Bassae and to have pride of place also on the pediment of so important a building as the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, especially since it is a myth which received very little attention from those who put pen to paper rather than lifting chisel to stone, and was certainly not as famous as others of Theseus’ exploits. Perhaps it should cause us some interest that versions of the story feature the figures of Boötes and his daughter, like the Ikarios myth, and that it is in fact a version of that same myth, namely of figures who became drunk and abusive when misusing the gift of wine. In this version Daidamia a daughter of Boötes is marrying Perithouos, best friend of Theseus. The centaurs are sat with various others of the guests in a cave. The motif of the Thessalian cave normally crops up in connection with the Centaur Cheiron, and sometimes in the context of Mystery Initiation, as with Aristaeus. When the wine is brought round the Centaurs overdo it, drinking it unmixed, and then run riot, and Theseus leaps into the fray to drive them off. Robert Graves couldn’t accept that such a story would be used on so many temples unless it was connected to some ceremony. He imagined a coronation dance in which the new king danced in mock battle with silenus-figures representing the Centaurs. For me, the connection is through the Ikarios myth, and through that to the Dionysiac Artificers of Tyre since that city had its own version of the Ikarios myth. Considering this and the way that the Lapiths and Centaurs story seems to have been a stock myth of the temple builders, I being to wonder whether the story was in fact part of a Mystery Initiation of a temple-builder guild. It is best to imagine that the purpose of this initiation was the opening of the Sight and through that the understanding of the initiate to the beauty of the Realm of Forms, this being perception and knowledge which must be possessed by any architect engaged in classical design. “Temples were built to access the laws of perfection in higher worlds and to imprint these laws in the minds of the people.” Alchemy of Nine Dimensions, Barbara Hand-Clow Socrates’ as mentioned in Chapter 1 is thought to have come from a family of stonemasons, and I suggest again that this was one possible origin for his philosophy of Forms, which does not in this case have to contradict the theory that he received the knowledge from priests and priestesses, since such figures could, and did, preside over the guilds. So then we may perhaps imagine the initiate in the cave undergoing a symbolic mock death at the hands of the horse-totem figures in Silenus costumes representing the Centaurs; a raising would follow and somewhere would be included the sight of figures of the fixed constellation animals placed onto the cave walls as in the Persian initiations described by Porphyry, and the Simile of the Cave in The Republic, presumably also depicting the Boötes region connected with this myth. Through this they would hopefully sense the subtle light of the totemic Akashic Records, M-fields, the Realm of the Eternal, and activation of this perception would then become the continual purpose underlying all their architectural activities, “keeping the Eternal in mind and using it as the model of the form of their productions” as Timaeus advises – great advice for stone masons. So it would have been practical knowledge for the stonemason, the least speculative type of initiation. We just noted that the myth had its counterpart in Tyre, and so a variant of the initiation was probably carried out there, rather as with the Freemasonic traditions of the Dionysiac Artificers of Tyre. So let me get more to the point, for in fact there really were guilds in antiquity with this name, Dionysou Technitai, “Artisans of Dionysos”. These guilds were companies of artists and musicians who worked in and for the theatres from at least the 3rd century BC. It is intriguing that each of these guilds of Dionysos was headed by a priest of Dionysos, for this tells us that there must have been some kind of ceremonial, cultic, initiatory element to membership. As students of music they may well have learnt about harmony and proportion. In Geometry and the Liberal Arts by Dan Pedoe, who was a professor of Mathematics at the University of Minnesota, we read how Vitruvius, the Roman architect of Augustus who studied in Athens, said that an architect “should be skilful with his pencil, instructed in geometry, conversant with history, should have followed the philosophers with attention, should understand music…and be acquainted with astronomy and the theory of the heavens.” We can reasonably connect the Dionysou Technitai, surely, directly to the architecture of these theatres, which was formal and geometric as I mentioned briefly in the last chapter. Vitruvius recorded the standard geometry underlying the Roman theatre. It was, we read in Pedoe’s book, based on a dodecahedral structure formed from four equilateral triangles. The connection with the Zodiac is implicit in the geometry, and Vitruvius made it explicit in his description. “In the [main] circle, inscribe four equilateral triangles at equal distances apart, as the astrologers do when constructing the Zodiac,” wrote the ancient architect.

Already we may note that this pattern is simply made of a double Seal of Solomon, with four equilateral triangles rather than the simple two. This is rather interesting, for here we have an architectural structure deriving from the real, historical Artisans of Dionysos yet relating geometrically to that same pattern with which their legendary equivalents are associated in Freemasonic tradition. Put another way, the theatres of Dionysos were in a sense temples of the Seal of Solomon. The Greek theatre was similar to the later Roman in its sacred geometry, being again based on dodecahedral geometry, but with features that indicate the presence of a square within the underlying pattern. Dan Pedoe has the Greek theatre geometry as being formed from three squares rather than four triangles.

However, there is in fact an interesting way in which the square relates to the same pattern made of the four equilateral triangles described by Vitruvius, as shown below. [actually above]

And this too is intriguing, for it leads us back to Poussin, and his Shepherd’s of Arcadia. There is a book called The Tomb of God which concerned the part played by Poussin’s paintings in the “Rennes-le-Chateaux” mystery. Its ultimate conclusion was a big leap from its initial detective work. The conclusion had to do with interpretations along the lines of a map indicating the location of the tomb of Jesus in the South of France. Here we are concerned only with the initial detective work, for the presence of this geometry in the “discovered” parchments can hardly be denied. It was geometry the writers Andrews and Schellenberger also found in Poussin’s two Shepherds paintings. Does this indicate that the link between those paintings and the old Dionysian Mysteries was not just astronomical, but also geometric? If so, the evidence for continuity of those Mystery Traditions in some form is certainly beginning to mount up. In the final chapter we shall return to these French Mysteries of the Seal of Solomon.

For the moment, before we go on to the next chapter, perhaps we may also reasonably connect the Dionysou Technitai, the artisans who worked in the theatres, with the skene, the large paintings that often formed the backdrop for the plays. This is of interest as these paintings may well be the origin of the ekphrasis-based novelistic Mysteries we examined in the first chapter, which fits with the hypothesis we had begun to form at the end of that chapter, namely that those Mysteries of constellation-based ekphrasis had been passed on in the Dionysian Mysteries. Rather more confident about this, we proceed now to Chapter 3.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Scott Creightonesque treatment of massive Thornbourh henges

Long Man comparisons

Comparisons with animated Was-bearing ankhs from a piece in Tut's tomb treasures, and with the Egyptian serpent-wand bearing Hekka in a ceiling image

Marlow Thameside Floodplain Round Barrows : Telescopic Image of Orion's Belt

The three round barrows are located on a floodplain just north of the Thames, just west of Marlow, Bucks, UK, Archaeologists say they would originally have been surrounded for much of the year by water. They now only show up as crop marks in aerial photos because they were ploughed flat by a farmer. In terms of size, configuration, and comparison with a telescopic photo they bring to mind Orion's Belt, which then further brings to mind the Giza Orion correlation, those 'burial mounds' also being next to a river. Then we recall Thornborough, same configuration (bigger scale), on floodplan next to a large river in North Yorkshire.

Sunday, 27 January 2008


It’s a midwinter evening in 393 A.H. (After Homer), and we’re sitting about midway up, somewhat to the left in the audience of the Theatre of Dionysos in Athens, awaiting the start of Aristophanes’ new play, The Frogs.

Two figures come on stage. One has a Dionysos mask, but seems to have thrown a Hercules costume over his clothes – he wears what looks like a lion-skin and he carries a club. The other follows behind riding a donkey and carrying a lot of luggage on his back. This second character speaks to the first:-

“Dionysos, Sir, I’ve just remembered a gag that suits our present situation.”
“Oh dear Heaven, what’s coming now?”
“It’s a good one.”
“Really? Are you sure it’s not just the one where you shift your bags around on your back and then complain that you really need to dump your load?”
“No, no, it’s completely different to that.”
“Which one is it then?”
“It’s the one where I ask for someone to take over the task for me, except I use the phrase ‘relieve me.’ ‘Won’t somebody relieve me?’ you see, then I can say ‘before I relieve myself.’”
“Er…right well Xanthus I’ll tell you what: if at any point it suddenly becomes necessary for me to vomit, I’ll get you to do that gag.”
“Hmm. Well you’re not suggesting I go to the trouble of carrying these props without even getting a joke out of it? There’s an amusing baggage scene in every comedy these days.”
“Yes, well there’s not going to be one in this play. Let’s leave all that frightfully witty stuff to those other playwrights, shall we? Anyway, what’s the problem – the donkey is doing the hard work.”
“What? I’m the one carrying the bags!”
“How can someone be the bearer of something, if something else is bearing them?”
“Well that sounds a bit too philosophomological to me, all I know is we’ll have to stop.”
“Because I need to dump my load.”
“Ah, here we are anyway, at Hercules’ house.”

Dionysos knocks on the door of a house façade on stage. Hercules answers it.
“My word,” says Hercules with a chuckle, “what on Earth are you doing dressed as me?”
“I want to emulate one of your feats, I need to go down into the Underworld and bring someone back. So I need your advice.”
“Who do you want to fetch back?”
“Well the other day I was sitting on deck, reading the script of Euripides’ Andromeda, when I thought to myself what a shame we haven’t got any classy poets like that alive in Athens any more. I had a craving.”
“A craving?”
“Yes. How can I put this in terms you’ll understand? You know that feeling when you really want a big bowl of pea soup?”
“Well it feels like that, except I want some decent poetry. So first of all tell me, how do I get down to the Underworld?”
“There are many ways. Here’s one.”
“Just a minute, let me make a note of this.”
“You go straight up the road.”
“…up road.”
“Left into Potter’s Row.”
“….Potter’s, yup.”
“Climb up the tower.”
“…..up tower, got it.”
“Then jump off.”
“Then jump…hang on! No that’s not for me. I’ve always hated minced brains. What way down did you take?”
“I crossed the bottomless lake. There is an aged ferryman. Xanthus will have to go the long way round though, no slaves on board I’m afraid.”
“You mean I’ve got to carry these bags all that way?” says Xanthus.
Suddenly a funeral procession comes across the stage, with a corpse being carried. Xanthus has an idea.
“Why don’t we get that stiff to take them across – he’s going that way anyway. I say, excuse me, could you take these bags down to the Underworld with you?”
The corpse sits upright: “I might, for two drachmas.”
“You’re joking,” says Dionysos.
“Onward!” says the corpse to his bearers.
“How about for nine obols?” Dionysos suggests.
“Nine obols! Frankly, I’d rather live. Onward!” He lies down again.
“Pah, to Hell with him then!” says Xanthus. “I’ll take the bags myself.”
Opening scene of The Frogs, Aristophanes, abridged


Athenian girl being pushed on a swing
Now it is the day of the Festival of the Vintage and we are in a small town a few miles outside Athens. (We’re back in Ancient Greece, later in the same year of 393 A.H. (After Homer). Aristophanes’ Frogs was so well received at its first showing in the Lenaia festival that it was performed a second time, at the Great Dionysia.) Girls are being pushed on swings and libations poured to the shepherd Ikarios, first to receive the gift of wine. Nearby we hear a young boy who is standing holding his grandmother’s hand and watching his sister being pushed on a swing. “Yeya, when was the first Festival of the Vintage?” he asks the benevolent old woman. “That was when King Aristaeus (“The Best”) came back to his kingdom on Ceos from the Oracle at Delphi having consulted his father Apollo. He came back and found the three herdsman from Attica who had killed Ikarios, and he brought them to justice, then he raised a shrine to Ikarios to honour him for sharing the gift of wine, and then he organised the first Festival of the Vintage.” “When will I taste wine, Yeya?” “Today, little one!” “But Yeya, who was King Aristaeus?” “Well, little one, they say his mother was a water nymph called Cyrene. But when he was just a little child, younger even than you, Aristaeus was given into the care of a group of myrtle nymphs and he was fed on nectar and ambrosia by Mother Earth. These fairies of the myrtle bushes taught young Aristaeus useful arts such as how to make cheese from milk, to keep bees and to cultivate the olive, but winemaking was still unknown.”
“And, why did the three herdsman kill Ikarios?”
Dionysos and Ikarios

“Well, Ikarios received from Dionysos the wonderful gift of wine. But it has to be used sensibly. Moderation in all things. Ikarios used to ride around the countryside of Attica carrying wine skins to share the drink with the people, and teach them the Dionysian dances. But this was before people had learnt to mix neat wine with water, and there were some shepherds who drank much too much, which is never a good thing, little one. Some friends of these drunken shepherds met them and did not understand what was happening, and thought they had been poisoned, and attacked Ikarios who, unfortunately, died as a result. Don’t act rashly because appearances can be deceptive. When the drunken shepherds sobered up the killers realised what they had done, and they buried the body under a certain pine tree and left the scene of the crime hoping not to be found out. But no crimes go hidden from the eyes of the Furies, as you shall hear in a moment. Seeing what had happened to his friend, Dionysos arranged with Zeus for the image of Ikarios to be set into the stars as Boötes, the Ideal Shepherd, and put Ikarios’ daughter Erigone next to him as Virgo, and raised their dog Maira into the stars also as Canis Minor, honouring her for having found the place where the shepherd was buried. Ikarios was reborn at the same time at the foot of the pine tree as a vine that wound its way up around the trees' trunk in true Dionysian fashion.”
“Oh. But why did Dionysos chose to give the gift of wine to Ikarios?”
“Well, as I said before, King Aristaeus shared with people the arts he had learnt from the myrtle nymphs, but these didn’t include making wine. Aristaeus was initiated into the Mysteries of Chiron the wise centaur in his mountain cave. Whether it was because of the wisdom he learnt from Chiron, or because his father was an immortal, when he grew to manhood Aristaeus became king of the island of Ceos. He married Autonoe and together they had a daughter called Macris, a nymph like her grandmother.”
“Kala! Well done little one, that’s right. So, when Macris was old enough she joined a group of nymphs called the Hyades, and they were to receive an amazing child into their care, for the great god Dionysos had decided to have an incarnation in Greece.”

“The plant realm rejoiced when this child was born, and he was brought up in a cave by these nurses, and fed on honey. As the child grew up along came a jolly fellow with more than a little horse blood in his veins, who became Dionysos' mentor. His name was Silenus and he rode on a mule. His chops were often bespattered with the juice of myrtles and others of the berries of the hedgerow upon which he loved to feast.

“Before long Dionysos decided it was time to present the gift of wine to mortals, and so he waited to meet a worthy recipient. One day he was walking in the countryside of Attica outside Athens when he met the shepherd called Ikarios out looking after his sheep and goats. The shepherd was very friendly and hospitable, and gave Dionysos gifts of many kinds - milk, honey, different types of fruit. Aha, thought Dionysos, here’s just the sort of fellow who would really appreciate my gift. So Dionysos thanked him warmly and then told him that he had a gift of his own by which to reciprocate the shepherd's generosity. So don’t forget, Dionysos loves the countryside with its hillsides covered with thyme echoing to the rattle of the bells of the flocks and the din of the cicadas as much as he loves the city with its theatres dinner parties, and he likes honest country folk from the hills as much as sophisticated poets from in town. So, this is when Dionysos gave Ikarios a cup of wine, and the good shepherd was sent into rapture as the exquisite taste flowed over his tongue. Dionysos shared also the art of making this beverage, even the cultivation of the vine, and from this time on Ikarios would ride around the hills of Greece in his cart carrying wineskins and introducing the populace to this wonderful drink and to the winemaking process he had also learnt, together with the sacred ceremonies and festivals that went with it.”
“So Ikarios did all the hard work then, while Dionysos was relaxing on the cloud-pillows up in Olympus?”
“Heavens, don’t say such a thing! No, Dionysos went all the way to India and back via Egypt as well, spreading the arts of vine growing and winemaking. He picked up quite a following as he travelled. As well as his mentor Silenus who still travelled with him on his mule there was also the goat-legged Aegipan, "Goat Pan" and a group of satyrs, and also serpent-bearing women called Maenads who picked up in India the idea of clashing little cymbals as they followed behind the god. Even though the closest thing this band had to a weapon was the Dionysian staff wound with ivy or vine and topped with a pine-cone, the grape conquered all India, and then they turned for home, Dionysos leading the band of revellers in a chariot drawn by two leopards, followed by the serpent bearers, the satyrs, Silenus and the rest of the band. The train stopped a while in Persia where Dionysos grew his beard long and learned to wear it in the pointed Persian style. Then the went to Egypt and the maenads added the tambourine to their list of instruments. They almost got into trouble in Egypt when they got thirsty in the desert, but a ram appeared and lead them to the river in Thebes.”
“Where is India, Yeya?”
“Oh, it’s a long, long, long way away, little one.”
“But not if you are a god, though!”
“Well, maybe so, but it wasn’t plain sailing for Dionysos either. Shortly after he had arrived back in the Mediterranean he was wandering down on a beach when a band of pirates captured him and sailed off intending to sell him as a slave, not realizing he was a god. We must be hospitable to strangers, as Ikarios was, but also a little wary, especially little ones like you. But the story also shows how crime doesn’t pay. Dionysos made wild flute music sound in the air and wine flow on the deck, and he made a vine wind up around the mast and ivy twine into the rigging, and he made a roaring lion appear on the deck, causing the pirates to jump ship realising in mid leap that he was, after all, a god, and as they hit the water Dionysos felt compassion and turned them into dolphins so that at least they would not drown. Kidnapping someone to sell them as a slave is one of the most horrible crimes, but we may even feel some compassion for the worst of criminals, little one. Dionysos then took this ship with a vine wound around the mast as his own, and sailed to the island of Naxos.”
“I’ve seen a statue of him there!”
“Yes you have, that’s right. You were there with your father last autumn. And can you remember what happened when Dionysos arrived on Naxos?”
The little boy contorted his face in concentration.
“I can’t remember.”
“Well, a princess from Crete was wandering alone on a beach. Dionysos decided to approach her. At first she just heard the music in the woods inland, the flutes, cymbals and tambourines. She gazed into the dappled shade of the woodland and began to feel the presence of the arriving god. Then the foliage next to the beach began to shudder and suddenly there appeared the young wine god, ivy wreathing his temples, standing on the chariot drawn by the two leopards with the distinctive train of revellers following behind. Dionysos asked her to marry him, but she said she was already married. Don’t you know, said Dionysos, that a lot of mortals have two spouses, one from the land of mortals, and one from the landing of the Shining Ones?
“So she spoke to her family and everyone agreed it would do the island no harm to have this kind of affiliation with a god. And that is why we too, in Athens, have a special day every year when the wife of the Holy King of the city gets married to Dionysos as a second husband.”