Friday, 9 December 2011

Bougonia: bees and stars.

If the labyrinth represents the dance of the bee.
If Ariadne, as mistress of the labyrinth is the bee queen.

If her bull headed son must die...

"Myth is a traditional tale with secondary, partial reference to something of collective importance"
Walter Burkert.
"Out of strength comes sweetness".

At the center of the labyrinth there is a star.

It could simply mean god, or be a pretty design, but the bull-headed Minotaur was named Asterion (from Pausanias) or Asterios (from Apollodorus). The connection between the birth of a god and a star over the cave belongs to a tradition much older than Christianity, and possibly goes back to the time when brewing was a new technology.

Two questions arise when I look at that coin, does the star give a clue about the time of year of this event, or was it used here in its more 'Babylonian' form, simply to mean a god?

If the star represents a god, surely the minotaur Asterion was the first born Dionysos.

Both Zeus and Dionysos were born within caves, but only Dionysos has the horns. This version belongs to the 'Orphic' story of the infant mesmerized by his own image in a mirror, and the chalk smeared Titans looming closer and closer..finally tearing the bull boy limb from limb. In this story Zeus arrives almost too late and blasts the dying child and monstrous Titans with pure lightning flame. Some of the Titans scuttle away, burnt and raw. Others are cremated where they stand, bloody flesh still in their mouths.

When it is over, Zeus takes the child's heart and leaves...

Meanwhile something happens to the ash...slowly,  slowly, after many days and nights fermenting in the heat, the first humans crawl out of the ash.

Picture by RideFlame.
Carl Kerneyi states that the archaeologist,  Spyridon. Marinatos  has shown that the orientation of the palaces of Crete, were determined by that other 'Venus'- the dog star; specifically the summer rising of Sirius. If that is so, then there must have been a good reason; the Cretan calendar coming from Egypt is the most likely answer.

This makes me wonder if the modern interpretation of Stonehenge as a midsummer place, derives from evidence such as this?

Almost two thousand years after the building of those Cretan palaces, the Roman, Antoninus Liberalis left out the star when he wrote in his Metamorphoseon Synagoge:
"In Crete, in a cave of bees, there Rhea gave birth to Zeus".
Add another two thousand years and a connection between bees, gods and caves is still reproduced on the tin of sticky goodness known as Golden syrup.

Well there are two explanations, three books...

The lion story comes from the first of the three books- the bible:
Judges 14:5-9 Then Samson went down to Timnah…and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a kid though he had nothing in his hand… When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.
This is so close to Euripides Bacchae tearing kids or snakes or ibex, I'm almost beginning to believe Jane Harrison, almost being the operative word. Actually I don't believe that people did run around possessed by gods tearing animals, well, not on a regular basis.

The bible story explains the lion on the tin; except of course it doesn't.

In 1904 Abram Lyle registered the image.
He was a religious man.
Is the strength the tin, or is it the process of acid hydrolysis on what ever it is that makes syrup?

This was only 107 years ago and no one knows the answer....

Carl Kerenyi in his Dionysos- Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life provides the narrative most commonly encountered for the bees and cave, stars and Zeus, Persephone and divine spirits; mainly I suspect, because his explanation makes sense and his book, though densely packed with information and perhaps a little hard going at times is a lot easier to read than the alternative, The Caves of the Sun by Adrian Bailey.

Carl Kerenyi: Dionysos- Archetypal Image of Indestructable Life:
First and foremost as evidence for Kerenyi's theory there are stories told about making honey from bulls.
Virgil, Georgics 4. 281 - 558 (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.) : "But if anyone's whole stock [of bees] has failed him, and he knows not how to restore the race in a new line, then it is also time to reveal the famed device of the Arcadian master [Aristaeus], and the mode whereby often, in the past, the putrid blood of slain bullocks has engendered bees.
Next comes Cassianus Bassus who lived sometime during C7 AD. His method for making bees is as follows:

A 30 month old bullock should be clubbed to death- so no blood flows.

After all the orifices of its body have been sealed, the cow is placed within a cuboid building aligned to the cardinal points- North, South, East and West- that has a window or door on each of its four walls.

Leave the cow in there for forty days and forty nights..

And voila!
Bougonia- life from bovines- the cow should now be a sack and the bees should be clustered like grapes around the room.

Cassianus Bassus seems to be quoting Virgil:
I will unfold the whole story, tracing it back from its first source. For where the favoured people of Macedonian Canopus [Egypt] dwell by the still waters of the flooded Nile . . . First is chosen a place, small and straitened for this very purpose. This they confine with a narrow roof of tiles and close walls, and towards the four winds add four windows with slanting light. Then a bullock is sought, one just arching his horns on a brow of two summer's growth. Struggle as he will, both his nostrils are stopped up, and the breath of his mouth; then he is beaten to death, and his flesh is pounded to a pulp through the unbroken hide. As thus he lies, they leave him in his prison, and strew beneath his sides broken boughs, thyme, and fresh cassia. This is done when the zephyrs begin to stir the waves, before ever the meadows blush with their fresh hues, before the chattering swallow hangs her nest from the rafters. Meantime the moisture, warming in the softened bones, ferments, and creatures of wondrous wise to view, footless at first, soon with buzzing wings as well, swarm together, and more and more essay the light air, until, like a shower pouring from summer clouds, they burst forth . . .
Which puts one in mind of the Apis bull, which ends its days mummified, and then the Latin name for the honey-bee is Apis Mellifera..all those Apis B-bulls lying quietly in their underground chambers silently recycling souls...

The battering of bulls for honey, it is said, should be done as the Dog star rises heralding midsummer;  for the transformation requires both the dangerous heat of the baleful star, and for Zeus to release the Etesian winds.

I can't help but wonder, has anyone tried this?

From honey and sunshine, we get mead:
Pliney: Boil a quantity of water down by one third, so two thirds remain. Add one third of honey. Let it stand in the sun for forty days at the time of the rising of Sirius.
So, the Cretans get the calendar and the mystic mead teachings from the Egyptians and this knowledge produces Dionysus Zagreus.

The knowledge spreads to Greece and creates Bacchus.

Classical Rome liked to portray Bacchus as a chubby cherub as a way of reducing the fear his cults caused. But also because Dionysos, was twice born. He had a safe 'baby' aspect and a more secret, adult and erotic  meaning as indicated in The House of Mysteries in Pompeii. There was also a socially dangerous aspect that led to the arrest of hundreds of people, in the 186BC fear of a new Bacchic cult that was increasing general subversion: criminality, drug taking, murder and poisonings and sadomasochistic activities.

It is little wonder that Dionysos ends up portrayed as fat and rather unattractive.

He is no kind of threat at all in this form...
Unless he falls on top of you!.

Cornelius De Vos's (1651) "Triumph of Bacchus."