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.
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
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.
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.
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,
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
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!
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
Dionysus and Jesus
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.
resurrection then, there are many ways in which Dionysus/Bacchus
eerily foreshadows Jesus Christ:
are great liberators of the common people.
miraculously heal the sick.
have human "virgin" mothers and divine heavenly Fathers.
are intimately connected with wine.
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.
have many passionate, prominent female followers and treat women
as equals (unusual for their times).
live among humans on earth as well as in heaven or Mount Olympus.
are Gods of The People, not the Elites who are threatened by and
opposed to Their Holy Egalitarianism.
preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.
seduce you, saying essentially that "Heavenly ecstasy is yours
to enjoy if only you follow Me."
were especially adorable babies.
are revolutionaries, overturning the status quo.
die terrible bloody deaths, suffering for the sake of humanity,
and both are reborn in Spring.
have, in a sense, their "flesh and blood" eaten and drunk by others.
are extremely sexy and charismatic.
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.
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."
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
Susan Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host
of The Dr. Susan Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments
of Pleasure. Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com
or visit her brand new bloggamy and post comments at
Send all comments, love letters, hate mail, questions, confessions,
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