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The Maenads ('the possessed') were the divine Bacchantes, the female followers of Dionysus and companions of satyrs. They were depicted as being naked or dressed in thin veils which scarcely covered their nakedness; they wore wreaths of ivy on their heads and carried a thyrsus or sometimes a cantharus (two-handled urn) in their hands. They were also depicted as playing the double flute or striking a tambourine as they performed a hectic dance.

The Maenads were an expression of the original forces of nature. According to legend, the first Maenads were the Nymphs who nurtured DIONYSUS. Possessed by the god and inspired by him with a mystical frenzy, they roamed about the countryside, drinking at springs and imagining that they drank milk or honey. The human Bacchantes, female followers of the cult of Dionysus, sought to imitate their frenetic conduct. They had power over wild animals: they were depicted as riding panthers and holding wolf-cubs in their arms. The Maenads appear in a number of the legends, such as those of Lycurgus, Orpheus, Pentheus and the daughters of Minyas.


Table of Sources:
- Euripides, Bacchae;
- Sophocles, Ant. 1150;
- Athenaeus 5,198;
- Diod. Sic. 3,64; 4,3;
- Nonnus, Dion.; etc.

Mae"nad (?), n. [L. Maenas, -adis, Gr. , , fr. to rave.]


A Bacchante; a priestess or votary of Bacchus.


A frantic or frenzied woman.


© Webster 1913.

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