Podcast episode

Episode 23: Miguel Herrero de Jauregui on Ancient ‘Orphism’

[This episode was conducted across a poor digital connection, so apologies for the sound-quality. But don’t worry, the quality of Dr Herrero’s insights more than make up for it.]

In this episode we have the pleasure of tapping the expertise of Dr Miguel Herrero, a man who knows a thing or two about ancient ‘Orphism’. The conversation centres on the types of evidence available to us of the ancient movement(s) known as ‘Orphism’, but strays far and wide on a number of themes dear to our hearts here at the SHWEP. Some of the main points covered include:

  • The so-called Orphic gold tablets – what are they and what do they tell us?
  • The extraordinary story of the survival of the Derveni papyrus, and its significance as evidence for the earliest known esoteric reading of a mythic text,
  • The usefulness of Walter Burkert’s model of Orphism as a phenomenon involving varying admixtures of Bacchic religion, Pythagoreanism, and Eleusinian themes,
  • The question of the Orpheotelestai, the wandering Orphic initiators,
  • The many ways in which later traditions have used the idea of ancient Orphism as a mirror of their own ideological preoccupations,
  • The question of how ‘mainstream’ Orphic religious practices were in ancient Greek society.

Interview Bio

Miguel Herrero de Jauregui is a member of the Department of Greek Philology and Indoeuropean Linguistics at the University of Madrid. His Academia page contains many wonders relevant to the discussion in this episode; he is interested in the theme of katabasis, in Dionysus and his many cults, in ancient philosophy, and has done some really interesting work on the themes of conversion and salvation in ancient Greek culture.

Works Discussed in this Episode

  • Otto, W. F., 1965. Dionysus: Myth and Cult. Indiana University Press, Bloomington/London.
  • Rohde, E., on the Orphic ‘drop of alien blood’: Die Religion der Griechen. Universitäts-Buchdruckerei von J. Hörning, 1895, p. 27 = Kl. Schriften II, p. 338.
  • West, M., 1983. The Orphic Poems. Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Recommended Reading

  • Bernabé, A. and San Cristobál, A. J., 2008. Instructions for the Netherworld: The Orphic Gold Tablets. Brill, Leiden/Boston. Michael Chase, trans.
  • Edmonds, R. G., 2013. Redefining Ancient Orphism: A Study in Greek Religion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

The inscriptions found on the Orphic bone inscriptions from Olbia, which seem to refer directly to people known as ὀρφικοί, can be seen on this page. 



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