|It's Hammer Time!|
Friday, 23 May 2014
Maid in Heaven
So my Bulgarian odyssey continued yesterday as I went on a mini road trip around the Kardzhali region. Sharing borders with Greece and Turkey this part of the world was once called Thrace and is steeped in history and mythology. The ancients spread their culture and practices here and many gods were worshipped. The highlight of my day was a trip, a pilgrimage almost, to the mountain-top citadel of Perperikon, the largest megalith ensemble in the Balkans and thought by some to have once been a temple to Dionysus.
The 470m high acropolis is reached by a steep, sun-baked pathway on which green skinks bask in the shimmering heat haze under cloudless skies. The site is still revealing its secrets and being developed as a world heritage site and workmen ply their trade, erecting walkways and safety barriers even as archaeologists chip away at the rock itself. I happened across a small international group of tourists, listening to an English speaking guide who told this little-know story:
Dionysus was the god of winemaking and wine, of theatre and of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. The Romans called him Bacchus. He may have been worshipped for over a thousand years before the coming of Rome itself and as far as gods go, he was noted for his very human bawdiness and carousing. In search of fun he roamed far and wide and his influence is felt today in every house of fun in the world.
We often say that modern technology has shrunk the world but the gods of old treated it as their own Xanadu, a pleasure dome whose delights were entirely theirs for the taking. Today we talk of Greek gods and Roman gods and Celtic gods, as if they were bound by earthbound geography but in truth the gods intermingled just as humans do and our story begins in Valhalla, the nightclub of the Norse in the hedonistic halls of heaven.
Dionysus was drinking there with an old friend, Thor, the raging bull of Viking legend and a real piss-artist to boot. As ever they drank and made wagers and generally lowered the tone as their boasts got louder and other, less boisterous gods left for quieter venues elsewhere. Tonight the argument – as it so often was – was about their sexual prowess. Fuelled by booze the bawdy twosome agreed a challenge. Each was to try for the affections of Aphrodite, a deity well known for putting out on first dates.
The two presented their cases to a highly amused goddess, already very tipsy on ambrosia and coke. To Dionysus’ fury, Thor won the honour of her company and the two retired to her quarters leaving the Thracian to drink himself into a stupor and cause mischief elsewhere.
Now Thor was a vigorous god and wasted no time in demonstrating his virility and stamina to the waif-like Aphrodite. Even as morning broke he was still intent in pressing his attentions on her. “No more,” she begged, “I’m tired out!” He stood up and puffed out his muscular torso. Lightning crackled outside as he beat his chest with a fist, “But I am THOR!” he roared, accompanied by a rumble of thunder. There was a moment’s silence before Aphrodite responded. She sat up in bed, fixed him with a jaded eye and declared, “You’re thore? Well, I’m tho thore I can hardly even pith!”