Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Mystery Cult

This is the concept for a Mystery for one of the players in our Ars Magica game. I had been working on a script based on the expansion book, I still plan on using the mechanics from this book but the in game acts have now all been developed in-game through the activities of the players. The Cult was to be rebuilt based on the understanding that the player could achieve through meeting one of the few surviving followers of the Magical being Dionysus who has been largely subsumed by the Fae after he was banned by the Romans. The Initiation rite appears so far to broadly involve suffering a medium wound, learning the appropriate Lore from a follower of Dionysus, sacrificing and consuming a Fae, suffering a minor flaw and taking a warping point. The minor virtue of potent magic is also granted, though the player does not know this yet.

The Cult of Dionysus, A Mystery Cult of the Magical Realm

Dionysus (Latin) or Dionysos (Greek), the Thracian god of wine, represents not only the intoxicating power of wine, but also its social and beneficial influences. He is viewed as the promoter of civilization, a lawgiver, and lover of peace — as well as the patron deity of agriculture and the theatre. He was also known as the Liberator, freeing one from one's normal self, by madness, ecstasy, or wine. The divine mission of Dionysus was to mingle the music of the flute and to bring an end to care and worry.

Imagery, Symbols and Creatures of Dionysus

The bull, the serpent, the ivy and wine are the signs of the characteristic Dionysian atmosphere, infused with the unquenchable life of the god. Their numinous presence signifies that the god is near. Dionysus is strongly associated with the satyrs, centaurs and sileni. He is often shown riding a leopard, wearing a leopard skin, or being pulled by a chariot drawn by panthers and has been called the god of cats and savagery. He always carries a thyrsus. Besides the grapevine and its wild barren alter-ego, the toxic ivy plant, both sacred to him, the fig was also his. The pine cone that tipped his thyrsus linked him to Cybele, and the pomegranate linked him to Demeter.

The Rites of Dionysus

The rites of Dionysus include fire walking accompanied by ecstatic dancing, drumming, and forays into the woods or mountains by participants "possessed by Dionysus", as well as the preliminary animal sacrifice and distribution of meat to the village population.

The Rites had largely been stamped out by the Romans by 1st Century BC.

Epitaphs of Dionysus

Dionysus sometimes has the epithet Bromios, meaning "the thunderer" or "he of the loud shout". Another epithet is Dendrites; as Dionysus Dendrites ("he of the trees"), he is a powerful fertility god.

The Thyrsus

A thyrsus (thyrsos) was a sacred implement at religious rituals and festivals. It was made of a giant fennel staff covered with ivy vines and leaves and topped with a pine cone.

The thyrsus is a composite symbol of the forest (pine cone) and the farm (fennel). It has been suggested that this was specifically a fertility phallus, with the fennel representing the shaft of the penis and the pine cone representing the "seed" issuing forth. It was associated with Dionysus (or Bacchus) and his followers, the Satyrs and Maenads.

Sometimes the thyrsus was displayed in conjunction with a wine cup, another symbol of Dionysus, forming a male-and-female combination like that of the royal scepter and orb.

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