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Maenads were the eccentrically devout followers and priestesses of Dionysus.

History

The Maenads were the most significant members of the Thiasus, the god's retinue. Their name literally translates as "raving ones". Often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by Dionysus into a state of ecstatic frenzy, through a combination of dancing and intoxication. During these rites, the maenads would dress in fawn skins and carry a thyrsus, a long stick wrapped in ivy or vine leaves and tipped with a pinecone; they would weave ivy-wreaths around their heads or wear a bull helmet in honor of their god, and often handle or wear snakes.

Not all women were inclined to resist the call of Dionysus, however. Maenads, possessed by the spirit of Dionysus, traveled with him from Thrace to mainland Greece in his quest for the recognition of his divinity. Dionysus was said to have danced down from Parnassos accompanied by Delphic virgins, and it is known that even as young girls the women in Boeotia practiced not only the closed rites but also the bearing of the thyrsos and the dances.

Maenads

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