There are several Hellenists who love the story of Alice in Wonderland as a depiction of the journey of the divine child. Though Lewis Carol was writting a great deal of religious metaphor based in Christianity, much of these ideas he works with is fairly well recognized as borrowed from the mythos of Dionysos. As much of the mystic material within Christianity does the same. In this light whereas one may find pleasure in reading the journey of Alice as the divine child moving through a crazy and unpredictable world, a Hellenist may also discover other divine icons at work through the book symbolically whether Carol meant to put them within his work or not. This is the nice thing about literary appreciation, especially for us with something which has indirect roots to Hellenic Mysteries, is that a book can say many different things depending on the lense of its audience.
Therefore I must take a moment and speak of a character that I am very fond of (and one that in the past has been met with alot of skepticism because people are looking at literal origins of what his characters were based on) and that is the Cheshire Cat. Now I am saying nothing of the fact of its conception as a cat…since historically the inspiration of the cat comes from a pretty solid place and really has little to do with what the cat does within the story. It could be anything and still function the same way…what I am looking at instead is what the cat does within the story. Because the cheshire cat shares a very special and particular relationship with the divine child as we see, guiding the child, advising and directly effecting the journey of the child to its end. However this is accomplished with an ineffable grin (that mysterious knowing smile) and ambiguous speech, but which set it apart from any interpretation of the cat-guide as Hermes the guide of souls who might be slippery of tongue but does not possess so much this multi-dimensional sight (though there are some simple divinations that he is credited which interpret signs) and habit of making declarations in an ambiguous way. Instead this reminds me of Apollon and is further compounded with the tricks of vision that the cat uses to manipulate how others see him. But more importantly we see an echo of the relationship between Apollon and Dionysos. In a paean to Dionysos found at Delphi it specifically addresses this in how Apollon and the Muses are the first to greet the god as such when Dionysos reaches Olympos, and Apollon gives to him his quest (much as he prescribed the labors to Herakles)..in a sense laying out the way. His divine voice and guidance is directly apparent in the persona of the cheshire cat. He interacts with the Wonderland but is a sense dislocated from it and almost seemingly outside the rulership of that world. Like a king in his own right! Sounds familiar does it not? The great solar king whose piercing rains illuminate and scatter the darkness.
Second you have the Queen of Hearts, a character who is shaping the world of Wonderland and is directly impacting the journey of the divine child. Within the story she is quite maligned, not unlike other queenly figures which impose hardship on a hero or heroine. She is producing the environment for Alice’s growth. Here we see Hera, rather than the assumption of Aphrodite for the title of the hearts. The Queen of Hearts is absolutely royal and there is no mistakening the fact, and her tendency for “off with his head” strikes a similar chord as “bring me her heart” from Snow White…it strikes very close at the idea at the dismemberment of Zagreus whom Hera is mythically directly responsible. One thing that I do notice is that in the original tale of Alice in Wonderland as penned by Carol she is not quite as wicked as we like to portray her today such as the game “Alice” and which has become apparent in the most recent movie of Alice in Wonderland.
Naturally there a host of many other characters within Alice in Wonderland that deserve attention, but that will be reserved in a later post.