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The Means of achieving spiritual experience - Shaivism – 04 Music and dance – Zikr, Kirtana, Tarantella, Nestenarides and the Aissaoua ritual



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience


Alain Danielou – Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The traditions of Shiva and Dionysus

The Phrygian mode, as recommended for the music of the Bacchanal corresponds to the India Kafi mode (raga), often used today for ecstatic dances. Certain rhythms and their gradual acceleration play an important role, as well as the sudden changes in rhythmic formula causing a psychological shock to the dancers. The dithyramb tradition has been preserved in the zikr, practised by the Sufi brotherhoods in the Islamic world, The zikr is itself a continuation of the Greek rite, and is very close to both dithyramb and kirtana in technique, effect and purpose.

It is practised in Iran, Turkey and Syria, as also in Morocco, where the Aissaoua ritual is the continuation of a Dionysiac rite. The Aissaoua of Fez, moreover, practise omophagy and wear the sacred lock of hair of the Dionysiacs and Shivaites.

Mystico-erotic Dionysiac dances continued for a long time in the west. The chroniclers of the Middle Ages have left remarkable descriptions of them, notably of those practised up to the fourteenth century in the Rhine valley and Flanders. The dances of the Tarantolati, in Apulia, could be seen until quite recently.

Jeanmaire mentions the Nestenarides ceremonies of the last century in the villages of eastern Thrace (Costi region), as a demonstration of the persistence of the Dionysus cult which had flourished in the Greek towns along the shores of the Black Sea.

The dance and noise of the drums have the effect of creating a safety zone and of driving away ill-omened influences. The description of their use is found in the great Tamil epic poem of the third century, the Shilappadikaram.

The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps