First of all, obviously I’m going to link to Ray Brown playing Black Orpheus.
Now, what particularly fascinates me about the Dionysian cult is how its introduction into Greek culture completely inverted the general anthropological tenor of the Olympians. As a mystery religion making a counter-cultural appeal to religious hipster-ism of its day, this must have brought about a real gestalt-experience for its initiates, an experience which contributed to its charm.
Whereas Homer understands human as human, flesh and blood, and the poor departed shade but a suffering remnant after death, things get completely inverted by the Dionysian enthusiasts. With the imported doctrine of the transmigration of the soul comes the inversion: the soul is the essential constituent of the person, not the body – mortal coil and all that – the body takes the abandoned place of the Olympian soul-shade and is relegated to the realm of shadow-image. Back is front. Up is down. That is how to style it if you’re in the mystery religion business.
What you see is no longer what you get. What you don’t see is what you’ve got. The doctrine by definition must therefore be esoteric. So too must the discipline, thus the accompanying initiation into arcane rites of soul-purification.
Do not infer from this post that I know anything about Orphism (or anything else for that matter). These are only some initial thoughts engendered by some initial encounters. On the relationship of Orphism to the Pythagorean Society more anon if I can get all the ducks lined up.