DOI: 10.14704/nq.2016.14.3.898

The Wolves of War: Evidence of an Ancient Cult of Warrior Lycanthropy

Carl Anton Paul Ruck

Abstract


Archaeological evidence indicates that naturally occurring megalithic structures that resemble mushrooms throughout the region identified as Thrace in antiquity were the foci of religious observances, sometime with the fungal likeness of the stone structures intensified by human intervention. Thrace was considered the probable origin of Dionysian rites. Wine was recognized in antiquity as the product of fungal growth and the drink was a cultivated version of wild intoxicants, among which was the mushroom. The rituals in celebration of the deity commemorated his primordial identity as resident in these wild plants and mediated his evolution into the intoxicant grown upon the cultivated grapevine, and the wine itself was fortified beyond its alcoholic content by the addition of these wild antecedents of viticulture. The legendary wine of Thrace was particularly potent through the addition of a psychoactive mushroom. The rituals of the women known as bacchants enacted the fantasies of root-cutters in commemoration of the deity in his persona that predated viticulture. This fungal persona represents the same intoxicant that was known to the Persians as haoma and represents the spread of an Indo-European sacrament into the Classical world, with its association of lycanthropy and the bonding of warriors into brotherhoods as packs of wolves, better known in its manifestation in late antiquity among the Nordic peoples as berserkers. In Greece, Apollo originally presided over such wolf packs, but as he evolved into Classical theology as a member of the Olympian family, Dionysus assimilated that association, inasmuch as he better represented the mediation with the past through his magical drink that combined both the wild and the cultivated intoxicants. This freed Apollo from the burden of the past, allowing him to become transmuted from wolf to light, the basis of pseudo-etymological derivations of his identity in antiquity.

Keywords


mushroom; ergot; Thracian megaliths; berserkers; Dionysus; Apollo

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References


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The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.



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