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Maybe it’s the accelerated Daylight Savings or the Global Warming or the fact that the Bushites are in their death throes, but things are really heating up fast this year. And it’s about to get hotter: Spring Fever is going to break out at the Speakeasy next week as we honor the Equinox with a “Primavera Erotica Bacchanalia.” “What exactly is a Primavera Erotica Bacchanalia?” you may innocently inquire. Well, it’s a combination of words that all have something to do with Spring Equinox
The first word is “Primavera,” which simply means “Spring” in Italian. Besides Pasta Primavera, it is most famously expressed in Sandro Botticelli’s “La Primavera” painting of the Goddess of Love in a dark enchanted garden pulsating with sensuous possibility. A radiant Venus (Aphrodite to the Greeks), looking rather like The Unvirgin Mary, presides over handsome Gods in skimpy tunics and lovely Goddesses in diaphanous gowns, her own little love child Eros (a sexy pagan Christ child?) flying above her, aiming his arrow of lust at the Three Graces, Aglaea (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Joy), and Thalia (Fun)” dancing a dazzling rondel. Their gowns flutter in the Spring breeze as Zephyr the Wind God blows and ravishes the wood nymph Cloris, transforming her into Flora the Original Flower Girl spreading rose petals through the Garden of Love. Mercury (Hermes) is the sexy security guard of this idyllic celebration of the innate romance of Spring. Since Mercury is one of Venus’ divine lovers (and the possible father of Eros), one can also see him as the boyfriend patiently waiting on the sidelines as his sex symbol sweetheart occupies the center of all this overheated heathen activity.
The Equinox has long been a heathen holiday, as all the best holidays are, at least originally. Of course, the monotheists have taken it over, as monotheists do tend to take over things, what with Easter, Passover and Persian New Year. But long before Mohammed found Allah…long before Jesus was Born Again on Easter Sunday (greeted by Mary Magdalene; we don’t know if she was Christ’s wife, but she was undoubtedly the First Easter Bunny)… long before Moses told the Pharaoh to “Let My People Go” long before even Adam and Eve supposedly walked the Earth under One God in Heaven…long before all of these stories were told and told again, pagan peoples came together in small groups like the one of Botticelli’s “Primavera,” as well as large inter-tribal gatherings to celebrate the rebirth of Mother Earth, freedom from the slavery of winter and the born-again beauty of nature in the original passion play.
According to Greek mythology, Spring is also when the hauntingly beautiful Goddess Persephone (Proserpina to the Romans) comes up from the bowels of hell, where her bad boy husband Hades (Pluto) keeps her all Winter long. As the flowers bloom, Persephone comes through Eleusis to rejoin her Mother Demeter (Ceres), fairhaired fertility Goddess of the Earth, who is so ecstatic to embrace the Fruit of Her Loins that She showers the world in Spring! And everybody gets Spring Fever. Spring is mating time, dating time, time to fly with the birds and the bees through the flowers and the trees, all buzzing and chirping and blooming and dripping with fecundity and opportunity. Spring! The word itself makes you want to leap for joy, strip off your clothes and dive into romance, especially after such a long cold Winter of discontent and misadventures, war and torture, lying and dying, erotophobic fundamentalism, high-level hypocrisy, fear and loathing. But now there is possibility, there is hope ~ it’s Spring! La Primavera! Carissami Amiche C’est la printemps, mes amants
In this context, the word “Erotica” is kind of gratuitous, as erotica often is. Meaning, just in case you don’t realize that “Primavera” and “Bacchanalia” are sexy, I threw in the word “Erotica,” so there’d be no misunderstanding.
In the early Spring, all religions of the world celebrate some sort of vital faith-affirming holiday of resurrection, renewal and return, both complementing and contradicting the season’s natural blooming eroticism. Though the forces of Sex and God (at least, the monotheistic Gods) are usually quite at odds, sexuality and spirituality are, in many ways, opposite sides of the same Easter Egg. The mystical experience and the erotic experience are the most intense in human life; both connect desire with awe, love, anguish, ecstasy, terror, pain and extreme logic-defying pleasure. At their most sublime, both religious and sexual feelings are intense passions beyond reason. The word “passion” comes from the Latin “passio” which means “to suffer.” We suffer for love as we suffer for God. Religious mystics love God with a passion that can be feverishly erotic, and to whom do most lovers call out in the throes of erotic passion? God, baby, God, baby, God!
But which God are we really calling? Are we calling for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when we come like that? Are we calling for Jesus? Allah? Eros? Perhaps we are calling for Bacchus…
And so we come to one of my favorite Latin words: “Bacchanalia.” Bacchus – Dionysus to the Greeks – is the powerful charismatic God of Spring. In fact, the Dionysia of ancient Greece, when Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripedes would present their tragedies and Aristophanes mounted his comedies, began every Spring on the 24th of March. These were the public Dionysia. But there were also unofficial Dionysian festivals, ecstatic orgies and terrifying rituals that Euripedes wrote about in “The Bacchae.”
As the Lord of Spring, Bacchus/Dionysus is also the God of fertility, wine, and ecstasy, and his festivals and cults were extremely popular throughout much of the ancient world. A complex deity, Dionysus played at least two different roles in Greek mythology and culture. As the god of fertility, he was closely linked with crops, the harvest, and the changing of the seasons. As the god of wine and ecstasy, he was the lord of orgies and revolution, associated with wildness, intoxication, overturning the status quo and unrestrained sexuality.
Bacchus, Dionysus and Jesus
Like another God of Spring, Bacchus/Dionysus has a divine Father, Jupiter or Zeus, King of the Gods, and a mortal “virgin” mother Semele. Zeus’ fiercely jealous wife Hera disguises Herself in human form, then befriends and convinces Semele to ask her Lover-God to reveal Himself in all His glory to her. Zeus begs Semele not to ask for this, but she insists, and He reveals Himself in a glorious lightening bolt that incinerates poor Semele who is pregnant with Dionysus. Just before the divine fetus is incinerated along with His hapless mom, Zeus snatches Him up. Puritanical translations say Zeus then sews little Dionysus into His “thigh,” though the original Greek says He inserts the fetus into His royal balls. Thus, Dionysus is reborn through His Heavenly Father’s testicles as a testament to His divinity. Furious, Hera convinces the Titans to tear the child limb from limb. Zeus manages to shoo the Titans away with thunderbolts, but not before they have torn Him to pieces and eaten all the yummy bits, except His heart. Dionysus’ divine heart is all His Father needs to recreate the Son who is, miracle of miracles, “born again” in Spring.
Beyond the resurrection them, there are many ways in which Dionysus/Bacchus eerily foreshadows Jesus Christ:
Both Gods are great liberators of the common people.
Both Gods miraculously heal the sick.
Both Gods have human “virgin” mothers and divine heavenly Fathers.
Both Gods are intimately connected with wine.
Both Gods are androgynous, with many feminine characteristics, such as long hair and peaceful loving natures, but both are stronger than any man, and flare with potent anger when crossed.
Both Gods have many passionate, prominent female followers and treat women as equals (unusual for their times).
Both Gods live among humans on earth as well as in heaven or Mount Olympus.
Both Gods are Gods of The People, not the Elites who are threatened by and opposed to Their Holy Egalitarianism.
Both Gods preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.
Both Gods seduce you, saying essentially that “Heavenly ecstasy is yours to enjoy if only you follow Me.”
Both Gods were especially adorable babies.
Both Gods are revolutionaries, overturning the status quo.
Both Gods die terrible bloody deaths, suffering for the sake of humanity, and both are reborn in Spring.
Both Gods have, in a sense, their “flesh and blood” eaten and drunk by others.
Both Gods are extremely sexy and charismatic.
And that’s just the beginning. So, if Bacchus/Dionysus is so much like Jesus, why not have a Christian Primavera Erotica? Why not indeed. Why is the idea so utterly ludicrous to our ears? Well, there are many reasons, but essentially, we don’t hold Christian Primavera Eroticas because the Christian Church managed to succeed with the elite classes on a massive scale like the Temples of Bacchus and the Festivals of Dionysus never did. The Christian Church became the Elites, as Barbara Ehrenreich so astutely points out in her wonderful book “Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy,” and the passionate ecstatic essence of Dionysus/Bacchus/Jesus was repressed, oppressed and then, for the most part, lost. This is why so many of us need to reach beyond the Church, back to Bacchus and Dionysus to find the ecstatic essence that may have once been the power of Jesus before His divine whitewashing by the Church.
Of course, even the old loving, somewhat sensuous Jesus of the Gospels wasn’t as kinky as Dionysus, a wild and crazy pansexualist of a God, if ever there was one. Maybe it had to do with His upbringing. After His second rebirth, Father Zeus gave the baby Dionysus over to Hermes who proceeded to crossdress the child, raising Him as a girl to confuse Hera’s murderous eyes. Thus, Dionysus became an androgynous God, attracted and attractive to both men and women. Consider the raunchy though touching tale of Prosymnus, a shepherd living near the reputedly bottomless Alcyonian Lake. When Dionysus went to Hades to rescue His mother Semele from death, Prosymnus guided him to the entrance by rowing him to the middle of the lake. Prosymnus demanded and was granted a reward for this service: the right to make love to Dionysus. However, when Dionysus returned to earth by a different route, He found that Prosymnus had meanwhile died. Dionysus kept his promise by carving a piece of fig wood into the shape of a phallus (i.e., a dildo) and inserting it into his anus, ritually penetrating himself, while seated on the tomb of Prosymnus. This was given as an explanation for the presence of a fig-wood phallus among the secret objects revealed in the course of the mysteries of Dionysus. Undoubtedly, one of the mysteries revealed to initiates is the revolutionary ecstasy of a man finding his P-spot. Since Pan was a frequent consort of Dionysus, you could call it his “Pan Spot.”
Both Pan and Dionysus/Bacchus are often depicted with horns on their heads; could this be the origin of the term “horny”? Pan, Lord of the Satyrs, is usually shown as a half man/half goat hybrid. Clever Medieval Christian Karl Roves, working diligently to further their cause of controlling a horny populace, took these once joyous one-with-nature images of Pan and Dionysus and turned them into Satan, the Christian Devil. Perhaps this Spring, we should take it back.
Dr. SUSAN BLOCK is a sex educator, cable TV host and author of The 10 Commandments of Pleasure. Visit her BRAND NEW BLOGGAMY & POST COMMENTS at http://www.drsusanblock.com/blog/blog.asp Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.