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similarly, observing that the eyes of the Mystics were
powerfully affected by alternate Hght and darkness,
while a multiplicity of phantoms appeared before them
having the figures of dogs and other monstrous forms, and
that the sights and sounds were so terrible that Plout-
archos^ compared initiation with death agony.^ These
forms are ' the fleet-hounds of raging madness,'® the tire-

* Taylor, Pausanias^ iii. 221 ; vide Alktbiades,
also his remarks on Orph. Hymn, Ixx. * Pletho, On the Oracles^ apud

in his Mystical Hymru of Orphmty Taylor, Dissertation on the Eleusinian

lti6 et seq. and Bacchic Mysteries.

« Taylor, Pausanias, iil 200. Tay- * Rusldn, Queen of the Air, i. 2.3.

lor's own views have been already al- • Frag, apud Lobeck, Aglaoph, i.

luded to. Sup. U. iii. 6. 126. ' Recherches, 214.

" Proklos, Comment, on the First ® Eur. Bak. 077.

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less ever-pursuing, fury-dogs/ prototypes of the hell-
hounds and were- wolves of later ages. * Material daemons
actually appeared to the Initiated previous to the lucid
visions of the Gods themselves.'^ * Sometimes terrible
apparitions astonished the trembling spectators." • As I
am not writing a treatise on the Mysteries, but only
alluding to them incidentally in connection with Dionysos,
it is unnecessary to consider how the scenic apparatus
was managed, and what was the amount of scientific
knowledge of the stage manager and his assistants. It
19 now sufficiently recognised that the so-called super-
natural is, in a great variety of instances,* merely the
natural misunderstood ; and the Mysteries of Eleusis, Uke
the egg of Columbus, were doubtless very simple when
once fiiUy comprehended. Nor need I further refer to
that part of the exhibition which related to the Two
Goddesses, merely observing that, especially in earlier
times, their whole legendary history was symbolically
represented, and perhaps more or less acted, on the
Eleusinian stage, as Clemens says, ' Deo^ and Kore^ are
now become a mystic drama ; and the wandering and the
rape and their grief Eleusis shows by torchlight.' ^ But,
confining ourselves to Dionysos and his share in the cele-
bration, it is necessary to remember carefully the differ-
ence between the earlier and the later stages in the
Mysteries, and especially in a Dionysiak connection. The
entry of * Dionysos the Mystic ' ^ on the stage, and the

' Ais. Eumen, 127. been many pseudo-miracles, therefore

* Taylor, DisseHation on the Eleu- there have never been any real mira-
shUan mysteries, 43. clee ; as if we were to say, perjury

* Potter, Antiquities of Greece, i. is often committed in courts of jus-
448 ; and similarly, dread spectres tice, therefore no true testimony is
were to be seen at times in the Hel- ever given in them.

lenik temples of Uasi. (cf. Paus. x. * Dyava-m&tar or Demeter.

32). • Persephone.

* But not in all. A hasty and ' Protrept. ii. 12.
heedless loiaric argues that, et/. he- ^ Paus. viii. 64.
cause it is admitted that there have


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reasons of it have already been referred to ; and as the
Vedic Hymns show us in a state of plastic and crystalline
clearness the elements which subsequently hardened into
the familiar forms of the later Hellenik Mythology, so the
Homerik Hymn to Demeter shows us with equal clear-
ness the root of the matter; while the solar, chthonian^.
kosmogonic, and altogether occult and mysterious
character of the introduced divinity lakchos, illustrates
how, when the worships were brought into local proxi-
mity, * like two meteors of expanding flame,' they touched,
mingled, and were united. Dionysos assists Demeter
with his torch, and this symbohcal incident aptly illus-
trates the whole scope and phase of the earUer connection.
But in later times, and especially when the intercourse
with Kam, transmuted into Aigyptos, was permanently
established on a broad basis, a change came o'er the
spirit of the Eleusinian dream, which manifested itself
chiefly in three particulars : (1), The simple, earUer idea
of a settled, orderly, god-fearing life, with good hope for
the future, fades away ; while (2) there is a repetition of
the old legends in forms coarser and more phallic, com-
bined with less of reverence and more of superstition, the
whole producing moral corruption and decay ; and (3)
new and elaborate psychical ideas relating to the soul,
its destiny and pantheistic union with the divine nature,
and theories of pseudo-purity are introduced. As a
matter of course the actual machinery of the Mysteries
became more perfect and extensive, as in the modem
theatre, where scenery, dresses, and decorations frequently
serve to sustain a piece otherwise intrinsically worthless.
Looking at the simple l^end of the lost Persephone, the
reader will doubtless wonder how the idea of monstrous
and fiendish beings could have first entered into the
Mysteries. The singular history of the Furies is an answer
and" explanation. Comparative Mythologists have traced

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back the idea of the dread Erinys to its simple and inno-
cent starting-point in the Vedic Saranyu, the Eunning-
light of morning. ' The Night/ says Professor Max Muller,

* was conceived by Hesiod as the mother of War, Strife,
and Fraud, but she is hkewise called the mother of
Nemesis or Vengeance.' In a passage from the Veda

* the mischievous powers of Night are said to follow the
sins of man. " The Dawn will find you out," was a say-
ing but slightly tainted by mythology. " The Erinyes
will haunt you," was a saying which not even Homer
woidd have understood in its etymological sense.'^ Pro-
fessor Kuhn also, the advocate of the * meteorological
theory ' of mythology, * has identified Saranyu with the
Greek Erinys.'* * Hence, in spite of all the failure of
memory, and of the fearful character which Erinys had
assumed, the poet who tells the terrible tale of Oidipous
could not but make him die in the sacred grove of beings
who, however awful to others, were always benignant to
him ; ' * e.^., the Sun sinks to his rest surrounded with a
pale light which corresponds with the dawn. Pausanias
derives the name from an old Arkadian word erinnuein,
signifying to be angry,* a derivation acquiesced in by
Professor Blackie, who appears to be anything but partial
to the comparative theory, at all events in its extension.
Eeplying to his strictures, Professor Max Muller remarks :

* If, like other scholars, Professor Blackie had pointed out
to me any cases where I might seem to him to have
offended against Grimm's law, or other phonetic rules,
I should have felt most grateful ; but if he tells me that
the Greek Erinys should not be derived from the Sanskrit
Saranyu, but from the Greek verb ipu/v€iP, to be angry,
he might as well derive critic from to criticise.' * We may

^ Lechtres <m the Science of Lai^ 423. ^ Paus. Tiii. 25.

guagcy ii. 564. * Ibid, 530. * Oontemporary£emew,Dec 1871,

^ Mythol, of the Aryan NationSf i. p. 119.

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unhesitatingly agree with the great philologist. The
Furies are Aryan personages, daughters of Night, inas-
much as the Dawn springs from the Night ; then by easy
transition daughters of Night as dwelling in gloom ; next,
terrible in character ; and lastly, symbolically awfiil in
form. Thus, man's coward, fear-haunted, guilt-conscious
heart pollutes, but in idea only, God's most beautiful
works, and turns the lovely Dawn, Daphne-Athene, with
her rosy fingers and saffron mantle, into the vile, black,
blood-dripping monsters that, like unclean and hateftJ
birds, swarmed around the Delphik tripod of ApoUon in
pursuit of the wretched Orestes. If our thoughts and
ideas are, hke our sensations, founded upon realities, then
there exists somewhere and somehow a vast and awful
background of something terrible. It is vain to reply,
that Aurora is a fact and the Furies are a fiction. Whence
came the fiction ? We can trace the process by which
the Dawn-queen becomes a Fury, but what gives rise to
such a mental concept, and renders it possible ? Why are
not the darkness and the light both alike to us ? In a
word, whence came horror ? Has it no real foundation ?
I would as soon believe that thirst had none. There are
two further points connected with the origin of the Furies
which are of interest to the Comparative Mythologist. I
noticed the remark of Pausanias that Aischylos first
represented them with dragoiis in their hair. Now the
dragon is primarily the keen-eyed creature.^ * The name
dragon denotes simply any keen-sighted thing, and in its
other form, Dorcas, is applied to a gazelle ; ' * and hence
the head of Saranyu, the Kunning-hght, is dragon-crowned,
as her piercing eyes, like the great solar eyes, discover
all things.* Again, in Arkadia, a district peculiarly con-

' Of. liddeU and Scott, Lex. in Taylor a£^ed aUtetf that Aischjloe

voc. dtpKOfiai, 'was doubtless only the first who

^ Mythol. of the Ajyan Nations, i. openly represented the Furies as ser*

428. pent-crowned, not the inyentor of Uie

* This consideration shows, as idea.

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servative of the relics of antiquity, Pai^sanias observes
that when the inhabitants of a certain locality sacrificed
to the Maniai or Eagers, another name for the Furies,
they sacrificed at the same time to the Charites or Graces.^
Now, who are the Charites? Again the Comparative
Mythologist shall tell us : * Though occasionally both the
Sun and the Dawn are conceived by the Vedic poets as
themselves horses, that is to say, as racers, it became a
more feimiliar conception of theirs to speak of the Sun
and the Dawn as drawn by horses. These horses are
very naturally called Aan, or haritj bright and brilliant.
After a time the etymological meaning of these words was
lost sight of, and hari and harit became traditional names
for the horses which either represented the Dawn and the
Sun, or were supposed to be yoked to their chariots.
Even in the Veda, the Harits are not always represented
as mere horses, but assume occasionally, like the Dawn, a
more human aspect. Thus they are called the Seven
Sisters, and in another passage they are represented with
beautiful wings.' ^ He then shows how in Hellenik
Mythology these beings became the Charites, the beautiful
sister Ghraces, * attendants of the bright gods,' and has
successfully maintained the identity of the Harits and the
Charites against severe criticism.* But these bright beings,
personifications of the rays of the Sun and of the Dawn-
light, are absolutely identical with Saranyu, the Eunning-
light of Morning. Well, therefore, might the Arkadians,
though they knew not why, sacrifice at the same time to
the Furies and the Graces, for wonderful to say, both can
be traced to a common origin, and are actually identical.
They are all winged sisters, alike, but how different, and
truly marvellous is the plasticity of idea. A figure of an

> Pans. viii. 34. » Ibid. 418 ; vide MytM, of the

' Prof. Max Miiller, Lectvres on the Aryan NatwMf i. 48.
Science of Lcmffuage, ii. 408.

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archaic type given by Creuzer,^ and which he calls * Eris,
or Adrastea-Nemesis/ appears aptly to illustrate the cos-
tume and general appearance of a stage Fury in the
Mysteries. It is Gorgon-feced, and clad in a black
mantle reaching to the ankles, which, hke those of
Hermes, are winged, and appears to be dancing or leaping
micouthly. It has four large wings, two on each aide,
the two upper extended as semi-volant, the two lower
dependent as semi-close. Not very dissimilar figures
occur in several Oriental Mythologies, but it would lead
us from the subject in question to consider them, or Wing-
symbolism in general ; suffice it to quote an illustrative
passage of Sanchouniathon, who says that the god Taautos'
* contrived for Cronus, the ensign of his royal power, . . .
upon the shoulders four wings, two in the act of flying,
and two reposing as at rest. And the symbol wavS ....
with respect to the wings, that he was flying while he
rested, yet rested while he flew,' • i.e., was tireless, hke
the Fury-hounds. I have alluded to the colossal size and
stature of the tragedian, which was attained by means of
the mask, padding the figure, and the use of the thick-
soled kothomos or tragic buskin, the * learned sock * of
Milton, which

Ennobled hath the buskined stage;

the performers being thus supposed to arrive at the
measure of the stature of the great men of former ages ;
and it is observable in this connection that many of the
Demetrian statues were of large proportions, especially in
Arkadia, where the Eleusinian cult greatly prevailed.
Thus, in one temple were statues of Demeter, Persephone,
and Dionysos, each seven feet high ; in another was the
statue of Demeter as Erinys the Searcher,* a torch in its

> Symboliky iii. pi. 6, fig. 16. ^ An excellent illustration of the

• Thoth, Tet. office of Saranyu. Mde supra,

' Cory, Ancient Fragments^ 16.

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right hand and the mystic kist in its left, about nine feet
high.^ In another sacred enclosure of the Great God-
desses were their statues fifteen feet high ; and in another
temple where their mysteries were performed, * which
were imitations of the things done at Eleusis,' was a
statue about eight feet high.* Another ancient statue of
Demeter was black,* apparently because her mysteries
were celebrated at night and in secrecy.* Taking into
consideration these circumstances and the practice of the
stage, it may be fairly concluded that the weird figures
which appeared at Eleusis before the trembling Mystics
at initiation were of more than mortal statm-e, a circum-
stance which would increase the accompanying horror.
Christie thought that these Eleusinian shows were at least
in the main transparencies, and that the subjects of them
are to be found on the Vases, and remarks : * These
scenes may be supposed to have consisted either of a dark
superficies, in which transparent figures were placed, and
hence their Vases with red figures on the black ground ;
or of opaque figures moved behind a transparent canvas,
and hence their earher Vases with black figures upon a
red groimd.'* This may very hkely have been one
feature in the performance. The proper way to deal
with spectres of this character is to laugh at them ; and so
we read that when that famous philosopher ApoUonios
Tyanensis and his Mends were on their journey to India
* as they were going along in the bright moonshine, they
[like Dionysos in the Batrachoi] fell in with an Empousa,
who, now in this form, now in that, followed after them,
until Apollonios, and at his instigation his companions,
attacked it with scofis and jeers, the only saf^ard

^ Paus. yiii. 26. Aphrodite Melanis.

* Ibid. 31. * DisquMiims upon the Greek

» Ibid. 6. Fainted Vases, 37.

^ Of. remarks of Paus. viii. 6, on

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against it, and it fled away jabbering/ ^ But let us sup-
pose that the * terrestrial daemons,' with their masks, wings,
black garments, and uncouth dreadful forms, have flitted
away across the stage into the dark recesses of the Sekos,
The agitated spirits of the Mystics are next to be soothed
and refreshed by *the lucid visions of the gods them-
selves/ And here let us note the introduction and influ-
ence of the psychical idea. How can man approach any
nearer to Mother-Earth and her Daughter, and to Phanes-
lakchos, Spirit-of-the-Apparent and Growth-power of the
Kosmos, than he is at first placed by nature ? But when
the divinities are regarded as anthropomorphic personages,
with pecuUar local habitations, then, though their dwelling
be not with men, yet they may appear to mortals under
special circumstances, and tJie latter may under certain con-
ditions, especially at and after death, approach their abodes,
and even in some mysterious way be united with them
and made partakers of the divine nature. Peculiarly does
this idea hold good with respect to such divinities as have
once hved on earth, and still more so if they are supposed
to have sufiered there hke mortals. The Uasar of Kam
is the divinity who fulfils all these conditions in the
highest degree ; and, as noticed, he is identical, and was
by the Hellenes regarded as being identical, with Diony-
sos. Their error lay in supposing that the Dionysiak
rites were direct Kamic importations, and thus when in
later times the HeUenik world acquired a general ac-
quaintance with the Egyptian ritual, as a matter of coiurse
the ideas and ceremonial of Eleusis received a XJasarian
colouring and hue ; that is, the psychical element came
into far greater prominence, the Earth-mother and her
Daughter changed their simple phases, and became, hke
the Great Goddess of Apuleius, Pessinyntike, Athene,

* Priaulxi ApcUoniuB of Tyana, 5.

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Aphroditej Diktynna, Here, Uasi, etc., in wild confusion ;
and Dionysos-Uasar, the Great God, appeared no longer
merely as the assistant torch-bearer, but as one of the
first and most important of divinities. In later times,
too, it would seem, especially considering the confused
and contradictory accounts and opinions of the Fathers
on the subject, that the ritual of various festivals, once
distinct, became, as Paganism faded slowly before Chris-
tianity, blended and intermingled. Dionysos wholly join-
ing Demeter, the two great divinities grown greater still
by being identified rightly or wrongly with almost all the
leading gods of the nations, made a last desperate stand
against the conquering Galilaean at Eleusis, and were not
finally subdued until more than fifty years afler the death
of Constantinus. The researches of the present day have
revealed the mysteries of Aigyptos in almost all their
varied intricacies. We know that they were psychical to
the core, and represented in endless detail the eventful
journey of the soul towards the Great God, terminating in
its triumphant union with him. This idea of the pil-
grimage of the soul finds expression in the later ages of
Eleusis. Thus Bunsen remarks, ' It is easy to prove that
the meaning and aim of the symbols was to shadow
forth in a pious and reverent manner the progress of
the soul in her pilgrimage through the finite. The real
element of the mysteries consisted in the relations of the
universe to the soul, more especially afler death.' ^ So
the Neo-Platonik philosopher SaUustius, in his treatise
Peri Thedn kai Koamou^ Concerning the Gods and the
Existing State of Things, explains the rape of Persephone
as signifying the descent of the soul ; and we are ir»formed
that the Mysteries * intimated obscurely by splendid
visions the felicity of the soul here and hereafter when

1 God in Mistory/u. 73.

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purified from the defilements of a material nature/ ^ and
adumbrated the future expansion of its ^ splendid and winged
powers/ ^ So, again, Sallustius, who was a friend of the
Emperor Julianus, asserts that * the intention of all mystic
ceremonies is to conjoin us with the world and the gods.'
This is the occult union of the purified and perfected Uasa-
rian with Uasar. Leaving, therefore, the rest of the show,
and referring the curious to the exposure of the ancient
mjTsteries by Clemens,* Amobius,* and others,* let us
glance at the later mystic manifestations of Dionysos, who
* appears in splendour to mortals.' So Themistios, writing
in the fourth century of the Christian era, ' illustrates his
father's exposition of the Aristotelic philosophy by the
priest throwing open the propylaea of the temple of
Eleusis ; whereupon the statue of the Goddess, under a
burst of light, appeared in full splendour, and the gloom
and utter darkness in which the spectators have been
enveloped were dispelled.' ^ * In all initiations and mys-
teries the gods exhibit many forms of themselves, and
appear in a variety of shapes ; and sometimes an unfigured
hght of themselves is thrown forth to the view ; some-
times this light is shaped according to a human form, and
sometimes it proceeds into a difi5Brent shape.' ^ The
approximation to divinity was only to be attained by a
triumph over the carnal nature ; and where this prevailed
the soul was comparatively dead, and so Plotinos says
that ^ to be plimged in matter is to descend into Hades
and then fall asleep.' * Dionysos, like Uasar, had suffered,
and had also triimiphed in and over his sufferings ; and,

1 Of. the Sokralik consideratioiis Meursius, Eletitmia, which has been

in the Fhaidcn on the desiralility of a great storehouse for suhsequent

death as a release from the body. writers. Also Lenormant, Jhoro-

* Vide Taylor, Dmertation en the grtmhie de la Vote eacrSe eleunnienne,
EUfimnian amd Bacchic MyBteries, ^ Ohristie, Diequukiane, 59.

* Protrept. cap. ii. ' Prokloe, Commentarff in Platon

* Adversus Oentes, Repub,

^ For Eleusinian details vide ^ Ennead, i. ; lib. yiii.

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like Uasar, he represented the Sun, and especially the
nocturnal or subterranean Sun, Sol Inferus/ who in the
blessed regions of the West sinks to the Under-world, sail-
ing in his mystic boat,^ the golden solar cup ;• for * his
nightly journey from the West to the East is accomplished
in a golden cup, wrought by Hephaistos.' * So Stesi-
choros, B.C. 632-552, sings how Halios [Helios], Hype-
rion's son, went down into his golden cup and sailed away
o'er ocean to the deep realms of night, to visit his beloved
ones in the sacred laurel grove.^ And thus in the Kamic
mysteries the soul of the Uasarian having descended into
Kemeter, the Under-world, is struck with ecstasy at the
magnificent appearance of the subterranean Sim, which he
apostrophises in a long address : * Hail, thou who hast
come as the soul of souls reserved in the West ! Hail,
thou descending light formed in his disk ! Thou hast
traversed the heaven; thou hast followed above in yellow.
The gods of the West give thee glory ; they rejoice at
thy perfections.' ^ And as the Mystic at Eleusis had to
withstand the daemons and spectres, which in later times
illustrated the diflBculties besetting the soul in its approach
to the gods, so the Uasarian had to repel or satisfy the
mystic crocodiles, vipers, avenging assessors, daemons of
the gate, and other dread beings whom he encountered
in his trying passage through the valley of the shadow of
death. But as at last the Uasarian penetrated, despite all
opposition, to the secret presence of the divine Uasar, so
the Eleusinian Mystic was permitted to behold his divinity,
and to see * holy phantoms,' ^ and * awful but ravishing

» Of. Macrob. Sat. i. 18; R P. ♦ Mythd. of the Art/an NdtwM,u.

Kmght, Worikip of Priapua, 113; 89.

ly^ncarviUe, Arts de la Qrice, i. • Apud Athen. xi. 4.

233, 271-3. • Fimereal Bitual, xv.

2 Vide Cooper, Serpent Myth% of ^ St. Oroix, JRecherches, i. 216.

Ancient Egypt, 46-1. Lo'beck charges ' Sancrucius * ' quern

* ApoUod. ii. 6 ; Paus. iii. 16. omnee gregaiim sequuntur,' with

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spectacles,' ^ such as one of the last of the ancient philo-
sophers described as follows : * In a manifestation which
must not be revealed, there is seen on the wall of the
temple a mass of light, which appears at first at a very
great distance. It is transformed, while unfolding itself,
into a visage, evidently divine and supernatural, of en
aspect severe, but with a touch of sweetness. Following
the teachings of a mysterious religion, the Alexandrians
honour it as Osiris or Adonis,' * both of which, as we
have seen, are identical with Dionysos, and with each
other. * At the close of the scene,' says Bunsen, *the
victorious god (Dionysos) was displayed as the Lord of
the Spirit. The predominating idea of these conceptions
was that of the soul as a divine, vital force, held captive
here on earth and sorely tried ; but the initiated were
further taught to look forward to a final redemption and
blessedness for the good and pious, and eternal torments
after death for the wicked and unjust.' • But this was a
development ; the original idea of Demeter, ' ifriend of the
noble heroes of civilisation,' * is far simpler. The Mystics

Online LibraryRobert BrownThe great Dionysiak myth → online text (page 26 of 38)