- Three doctrines of Orphism: the composite origin of humankind (Titan and God, earthly and heavenly), the hope of final apotheosis (elevation of the soul into a god), and transmigration (reincarnation, the passage of the soul from one body to another).
- The belief in reincarnation explains the Orphic practice of vegetarianism (Guthrie calls it “the most important Orphic commandment”), since the soul of a former human may be present in an animal, and then be born back into a human, and so on – making meat-eating essentially cannibalism.
- An Orphic needed to do two things to attain salvation: 1. Undergo initiation, and 2. Live a life aligned with Orphic notions of purity. Part of that life of purity was vegetarianism. There was the idea that there was a pre-Titanic age during which people found it “impious to eat flesh or to offer it to the gods,” and that the Orphics were resuming that practice. Another Orphic prohibition was against taking wool into temples, or being buried in wool. There is also a fragment which suggests white (and possibly linen) as a pure color, and the avoidance of birth and death.
- Were there Orphic moral teachings? Not so much. Orphism was more individual and personal – about your own journey of soul-elevation, in whatever form that may take.
- Orphic initiations (or conversions): Professional freelance Orphic initiators, orpheotelestai, would perform initiations for profit. They were not always regarded well by others. The Orphic Hymns are seen as significant (a form of teletai, divine writings and rites) – sacred writings in general were a lot of what Orphism depended on. The author thinks it probable that the recital of the hymns along with the appropriate (meatless) sacrifice, along with a “pantomime illustrating the theme of the recital,” for example of the myth of Dionysos and the Titans, were what consisted an Orphic ritual. But, we don’t really know for sure.
- Orphic initiation, pure speculation: Studying the Orphic tablets and writings written about in the Chapter 5 post can lead to a lot of speculation about what an Orphic initiation my have been like. The appendix to this chapter lists some theories – was there a bathing in (possibly boiled) milk, from the line “a kid I have fallen into milk?” Was there an Orphic ritual of the wheel? (There were wheels in temples of Persephone.) Did the Orphic initiate climb a ladder to enter a sacred enclosure? Your guess is as good as mine.
- Was Orphism a sect? Yes in the sense that they had complicated dogma in writings which had to be studied – which was quite different from mainstream Hellenic religion, so the Orphics were always a small group. However, there is not much evidence for organized Orphic communities. The author states that there likely was some sort of organization, and there are a couple pieces of evidence, but again, we don’t know much.
- “‘Many bear the wand, but few become Bakchoi’. That is to say, there are many who join in a Dionysiac orgy, but few who carry out all that an Orphic thought necessary for the attainment of union with the god. That the verse is Orphic we may say with confidence…” p.194
- “According to the words which Aristophanes puts into the mouth of Aeschylus in the Frogs, Orpheus was famous for two things – he revealed the ways of initiation, and he taught men to abstain from killing.” p.196