maenads (mēˈnădz) [key], in Greek and Roman religion and mythology, female devotees of Dionysus. They roamed mountains and forests, adorned with ivy and skins of animals, waving the thyrsus. When they danced, they often worked themselves into an ecstatic frenzy, during which they were capable of tearing wild animals to pieces with their bare hands. The maenads were also called (for Bacchus) bacchantes or bacchae.
See R. S. Kraemer, Maenads, Martyrs, Matrons, Monastics (1988).
More on maenads from Fact Monster:
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient Religion