Archive for February, 2013

Dionysos, Deity of Drama

This fall I began giving tours of the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. It was built in 1921 and it is truly a historic treasure, from its ornate foyer to the spectacular house (main room where seats & stage are) There are some interesting parallels between the history of the theatre and polytheistic revival. At one time, when it was no longer being used as a theatre, it was used by the Jesus People church, and they covered up nude artwork.  The theatre was almost torn down in the late 80’s, but a group of people managed to save it, starting the Hennepin Theatre Trust, which also maintains the Pantages and Orpheum theatres.  Uncovering what was hidden and taboo, and saving something from destruction.

Like many theatres it is decorated with a Greco-Roman theme, and while this is generally common with older buildings it is particularly apt since Western theater originates in Greece. In ancient Greece, plays were put on to honor Dionysos, the God of Wine.  Dionysos himself is not depicted in the theater (from what I’ve noticed) but there are grapes and other kinds of fruit draping from chandeliers and wall sconces and decorating walls symbolizing abundance.

Why him? It seems he is not just the god of wine, but of celebration of the pleasures of life: beauty, the arts, sexuality, great food and drink.

Another commonality with Dionysos and theater is that they both attract controversy. He was a later god to appear on the scene, and to begin with, many kings tried to suppress his worship because of the wild behavior of his followers, the Maenads, often joined by their daughters!  They would get smashing drunk, scantily dress in animal skins, and run wild through the hills.  Especially scandalous in a culture that had a very conservative view of women’s roles.  There are many stories of this in Greek myth, always ending with the king in question being punished by Dionysos, and/or his father, Zeus.  Likewise, theatre has often been subversive, satirizing authority, events and cultural mores, often laced with ribald humor.

The word “satire” comes from satyr- a mischievous and well, horny half-man, half-goat spirit of the woods  depicted as companions to Dionysos and the Maenads. (Note: the Romans called him Bacchus, and the satyrs fauns) You may remember good ol’ Mr. Tumnus from the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe.

This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project– the idea is you write a blog post every 2 weeks about a topic starting with a particular letter.  I’m starting a little late (not as bad as last year when I started with P!)

I saw that a couple other PBP bloggers wrote about Dionysos as well-

Aranahk- Dionysus 

Bri- Dionysos, God of Life

 

 

 

 

February 15, 2013 at 1:32 am 2 comments

The Irony of Imbolc

On the morning of Feb. 2nd Dan & I awoke and as we were making breakfast we noticed that the thermostat hadn’t kicked in as it normally would a little before we get up.

Yes, on the day of Brighid, goddess of the hearth, our boiler stopped working. On one of the coldest days of the year. Also we’d recently had a tenant move into the finished basement room.  So much for hospitality! We did provide him with a space heater, so I brought that upstairs, and another to the bedroom, which was even colder! So I spent the day huddling in front of the space heater, waiting for the fix-it guy to come.  I tried not to complain too much, though.  It reminds me how much I take something as basic as a heated home for granted, that I should be very thankful.  This winter has been nasty enough that the Salvation Army is raising money to help people with their heating bills. The counties (at least Hennepin & Ramsey) do provide emergency assistance but more help is always needed. That and with the recession the homeless shelters are packed to capacity- various churches around the metro (including Unity) have been taking in the people who are turned away at night. I know with all the struggles my family has gone thru homelessness doesn’t seem so distant.

Now it has been getting warmer this week, here and there. Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw. Last year we had a mild winter with not much snow and an early spring. On the surface it  was nice, but in the long run a bad thing- the freezing & thawing cycle causes the running of the maple sap, so that it just going straight to thawing, much less syrup could be tapped.  Also the lack of snow (typically early in the winter, and early spring) and not much spring rain contributed greatly to the terrible drought last summer.  It just shows you how necessary winter is. (though I’m never sure what a “typical” MN winter is)

February 14, 2013 at 12:57 am Leave a comment


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