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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead


XXXV. 1. That, however, he is the same as Dionysus—who should know better than thou thyself, O Klea, who art Archi-charila 5 of the Thyiades at Delphi,

p. 311

and wast dedicated to the Osiriaca before thou wert born? 1

But if for the sake of others we must quote testimonies, let us leave the things that must not be spoken of in their proper place.

2. The rites, however, which the priests perform in burning the Apis, when they transport its body on a raft, in no way fall short of a Bacchic Orgy. For they put on fawn-skins and carry thyrsuses, 2 and shout and dance just like those inspired at celebrations of the Mysteries of Dionysus.

3. Wherefore many of the Greeks make Dionysus also bull-formed; while the women of the Eleians invoke him praying “the god with the bull’s foot to come” to them.

4. The Argives, moreover, give Dionysus the epithet of “bull-born,” and they call him up out of the water with the sound of trumpets, casting a lamb into the abyss for the Gate-keeper. 3 The trumpets they hide in thyrsi, as Socrates has said in his “[Books] on Rites.” 4

5. The Titanic [Passions] also and the [Dionysian] Night-rites agree with what we are told about the tearings-in-pieces and revivings and palingeneses of Osiris; and similarly the [stories] of the burials.

p. 312

6. For both Egyptians point to tombs of Osiris everywhere, as has been said, 1 and [also] Delphians believe the relics of Dionysus are deposited with them by the side of the Oracle, and the Holy Ones offer an offering, of which we must not speak, in the fane of Apollo, when the Thyiades awake “Him of the winnowing fan.”

7. And that Greeks consider Dionysus to be lord and prince not only of wine, but of every moist nature, Pindar witnesses sufficiently when he sings:

May gladsome Dionysus make the pasturage of trees to grow—
Pure light of autumn. 2

8. For which cause also they who give worship to Osiris are forbidden to destroy a cultivated tree or to stop up a water-source.


310:5 The text reads ἀρχικλὰ—an apparently impossible collection of letters. As no one has so far purged the reading, I would suggest χάριλαν or ἀρχι-χάριλαν. Stending (in Roscher, s.v.) reminds us of the myth of the orphan maid Charila, who during a famine begged alms at the gate of the palace of the King of ancient Delphi; the King not only refused her, but drove her away slapping her face with his shoe. Whereupon the little maid for shame hanged herself. After the famine was over the Oracle decreed an atonement for her death. And so every nine years an effigy made to represent Charila was done to death, and then carried off by the leader of the Thyiades (or priestesses of Bacchus), and buried, with a rope round its neck, in a gorge. Cf. Harrison (Jane E.), Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (Cambridge, 1903), p. 106. As Klea was leader of the Thyiades, this office fell to her; it may, therefore, even be that her name is some play on Charila.

311:1 Lit., “from father and mother.”

311:2 Symbolic wands, generally cane-like or knotted like a bamboo, and sometimes wreathed in ivy and vine leaves, with a pine-cone at top.

311:3 τῷ πυλαόχῳ.

311:4 Müller, iv. 498. This was probably Socrates of Cos, who is known to have been the author of a work entitled Ἐπικλήσεις θεῶν (e.g. Dion. Laërt., ii. 4), meaning either “Prayers to the Gods,” or “Surnames of the Gods.”

312:1 Cf. xx. 5.

312:2 Bergk, i. 433.

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