Study Guide

Dionysus, Pentheus, and Agave Bull

Bull

It's no accident that the Maenads dismember bulls in the story. The bull was a sacred animal of Dionysus, and he was said to sometimes appear in bull form. Some say that by dismembering the bull, the followers were symbolically recreating the myth of how Dionysus was ripped apart by Titans when he was a child and was later resurrected. The death and resurrection motif was just as important to the cults of Dionysus as it is to modern day Christians. Some see direct parallels in the eating of the raw flesh of the bulls coupled with the drinking of wine to the Catholic ritual of Communion, in which believers drink wine that symbolizes the blood of Christ and eat wafers symbolizing his body.

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