In Greek mythology, Maenads [MEE-nads] were female worshippers of Dionysus, the Greek god of mystery, wine and intoxication. The word literally translates as "raving ones". They were known as wild, insane women who could not be reasoned with. The mysteries of Dionysus inspired the women to ecstatic frenzy; they indulged in copious amounts of violence, bloodletting, sex and self-intoxication and mutilation. They were usually pictured as crowned with vine leaves, clothed in fawnskins and carrying the thyrsus, and dancing with the wild abandonment of complete union with primeval nature.
The Maenads were also known as Bassarids (or Bacchae or Bacchantes) in Roman mythology, after the penchant for the equivalent Roman god, Bacchus, to wear a fox-skin, a bassaris.
In Euripides' play, "The Bacchae", Theban Maenads murdered King Pentheus after he banned the worship of Bacchus because the Maenads denied Pentheus' divinity. Bacchus, Pentheus' cousin, himself lured Pentheus to the woods, where the Maenads tore him apart and his corpse was mutilated by his own mother, Agave.
A group of Maenads also killed Orpheus because they hated his music.
The MAENADS have been reported to be able to perform miracles, for it has been said that where one of them stroke the ground with her thyrsos, there came forth a stream of wine, and when they scratched the earth with their fingers they obtained streams of milk.
And yet it is told that the MAENADS were imprisoned by King Lycurgus 1 (known for being fond of cutting people to pieces, and for decorating his gates with their extremities), the first to oppose Dionysus 2, some say in Thrace.
The MAENADS celebrated this god of delight with hymns, and knowing his rites and having their souls initiated in the Bacchic revels, kept their lives pure, danced in inspired frenzy, and performed holy purifications, accompanying themselves with the heavy beat of drums.
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