Mushrooms and the wine of Maron
Ruck, Carl A.
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Citation (published version)CAP Ruck. "Mushrooms and the Wine of Maron." Bulgarian Conference.
Although the excavators of the sanctuary of the Great Gods on the island of Samothrace recognize that drinking to the point of intoxication was practiced at the Mystery, naively this has not been seen as an element in the initiation scenario. Numerous drinking cups have been found, inscribed as the property of the gods, and the ancient village of Keramidaria (‘Ceramics’) was devoted to the manufacture of amphorae, officially stamped as genuine provenance of Samothrace for the export of the wine distinctive of the Mystery, probably a version of Homer’s potent Maronian wine of the Cyclops. That wine still existed in the Roman Period, and on the testimony of the proconsul assigned to the province, it even required dilution with eight parts water to be drunk safely. At the time of Odysseus, the rate of dilution was twentyfold. Such potent wines achieved their high intoxicating potential from the substances added to the ferment, a fact that has now been confirmed by the discovery of an intact wine cellar from Canaan, dated to the beginning of the second millennium BCE. The myth of the establishment of the Mystery, dated to the generations before the Trojan War, narrates the tale of its founder sailing like a drunken loon upon a wineskin, and similar establishments of the Mystery of the Great Gods depict a Kabeiric dwarfish Odysseus sailing upon an amphora filled with the special potion of the great sorceress Circe. This wine was fortified with a sacred psychoactive mushroom, whose antiquity can be traced back to the wolf sacrament of the Achaemenid Persians, and documented as well in Celtic lore and among the Nordic berserkers, recorded as early as the Emperor Trajan as a rite of the Dacians of Thrace, who are named as the ‘People of the Wolf’ and who carried the banner of Draco into battle, a serpent with the head of a wolf. The serpent is an indication of the wolf’s toxicity, and the fondness of wolves for eating the mushrooms was the basis for the rituals of lycanthropy and the initiated fraternal packs of warriors. In Athens of the Classical Age, the fungal identity of this initiatory sacrament was common knowledge, obscenely parodied on the comic stage. The Etruscans carried this sacrament to the Italian peninsula and it was incorporated into the mythologized history of Rome’s founding by the Trojan Aeneas as the fulfillment of the prophecy of the edible tables that would signal the site for the future city. The cult of the Great Gods involved the widespread phenomenon of the little people that materialized from the sacramental fungus as fairy creatures, using the mushroom as their tables set with dainty morsels that inspired visionary experience and of which it was taboo for the uninitiated to partake.
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