Initiation in Ancient Greek Rituals and Narratives: New Critical Perspectives
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Scholars of classical history and literature have for more than a century accepted `initiation' as a tool for understanding a variety of obscure rituals and myths, ranging from the ancient Greek wedding and adolescent haircutting rituals to initiatory motifs or structures in Greek myth, comedy and tragedy.
In this books an international group of experts including Gloria Ferrari, Fritz Graf and Bruce Lincoln, critique many of these past studies, and challenge strongly the tradition of privileging the concept of initiation as a tool for studying social performances and literary texts, in which changes in status or group membership occur in unusual ways. These new modes of research mark an important turning point in the modern study of the religion and myths of ancient Greece and Rome, making this a valuable collection across a number of classical subjects.
the temple service of the Brauronian ``bears'' and the simplier proteleia offerings to Artemis should both be regarded as ``advance purchase of freedom from the power of the virgin goddess.'' Service as a ``basket bearer'' (kaneª phoros) was similarly designed to protect a young woman: ``For women who are about to be married are accustomed to carry baskets for Artemis in expiation (aphosioª sis) for their maidenhood, in fear that they might be the object of her wrath'' (Scholia to Theocritus
narratives share an interest in heredity and the problems a family faces as a father tries to hand down his place in society to his son, in particular in the possibility that such a transfer can be unjustly interrupted.32 This is in fact a concern that was recognizably addressed in real adolescent transitions (most notably the koureion rite in the phratries of Attica), but it has not been foregrounded because of our limited information about such rites. This outcome suggests that it is not the
connection between models and metaphors has been recognized for some time now in the social sciences.8 I argue that Vidal-Naquet's interpretation of the Athenian ephebeia is best understood as a metaphoric model where the ephebes are like tricksters (Melanthus), and like solitary hunters (Melanion); the Athenian frontiers are like liminal spaces, and the ephebeia is like, although not is a rite of passage. 85 IRENE POLINSKAYA In this essay I will not, however, focus on the interpretive model
reality. 27 The application of the initiation paradigm has indeed allowed us to view the Athenian ephebeia in a new light. Second, the view of Vidal-Naquet's model as a metaphor explains 90 LIMINALITY AS METAPHOR the persuasive rhetorical power of his interpretation. It also explains why it is so difficult to critique his model: it is absurd to argue with a metaphor. At the same time, if we recognize the metaphor at work in Vidal-Naquet's model, we can more easily see the problematic
assuring him that she will bear his son and all ends well. 142 STRIDING ACROSS BOUNDARIES Figure 7.9 Goddess opening her robe. Old Syrian Seal. (After Winter (1983) Fig. 269) The Hymn reveals two important sides of the gods under discussion. Hermes is a mediator between sexual partners whereas Aphrodite is the initiatrix of the male hero into sexuality. This is a Near Eastern motif, attested already in the Gilgamesh epic where Enkidu (who is younger than Gilgamesh) grows up and leaves the