THE most important literary document extant on Orphic ceremonial is a fragment of the Cretans of Euripides, preserved for us by Porphyry in his treatise on ‘Abstinence from Animal Food’ a passage Porphyry says he had ‘almost forgotten to mention.’

From an allusion in Aristophanes to ‘Cretan monodies and unhallowed marriages’ it seems probable that the Cretans dealt with the hapless wedlock of Pasiphae, The fragment, Porphyry tells us, was spoken by the chorus of Cretan mystics who have come to the palace of Minos. It is possible they may have come to purify it from the recent pollution.