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TALK - In Search of the Goddess of Ecstasy

  • Marwoods Coffee Shop and Studios 52 Ship Street, Brighton BN1 1AF (map)

In Search of the Goddess of Ecstasy: Women and the feminine in the ancient rites of Cybele and Dionysus

**SOLD OUT - But to note, I will see if there will be any recording of the event so I can pass that onto you guys!**

The practice of altered states of consciousness has accompanied and inspired the evolution of human culture since time immemorial. In Europe for thousands of years the ingestion of psychotropic plants, trance dancing to the sound of the frame drum and ritual sexuality were the preferred means to enter into a state of deep connection with Mother Nature and channel her wisdom. 

The talk will explore how these shamanic practices dating back to primitive Goddess culture survived into the historical period to spread and flourish in the Greek and Roman civilizations. In particular the talk will look at the role that women and the feminine principle had in ancient rituals, especially in the cults of Dionysus and Cybele, deities of love and ecstasy.

Who were the maenads and what happened during their women-only rituals? Why were “mad women” the privileged worshippers of a male deity? And why would men volunteer for self-castration in order to become priests of the Goddess Cybele? How could the misogynist Greek and Roman cultures tolerate the worship of an “effeminate god” like Dionysus, and castrated priests to spread their cults for centuries? What can we learn from an ancient tradition where altered states of consciousness were the preferred spiritual technology and gender-fluidity was a requirement for its followers? 


Chiara Baldini is an independent researcher from Florence (Italy), passionate about discovering ancient stories of European people practicing altered states of consciusness. Her work explores how techniques of ecstasy have been embedded in different rituals over the course of Western history, particularly in ancient Greece and Rome. 

She wrote “Dionysus Returns: Contemporary Tuscan Trancers and Euripides’ The Bacchae” featured in The Local Scenes and Global Culture of Psytrance (Routledge, 2010) and she co-authored with Graham St. John “Dancing at the Crossroads of Consciousness: Techno-Mysticism, Visionary Arts and Portugal’s Boom Festival” for the Brill’s Handbook of New Religions and Cultural Production (2012). She participated to Breaking Convention 2013 with a presentation on the “Political outcomes of ecstatic practices: the case of the Bacchanals Affair in ancient Rome.” 

From 2010 to 2014 she has been part of the Boom Festival Team in Portugal, co-producing Boom’s cultural area “Liminal Village”. In 2015 she inaugurated and co-curated the program of “ConTent”, the new cultural area in Fusion Festival (Germany).

In 2015 she was part of the Femtheogen panel in Breaking Convention with a talk on “Her Share of Divine Madness: Women and the Feminine in Ancient Ecstatic Rituals”, on which this presentation is inspired.

She currently lives in Portugal.

Wednesday 24 of February 2016
Doors Open: 6:30pm
7:00pm -Start
Marwood Coffee Shop, 52 Ship Street Court, Brighton.
£5 entry fee.

Earlier Event: February 16
The Drawing Circus: Star Wars