• Large Maenad Brass Button

    Maenad on a large stamped brass button with a laurel branch and thyrsus border.  Courtesy of Byson Buttons.

    The item the maenad raises high is called a thyrsus: a stick tipped with a pine cone and often wrapped in vines. The thyrsus is a symbol of Bacchus (Dionysius) the god of wine and revelry.  In mythology the maenads were female followers of Bacchus portrayed as frenzied on wine and wild dancing. They carry a stick wrapped in vines and tipped with a pine cone.

    Plato wrote that “the god-intoxicated celebrants draw milk and honey from the streams. They strike rocks with the thyrsus, and water gushes forth. They lower the thyrsus to the earth, and a spring of wine bubbles up. If they want milk, they scratch up the ground with their fingers and draw up the milky fluid. Honey trickles down from the thyrsus made of the wood of the ivy.”

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