In Greek mythology, a thyrsus (thyrsos) was a staff of giant fennel ("Ferula communis") covered with ivy vines and leaves, sometimes wound with taeniae and always topped with a pine cone. Where these emblems were, there was the spirit of Dionysus also. Euripides wrote that honey dripped from the thyrsos staves that the Bacchic maenads carried. [Euripides, "Bacchae", 711.] It was a sacred instrument at religious rituals and fetes.


The thyrsus associated with Dionysus (or Bacchus) and his followers, the Satyrs and Maenads, is a composite symbol of the forest (pine cone) and the farm (fennel). It has been suggested that this was specifically a fertility phallus, with the fennel representing the shaft of the penis and the pine cone representing the "seed" issuing forth. The thyrsus was tossed in the Bacchic dance:

"Pentheus": The thyrsus— in my right hand shall I hold it?::Or thus am I more like a Bacchanal?"Dionysos": In thy right hand, and with thy right foot raise it" ["The Bacchae"]

Sometimes the thyrsus was displayed in conjunction with a wine cup, another symbol of Dionysus, forming a male-and-female combination like that of the royal scepter and orb.


It is explicitly attributed to Dionysus in Euripides's play "The Bacchae" as part of the costume of the Dionysian cult. "...To raise my Bacchic shout, and clothe all who respond/ In fawnskin habits, and put my thyrsus in their hands–/ The weapon wreathed with ivy-shoots..." Euripides also writes, "There's a brute wildness in the fennel-wands—Reverence it well." ("The Bacchae and Other Plays", trans. by Philip Vellacott, Penguin, 1954.)

"And I conceive that the founders of the mysteries had a real meaning and were not mere triflers when they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the world below will live in a slough, but that he who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods. For 'many,' as they say in the mysteries, 'are the thyrsus bearers, but few are the mystics' ["Mystai", "initiates".] —meaning, as I interpret the words, 'the true philosophers.'" (Plato, "Phædo", The Harvard Classics, 1909–14.)


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Thyrsus — Thyr sus, n.; pl. {Thyrsi}. [L., fr. Gr. ?. Cf. {Torso}.] 1. A staff entwined with ivy, and surmounted by a pine cone, or by a bunch of vine or ivy leaves with grapes or berries. It is an attribute of Bacchus, and of the satyrs and others… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Thyrsus — (auch griechisch Thyrsos) steht für: Thyrsus (Blütenstand), ein spezieller Blütenstand Thyrsus González (1624–1705), 13. General der Societas Jesu Thyrsos, in der griechischen Mythologie Attribut des Dionysos und seiner Begleiter Thyrsos… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Thyrsus [1] — Thyrsus (Bot.), Strauß …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Thyrsus [2] — Thyrsus, Fluß auf der Westküste der Insel Sardinien; j. Oristano …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Thyrsus — (grch.), der in einen Fichtenzapfen auslaufende, mit Epheu und Weinlaub umwundene Stab (Thyrsusstab) der Mainaden …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Thyrsus — Thyrsus, bei den Griechen der mit Reben und Epheu umwundene, oben mit einem Fichtenzapfen geschmückte Stab, den man bei Bachusfesten trug. – T., in der Botanik, s. Strauß …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Thyrsus — ⇒ Blütenstände …   Deutsch wörterbuch der biologie

  • thyrsus — (n.) 1590s, from Gk. thyrsos, lit. stalk or stem of a plant, a non Greek word of unknown origin. The staff or spear tipped with an ornament like a pine cone, and sometimes wreathed in ivy or vine branches, borne by Dionysus and his votaries …   Etymology dictionary

  • thyrsus — [thʉrsthʉr′səs] n. pl. thyrsi [thʉr′sī΄] [L < Gr thyrsos; ? akin to Hittite tuwarsa , grape vine] 1. a staff tipped with a pine cone and sometimes entwined with ivy or vine leaves, which Dionysus, the satyrs, etc. were represented as carrying… …   English World dictionary

  • Thyrsus, SS. (1) — 1SS. Thyrsus, Leucius (Lucius) et Callinicus, M. M. (28. Jan. al. 14. Dec.). Diese hhl. Martyrer haben mit 15 andern Christen zu Apollonia in Phrygien während der Decischen Verfolgung um das J. 250 nach vielen Leiden die Martyrkrone erlangt, und… …   Vollständiges Heiligen-Lexikon

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