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Bacchus were to daub their faces also with white clay. If the ritual had been for the worshippers to plaster themselves all over, we may be sure the Titans would have done the same.
The idea that play-acting may be a sacred function is not quite so unfamiliar to the modern mind as the sanctity of war: it is pretty generally known that in Greece tragedy and comedy were part of the worship of Dionysus. It need not therefore surprise us to find that the actor, like the warrior, was a sacred person during the discharge of his function, and that his sanctity was notified to the world in much the same way. The satyric chorus, out of which tragedy was developed, wore goat-skins, and were called goats (Tpáryol), to mark their intimate relation with the goat-god, just as the novice in the mysteries was clad in a fawn-skin. The actor had his "war-paint” with which he smeared his face, to indicate that he was under the protection of the wine-god, and therefore inviolable. But as regards the colour of his paint, he adopted, not the Phocian but the Polynesian use: he smeared his face blood-colour, with the lees of wine. The blood of the vine and the vine-god was thus put to the same use as the skin of the animal-god. The actor smeared his face with wine-lees, not for practical or utilitarian but for religious reasons-for exactly the same reasons as other persons dedicated to the gods painted their faces with white clay or red.
It seems, then, that the rite of painting the face was not imported into Greece. It had existed from of old amongst the Greeks as well as amongst the Semites. It was revived first amongst the latter and then in Greece by the new movement of the sixth century B.C., by the conviction that a better lot in the next world was to be obtained by a reversion to archaic and potent ritual. And the same holds good of the other rites of purification and dedication in the mysteries by which the candidate was prepared to partake of the sacramental meal, participation in which admitted him to the new society, and bound him with a mystic bond to the god and to his fellow-worshippers. It also holds good of the sacramental meal itself: that the worshipper who ate
Gardner and Jevons, Greek Antiquitics, 662–5.
of the meat of sacrifice was partaking in the divine life of the sacred animal was a conception which had largely disappeared from view, especially in the cities, the centres of civilised life. But in the country, where things change more slowly and ideas move less rapidly, the old notion, together with the old and more or less barbarous ritual of drinking the blood and scrambling for the victim's flesh (or for the sacred wafers and cakes), still lingered on, until the sixth century wave of revivalism made it once more a potent factor in the development of religion. Doubtless the revived conception and the revived ritual, as taught and practised by the apyrtæ, and in the thiasi and orgeones, at first appeared to the Greeks who dwelt in cities as something new and foreign. But they were not long in discovering that the supposed foreign novelty had the sanction and authority of some of their own native and venerable sanctuaries. One Greek god there was with whose worship the supposed new rites could be seen by everybody to be fundamentally identical, namely, Dionysus. And accordingly the cult of Dionysus, who hitherto, as a god of vegetation and harvest generally, and of the vine and the vintage in particular, had been almost exclusively a rustic god, now spread from the country to the towns. It was in the middle of the sixth century, in the time of the Pisistratidæ, that tragedy, the worship of Dionysus, found its way from the country into Athens, and was taken under the patronage of the state.
In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the deities Sabazios, Zagreus, and Iacchus, who were worshipped with the revived rites in the East, should have been identified by their Greek worshippers with Dionysus. At the same time the differences as well as the resemblance between say Zagreus and Dionysus had to be explained; and the explanations of the likeness in unlikeness necessarily took the form of myths. Further, as there was no priesthood whose function was to teach, as there were no revealed books, no Church to formulate a creed or enforce a dogma, the field was open to all-comers, and every worshipper was at liberty not merely to believe, but also to frame any explanation he chose. Many explanatory myths accordingly were framed, some of which were more and others less plausible. The
more convincing soon spread beyond the limits of the first audience — of thiasoto or orgeones — to whom they were addressed : as we have already seen, the founder of a thiasus provided the sacred books which prescribed the ritual and gave its explanation, and the successful establishment of a thiasus probably depended largely on whether the myths were of a satisfactory and convincing character. Hence a wide circulation for those which commended themselves to the average Greek: they were essential to the successful propagation of the new worship. But explanatory myths were required not only to prove the fundamental identity of the new god with the old, but also to give a reason for the peculiar character of the purificatory and dedicatory rites and for the remarkable ritual of the sacrifice. Finally, the new teaching of hope with regard to the life to come had to be brought into some connection with the customary religion, to be grafted on it, if it was to grow. Now, the same tendency which made both Greeks and Romans take it for granted that in foreign deities they could detect their own gods under different names, made the religious Greek, who recognised Dionysus in Zagreus, take it for certain that the new teaching about the next life must have once formed part of his own religion, if only he could rediscover it, just as the new rites turned out to have been preserved in certain out-of-the-way sanctuaries. The only question was which of the great men of old had taught the doctrine. Plainly it must have been someone who had visited the other world, and so could speak on the subject with authority. That person could only have been Orpheus. The teaching therefore was the teaching of Orpheus; and from that position it was but an easy step to ascribe to Orpheus not only the substance but the actual words of any particular metrical myth which, owing to its popularity, had detached itself from the circle of worshippers for which it was originally intended and had circulated widely but anonymously. Such literature, of which inconsiderable fragments have survived to our own day, accordingly came to be known as Orphic, and the religious associations whose worship these myths were composed to explain and justify came to be spoken of as Orphic mysteries. In the second half of the sixth century B.C., this literature was " edited ” in some sense or other at the court of Pisistratus (whose patronage of tragedy shows his favourable inclination to the cult of Dionysus) by Onomacritus. Then the Pythagorean doctrine of the transmigration of souls spread from Lower Italy to Greece, and Pythagorean pantheism was imported into Orphic literature. The change thus brought about in the character and tendency of Orphic literature is important for the history of the mysteries, and especially (as we shall see in the next chapter) for the right comprehension of the public mysteries, the Eleusinia.
The tyranny of Pisistratus lasted from B.C. 560 to B.C. 527, and the literary activity of Onomacritus must accordingly be placed before the latter date. The floruit of Pythagoras is agreed to be about s.c. 530, and accordingly the Pythagorean brotherhoods can scarcely have spread from Lower Italy to Greece in time to have influenced Onomacritus in his work (whatever its nature) in connection with Orphic literature and the new movement. Now, before the appearance of Pythagoreanism in Greece, the Orphic mysteries, whether disseminated by itinerant agyrtce or taking local and permanent form in the shape of thiasi, were a religious innovation struggling for recognition; and the object of their adherents was to prove that the apparently new rites and new objects of worship, so far from being alien or offensive to the traditional religion and established gods, were fundamentally identical with them and more venerable forms of them. The proof of these statements consisted in the production of myths, of religious legends, associating the new deities and rites with the deities of the accepted Greek mythology. After the introduction of Pythagoreanism into Hellas, these very myths are themselves taken as a basis and are explained as allegorical or symbolical statements of a pantheistic philosophy. In the pre-Pythagorean period, that is to say, the object aimed at was religious and practical, namely, to secure the recognition and acceptance of the new rites and the new faith. But the aim of the later literature was philosophical and speculative, namely, to show that the Orphic myths led to some particular theory of the origin of man, of evil, or of the world. Now, these philosophical theories differed, according to the taste and tendencies of the particular theoriser, in the speculations which they evolved out of the Orphic myths, but they all agree in taking the same myth for their basis ; and this indicates that, before Pythagoreanism reached Greece, one of the religious legends that were invented to reconcile the new Orphic movement with the customary religion had been so successful that it had driven out all its competitors and had established itself as the orthodox explanation of the new worship. The myth or legend which could do that must, we may be sure, have had in it something of the charm which has enabled certain folk-tales and fairy-tales to find a home in every quarter of the globe, and to outlive the mightiest empires of the world. And as a matter of fact, the myth in question is a folk-tale, belonging to the type known to folk-lorists as the Transformation-Conflict, of which the oldest variant is the Tale of Batta, told in an Egyptian papyrus of the nineteenth century B.C., and the most familiar variant is that which occurs in the Arabian Nights. The wide distribution of the tale is proved by Mr. Hartland in the first volume of his learned Legend of Perseus, but as he does not give our variant, it shall be set forth here. The “motives” of the Orphic adaptation of the tale are several : to connect Zagreus with the traditional Greek mythology, to show his real identity under apparent difference with Dionysus, to prove that Zagreus is the real, original Dionysus, and not a new-comer or colourable imitation, and finally to explain the ritual of his worship.
Zagreus was the son of Zeus by Persephone, and even in his childhood the government of the world was destined for him by Zeus. This promise aggravated the natural jealousy which since the time of Homer had been the most prominent feature in Hera's character; and she conspired with the Titans, the ancient enemies of Zeus, for the destruction of Zagreus. They accordingly disguised themselves by smearing their faces with clay, and made friends with the infant Zagreus. They showed him various things (which accordingly were shown in the sacred cist to his worshippers in the mysteries), and when he was engaged in looking at himself in the mirror which they had presented to