That fierce decorum – mad women and greek revels.

dancing maenad Greek. www.vroma.org

dancing maenad Greek.
http://www.vroma.org

The Maenads       by Ursula K. Le Guin

Somewhere I read
that when they finally staggered off the mountain
into some strange town, past drunk,
hoarse, half naked, blear-eyed,
blood dried under broken nails
and across young thighs,
but still jeering and joking, still trying
to dance, lurching and yelling, but falling
dead asleep by the market stalls,
sprawled helpless, flat out, then
middle-aged women,
respectable housewives,
would come and stand nightlong in the agora
silent
together
as ewes and cows in the night fields,
guarding, watching them
as their mothers
watched over them.
And no man
dared
that fierce decorum.

Nothing really changes, as change happens as the only constant. While we live in our own here and nows, reflect on the absurdities of our own behaviours and belief systems, the one thing you can be sure of is someone , somewhere has done it before.  After reading the poem, I fell a little in love with the women who waited for the young revellers at the bottom of the hill, protecting them from the men folk, remembering their own past revelries.  The term maenads means diffferent things to different folk, but these young women are performing a ritual of dance and frenzy that goes back to the followers of the Greek Dionysus, who encouraged his nymphs who had nursed him, and mortal followers into rites involving intoxication and dancing in order to achieve a transcendental state wherein they could receive insight and prophecy.  It has come to mean ‘mad women’ , the rituals involving frenetic activity including the ripping apart and eating animal, the spirit of the animal bringing strength and fertility.

In Ancient Greece women would if they were lucky , live to about 40 and in addition to childbearing, the weaving of fabric and managing the household were the principal responsibilities of a Greek woman.  Life was probably quite monotonous and the opportunity to indulge in a little letting down of the hair was most likely grabbed with both hands.

Nottingham on a Friday night , mainly without the ripping of animal flesh, but a great deal of intoxication, bare flesh and taloned fighting.  Then back to work on Monday morning. Glad I only have sons. Although they will of course be the meat.  Hey ho, middle-age has its compensations.

 

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