A book review published in A. M. Costa Rica Tuesday from the wire service has had me baffled and amused. The book, “The Secret History of Rock ‘n Roll,” is by Christopher Knowles. His thesis is that rock ‘n’ roll can be traced back to the fertility mystery cults of the ancient religions of the Middle East. I have no quarrel with that. But when the reviewer talks in terms of “fertility gods,” I have a problem. I kept wondering where are the women? Where is Demeter and what about Janice Joplin and all of the other divas of rock ‘n’ roll? Women are barely mentioned in the review, yet they were a large part of the fertility mystery cults, if not the subject. And they certainly have had a part in rock ‘n’ roll.
Most of the fertility mystery cults were related to goddesses since it was women who were associated with pregnancy and birth as well as the fertility of crops. Demeter, the Greek goddess of fertility was the subject of the Eleusinian mysteries, the most ancient and long lasting of the mystery cults, the rituals of which remain a secret to this day.
It took further reading of other reviews for me to get a clearer understanding of the author’s connection between the music festivals of the early rock ‘n’ roll era and religious cults of the past. Although Knowles compares Elvis to Apollo, the Greek god who represented the cerebral aspects of man, Dionysus, Apollo’s half brother, would be a better model for most rock heroes. Dionysus was the god of wine, intoxication and ecstasy, who led processions of happily drunken followers, notable among them, women, singing and dancing, along with musicians playing instruments of the day. Bacchus, the Roman equivalent of Dionysus, is remembered for his wild orgies. Women were part of his entourage, too.
As I said, I have no quarrel with the thesis of the book, (I’ve not had a chance to read it), only with this particular Victorian review of it and of the pagan world.
Most of the so-called “fertility” gods would more accurately be called male virility and sex gods, rather than gods of procreation. One of the most famous, the Egyptian god Min, does bring to mind some rock ‘n’ roll stars. His statues show him standing with his left hand holding his erect penis (or should I say manhood) and his right arm extended into the sky (however, bent, not straight). Attitudes about sex in the ancient world were very different from present day Puritanical attitudes in some cultures. Christianity and to some degree, Judaism, separated sex from religious ritual.
And now to segue and answer my own question, where are the women? Many are alive and well in Costa Rica. They gather together in groups, not in cults, to be very active in and for the community and also to celebrate. Just this month alone, there are three women’s groups meeting; all generated by the mother organization, The Women’s Club of Costa Rica.
First, the biggie, the welcome-to-the-public one: the “Giant Gently Used Book Sale” on Saturday, Jan. 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Hotel/Restaurant El Rodeo in San Antonio de Belén. You can call 2589-2037 for more information.
On the same day, the 22nd, is a meeting of the Professional Women’s Network from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pan American School, also in San Antonio de Belén just 300 meters south of El Rodeo. Three women will talk about women as social entrepreneurs, and their own ventures in that arena. Call Christina L. Marin at 8334-6122 for details.
Then there is the Women’s Club Book Club luncheon on the 19th. This is the closest we come to private mystery cults here. We occasionally read them.
Most of these groups used to have their end-of-the-year gatherings in December, but December became so overloaded with Christmas-related activities that one by one they moved to January, which is now overloaded with activities.
And not to be guilty of the same misstep as the wire service reviewer, Democrats Abroad is having its potluck on Saturday, the 22nd also. Both men and women are welcome. Check out A.M. Costa Rica’s calendar page for more information.