Bendis (Pagan Blog Project Week 3)

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The Thracian goddess Bendis may or may not be the same as the goddess Kotys or Cotyto, according to some sources. One would presume that the Lady is aware of whether or not She has more than one name or identity, but She keeps Her mysteries well. For the purposes of this entry, since we’re on the letter “B,” we’ll stick to Her Bendis persona, regardless of the answer to that mysterious question.

Bendis was also conflated with Artemis, as another fierce, singular female huntress and lunar/wild deity. She resembles Artemis a little, if you squint hard and forget that She’s using a spear or two instead of a bow, that She’s wearing a Phrygian cap and a distinct set of high-legged boots, or that She wears other different clothing, in everything from Thracian cloaks to a fox-skin hat. )

Other times, Bendis is conflated with Persephone or Selene. These associations also have their similiarities. Bendis’ ceremonies were indeed practiced at night, by Thracians and (after the Oracle of Dodona told them to) by Greeks as well. One such ceremony is mentioned as the setting for Plato’s Republic, and appears in other classical works. It is called the Bendidia.

Bendidia involved torchlight processions on horseback and revels under darkness, like those celebrated by other Thracian and Orphic deities like Sabazios and Dionysos. Bendis is sometimes accompanied, like Dionysos, by satyrs and maenads, or simply by athletes running toward Her temple.

I’d like to understand more about Bendis, but as yet, She has not granted that opportunity. Perhaps one day that will change and I will have more to say.

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11 thoughts on “Bendis (Pagan Blog Project Week 3)

  1. One of my favorite Thracian goddesses, in fact…I’ve been celebrating Bendideia on May 19th for the past few years. If you search my blog for Bendis, you’ll see some of what I’ve come up with for her on those occasions…!

  2. Adrienne

    I am new on the site I would love to read the article on Bendis. I am looking for a picture of her with 2 spears for above my altar. Can you direct me?
    Thank you
    Adrienne

  3. George Corbul

    I’ve been digging around the internet, and it seems that Bendis and Kotys were distinct goddesses. This can be presumed from the Samothracian cult of the Great Gods*, which is described as having very similar rituals to the Thracian Orphic ones. The two female deities of Samotrake (Axieros – identified as the local Allmother, and Axiokersa – the daughter goddess) have been identified as similar to the Greek Demeter and Persephone. Seeing as how Kotys was compared to Demeter, that makes Persephone – Bendis. At the same time, the male deity Axiokersus was compared to Pluto or Hades, and was probably the Thracian Zagreus/ Gebeleizis, whereas the fourth figure – Casmilus, who was the Great Gods’ mythical servant – may have simply been the first human, or the first priest (the role taken by Orpheus, Rhesus, and Zalmoxis).

    *Probably a group of Thracians who didn’t agree with Orphic “reforms” of the original religious system, and they left for the island to practice the religion in its original form, keeping its true identity secret – probably to avoid persecution from the Orphics.

    • Thank you for the post. The answer, as with many things Samothracian, is yes and no. Syncretism is a sneaky beast. “Compared to” and even “identified as” do not mean the same reality in the world of the gods necessarily. The same deities were also “compared to” and “identified” as Egyptian deities by the Ptolemies who supported the island and built some of its greatest cultic buildings. Bendis and Kotys are Bendis and Kotys, and They are also maybe some Others, depending on which human(s) are doing the writing and the describing. The only ones who know for sure are the keepers of the Mysteries, and the Mysteries Themselves 🙂

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