coromandal


when God’s not looking

Here is a description of bait and switch on the macro scale.  The worshipers of Dionysus experienced ecstasy – a feeling of communion and immortality – through rites of wine and dancing.  One can argue – as this author does – that this joyful rite was replaced in the Middle Ages with the relatively sober Christian rite of the eucharist.  The church tamed – neutered? – the rite of communion with God and drove drinking and celebration out into the secular world.

Through secularization, the potential for ecstasy was dialed back drastically and the sacred act of ecstasy became mere drunkenness and fights.

What would it take to reinduct a sense of the sacred into the art of drinking heavily?  In our current mindset, a drunk drinks to forget.  To drink alone is taboo.  Drink is measured out, like pills at a pharmacy table:  more than one or two and we have a word for people like you. In the pre Medieval view, on the other hand, a woman drank to commune with god and to feel her immortality.

Here is Ehrenreich:

Inevitably, something was lost in the transition from ecstatic ritual to secularized festivities — something we might call meaning or transcendent insight.  In ancient Dionysian forms of worship the moment of maximum “madness” and revelry was also the sacred climax of the rite at which the individual achieved communion with the divinity and a glimpse of personal immortality.  Medieval Christianity, in contrast, offered “communion” in the form of a morsel of bread and sip of wine soberly consumed at the altar — and usually saw only devilry in the festivities that followed.  True, the entire late medieval calendar of festivities was to some degree sanctioned by the Church, but the uplifting religious experience, if any was supposed to be found within the Church-controlled rites of mass and procession not within the drinking and dancing.  While ancient worshippers of Dionysus expected the god to manifest himself when the music reached an irresistible tempo and the wine was flowing freely, medieval Christians could only hope that God, or at least his earthly representatives, was looking the other way when the flutes and drums came out and the tankards were passed around.

The result of the Church’s distancing itself from the festivities that marked its own holidays was a certain “secularization” of communal pleasure.

[…]

Without a built-in religious climax to the celebrations — the achievement, for example, of a trancelike state of unity with the divinity — they readily spilled over into brawling and insensate drunkenness.

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Public Joy, Barbara Ehrenreich, p 93.



the banks of the seine
June 9, 2009, 7:48 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

Here is a description of the consuming role education played for those lucky enough to get it in the Middle Ages in France.  Education was tied to the church but was broad enough to include, beside theology, medicine, law and the arts.  It was worth giving over everything for; a consuming passion.  For the student, in a very real sense, knowledge became home.

the wandering student, passing from Laon to Chartres to Angers, or to some obscure monastery made temporarily famous by a new teacher, would come at last to the banks of the Seine … There he would seek out, or drift to one master or the other.  There, as often as not, he stayed.

-E. R. Chamberlain, quoted in A Traveller’s History of Paris, by Robert Cole.



just-do-it junkie
December 18, 2008, 10:03 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It has been a long time since the Middle Ages, but it still seems incredible how things have changed since then.  For example religious doctrine, everyone’s favorite topic.  In the following quotation from Tom Hodgkinson’s The Freedom Manifesto, we learn that the Christian church during the Middle Ages preached against work because to work is to rely on oneself instead of fully trusting in God.  Man, things have changed.  Puritan/evangelical bait and switch – accomplished with ease by shuffling and twisting the same basic script – and hey presto now work is god.

We’ve been told religion is an opiate, and that entertainment is an opiate, that TV is an idiot box, that we are amusing ourselves to death.  The bright light of scrutiny has been for generations trained on religion and entertainment, and we’ve come to define them both as … ‘hobbies’, lesser pursuits or maybe follies.  And the strength of that scrutiny has allowed leisure and mystery’s stern corollary work, to remain unchallenged.  It’s time to swing the lamp around and see what else is lurking in the dark corners of the room.  As opiates, religion and entertainment don’t come close to the high that work gives in this just-do-it junkie culture.

Here is the quotation from