Bacchic Rituals and Modern Manifestations Term Paper

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The bacchius ritual is an expression of another related god, who has been embraced by some as the guide of the spiritual through free expression and has been judged by others as the leader of good people to wicked excess. Though the story of Bacchus is controversial it is one that needs retelling. In Andrew Dalby's work, Bacchus a Biography the life story of Bacchus is told, from am ore modern perspective, a biographical expression of an ancient god. Through his retelling there is a clear sense that the god is all to human, the type of god we humans love to love and love to hate, as the expression of the gift of wine, is a freeing gift and a destructive gift at the same time and mistakes are thought to be only of human making, in our monotheistic culture. This work is an expression of the old cliche, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." In the introduction to a modern translation of the Euripides classic, Bacchai (or Bakkhai) there is a clear sense of the connectivity between the Bacchis myth and that of Dionysus,

Dionysos is the god of Letting Go. One of his cult titles repeatedly alluded to in the Bakkhai is Lysios, the Releaser. He liberates from the constrictions and restraints of ordinary social life. He does this through his gifts of wine, his breakdown of inhibitions in group ecstasy and excited dancing and singing, and through the lesser intoxications of the illusion-inducing power of the mask and the theater. He offers a liberating surrender of self that, in the extreme and nightmarish form envisaged in the play, brings homicidal madness. In its more benign version however, it offers the restorative blessings of festivity, collective enjoyment, and the exhilarating release of barriers between oneself and others. Letting go, surrendering control, yielding to the intoxicating effects of wine or exciting music, total fusion with the group in emotional participation and exultation in our animal energies -these are the gifts that Dionysos holds out to Thebes and through Thebes to all of Greece, that is (in our terms), to the civilized world.

Euripides and Shapiro 3)

The ultimate gift of release and all its corresponding expression of free will, sometimes recognized as evil in its expression of the cruelty of man, but in its best and truest form and expression of release that invigorates and connects humanity to one another through drink, free expressions of sexuality built in character by excesses of dance and music.

In the theatrical production the Infernal Machine Jean Cocteau also demonstrates the urgency of the intellect to seek solace in history to allow for the rebirth of freedom of expression and spirituality. In the work Cocteau's dialogues between characters, representative of authority and challenges to it there is a clear sense that intellect seeks to remind a disconnected world of the rich history of the Greek tradition of Dionysus as well as the value of living ones life, not to stay within the confines of fear and judgment but to express the vitality of life, as an expression of the value of the peaceful aspect of the creator..

Cardinal. Are you not slightly drunk?

Hans. Bacchus is a god whom drunkards made in their own image. Does your Eminence know Dionysus? Do you know the Greek gods?

Cardinal. I get them rather confused; there are so many!

Hans. There were many Greek gods, Your Eminence, and never an unbeliever. There is now one God and many unbelievers.

Cardinal. And if I am not mistaken, you are one.

Hans. Me, my lord! My fellow countrymen fear the devil more than they believe in God. My crime is to believe in God more than the devil. it's very unfashionable.

Cardinal. God leaves us free to choose.

Hans. Free? What do you say to the horrors the priests hold up, high and low, right and left to frighten us? Man walks amidst trials, rewards, and punishments. Man has made God a judge, because he himself judges and condemns. But make no mistake. Brother Martin says that God is foolish but he would not say it of the devil. He would be afraid. The best people believe that wickedness shows intelligence and that goodness comes from foolishness. That is the tragedy. (Cocteau 351)

In this production one can see the rejection of the dominant spiritual guise of seeking to find the way through fear of censure rather than through the guidance of free expression and vitality of living. The Bacchus statement also demands some note as Hans rejects Bacchus as he has been reinvented by the world to express all that is unholy, as an excuse for excess and debauchery, and is therefore no longer the expression of creativity that he once was. To Hans Bacchus has become the conservative's name for blaming excess for the ills of the world.

Cardinal. You say that "man has made of God a judge." You[r] forgot that God made man in His own image.

Hans. And man returned the compliment. If they had less fear of a cruel God, people would gain self-confidence, they would regain their dignity and responsibility as human beings. They would stop being trembling beasts. They would become "man." They would put to God's account those things which they now put to the devil's and so justify Him. Heaven would be triumphant and Hell would lose it sway. (Cocteau 352)

The value of the birth of Dionysus and the Bacchic rituals, when they are censured only to the degree that they do not hurt others in their development, can be seen repeatedly through out the historical record. The culture we live in today, is no exception, as the creation of a world that values science over spirit is a culture very in need of alternative expression, just as every censured and fearful culture has been before.

The connection between modern expressions of music, dance and naked frenzy is not knew, in a fundamental work exploring the nature of modern expression of the Bacchic ritual and the Dionysus mythology Hall, Macintosh and Wrigley collectively edit a group of literary articles that build this connection through thought and analysis of modern expression of film, dance and music. In one of the works, within the larger collection (Dionysus in 69: Greek Tragedy at the Dawn of the Third Millennium) there is reference to the validity of the argument of reinvention of the Dionysus legacy and Bacchic ritual. The work discusses the context of the theatrical production Dionysus in 69

The run of the play extended from June 1968 to July 1969...Its opening night took place the day after Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, preceding by only a few months the election of Richard Nixon...One month after its closing, the renowned Woodstock rock concert took place, an event that has assumed legendary status in the annals of hippie utopia. The title Dionysus in 69 was chosen, not only for its more naughty associations, but also to propose a revolution that 'would elect Dionysus president' in the coming year. This was a time of radical social transition, 'reflected in diverging social values between old and young, rich and poor, whites and blacks, male and female sexual roles, and above all, between advocates and opponents of war in Vietnam'...'protests against this conflict escalated to protests by the young against all authority figures; freedom of expression carried over to the realm of sex as well as speech.' (51)

The production Dionysus in 69 is a foundational expression of the direct connection between the era and the older mythos and expressions. In the production, with limited dialogue and more nudity than not, the audience was encouraged to disrobe and take part with the actors in this free expression of humanity, once again an expression of the frenzy associated with Bacchic ritual and expression.

Creating the world anew was the goal of the late 60s and early 70s society and the standard to be used was as ancient as the desire of free expression. The era reflected the entire cornucopia of the early Greek movement as it displayed in full Technicolor expression both the good and the bad aspects of free expression and human culmination of it. In the documentary film Woodstock (1970) one can see the good and the bad associated with the concert and the movement, as details about drug use and violence are not missing and images of naked hippies convening with nature and each other naked and in the mud are juxtaposed, with back stage scenes of drug use and conversations as well as the stupefying power of the music and its messages. The film embodies the reality of application associated with this rejection of the norm, as it was developed in the concert event and all the surrounding hoopla. What the movement and the event meant to all the people involved is…

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