|“||Maenads are sad, silly things... The world changed centuries ago and they're still waiting for the God Who Comes.||”|
Maenads are a rare, supernatural species and the immortal female followers of Dionysus, the god of ritual madness and ecstasy. Their name literally translates as "raving ones".
Very little is known about the history of maenads. Daphne Landry claims that Maryann, the only known maenad, has always been alive for as long as there was an Earth to walk on. Daphne also claims that she has been known as Gaia, a Greek goddess of earth, and the Egyptian goddess Isis. Glimpses into Maryann's past show that she has always led a lavish lifestyle in large houses with ample supplies of tropical fruit, and Eggs further hints that she is something of a nomad, moving from place to place semi-frequently. This could possibly be in part because Maryann would be "summoned" from one place to the next, answering the call of powerful energy sources.
Late one night years ago, Maryann encountered a young and homeless 17 year old Sam Merlotte eating her food and stealing from her house. She was unnerved at his naked appearance, taking interest in his supernatural nature and how he serendipitously seemed to be drawn to her effigy of Dionysus. Maryann lured Sam to her bed shortly thereafter, where she proceeded to take his virginity and to display some of her own power. Later, while she was showering, a terrified Sam snuck through her drawers where he found a change of clothes and 100,000 dollars. He escaped into the night, and they did not see each other again for many years.
Throughout True Blood Series
Maryann was called to Bon Temps by the exorcism cast by Miss Jeanette on Tara Thornton. She appeared only to Tara's eyes, with the look of a younger Tara with blackened eyes. This was later implied by Maryann herself that Tara saw herself through Maryann's eyes and that Maryann responded to the ritual because she wanted to see if Miss Jeanette was the right vessel for her. However, not a vessel herself, Miss Jeanette's spell, nonetheless was believed to be a true ritual by Tara which in turn gave the spell powerful enough energy for Maryann to pick up on and come to Bon Temps physically. She appears before a drunk driving Tara shortly thereafter, naked in the middle of the road, standing with a pig. Tara swerves to avoid her and is taken into custody by Kenya Jones for driving under the influence.
Shortly after Lettie Mae leaves Tara in jail, having refused to bail her daughter out, Maryann arrives on the scene posing as a social worker (ironically specializing in public drunkenness) to give Tara her freedom. Seeing she has nowhere to go, Maryann offers Tara hospitality at her home until Tara can find her feet again. At first hesitant to trust Maryann, Tara's lack of options reluctantly leaves her no other alternative and she agrees upon confirming one condition:
- "...Nothing against religion, but not a Jesus person. "
- ―Maryann slightly tips her hand to Tara Thornton
For at least two weeks, Maryann quietly lived in a large house in Bon Temps without causing much incident. Some speculate that she was using this time to gather energy from Eggs and Tara, making herself stronger so that she could gradually infect the entire town with her influence. This theory is supported when she uncharacteristically slaps Karl to the ground for interrupting a tender moment between her housemates, ruining the hedonistic energy flow and thus, her meal.
Maryann would later employ several underhanded and manipulative tactics in order to keep Tara near her and Eggs.
- " Nobody needed towels!! "
- ―Maryann doesn't take kindly to Karl's interruption
On her first brief visit to Merlotte's, she eagerly sees Sam having heard that he has a gift for her. Sam apologizes to her for his theft in his younger years, though it is obviously more an apology out of fear than genuine regret. He proceeds to give her a large bag filled with money, and while touched at the notion, Maryann declines his offering saying it's not what she wants. Sam accuses her of trying to somehow punish him by luring Tara into her life, but Maryann dismisses his allegations, implying Sam is vain to think her presence in Bon Temps should be because of him.
Her second visit to Merlotte's is of greater interest, as she arrives early in the afternoon on a relatively slow business day to sample the food, though Sam is reluctant to serve her and wants her to leave. Maryann reminds Sam that she forgave him a $100,000 loan, so the least he could do is let her buy herself some lunch, to which he relents. Maryann then orders everything off the menu, coming to a sum of what Tara would later say was over $300, and impressively consumes all of it.
It was later in this afternoon that she encountered Sookie Stackhouse for the first time, and genuinely praised the young waitress for her positive attitude in the face of what others would see as absolute misery. Sookie, however, throughout the duration of this conversation, had been listening to Maryann's thoughts and found them to be unlike any she had heard before being entirely in another language, in a haunting mantra-like voice constantly invoking Dionysus in ancient Greek.
Sookie coyly asks Maryann where she is from in a suspicious manner, but Maryann retains her demeanor and convincingly lies that she was born in Cape Cod. Uneasy, Sookie excuses herself, but reminds Tara to consider her invitation to move into her house and be her new housemate. Maryann behaves as though she is touched by the gesture, though the look seen on her face (only to the viewer) confirms that she intends to kill Sookie to prevent this from happening.
Later that night after finishing all her food, Maryann begins to seductively dance in the bar, lulling all the patrons into her spell. Slowly but surely, they all begin to dance wildly and engage in lewd behavior turning Merlotte's all but into a dance club. Furious at seeing this, Sam takes Maryann to the back office and demands an explanation, but Maryann plays dumb, denying any responsibility. When he loses his temper, Maryann demonstrates just what kind of power she has by forcing Sam to shapeshift into his Collie form.
Maryann informs him in no uncertain terms that if he ever threatens her again, she will reveal his secret to everyone in Bon Temps.
Later that night, Maryann, in a bull mask and with large, demon-like claws, somehow tracked Sookie down while she was 20 miles outside the city limits and slashed her back, infecting the waitress with an extremely deadly Maenad toxin. Maryann did this in hopes that Tara would not be able to take Sookie up on her earlier offer, and was visibly surprised when she learned that Sookie was miraculously fine the next morning, though she concealed her shock from Tara.
When Tara announced she would indeed move in, Maryann had no choice but to let her go, offering encouraging words and making sure to say she's sure Tara would do the same for her if she could, something she would later put to the test.
Having somehow known the date of Tara's birthday, Maryann arrives at the Stackhouse residence with a wedding cake to throw Tara a party. She invites nearly everyone in Bon Temps, all of whom later that night she drives to primal actions of sex, violence and hunger as she blacks them out and brings them under her power. The next morning, Maryann has clearly made herself at home and decorated the Stackhouse kitchen with luscious fruits and beautiful flowers, to Tara's confusion.
Maryann informs her that she, Karl, and Eggs need a place to stay since her "client" came back from Peru to reclaim his house that she had been watching in his stead. Tara tells Maryann that what she wants isn't possible. She, herself, just moved in and this is Sookie's house, not hers. Maryann puts on a hurt facade by this and claims to understand. Whipping up some fake tears, she leaves the kitchen.
That night while Tara bartends, Maryann covertly arrives at Merlotte's and begins to sway the emotions of all the people inside to feel negatively and focus all this energy at Tara. Tara becomes so frustrated with everyone relentlessly jumping down her throat that she leaves in a huff before her shift is even over. Arriving home, she finds Maryann dressed in uncharacteristically maternal clothing, reading a book, and saying she made Tara dinner and filled the fridge with her favorite foods.
Moved by this, Tara begs Maryann to stay with her.
The next night, Maryann once again brings the entire town under her thrall, this time in preparation to sacrifice Sam Merlotte to her god Dionysus, so he would be born into the world. She accomplished this by having Daphne (the shapeshifter revealed to be the pig who first appeared with her) seduce and lure Sam out to where Maryann was channeling orgiastic energy from the town's citizens. Thanks to a distraction from Andy Bellefleur, Sam is able to escape, however by shape-shifting into an owl he saw while Maryann chased him.
Though Maryann didn't express any malice or bitterness at Daphne's failure (even going so far as to express sincere gratitude), upon their next meeting she had a mesmerized Eggs stab her right through the heart, killing her for giving Sam information about her entity. This cements the notion that Daphne's true purpose was to bring Maryann the vessel, whether she was alive or not hardly being a concern. Daphne's body was left in the freezer in Merlotte's, implicating Sam in the murder and resulting in him being detained in jail.
Sam once again escapes her, visibly irritating her to the point that she decides to bring the entire town under influence once again, this time permanently, until they bring her Sam Merlotte.
When Sookie Stackhouse returns to Bon Temps from Dallas, she finds the town in complete disarray and her house completely made over in a haunting, pagan fashion. Maryann behaves as though the house is hers, taunting Sookie and Bill with her presence. Bill "strongly suggests" that Maryann leave, but she is undaunted, remarking that Bill is quite a specimen, keen to his supernatural, vampiric nature. She also mentions that Bill will "leave Sookie cold," (perhaps foreshadowing his kidnapping only two days later).
Sookie rudely dismisses Maryann, angering the Maenad into attacking Sookie. She pins Sookie against the wall, lifting her up faster than Bill's eyes can follow. Bill Compton pushes her away and bites her neck, but is quickly poisoned by her black blood, much to Maryann's knowing delight. She incredulously clasps Sookie's face, wondering aloud what Sookie could be before she is jolted by Sookie's photokinesis.
Sookie then grabs a poisoned and pained Bill and quickly flees the house. After assuming that he has few clues about what Maryann might be, although he tells Sookie about some legendary creatures he read on a book years ago, he seeks advice from Sophie Anne, the Vampire Queen of Louisiana, on how to defeat Maryann. She tells Bill that the reason Maryann's blood poisoned him was because vampires could only feed on human blood and that a maenad is no longer even remotely human. Bill asks if she started out as human to which Sophie-Anne says she did, that even vampires started out as human, they simply evolved into what they are now.
Sophie-Anne reveals that Maryann's powers are directly tied to her beliefs. She tells him everything in the universe imagined itself into existence. Thus by believing in her god and becoming a maenad, Maryann was immortal. The only way to defeat her was to make her believe that Dionysus was ravaging her.
Back in Bon Temps, preparing to sacrifice Sam and using Sookie as a bridesmaid for Maryann's sacrificial ritual, Bill arrives with Sam in his custody and proposes a trade to which Maryann agrees. Sookie is horrified when a mind-controlled Eggs stabs Sam in the chest, but by reading Sam's mind she hears Sam telling her to destroy the egg and Maryann's statue offering to disrupt Maryann's ceremony. Sookie does so using her 'light' power for the second time.
An enraged Maryann starts sacrificing everyone around the yard by sending excessive amount of energy around her. When Sookie tells her to stop she begins transformation and starts pursuing Sookie into the woods, only to stop when she hears a growl. Suddenly she sees a large white bull coming towards, which she takes to be her god finally answering her summons. She is surprised when coming closer being moved by the situation, the bull suddenly impales her with one of its horns, asking if it means she is to be the final sacrifice to bring her god into the world. She accepts that her god wants her to die, thus dropping her immortality shield, and lets herself be ravaged by the bull, only to be shocked again when the bull morphs into a healed Sam who is ripping out her heart.A distraught Maryann's last words are "Was there no god?"; Sam and Bill's deception had worked, as they had tricked Maryann into vulnerability. Sam then crushes her heart in his hand, causing her body to instantly decay into a skeletal, black corpse. Bill appears shortly after and reveals Sam had agreed to be stabbed if Bill would heal him after Sookie distracted Maryann. Sookie requests that Bill and Jason remove Maryann's body from the lot, explaining that she doesn't care where her body goes.
Often, the Maenads were portrayed as inspired by Dionysus into a state of ecstatic frenzy through a combination of dancing and drunken intoxication. In this state, they would lose all self-control, begin shouting excitedly, engage in uncontrolled sexual behavior, and ritualistically hunt down and tear animals (and sometimes men and children) to pieces, devouring the raw flesh.
At least one maenad's inner thoughts was a constant Latin incantation.
Maenads appeared indistinguishable from ordinary humans, except for the fact they could transform their hands into a three-talon claw. During their sacred rites, the Maenads would dress in fawn skins and weave ivy-wreaths around their heads, and often handle or wear snakes.
Powers and Abilities
- Immortality: Maenads are ageless and cannot die as long as their supernatural defenses are up. According to Sophie-Anne Leclerq, maenads are immortal because they convinced themselves they are.
- Accelerated Healing: Maenads can apparently regenerate from damage sustained on their body, seeing as how Maryann was bit by the vampire, Bill, and appeared completely unharmed not long after his assault.
- Enhanced Strength: Maenads possesses some degree of enhanced strength, as seen when Maryann singlehandedly lifted Sookie a few feet of the ground. It is unknown if maenads are stronger or weaker than vampires.
- Enhanced Speed: Maenads are incredibly fast, this was seen when Maryann moved across a room faster than even the vampire Bill Compton's eyes could follow. She again demonstrated her speed further when she chased Sookie throughout the woods.
- Enhanced Durability: Maenads are remarkably durable, seeing as Maryann deflected a bullet with her bare hand. She was also able to withstand being jolted by Sookie's electricity. Maryann proved impossible for vampires to drain, as her blood was made up of a black, corrosive and/or poisonous substance.
- Channeling: Maenad's channel human energy for sustenance and they can produce a number of other effects in a supernatural being by channeling their respective energies. When enacting this ability, Maryann's body was shown to slightly unhinge physically, beginning to flicker and vibrate maddeningly. She usually stayed in one fixed location with her eyes closed, suggesting this was something of a meditative process for her. Maenads are somewhat sensitive to powerful energy sources, as Maryann claims that the ritual energy from Nancy LeGuare's spell is what ultimately summoned her to Bon Temps in the first place.
- Mind Control: Maenads can control and manipulate the behavior and thoughts of humans. All humans caught within range as Maryann spun her thrall are shown to begin engaging in hedonistic and primitive behavior.
- Psychic Pain Infliction: Maenads are able to induce an extreme amount of mental pain onto the victims under their control.
- Forced Shifting: Maenads can force shapeshifters to change form against their will.
- Madness Inducement: In Charlaine Harris's books, maenads also have limited control over vampires, bestowing in them the madness infection, whereby they would go into a bestial mindset and become insane, known to be completely incurable and the only option would be to stake the vampire.
- Poisonous Claws: Maenads can morph their hands into talons that are used for poisoning and tearing apart their prey. This poison is similar to the bacteria found in a Komodo dragon's mouth, albeit more effective. Unless proper medical treatment is provided, not even vampire blood can heal this poison and the recipient's body will reject it otherwise.
- Aerokinesis: Maenads were shown producing unexpected gusts of wind when mind-controlling masses. Whether or not they have any control over this or if it this was just an uncontrollable byproduct of their mass hypnosis is unknown.
- Faith and Belief: A maenad's power steamed from belief in their god and at the moment of being consumed by him, they willingly let down their supernatural defenses, thus rendering them vulnerable.
- Maenads were also known as a type of nymph, immortal goddesses of natural manifestations; Maenads being the extremes of pleasurable emotions and actions (sex, rage, inebriation, frenzy, etc.).
- In Roman Mythology, Maenads were also known as Bassarids (or Bacchae or Bacchantes) after the Roman equivalent of Dionysus, known as, Bacchus. 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 Maenad, whirled, screamed, became drunk and incited one another to greater and greater ecstasy. The goal was to achieve a state of enthusiasm in which the celebrants’ souls were temporarily freed from their earthly bodies and were able to commune with Bacchus/Dionysus and gain a glimpse of what they would someday experience in eternity. The rite climaxed in a performance of frenzied feats of strength and madness, such as uprooting trees and tearing a bull (the symbol of Dionysus) apart with their bare hands, an act called Sparagmos, and eating its flesh raw. 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, the celebrants became possessed by Dionysus.