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  1. Zagreus

    In ancient Greek religion and myth, the obscure and ancient figure of Zagreus was identified with the god Dionysus and was worshipped by followers of Orphism, whose late Orphic hymns invoke his name. A single early appearance of Zagreus is in a quoted line from the lost epic Alkmeonis, written in the sixth century BC if not earlier: "Mistress Earth and Zagreus who art above all other gods." An invocation linking him with the earth goddess Gaia and placing him above all other gods, could not fit easily into the Olympian religion of Zeus. In Greek a hunter who catches living animals is called zagreus, Karl Kerenyi notes, and the Ionian word zagre signifies a "pit for the capture of live animals" Greeks in Crete preserved a tradition that Zagreus was the son of Zeus and Persephone. Two passing references by Aeschylus link Zagreus with Hades and identify him as Hades' son; in his Cretan Men, which survives in quoted fragments, Aeschylus mentions the "thunders of the noctural Zagreus". "We may justifiably ask," observes Kerenyi, "Why was this great mythical hunter, who in Greece became a mysterious god of the underworld, a capturer of wild animals and not a killer?" Kerenyi links the figure of Zagreus with archaic Dionysiac rites in which small animals were torn limb from limb and their flesh devoured raw, "not as an emanation of the Greek Dionysian religion, but rather as a migration or survival of a prehistoric rite.".

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