On automata and statues:

‘Our imaginary identification with so alien a creature as a moving statue or an automaton can be profoundly satisfying, partly because that identification may spare us diverse anxieties about our place in the world, in our own bodies, about the proper location of the human. The freedom entailed by that identification lies not just in the idea of a turn against the blockage or oblivious figured by the stone, but in the fact that the living statues, for all its motion, yet tends to remain a statue, untroubled and unselfconscious (or at least we hope it does). Yet if the living statues does not disappoint us by becoming all too human (as Shaw’s Eliza Doolittle disappoints her “creator”), the fiction of animation is also likely to remind us of how alien and how disruptive of what we think of as the human are our vital energies, how catastrophic, petrifying, or mechanistic a form the entry into life can assume. Indeed, it suggest the ways in which the fantasy of the animated statue may constitute an implicit critique of our optimistic pictures of human desire, and of our wish that desire and the human could peacefully occupy the same space. The living statue may remind us that there is never any fixed space between.’

‘…Placing the question about the consciousness of stones thus in relation to the automaton fantasy, it starts to seem as if the desire to invite the inanimate into the space of the human conceals or mirrors a desire to push the human into a space of the inanimate. The face of objects granted a more than ordinary life becomes the face of Medusa.’

From The Dream of the Moving Statue by Kenneth Gross

On Centaurs and Satyrs:

From Masks of Dionysus in “The Wildness of Satyrs”:

“Centaurs, on the other hand, make up a real society of their own, attached to neither god nor a master, situated outside the human world and civilization. Heracles cannot pass among them without violence. Nessos tries to rape Deianira. The opening of the wine jar entrusted to Pholus by Dionysus drives the centaurs into a frenzy, and the same kind of rioting at the wedding of Pirithous, where Theseus has to restrain the centaurs’ outbursts as they turn into drunken rapists. Inversely, some centaurs, such as Pholus and Chiron, hold secret powers, medical or magical ones. Chiron is also an educator, a famous paidotrophos. These hybrid beings are more truly on the borderline between extremes of wildness and culture, animality and humanity.

In the case of satyrs, the situation is not quite the same. Satyrs do not form an isolated society, far from the civilized world of humans. They accompany Dionysus, who is present among humans with wine, dance, and music, surrounded by maenads. They have a subordinate status, like that of slaves; servants of Dionysus, they also work as artisans at the forge of Hephaestus; sometimes they are sculptors, sometimes cooks. They can be servants of Heracles, who captures them but does not defeat them, unlike the centaurs who he massacres. By the logic of their servile status, satyrs are depicted as both thieves and gluttons, incorrigible and unrepentant drunkards.”

Quotes from “Sacrifice and Cultural Formation” in _Masks of Dionysus_

“I will not, however, want to claim that maenadic omophagy is even a mythic of imaginative example of Dionsysiac sacramentalism, for the very reason that it is not sacrifice at all. Instead,  it constitutes the inversion of normal sacrificial procedure, in which a domesticated (and not wild) animal is ritually selected (and not merely chanced  upon), killed, systematically cut up (and not dismembered by force), and eaten cooked (and not raw). Maenadic sparagamos followed by omophagy thus stands in complete contradistinction to ordinary sacrifice and can thus be viewed as a kind of inverted character myth, setting for the way in which sacrifice should not take place, much as the account of the dismemberment of the young Dionysus by the Titans invert the original, paradigmatic division of the sacrificial victim by (another Titan) Prometheus.

Raw meat in these instances is to be associated with highly marginal, unusual, and infrequent situations of ritual exception and solution. One may compare the Hephaestia on Lemnos, a time of dissolution and exception, in which all fire is extinguished for nine days until new fire is brought from Delos.* During the exceptional period sacrifices continue to be performed without fire; there is thus no normal food (consumption of raw meat is actually not attested). So also in the case of maenadic sacrifice there is an infrequent (“trietetric,” i.e., every other year), periodic (though short-lived) ritual and commemorative regression to an aboriginal period in cultural history, with the mythical worshipers of Dionysus “regressively transformed into bestial predators.”

I suspect that if you asked a Theban of Delphic maenad if they performed sparagmos during their oreibasiai, the answer would have been, ‘No, but we used to do so. It’s just we don’t do that anymore. Other people, those people,” they might have said, “up there [Thracians, perhaps], still do it.” (The same is often said by one culture of another culture about cannibalism[…].)

*Philostratus Heroicus 67.7 (de Lannoy 1977): during the exceptional nine-day period ‘fid the ship brining new fire from Delos arrives before the funerary sacrifice are over, it may not be brought to anchor on Lemnos.’ Cf. Burkert 1983, 190-96, especially on the Dionysiac elements with further bibliography: ‘Sacrifice was clearly a part of the exceptional period at Lemnos, sacrifice without fire; so that one could eat at most only raw pieces of meat, burying the rest or throwing it intot he sea’ (193).

Last day to download THE PRE-PROGRAMMING for free in our St. Patrick’s WEEK giveaway:

Erichthonius isn’t the only thing that Hephaestus caused. Autochthonous, Automaton. Same difference.

Volume 1. | Volume. 2 


The synopsis for our third mythpunk novel THE LATHING:

The Lathing (Vol. 3 of the Circo del Herrero Series) Synopsis:

[Smack dab in the Bible Belt’s buckle, Vulcan arranges His pagan pieces. The tribal casinos are nothing but referential backdrop for His latest hustle. The gods have all paid to play. They’ve offered up parts of themselves to help make “The Game”—some more than others—but their chimeric incarnations are not where they place their bets. It is the human players they gamble on. The gods know the game is rigged but that’s half the fun, figuring out just what Vulcan has pre-programmed— how it works—how they, too, might cheat.

And like the gods, some Automata think they’ve found the secret mechanism that makes it all tick. Other Automata, however, are not so sure. They choose opposing humans—humans with flaws and sins so much like their own. Those they pick show less about the beings they’ve become than the ghosts that still haunt and possess them…

THE LATHING is the final attestation of the Narrator and the Editor—the final volume in the CIRCO DEL HERRERO series. In it, once-gods may find forgiveness and be made whole again if they pick the winning team. Automata may find a self that is worth knowing and saving. But the humans, well, they were just lucky the game found them before Death did. They’ll live just a little while longer before finding something truly worth dying for. At the end of it all is glory and godhood and possibly a cat.]