The popular True Blood Home Box Office (HBO) series begins its fourth season June 26, and fans are impatiently waiting. Rumors are this season will be filled with the usual crazy creatures, but will focus on witches and fairies.
True Blood received – in its first season – critical acclaim and garnered several awards, including one Golden Globe and an Emmy. The series is created and produced by Alan Ball. It is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, and details the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional, small town in the state of Louisiana.
The show is filled with vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, were cats, a voodoo priestess, and, in the second season, a mysterious maenad who worships – and wants to marry – the ancient Greek god Dionysus.
Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), a wealthy maenad who initially presents herself as a social worker and the main antagonist of season two, enters Bon Temps as a result of the power she follows from a ritual performed by a faux voodoo doctor on Tara (Rutina Wesley); she kills the voodoo lady and sets her sights on Tara.
She invites Tara to move in with her, and introduces her to Benedict Talley, nicknamed Eggs (Mehcad Brooks), a troubled young man Maryann had previously taken in to care for and used to kill several of her victims. Tara and Eggs later fall in love; this is unfortunate for Eggs is killed after he realizes he has been used to help Maryann do her dirty work.
When Maryann weaves her spell on the town, she starts with sensual dancing, a healthy dose of drinking, liberal use of drugs, and, when she reaches her peak intensity, she vibrates – or something like it. She looks like a whirling dervish and resembles a fast-motion frenzy, which whips up the town folk into a state of insanity. They dance to a bizarre rhythmic beat, tear off their clothes and – in one of the more disturbing scenes – engage in violent sex, smear food on themselves, fight, and roll around on the ground digging up and eating dirt!
There is a historical reference for Maryann’s behavior. In ancient Greece, maenads were female followers, or priestesses, of Dionysus. Cultic rites associated with worship of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus (or Bacchus in Roman mythology), were allegedly characterized by maniacal dancing to the sound of loud music and crashing cymbals, in which the revelers, called Bacchantes, whirled, screamed, became drunk and incited one another to greater and greater ecstasy. In fact, maenad originates from the Greek word mainas, which is English for madwoman.
This latter rite was a sacrament akin to communion in which the participants assumed the strength and character of the god by symbolically eating the raw flesh and drinking the blood of his symbolic incarnation. Having symbolically eaten his body and drunk his blood, celebrants proposed to be possessed by Dionysus.
Maenads sought a state of enthusiasm in which their souls would be temporarily freed from their earthly bodies and thus able to commune with Dionysus, gaining a glimpse of and a preparation for what they would someday experience in eternity. The rite climaxed in a performance of frenzied feats of strength and madness, such as uprooting trees, tearing a bull (the symbol of Dionysus) apart with their bare hands, an act called sparagmos, and eating its flesh raw, an act called omophagia.
Throughout the second season, Maryann’s true nature becomes apparent: she is devoted to Dionysus and intends to find a suiting, supernatural creature to kill in his honor, hoping to bring him to earth once again. Mary Ann orders the capture of shape shifter Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell), whom she intends to sacrifice in her tribute to Dionysus. She ultimately succeeds in capturing Sam and has Eggs slide a knife in his heart, but a vampire saves Sam. Sam, shifting into a white bull, fools Maryann: she believes Dionysus has returned to earth.
Hence, Maryann drops her supernatural shields and Sam, still in the guise of a great white bull, is able to kill Maryann by piercing her with his horns. After her death the town folk return to their senses with no memory of what they had done under Maryann’s influence. They remember her simply as the elegant woman who threw wild parties.
Maenads have been depicted in art as erratic and frenzied women enveloped in a drunken rapture. By eating the flesh of a man or animal that has temporarily incarnated as the god, the dancers may partake of his divinity. In one scene, prior to an orgiastic lawn party, Maryann serves a stew seasoned by a human heart that belonged to slain shape shifter Daphne Landry (Ashley Jones).
Thus, it seems the series continues to add characters that change the lives of those living in the small southern town of Bon Temps. Will Maryann return? According to rumor, it may be possible.
As previously mentioned, this season is said to focus on witches who have a strange affect on the undead, i.e., vampires. Steamy blood-sucker Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) loses his memory – thanks to the witchy coven. We also find Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Pacquin) – who has sworn off dating vampires – in a freaky fairy world filled with sinister with undertones.To read 10 spoilers about the upcoming fourth season, click here.