Metamorphoses of myth : a study of the "Orphic" gold tablets and the Derveni papyrus
ForfatterTorjussen, Stian Sundell
The elusive nature of Orphism and Orphic Mystery cults has been the subject of numerous studies. It is the aim of this thesis to take a new look at some of the controversies within this field. This has been made possible through the recent publications of several important new sources normally seen as Orphic, namely a series of gold tablets and especially the Derveni Papyrus. The main focus of the thesis is therefore on the gold tablets, a series of small texts engraved on thin gold leaves and put in the graves of their deceased owners. I argue through my analyses that some of the longer of these texts contain references to initiation rituals that should not be reduced to one single cult (such as the Orphic) but rather draw upon more general eschatological ideas and ritual patterns. I also argue that the mythical references, by most traced back to an imagined myth of the dismembered Dionysos, most probably refer to a wide array of eschatological ideas sometimes of a local character. My analyses of these texts, then, agrees with the bricoleur theory where the tablets are seen as products of independent, itinerant manteis, rather than a homogenous pan-hellenic Orphic cult. Further analyses of the imagery found on some of the Apulian vases of south Italy also emphasize the heterogeneous nature of the eschatological ideas that normally have been simply labelled Orphic. This becomes especially clear in the analysis of the Derveni papyrus, an Orphic text by almost any definition. This particular text points to a quite different eschatology than what is found in the other material analysed in this thesis. The thesis, then, argues that the so-called Orphic texts should be approached as heterogeneous, eclectic texts rather than products of a single uniform Orphic cult.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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