Dyionysos Initiation
Dyionysos Initiation

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journey to the-underworld
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the_revealing [Panels 6-7]
triple goddess [Panels 8-10]

Nina Meledandri


The Initiation Chamber
Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii 50-60 BC

Dionysian Mystery Cult

The first scene shows a naked boy, perhaps representing the divine, androgynous  Dionysus,  reading from a scroll with three participants listening.

The initiate, carries an offering tray of sacramental cake. She wears a myrtle wreath. In her right hand she holds a laurel sprig. The women first hear sacred readings and prepare a ritual or sacred meal. [panel 1]

The ceremony begins with offerings to the ancestors which are left out in the open. The time is now at hand where the initiate is first called to adventure by a herald, signifying that "the time for the passing of a threshold is at hand." To follow will be glimpses into the world of Dionysus and his story of death,  resurrection and divine marriage with Adriane. The community's creation story would make an apt first reading in the effort to create a ritual space. It would not be the initiates first exposure to the story, but it is intended to be the most memorable experience of the story in their lifetime.

The key to initiation is recognizing that we have reached such a turning point, and are aware of being in a period of transition between our past and our future. Typically, prior to the ceremony, the initiands will have undergone seclusion at some distance from the community, accompanied by instruction. This period of isolation might be punctuated with purification, beatings, contests, special food, and special dress. The conscious awareness of entering a transitional state allows us and this initiate to reflect on perhaps discarding certain behavioral or emotional patterns which will be no longer valid for the 'new' circumstances, and consciously take up new ones

The frescoes from the Villa Item ("House of the Mysteries") outside Pompeii are quite famous and serve as one of the few non-Christian records of the mystery religions of the Greeks. At the time they were discovered in 1909 they were considered a great masterpiece for the celebrated era.

The frescoes beginning from the left on the north wall then to the east and complete on the third south wall. The chamber is entered through an opening located between the first and last scenes of the fresco, the door is in the west wall. The Initiation Chamber measures 15 by 25 feet, and is located in the front of the villa on the right side.

The term "mysteries" refers to secret initiation rites of the Classical world. The Greek word for "rite" means "to grow up". This ancient fresco cycle depicts statuesque women engaged in activities that have often been connected with the initiation of a young woman into the mysteries of the cult of Dionysus in preparation for marriage. Dionysiac initiation is entry into the Dionysiac community, the thiasos.  The thiasos is a mythical community, a collective power capable of insuring a blessed afterlife. Through initiation an initiate become a mythical follower of Dionysos, a Maenad or a Satyr and insured a place in the underworld after the current life passed.

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Detail of a Woman from the Fresco Cycle at the Villa of the Mysteries Giclee Print by Mimmo (corbis) Jodice

The next group shows a priestess seated at the center of a scene directing action by three different women as she removes a covering from a ceremonial basket held by a wreathless female attendant. A second priestess, wearing a head covering and a wreath of myrtle pours libations while the initiate approaches with her offering.
The large aging satyr playing a ten-string lyre is
Silenus. He is known for his wisdom, as well as being the teacher and faithful companion of Dionysus
. He is acting as the hierophant or priest who interprets the sacred mysteries [panel 2]
In the monomyth, or the mythical story of initiation common to all cultures first brought to collective consciousness by Joseph Campbell: the next step in this wish-fulfillment dream is the encounter with a protective figure, "some wizard, hermit, shepherd, or smith, who appears to supply the amulets and advice that the hero will require.

 Now journey to the-underworld

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