Greece and Rome and the rest of the Hellenic world back then was big on drinking parties (not like much has changed since). These would be called symposia (sing. symposion or symposium) or convivia (sing. convivium), overseen by a symposiarch who would lead the drinking and make sure things didn’t get too out of hand. One of the duties of the symposiarch would be to make sure the wine was appropriately mixed; unlike current wine, which is all roughly the same proof, straight wine was damn potent back in the day and required mixing with water to make it properly drinkable in moderation. To drink unmixed wine was seen as a mark of barbarism, but symposiarchs who diluted the wine too much were made fun of for being weak and wusses when it came to quaffing the fruit of the vine. After all, moderation in Greek society, and later Stoic Roman society, was a big thing.
Plus, a long time ago (375 BC), in a galaxy far, far away (Greece), the god of the wine and vine Dionysus said this, according to Eubulus:
For sensible men I prepare only three kraters: one for health (which they drink first), the second for love and pleasure, and the third for sleep. After the third one is drained, wise men go home. The fourth krater is not mine any more – it belongs to bad behaviour; the fifth is for shouting; the sixth is for rudeness and insults; the seventh is for fights; the eighth is for breaking the furniture; the ninth is for depression; the tenth is for madness and unconsciousness.
Basically, three servings of wine (the krater was the large mixing bowl) was the recommended amount, any more beyond which was just too much. Of course, plenty of art, stories, and writings exist that show that this three krater limit was hardly ever observed, but it goes to show that moderation in what people do, especially those of command, was key to maintaining a good time to make sure you don’t have too much party in you. It was the symposiarch’s job to make sure things didn’t get out of hand, and if he himself got too drunk, everyone else likely would, too, and then things kinda get messy in every sense of the word.
If the leader of the drinking party had this much responsibility, and had as much to risk as Dionysus had warned from too much indulgence, imagine how much worse it is for the leader of one’s world, life, sphere, and surroundings. Imagine how much worse than that it can be for a magician who taps into the forces determining one’s world, life, sphere, and surroundings. I’m not saying that entheogens or indulgence or ritual intoxication are bad, and far from it. But moderation in luxuries is something that’s pretty much mandated for someone involved with forces as volatile as we manipulate. People can be denied security clearances for being alcoholics or drug-addicts due to the sensitive nature of their work, and that’s just on a worldly level. When you get involved with mundane and supramundane levels all at once, even more care and caution needs to be exercised.
I’m not trying to be a killjoy (I am a dirty, dirty whore for sangria, after all), but I’m noticing that not only can I not party as hearty as I used to even a few years ago, but when I do overindulge and end up on some bathroom floor or other, the consequences are becoming ever more annoying for me, physically and spiritually. This might just be my experience, and I’m only talking about the few parties or bar outings a year that just so happen with me having a few too many drinks with a few too many shots each in them, but when one is trying to lead a holy or magical life and get out to view the other spheres, it’s hard when the body and mind are drunk with mistakes.
Even Hermes Trismegistus said as much, in the Divine Poemander:
O ye people, earth-born folk, ye who have given yourselves to drunkenness and sleep and ignorance of God, be sober now, cease from your surfeit, cease to be glamoured by irrational sleep…[ye] earth-born folk, why have ye given up yourselves to Death, while yet ye have the power of sharing Deathlessness? Repent, O ye, who walk with Error arm in arm and make of Ignorance the sharer of your board; get ye from out the light of Darkness, and take your part in Deathlessness, forsake Destruction!
Next time you’re out enjoying yourself, be sure that you’re the one making the decisions and enjoying them, and not the alcohol doing it for you.
I am all for moderation. This became especially clear to me after my last drinking bout, which ended in a hangover lasting all of the next day. After that, I was like, “Yeah, I’m too old for this.”
Aren’t you a few years younger than me, Aubs? I feel like this was briefly mentioned in passing somewhere on your blags. And if I think I’m too old for this shit, I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. :3 Also, it’s not so much the hangovers that triggered this post (those are cured more-or-less readily with a trip to Burger King and a day of video games/napping), but admittedly those are also annoying.
I’m twenty-nine, although I have my days where I feel more like forty. :)
I don’t think you’re a killjoy at all, I personally nodded in agreement reading this.
Perhaps it’s not just the excess but the frequency of excess as well which is part of the problem – that is not getting drunk but getting drunk often? I’m not a big drinker, I rarely get drunk and that’s never at parties (especially with family members around) but a lot of my friends and relatives do. And I see what it’s doing to them – as the years pass it’s getting harder and harder for them to recover from hangovers. I’m at the opposite side of this, sometimes I should let go and get a little drunk but somehow I can’t – at the last family get together I wrestled with a glass of wine for 3 hours lol. Maybe it’s because last time I had a bit too much (several weeks ago) I felt so ill that it scared me.
I’ve been drunk a couple times, and I have long bouts of complete abstinence between them (not necessarily for lack of want) and I have to say it’s kinda overrated. I had fun during those times, but it’s not really something I have any particular desire to repeat or reach. I dunno, most of the time I don’t really want to drink, even if it’s available to me. Last time I had a chance to drink I had literally one shot mixed into a glass of fruit juice. My best friend and boyfriend got plastered though, much to my exasperated amusement. But, they did have ten shots each of 80-proof vodka XD It was fun and all, but I was glad not to be drunk with them.
I go for the ideal of Aristotle: the Golden Mean.