The Facebook group Prayers to the Gods of Hellas informs me that the Urban Dionysia began at sundown last night, and will continue for the next eight days . The Attic title was Διονύσια τὰ ἐν Ἄστει (Dionusia ta en Astei: lit. “The In City Dionusia”) or Διονύσια τὰ Μεγάλα (Dionusia ta Megala: lit. “Dionusia the Big”). The Wikipedia article can be found here.
It is both interesting and appropriate that Sannafrid and I (unknowingly) chose to spend last night smoking and drinking, while I read aloud from my copy of the Homeric Hymns. First the Hymns to Aphrodite, as we had been discussing goddesses of fucking, and then the Hymns to Dionysus. As the evening went on, I colored an iconographic image of the god I have been working on off-and-on for some time. This afternoon, shortly before penning this post, I poured a libation of mead before the idol on my altar.
It is further interesting that, although we are shifting from Greek drama to Roman in my Greek and Roman Drama class, I have spent the afternoon reading* Euripides Hippolytus in anticipation of reading Phaedra, Seneca’s version of the story, next week. Hippolytus was first performed in 428 BCE, and—like all the Attic dramas which have survived—was a winner of the theatre competitions which were a major part of the festival.
Unfortunately, I do not have the liberty to take eight days off in honor of Dionysos—or even to get ploughed for the next seven nights in his name (and “sacrifice my liver”, as Sannafrid put it). Besides, the original was a state-sponsored festival which (to a casual but cynical reader, at least) looks like it was intended to duplicate, tame, and profit off of the older, Rural, Dionysia … and the Cults of the Olympians are not state-sponsored religion anymore.
What I can do is make a point of taking an hour or two out of each of the next seven days to meditating on the Bacchic One and upon my relationship with him, finishing the one devotional image I have so far, finishing reading Written in Wine (the devotional anthology Aradia gave me so long ago), and working on translating the Homeric hymn I never got to over Spring Break because the Hymn to Phanes took me so long. Hopefully, between these various things, I may develop some sense of how I might celebrate this festival (and the Rural, in the winter) within my own cultural frame work and (still infantile) devotional practice.
* I have read Hippolytus before, of course, for last semester’s mythology class. The roles of the goddesses Aphrodite and Artemis are too prominent to pass up. I could write a whole post about that play alone. Possibly several: one tackling the theme of hubris and failure to treat the altars of the gods; one dealing with Euripides treatment of women in general, and another on the misogyny of Hippolytus in particular. But those are rants for another day.