Food of the Gods

Arkane Curiosities

In 1904 H.G. Wells wrote about the Food of the Gods, which transformed regular animals and people into gargantuan proportions. The title was apt, because like us mortals, deities must also feast in order to survive.

Magical Goat Food

Perhaps the most famous divine nourishment would be the ambrosia consumed by the Greek gods on Mount Olympus. Before they discovered this magical foodstuff, gods had to inhale vapors from their dead enemies, akin to taking in the soul of the vanquished. 

As the god Zeus grew from a baby to a full-grown thunderbolt-wielding god, he was nursed by a goat (or possibly a nymph) named Amalthea. Baby Zeus, like most infants, grabbed anything near him. While feeding, he broke off one of Amalthea’s horns. This was later transformed into a Cornucopia (or Horn of Plenty).

The Horn of Plenty would create a limitless supply of ambrosia for the gods (along with any type of food for mortals). White doves would whisk this precious food up to Mount Olympus each day.

Nectar was also used interchangeably with ambrosia, though it was said to taste like honey and be carried by a swift eagle.

Ichor and Immortality

The gods and goddesses gained immortality by gobbling up ambrosia and nectar. Immortality has its downside. Their blood transformed to ichor, a divine life force. 

If the gods missed too many meals, their immortality would fade away. The great Demeter, goddess of the hearth, went for days without eating in her search for Persephone and nearly perished with the effort. 

Mortals and Ambrosia

One story has Achilles gaining his famous invulnerability by being anointed with ambrosia, which burnt away his mortal skin. His mother, Thetis, would have covered his whole body in the stuff, but Peleus, her husband, thought she was trying to harm little Achilles and stopped her, leaving his famous ankle still mortal. 

The gods used ambrosia to cure diseases, heal scars and beautify the human body. If applied to a freshly killed hero, the ambrosia would preserve the body forever. When Patroclus died in the Trojan war, his body was anointed with Ambrosia to keep it in a perfect state. 

Some believed that if mortals consumed ambrosia (or nectar), they too would become immortal. King Tantalus attempted to seal some of the mythical provisions only to fail and become immortal in another way (punished with eternal hunger in Tartarus).

Immortality Garden

There might even have been a whole garden with immortality-bearing food. In the far west, where the sun sets, lay the Garden of Hesperides. Three nymphs, called the “Daughters of the Evening” tended the garden which held a special apple tree. One of Hercules’s tasks was to pluck an apple from this tree. 

In the play Hippolytus, Euripides mentions a place where “streams flow with ambrosia by Zeus’s bed of love and holy Gaia”. This could possibly be the resting place of the fable Cornucoplia. 

That’s a pretty good journey for those doves each day.

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Did Dionysus Have Dissociative Identity Disorder?

Arkane Curiosities

Mortals aren’t the only ones who can manifest dissociative identity disorder — many deities from ancient times had multiple personas. People with dissociative identity disorder (previously known as Multiple Personality Disorder or incorrectly as “split personality”) have a system of individuals all working within a single host (or body).

The core is the original child and the first identity born to the host. Some view the core as the owner of the system and is often the part with the most power. There are multiple alters (or other personalities) that fulfill specific roles, such as Protector, Persecutor, and Memory Holder. A Gatekeeper often allows the different alters to front (or take control of the host).

Different deities from across the world’s pantheons have different aspects that front for various purposes. In Celtic mythology, there is the Morrígan, who has three aspects all related to war and death. In Hindu belief, the trimurti has three gods in one body each in charge of one aspect of creation.

Perhaps the most intriguing of these personality swapping gods is Dionysus — the Ancient Greek diety of wine, drunkenness, frenzy, suffering and madness. 

Dionysus (also known as Bacchus) is known for having a dual persona. He is a bringer of joy and merriment, but sometimes goes into a blinding rage to terrorize hapless victims. 

Twice Born

Dionysus was born twice. Zeus, always the player, seduced Semele, a princess of Thebes. His wife, Hera, was naturally not pleased and planned revenge. A mortal could not view a god in their true form. Thus Hera, in disguise, convinced Semele to make Zeus prove his godliness by revealing his true form. You can guess what happened… Semele made Zeus promise to do as she wished and then asked to see him in all his glory. Zeus was honorbound to comply and revealed his true form, blasting the pour mortal woman to ashes. However, the unborn Dionysus, being part god, survived. Zeus sewed the baby inside his thigh, allowing him to gestate until birth. Since Dionysus was born from a god (in this case, Zeus) he was granted immortality. This could qualify as the traumatic event that often ushers in dissociative identity disorder. 

God of Fun

Dionysus was portrayed as beautiful and joyful. He discovered the cultivation of vines and taught others how to ferment grapes into wine. His worship is often connected with the idea of partying and having a good time (under the influence of wine, of course). He was connected to such mythological creatures as satyrs and centaurs. Dionysus was depicted riding a panther or in a chariot pulled by pumas (way to make a grand entrance). 

Terror Frenzy

Some Greek cities attempted to ban the wild rites of the maenads (followers of Dionysus). The most notorious case came with King Pentheus of Thebes (written about by Euripides). The king attempted to imprison Dionysus, but the prison doors would not close and the shackles simply slipped off. 

Despite fearing this new worship, the king was also fascinated by it and wanted to learn more. His own mother, Agave, had been lured in by the rites of Dionysus. The wine god allowed Pentheus to observe the secret rituals firsthand, but only if the king disguised himself as a woman. Pentheus did as instructed and spied on the maenads from behind a tree. 

Dionysus had driven the women into a frenzy and they seized upon any small animal they could find, ripping it apart. Soon they discovered the king and, thinking he was a lion, the maenads tore him limb from limb. Even his mother, Agave, carried off his head thinking she had slain a lion. Thus the Thebans were punished for having resisted the rites of Dionysus. 

The terror-frenzy that Dionysus creates in his followers feels very much like the protector alter of the dissociative identity disorder. A Protector might lash out to defend the host from physical or other kinds of abuse. 

Dionysus remains a complex deity with many facets. He was beloved by the Greeks and went on many more adventures. Whether the Greek myths utilized him as a way to explain individuals with different personas remains to be seen. One thing is certain, if you upset Dionysus, you would suffer the consequences.

Consider the last lines of the Homeric Hymns to Dionysus

“And the Nymphs followed in his train with
him for their leader; and the boundless forest was filled with their outcry…”

Tim Kane

Teeny Haunts: Sand Pit Lady

There is something about this myth that unnerves me. I think it’s the sound of the woman digging in the sand. I can imagine the quiet of the park. Realizing that you’re all alone. And then the crunch of the sand. First the footsteps and then her fingers, clawing through it. Creepy.

This legend traces back to the north of Kyushu, Japan, during the early 1980s. Accounts began to spread across the internet in the early 2010s.

Some Japanese accounts mention maru and eksu (two symbols used to grade a yes/no test). The symbol O shows a correct answer (maru) and the symbol X shows an incorrect answer (eksu). Early posts say that if you go to the maru side of the woman, you will survive, while if you go to the eksu side, you may perish.

In another account, the Sandpit Woman stands and starts walking. You instinctively follow her, but here you have a choice. If you pass the woman, she will chase you in a lap around the park. Don’t look back at her, whatever you do. If you finish the lap, you are free.

If not, then you are buried alive.

Something to ponder the next time you sit for a spell at a park. If you find yourself alone, get up and leave.

Tim Kane