“…you take raw flesh, and sceptered you lead us into the madness of revel and dance…”
I. What if The Lenaia had a Hebrew Name?
Most Jewish holidays begin with the word yom, literally “day” or “day of.” The Greek name for this festival is lenaia, from the Greek word lenai, which may have meant “wine press”, but was more commonly know as another name for the maenads, the female worshippers of Dionysos (members of His thiasos, or retinue). -im is the feminine Hebrew plural suffix (used for nasim, or women, for example), so perhaps we might call this festival yom ha’maenadim – “Day of the Maenads“, keeping the original Greek word but adding the Hebrew plural suffix (syncretism!). However, the festival was traditionally three days long in ancient Athens, where it was primarily celebrated. Therefore, “days” would be more appropriate: yamim (used in such phrases as yamim noraim, or “the days of awe”). Yamim Ha’maenadim: the Days of the Maenads. Yes, that will suffice.
II. Who are the Maenads and why do They Matter?
Pussy-grabbers, watch out. We have no time for your gross antics. Call us nasty. We are nasty. Call us emotional. We are emotional. Call us bitches. We are bitches. We are the traumatized, exhausted, angry, frenzied, fed-up-with-this-bullshit womxn who refuse to “let it go” and “just move on”: not when the cis white patriarchy still occupies (dominates) every square inch of space around us, so thick we can hardly breath without choking on some form of toxic abuse. We are ready and willing to step up to the challenge of ripping apart that which does not serve us. We reject a culture that commands us to hate our bodies and compete against one another in pursuit of unattainable (and just plain incorrect) beauty standards. We reject a society that defines femininity as weak and submissive; we reject a world where some of us are told we don’t belong, then murdered when we try and live our truths. We are the witches, the weirdos, the artists, the mentally ill, the disabled, the oppressed, the abortion-havers and the baby-birthers, the poets, the storytellers, the survivors. We are sexual and asexual; we are butch and femme and all sorts of in-between. We dance with passion and scream with ecstasy, our war cry backed by the millions of womxn who came before us, our mythic rage echoing across eons of shared grief. We cannot be silenced. We pour wine (or is it blood?) on the hard, frost-covered earth and pray for release (Lysius), for liberation (Eleuthereus), for the end (or is it a beginning?) of our madness (Soterius).
III. What Shall we ask of Dionysos Linaeus?
We are in a climate crisis. We aren’t “expecting” a climate crisis, or making plans to deal with one. It’s happening. It’s too late. Australia is literally on fire. There have been devastating earthquakes in Puerto Rico. The mid-Atlantic region of the United States is experiencing an unnaturally warm winter. So, it is with a heavy heart and a worried soul that I petition Dionysos for something other than the traditionally asked for “quick arrival of spring.” How ought those of us who’s spirituality centers around the changing of the seasons adjust to the cold, hard truth that the earth is dying, and the seasons are no longer comfortably predictable? Severe weather patterns and extreme fluctuations – these are not what our ancestors prayed for, nor were familiar with. One might argue that, were the ancient Pagan peoples alive today, they might look to the current state of humanity and the apocalyptic living conditions looming on our horizon and quite simply state: “The Gods are furious at all of you.” And maybe they are. That’s beyond my realm of expertise (to know exactly what the Gods, or anything else out there in the universe, might think of us); what I do know is, I cannot stand idly by and watch the earth burn to ash because of human selfishness. I’ve started to do better in terms of making a disciplined effort to live, eat, and dress sustainably, and to avoid corporations with zero intentions of cutting down on carbon emissions or ending their catastrophically wasteful manufacturing practices. I’m trying to shop locally, rather than have everything in my life conveniently packaged and shipped to me. I’m trying to use my car only when I absolutely have to (this is something I can control to some degree, since I live in a major city), and opt for public transportation as a first choice. I’m trying to recycle things, to use them until they are absolutely ruined rather than replace them right away; I’m trying to give money and resources to those who need them; I’m trying to advocate for and elect leaders who care about fixing this; and I’m trying to spend more time in nature before its beauty has completely disappeared. How to deal with the climate crisis is something we all must grapple with, and I hold no judgement towards anyone’s choices or methods of coping: I am simply in a state of panic, desperately hoping things change for the better (for all who live or may live on earth in the future).
And so, on the full-moon-lunar-eclipse final day of Yamim Ha’Maenadim, I pray to Dionysos Lineus to aid us in yanking humanity up and out of the shadowy depths of ignorance and fear; as Eleuthereus, the Liberator, may He free us from the chains of pride and greed. We need to wake up. We need to realize that this matters. And even if we do come to terms with it, face it, not with with petty denial but with resigned determination (humbled, accepting, ready to listen to what science has been screaming at us for decades, and in full agreement that we’ve fucked up), it may not be enough. It might only delay the inevitable. I do not care. We need all the help we can get.