Week 7 of the PBP first D post on my god – Dionysos.
Dionysos is the Greek god of wine, ecstasy, chaos, rebirth, and transformations. He promotes peace, civilization, and the rule of law through personifying the Wild. Dionsysos’ Wildness strikes fear into the hearts of most people, causing a reaction to be more civilized. As a Maenad (female devotee or priestess of Dionysos) I am comfortable with the Wild but as a Libra, I am a lover of civilization, law, and peace. For these reasons, it makes perfect sense I would be drawn to Dionysos. Dionysos is also the ultimate god of love, he is the Wild god but he is also the tragic god. Dionysos and his attendants all had to suffer and eventually like Dionysos die. Dionysos is called Eleutherios or “The Liberator” using wine to free us from inhibitions, society, and pain – he frees us through temporary madness – that we may come back to civilization refreshed and renewed. This concept may be one many ravers are very familiar with.
I first encountered Dionysos as a teenager. When I started on this Pagan path, it was difficult finding quality information, so I went for deities that had the most information available. As a Libra, and a teenage girl, I began worshiping Aphrodite. Now, all was well and good and I still honor this goddess and enjoy working with her, but she also pushed me towards Dionysos. Both Aphrodite and Dionysos are deities that may have been imported to Greece. Many scholars suggest Dionysos is an Indian god and this is supported by comparisons between Dionysos and Shiva, however Dionysos has grown into a separate deity with his own personality and mythos. Dionysos at least is connected to the Minoan society on Crete. Whether there was a Dionysian cult on Crete or not, Ariadne, Dionysos’ beloved wife was the daughter of King Minos of Crete.
When I was 17, I was lucky enough to travel to Greece. I went to Athens, Crete, Delphi, and a few other islands. This trip cemented my relationship with Dionysos in ways I had never imagined. In the back of my mind I did hope for a “religious” experience, but I didn’t know if that was going to happen or even if I’d know if it did. Before traveling I only had a rough idea of areas that would be sacred to Dionysos and most certainly had a hard time connecting modern-day Greece to Ancient Greece. Even though I was not expecting it, I found visiting Delphi extremely moving. This was also the first time I felt that I was in a “sacred” place. After this trip, my connection to Dionysos became stronger and I began “feeling” his presence more.
My relationship with Dionysos has been the most sustained and fulfilling spiritual relationship I’ve had. I have worked with other gods, but something about Dionysos keeps me tied to him. He gets me, and sometimes I think I get him. Dionysos is a lover, a friend, and a guide but he comes when he feels like it and is prone to wandering off. While I believe we are sometimes called to certain gods, it is up to us as Pagans to choose what we do with that call: we can answer it and worship in ways that work for us, or we can ignore it. To worship Dionysos can be an intense practice though certainly not as intense as many other Hellenic deities. Dionysian ideals of equality, liberation, and the sacredness of the wild are easy ideals to live on a daily basis (in my humble opinion anyway). As an old raver, Dionysos was the perfect god for me for most of my adult life. I turn to Dionysos not just when I need strength, comfort, and relief from drama in my life, but also invoke him during the best nights of my life. I invite him to dance through me and thank him for the opportunity to take part in these moments of bliss. I have felt his presence equally at both times in my life, and find him sometimes in the quite moments of meditation in perfect peace.
My personal spiritual practice is sometimes more “on” than others – I have gathered Dionysos of all gods understands this. Dionysos seems to be an idea god for the manic-depressive, prone to manic moments to inspiration and interest and sometimes long periods of absence where a regular practice is not necessary or even appreciated. In my ideal practice, I like to keep an altar and give weekly ritual libations to Dionysos. He might share an altar with my goddesses, but more likely not. I think an altar to Dionysos would be best most in a dining room, while my goddesses are more appropriate in the bedroom. I like to get creative with altars or images for devotion and Dionysian altars with satyrs, grapes, wine, and deep colors seems fit into more my style than other deities. Additionally, I grow ivy – a plant sacred to Dionysos in my home as a devotional act. In some of my earlier apartments and living arrangements live plants have been on his altar but this hasn’t been possible in a few years. While I do try to keep a ritual observance and have rituals honoring Dionysos at certain times of the year, a more personal practice to honor Dionysos that was a huge part of my life for years was raving. For me, raving my a sacred Dionysian ritual: weeks of preparation, making costumes, dancing almost to a trance state, and often large summer festivals in the woods mirror Dionysian rites in myths. While this was never something intentional on my part, it makes perfect sense to me that someone drawn to Dionysos would also be drawn to the raving subculture. Raving was a huge part of my life, and as such my worship for over half my adult life so far. Now, as I am getting older, I am trying to find other ways to honor him and create rituals. He hasn’t seemed to mind, though sometimes I wonder if our relationship will change or wane.