Mythological Dictionary
Letter: B


Dictionary of Mythological Definitions and Terms.
Mythological | B

 

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Bacchanal or baccanalia or bacchanalian or bacchant or bacchante or bacchic
Dionysus, the Roman Bacchus, was the god of wine, frenzied music and dance, and the irrational. He presided over ecstatic, sometimes orgiastic rites, which involved initiation and drove the participants into another plane of perception, as they became possessed by the deity. He is usually represented in the midst of a retinue of female worshippers, known as maenads, bacchae, or bacchantes (the feminine singular is bacchante; a male follower is a bacchant, plural bacchants); he is also attended by male satyrs, mischievous and lecherous creatures, half-human and half-animal. Wine proved a powerful conduit to the ineffable, amidst rituals that included the rending of a sacrificial victim and the eating of its raw flesh. Dionysiac rites among the Romans became known as Bacchanalia and the sometime extreme behavior of the initiates provoked the Roman Senate to outlaw them in 186 B.C. Thus we derive the words bacchanal and bacchanalia to refer to any debauched party or celebration. Bacchanal, bacchant, bacchante, and bacchae can be used to characterize an overzealous party-goer. The adjectives bacchanalian and bacchic describe any exuberant, drunken revelry. See dionysian and apollonian.
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Beware of Greeks bearing gifts or I fear Greeks even when they bear gifts
The fall of Troy was finally accomplished by a ruse of the Greeks. They constructed an enormous, hollow, wooden horse, into which they hid some of their best fighters. The horse was left behind as the rest of the Greek host sailed off to the nearby island of Tenedos and waited. The treacherous Sinon convinced the Trojans to drag the gift into the city, despite the warnings of Laocoon, a priest of Poseidon. In Vergil's account, Laocoon implored his countrymen not to bring the treacherous horse into Troy, crying "I fear Greeks even when they bear gifts" (Timeo Danaos et dona ferentis). Two serpents emerged from the sea to strangle Laocoon and his two sons. The Trojans were convinced that they should accept the horse and thus wrought their own destruction. Laocoon's utterance has become a warning to beware of treachery and look for the hidden motives behind even the most fair-seeming generosity.
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Boreal
Boreas, the north wind, has given us this adjective, which refers to the region of the world from which his blasts come. See aurora.
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By Jupiter or by Jove or jovian or jovial
Jupiter was the Roman counterpart of Zeus, the supreme god and father. He was a god of the sky and his name is derived from Indo-European roots dyaus/pitr, which literally mean god/father. In Latin the common oath "by Jupiter" would be rendered "pro Jove" (Jove being a different form of his name). In the Christian tradition there is no religious significance to this exclamation but English writers, by using it as an expression of surprise or pleasure, avoided taking God's name in vain; thus "by Jupiter" or "by Jove" was used to replace the offensive "By God." To describe someone or something as jovian means that one partakes of that awe-inspiring majesty that is particular to a supreme god. Many mythological names also found a new existence in the field of astrology. Since it was felt that the heavenly bodies influence the life of humans on earth, celestial bodies were given appellations drawn from mythology, for example Jupiter became the name not only of a god but a planet. Those who were born under the influence of the planet Jupiter were said to be of a cheerful disposition, hence the meaning of the adjective, jovial.
Category: Mythological
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