Friday, November 2, 2012

Dionysus & Semele

Homeric Hymn 1: To Dionysus
Dionysus, the God of wine and etc. His mother was Seleme, whom Zeus fell in love with and visited as an eagle. When Hera heard of the affair, she tricked Semele into asking Zeus to appear in his true form. He tried to dissuade her, but Semele insisted. When he appeared in this true form, the flashing thunder & lightning killed her.

Zeus took the foetus from the womb of the dead Semele, and stitched the god into his thigh. Hence the epithet eirafiwta, in-sewn. Later Dionysus went to the underworld and brought the shade of his mother to Olympus. She was given the name Thuone, which is something like inspiring frenzy in women obviously in her role as a 'priest' in the cult of Bacchus.

Much of this is missing, and the geography is wrong, Phoenicia is not near the Nile. But I am happy to view the geography as one would in, for example, Brecht's City of Mahogany, where Alabama is thought near Alaska.

[bits are missing]

Some say in Drakanon,
Others in windy Ikaria
Others on Naxos divinely born in-sewn
Others by deep flowing Alfeios
You were born.

Conceived of Semele,
Nurtured of thunder-loving Zeus.
Still others in Thebes
They say you were born.

But they lie.
You were born the father of men and gods
Away from men, hiding from white armed Hera
On high mountain Nysa's blooming forest,
Far way in Phoenicia by Aegyptus streams...

[The text is lost here - but it appears that Zeus is talking]

And they offer sacrifices in your many temples
And these are indeed three,
At your triennial festival
Men shall offer perfect hecatombs.

Behind his dark brow the Son of Kronos
Nodded assent, flowing hair flowing
His immortal head
Great his voice roared and echoed
Out from Olympus, all-wise Zeus assented.

Be gracious, twice born God,
You who inspire frenzy in women.
We singers sing to you
As we begin and end our songs.
Never forgetting the songs
You put in our minds.

And so we praise thigh-born Dionysus
And his mother Semele now called Thuone.