MARDI GRAS & CARNIVAL GOERS FEEL CALL OF ANCIENT DEITY?
By Thomas R. Horn
Reuters reported yesterday that as New Orleans got ready for the final bead-throwing bacchanalia of Mardi Gras, ugly reminders of the violence gripping the storm-shattered city continues as two people were killed and seven others were wounded in two shootings ahead of the stream of parades scheduled to start Friday night and run through Fat Tuesday.
This is the second Carnival season since Katrina devastated the city in 2005, killing 1,300 people.
"The city put on a slimmed-down version of Mardi Gras in 2006 in what officials viewed as a symbol of the city's survival of Katrina," Reuters said. But "this year's festivities, which began on February 9, are back to a fuller schedule, and look and feel 'more like an ordinary Mardi Gras,' added historian Arthur Hardy. 'In this town, ordinary is good right now."'
The mood is similar across the world in Rio de Janeiro, where Brazil's raucous Carnival celebrations kicked off on Friday with tens of thousands dancing and singing in the streets despite a recent surge of gun violence in the city's slums.
In Australia, the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is also partying like there's no tomorrow. The SGLMG has become a global attraction with the annual street parade now listed among the 10 most spectacular costume events in the world. Billed as the "biggest queer gathering" on earth, this year's month-long celebration culminates on March 3 with all the "glitz, satire and sassiness" that the world famous night-time parade through the streets of Sydney and the enormous Mardi Gras party has become known for.
With so much uncertainty in the world, some wonder why people feel the need to cast off inhibition and party anyway. Is this a deep psychological compulsion, or something else -- unseen and deadly -- pulling at mankind to "don the mask"?
PUTTING THE MASK IN MASQUERADE
In his book "Mardi Gras!" (Picayune Press), Errol Laborde investigated the masquerade tradition and wrote that "Roman aristocracy of the time preferred debauchery and licentiousness to legality and morality. Men donned women's clothing, the better to abandon themselves to orgy; thus the masquerade tradition began."
Professor Fred Koening of Tulane University supported Laborde's conclusions, adding, "Masks are a way of being anonymous, and if you wear a mask, you take on a different persona. You can be a little drunker, a little wilder, a little more primitive. Furthermore, at Carnival people will be more tolerant of you. Normal rules are gone. Traditional routines are put on hold."
In ancient times, the Greek god Dionysus (Roman Bacchus) represented the personification of such revelry. Followers of Dionysus imagined him as the "presence" that is otherwise defined within man as the craving that longs to "let itself go" and to "give itself over" to outlaw desires. What puritans might resist as the lustful wants of the carnal man, the followers of Dionysus embraced as the incarnate power that would, in the afterlife, liberate the soul from the constraints of the present world and from customs which sought to define respectability through obedience to moral law.
Until then, worshippers of Dionysus attempted to bring themselves into union with the god through ritual casting off of the bonds of sexual denial and primal constraint by seeking to attain a "higher state of ecstasy."
The ancient rites were described by Greek writers such as Euripides:
The uninhibited rituals of ecstasy (Greek for "outside the body") employed ecstatic communal dancing to the drums and flute, flicking of the head backward (as found in most trance inducing cults), and overt consumption of wine to bring the followers of Dionysus into a supernatural condition which enabled them to escape the temporary limitations of the body and mind and to achieve an orgiastic state of " enthousiasmos", or "outside the body and inside the god."
In this sense, Dionysus represented a dichotomy in the Greek religion, as the primary maxim of the Greek culture was one of moderation; "nothing too extreme." Yet Dionysus embodied the absolute extreme in that he sought to inflame the forbidden passions of human desire.
MARDI GRAS & CARNIVAL CALLED "BACCHANALIAN"
As students of psychology returning from Mardi Gras will intrinsically understand, the wild abandonment that defined Dionysus-worship actually gave the god of wine and revelry a stronger allure, not weaker, among many ancients who otherwise tried in so many ways to suppress and control the secret lusts of the human heart. Dionysus was the craving that demands one partake of "the forbidden fruit" and who threatened madness upon those who denied him free expression. Conversely, persons giving themselves over to the will of Dionysus were promised unlimited psychological and physical delights. The Dionystic idea of mental disease resulting from suppression of secret inner desires, especially aberrant sexual desires, was later reflected in the teachings of Sigmund Freud. Thus Freudianism might be called the grandchild of the cult of Dionysus.
Such mythical systems of mental punishment and physical rewards based on resistance and/or submission to Dionysus were symbolically and literally illustrated in the cult rituals of the Bacchae, as the Bacchae women (married and unmarried Greek women had the legal right to participate in the mysteries of Dionysus) migrated in frenzied hillside groups, dressed transvestite in fawn skins and accompanied by Mardi Gras-like mask-wearing, screaming, music, dancing, and licentious behavior.
When for instance a baby animal was too young and lacking in instinct to sense the danger and run away from the revelers, it was picked up and suckled by bare-breasted women who participated in the hillside rituals. Yet when older animals sought to escape the marauding Bacchae, they were considered "resistant" to the will of Dionysus and were torn apart and eaten alive as a part of the fevered ritual.
THE DEVIL AND CARNIVAL
Before the ancient Greek/Roman festival was outlawed in 186 BC by a decree of the Senate -- the so-called "Senatus consultum de Bacchanalibus" -- as having become too debauched, human participants were sometimes subjected to orgiastic cruelty, as the rule of the Bacchanalia became "anything goes," including torture, bestiality, and pedophilia. Thus some saw the devil growing in Dionysus, and the tempter as seeking souls.
The Hebrew people considered Hades -- the Greek god of the underworld -- to be equal with Hell and/or the Devil, and many ancients likewise saw no difference between Hades (in this sense the Devil) and Dionysus. Euripedes echoed this sentiment in the Hecuba, and referred to the followers of Dionysus as the "Bacchants of Hades."
In Syracuse, Dionysus was also known as Dionysus Morychos ("the dark one") a fiendish creature; roughly equivalent to the biblical Satan, who wore goatskins and dwelt in the regions of the underworld.
In his scholarly book "Dionysus Myth And Cult", Walter F. Otto connected Dionysus with the prince of the underworld, saying, "The similarity and relationship which Dionysus has with the prince of the underworld (and this is revealed by a large number of comparisons) is not only confirmed by an authority of the first rank, but he says the two deities are actually the same. Heraclitus says, 'Hades and Dionysus, for whom they go mad and rage, are one and the same.'"
Hebrew prophets even believed a devil's "spell" came over the Bacchae (the female followers of Dionysus) as a result of the fevered rituals, and that this was evidence of Dionysus' Satanic connection. While most of these beliefs are no longer available due to Dionysus being a mystery god and therefore his rituals were revealed to the initiated only, the prophet Ezekiel described the "magic bands" (kesatot) of the Bacchae, which were somehow used to capture (magically imprison) the souls of men.
We read: "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold I am against your magic bands [kesatot] by which you hunt lives [souls] there as birds, and I will tear them off your arms; and I will let them go, even those lives [souls] whom you hunt as birds" (Ez. 13:20 NAS).
Acts 17:34 records a soul liberated from the control of Dionysus: "Howbeit certain men clave unto [Paul], and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite..."
To carry the name of Dionysus usually meant that: 1) the parents were devotees of Dionysus and thus the child was "predestined" to be a follower of the god; or 2) the individual was under the spell of the kesatot.
The kesatot was a magic arm band used in connection with a container called the kiste. Wherever the kiste is inscribed on sarcophagi and on Bacchic scenes, it is depicted as a sacred vessel (a soul prison?) with a snake peering through an open lid. How the magic worked and in what way a soul was imprisoned is a mystery. Pan, the half-man/half-goat god (later relegated to devildom) is sometimes pictured as kicking the lid open and letting the snake (soul?) out. Such loose snakes are then depicted as being enslaved around the limbs, and bound in the hair, of the Bacchae women.
Pan, the serpents, the imprisoned souls, and the magic Kesatot and Kiste were apparently understood by Ezekiel as a magical system for imprisoning minds through trance inducing techniques, such as dance and music, enchantment, and sensuality, of which the bacchanalian party-rituals were a part. Of course Pan was also beloved of Dionysus for his pandemonium ("all the devils") which struck sudden panic and/or pleasure in the hearts of men and beasts.
question some may now consider is -- is a mythical god of the underworld,
a spirit historically identified with Satan, entertained during New
Orleans's Mardi Gras, Rio's Carnival, and Sydney's Gay & Lesbian Mardi
Gras? Is a psychological or supernatural "force" responsible for debauchery
associated with modern bacchanalia? Or do people simply hide behind
a mask and give themselves to licentiousness each year because, with
so many uncertainties in the world today, some feel a deep need to
cast off their inhibitions and to party like there's no tomorrow...
because that's what they actually believe.
© 2007 Thomas R. Horn - All Rights
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Over the last decade, he has authored three books, wrote dozens of published editorials, and had several feature magazine articles. In addition to past articles at NewsWithViews.com , his works have been referred to by writers of the LA Times Syndicate, MSNBC, Christianity Today, Coast to Coast, World Net Daily, White House Correspondents and dozens of newsmagazines and press agencies around the globe. Tom's latest book is "The Ahriman Gate," which fictionalizes the use of biotechnology to resurrect Biblical Nephilim.
Thomas is also a well known radio personality who has guest-hosted and appeared on dozens of radio and television shows over the last 30 years, including "The 700 Club" and "Coast to Coast AM." When looking for a spokesperson to promote their film "Deceived" staring Louis Gossett Jr. and Judd Nelson, "Cloud 10 Pictures" selected Thomas as their spokesperson to explain the Christian viewpoint on UFO-related demonology.
Pan, the serpents, the imprisoned souls, and the magic Kesatot and Kiste were apparently understood by Ezekiel as a magical system for imprisoning minds through trance inducing techniques, such as dance and music, enchantment, and sensuality, of which the bacchanalian party-rituals were a part.