1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Orgy

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ORGY (through French from Lat. orgia, Gr. ὄργια, in derivation connected with ἔργον, work; cf. Lat. operare, to sacrifice), a term denoting the secret rites or ceremonies connected with the worship of certain deities, especially those of Dionysus-Bacchus. The Dionysiac orgies, which were restricted to women, were celebrated in the winter among the Thracian hills or in spots remote from city life. The women met, clad in fawn-skins, with hair disheveled, swinging the thyrsus and beating the cymbal; they danced and worked themselves up to a state of mad excitement. The holiest rites took place at night by the light of torches. A bull, the representative of the god, was torn in pieces by them as Dionysus-Zagreus had been torn; his bellowing reproduced the cries of the suffering god. The women tore the bull with their teeth, and the eating of the raw flesh was a necessary part of the ritual. Some further rites, which varied in different districts, represented the resurrection of the god in the spring. On Mount Parnassus the women carried back Dionysus-Licnites, the child cradled in the winnowing fan. The most famous festival of the kind was the τριετηρίς celebrated every second winter on Parnassus by the women of Attica and Phocis. The celebrants were called Maenads or Bacchae. The ecstatic enthusiasm of the Thracian women, Κλώδωνες or Μιμαλλόνες, was especially distinguished. The wild dances, songs, drinking and other “orgiastic” ceremonies which were characteristic of these rites haven given rise to the use of word “orgy” for any drunken, wild revel or festivity (see Dionysus and Mystery).