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Madness, Religion and Gender in Ancient Greece

Nyeleni Superville Blackford

Classical Civilization and English Literature


Year of study:


How does gender and madness coexist in ancient religious thought?
The approach taken was focused on specific rituals that used madness. I found that the purpose was to connect mortals with gods and allow for possession by a god.
Women were considered susceptible to divine possession as they were soft and penetrable. Men could be possessed however the effect was not as frenzied, they often favored other forms of divine connection. We see this difference presented in art and literature.
The concluding evidence was that this was due to a consideration held in regard to ancient Greek sexuality; the idea of penetration as utterly feminine and therefore lesser - whether it was penetration of the mind or the body. The conflict between the scaredness of divine madness and sanctity of the masculine body was a central aspect of madness and Greek thought.
It promotes the idea the women can be possessed and that they are more susceptible to emotions and mental health issues, due to an innate weakness, something often thought in modern times. Also, it links into the impenetrable ideal of masculinity that we still hold in our society today. There are gendered standards that western culture has maintained for millennia, that negatively affect our society. It is especially important to talk about presently as we are in difficult times and the mental health of many a man is suffering due to these ancient ideals of masculinity.

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