In these pages, we will explore the rite of mahāvrata, a Vedic rite connected to the celebration of the new year, from a study perspective aimed at the performative dimension. Specifically, I will focus on the final scene of the rite, because it is only at this moment that the actors and the ritual dynamics compose a particular scenario, evocative of fertility, in which some maidens, the ritual fire, and honey are the protagonists. The maidens are called upon to dance around the mārjālīya hearth and to intone a chant in which they repeat the word madhu ("honey") in an increasingly frenzied manner. The words spoken, in some cases meaningless formulas, reveal a unitary sense and hint at the final meaning of the entire ritual, and of the sacrificial offering itself, only by the performance to which they are accompanied, whereby song, dance, and acting merge into an organically articulated action. Just as a mixture of different juices is transformed into honey, so the dancers' performance is articulated in a visually unitary discourse, in which the bodies merge and the spoken words echo, revealing the very essence of the ritual, honey. The honey that intoxicates and the circular dance that makes one lose balance, while maintaining the center of gravity around the mārjālīya altar, produce a vertigo that inebriates, and while the skin of the maidens illuminated by the fire takes on the color of honey, the resonance of the words hints at the complex enigma of the Vedic rite: honey is a sweet liquor that stuns, deluding men into thinking that the vertigo of chaos can be organized into an order in the space of the sacrificial area. Honey seems to reveal the innermost meaning of the action of offering: in fact, the essence of the sacrificial offering is honey, a substance that, according to the myth, the gods have sucked to prevent men from reaching them and for which men have found a substitute in the word (Vāc). In the mahāvrata, a threefold correspondence emerges between the essence of the rite (the substance 'honey'), its substitute (the word 'honey') and women, the protagonists of the final segment of the rite. On the basis of some semantic correspondences in the Indo-European landscape, I developed the hypothesis that a series of cults and rituals in which women were the protagonists had developed around the transformation process underlying the production of honey and its collection. The hypothesis is that only later, as this memory faded, did the officiants identify an analogy between the transformative process that leads to the production of honey and the transformative process that man undergoes when he takes part in the ritual, an analogy reinforced, in India, by the identification between honey and the sacrificial drink, the soma: Thus, in the later reflection of the Upanisads, honey and the transformation process that underlies it would become a metaphor for the deeper essence of the sacrifice itself, that is, an image of Brahman.

Igor Spanò (2021). Ragazze folli di miele, Il miele e la celebrazione della parola nel rito del mahāvrata. In I. Spanò (a cura di), Il corpo della parola. Inni, poemi e performance nell'India antica e contemporanea (pp. 73-94). Palermo : Edizioni Museo Pasqualino.

Ragazze folli di miele, Il miele e la celebrazione della parola nel rito del mahāvrata

Igor Spanò
2021-11-01

Abstract

In these pages, we will explore the rite of mahāvrata, a Vedic rite connected to the celebration of the new year, from a study perspective aimed at the performative dimension. Specifically, I will focus on the final scene of the rite, because it is only at this moment that the actors and the ritual dynamics compose a particular scenario, evocative of fertility, in which some maidens, the ritual fire, and honey are the protagonists. The maidens are called upon to dance around the mārjālīya hearth and to intone a chant in which they repeat the word madhu ("honey") in an increasingly frenzied manner. The words spoken, in some cases meaningless formulas, reveal a unitary sense and hint at the final meaning of the entire ritual, and of the sacrificial offering itself, only by the performance to which they are accompanied, whereby song, dance, and acting merge into an organically articulated action. Just as a mixture of different juices is transformed into honey, so the dancers' performance is articulated in a visually unitary discourse, in which the bodies merge and the spoken words echo, revealing the very essence of the ritual, honey. The honey that intoxicates and the circular dance that makes one lose balance, while maintaining the center of gravity around the mārjālīya altar, produce a vertigo that inebriates, and while the skin of the maidens illuminated by the fire takes on the color of honey, the resonance of the words hints at the complex enigma of the Vedic rite: honey is a sweet liquor that stuns, deluding men into thinking that the vertigo of chaos can be organized into an order in the space of the sacrificial area. Honey seems to reveal the innermost meaning of the action of offering: in fact, the essence of the sacrificial offering is honey, a substance that, according to the myth, the gods have sucked to prevent men from reaching them and for which men have found a substitute in the word (Vāc). In the mahāvrata, a threefold correspondence emerges between the essence of the rite (the substance 'honey'), its substitute (the word 'honey') and women, the protagonists of the final segment of the rite. On the basis of some semantic correspondences in the Indo-European landscape, I developed the hypothesis that a series of cults and rituals in which women were the protagonists had developed around the transformation process underlying the production of honey and its collection. The hypothesis is that only later, as this memory faded, did the officiants identify an analogy between the transformative process that leads to the production of honey and the transformative process that man undergoes when he takes part in the ritual, an analogy reinforced, in India, by the identification between honey and the sacrificial drink, the soma: Thus, in the later reflection of the Upanisads, honey and the transformation process that underlies it would become a metaphor for the deeper essence of the sacrifice itself, that is, an image of Brahman.
Settore M-STO/06 - Storia Delle Religioni
Settore L-OR/17 - Filosofie, Religioni E Storia Dell'India E Dell'Asia Centrale
https://www.edizionimuseopasqualino.it/product/il-corpo-della-parola/
Igor Spanò (2021). Ragazze folli di miele, Il miele e la celebrazione della parola nel rito del mahāvrata. In I. Spanò (a cura di), Il corpo della parola. Inni, poemi e performance nell'India antica e contemporanea (pp. 73-94). Palermo : Edizioni Museo Pasqualino.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10447/527998
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