Theater, Democracy, and the Mysteries. Historical Perspectives on the Normalization of the Irrational


The paper aims at illustrating how the line of esoteric thinking that posits the Mysteries as foundational of dramatic performances could have a sound and provable basis. It is argued that the Mysteries, belonging to a very ancient substratum of matriarchal beliefs, were once normal, Dionysian, and openly-observed celebrations that went underground as rational, patriarchal thought emerged in the cultural scene of the Mediterranean during the Hellenic Middle Ages. To normalize such Mysteric impulses, irrational spurs and celebrations were partly made into staged drama, a more rational scenery which, however, was inevitably based upon mythical topics and therefore retained a partly irrational facet. The paper aims to show in which way magical thinking, including its exile into a chthonic setting, is an integral part of the evolution of Hellenic politics and, as a consequence, of the idea of democracy.




English (en)


Simone TurcoUniversità degli Studi di Genova


Orbis Idearum Volume 7, Issue 1 (2019), pp. 13-28
Magic in the History of Ideas