I heard someone say a few days ago that Carnival is bacchanal..you know what, Yes, Carnival IS bacchanal…
..and ‘bacchanal’ is from the root word ‘Bacchanalia’ which originates from the festival of the worship of the god ‘Bacchus’…
Bacchus was the nickname for Dionysus, a Greco-Roman god, for whom many cults formed for worship of him, as god of wine (the fermented drink, yea) and ecstasy. Bacchus eventually became his substituted name.
Bacchus (Dionysios), as described by Plato, is to be ‘invoked’..’inviting his presence at the rite’ (the rite involved heavy drinking and intoxication and participants were initiated – firstly, a rite of passage, much like the methods of US sororities and fraternities of today)…
(All the excerpts and quotes I’ve used can be seen between a pair of these ‘——‘)
Plato, Laws 665b :
“[In the ideal city proposed by Plato:] We shall rule that the young man under thirty may take wine in moderation, but that he must entirely abstain from intoxication and heavy drinking. But when a man has reached the age of forty, he may join in the convivial gatherings and invoke Dionysos, above all other gods, inviting his presence at the rite (which is also the recreation) of the elders, which he bestowed on mankind as a medicine potent against the crabbedness of old age, that thereby we men may renew our youth, and that, through forgetfulness of care, the temper of our souls may lose its hardness and become softer and more ductile, even as iron when it has been forged in the fire.”
Also take note of the reasons given for the festival by Plato..
Plato, Laws 653d :
“The gods, in pity for the human race thus born to misery, have ordained the feasts of thanksgiving as periods of respite from their troubles; and they have granted them as companions in their feasts the Mousai (Muses) and Apollon the master of music, and Dionysos..”
Dionysios (Dionysus/Dionysios/Bacchus) was the god of:
1. Viticulture & Winemaking
2. Wine-Drinking & Party
3. Madness & Hallucination
4. Fruit & Vegetation
5. Plays & Choral Song
6. Homosexuality & Effeminacy
7. Reincarnation & the Afterlife
A description of the revellry is as such:
Plato, Laws 637b :
“The Dionysia (Festival of Dionysos) . . . a revel such as I once upon a time witnessed ‘on the wagons’ in your country [i.e. Athens]; and at our [the Spartans] colony of Tarenton, too, saw the whole city drunk at the Dionysia. But with us [the Spartans] no such thing is possible.” [N.B. At the Feast of Dionysus in Athens it was customary for revellers mounted on wagons to indulge in scurrilous language during the processions.]
—— ….the bacchanalia were the ecstatic, mystical festivals central to the cult of Bacchus introduced into Rome from lower Italy by way of Etruria (c. 200 B.C.E.). Here, Dionysos was merged with the local fertility god Liber, the personification of joyous personal freedom. The Roman Bacchic Cult typically emphasized the sexual aspects of the religion, and invented terrifying, chthonic ordeals for initiation into its Mysteries. These festivals, which included both cultic initiations and general revelry, occurred on March 16 and 17, in the grove of Simila near the Aventine Hill and were generally restricted to female participants.
Archaeological findings reveal that Dionysus or Bacchus, as he was called by the Romans, was known and popular in Italy as early as the sixth century. Evidence shows that Bacchic rites of initiation were a form of private, not public, worship and were often performed informally by small local or family organizations. The emphasis of the ceremonies was preparation for an afterlife of punishments and/or bliss. By the end of the third or early second century, the cult had taken on the fervor of a religious missionary movement. The initiated held secret meetings and had secret signs by which they recognized each other, and changes were made to the initiation ceremonies, or Bacchanalia. Wine-drinking and feasting were added to the religious component, which led to ecstatic fanaticism and the practice of scandalous behavior. At first, the rites were imparted to a few, but soon they were propagated widely in order to gain many adherents.
Though the cult was forcibly constrained by governmental fiat. It was revived in a slightly tamer form under Julius Caesar around 50 B.C.E., with his one time ally, Mark Anthony, becoming an enthusiastic devotee and lending the movement much popular support in the process. The Bacchanalian festivals, which were popular enough to be exported to most Romanized provinces, remained in existence, along with their carnivalesque street processions, until at least the time of Saint Augustine (c. 400 C.E.).
The expression of this worship, at these feasts also spawned the word, ‘orgy’ where the definition of orgy according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:
1: secret ceremonial rites held in honor of an ancient Greek or Roman deity and usually characterized by ecstatic singing and dancing
2a : drunken revelry
2b : a sexual encounter involving many people; also : an excessive sexual indulgence
3: excessive indulgence in something especially to satisfy an inordinate appetite or craving.
This invocation of the god of wine, Bacchus, which resulted in the festival of ‘Bacchanalia’ no doubt replays itself in the festival of Carnival that we see before us today. It is an invocation. You’d have to be blind not to see the obvious connection. It is evident in the songs sung that the root of these festivals, both ancient and current, is the same, where to revel like this requires one to come out of one’s self.. Didn’t Machel Montano have a song similar to this in 2009 or 2010… ‘Jumbie’? “Out of your body…back to your self now…”
What inspires these similarities?
Why invoke and be filled with this spirit when you can have abundant life from being filled with another life-giving and holy spirit? The Holy Bible says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery (dissipation, drunkenness, lasciviousness). Instead, be filled with the Spirit… (Ephesians 5:18)”.
‘Making a Drama out of a crisis, Livy on the Bacchanalia’ by P.G. Walsh
The Bacchanal of the Andrians, oil on canvas by Titian, c. 1523–26; in the Prado, Madrid.
Courtesy of Archivo Mas, Barcelona
The Anacreontea, Fragment 38 :
“Let us be merry and drink wine and sing of Bakkhos (Bacchus), the inventor of the choral dance, the lover of all songs, leading the same life as the Erotes (Loves), the darling of Kythere [Aphrodite].”