Dionysos: The God of the Rave

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.

Dionysos with Satyrs

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.

The Temple Remains at Delphi, Greece 2003.

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.

PRACTICE

Main Room, Elem3ntal, Minneapolis, MN 2006. Taken by B. Rooster.

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.

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About Pixie

I'm just your average 20-something trying to figure it out. I am also a theologian, yogi, witch, pagan, dirty hippie, activist (progressive politics), feminist, knitter, environmentalist, and friend. I've also been accused of being a hipster - I am not sure about that. I am sometimes happy to be Gen Y (go Harry Potter) and most of the time confused (seriously guys... ) by everyone else. My hobbies including knitting (and maybe crochet), quilting, recycling, cooking, writing, reading, and biking. I'm finishing up a masters in public policy and when I worked worked in political nonprofits as an activist.
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7 Responses to Dionysos: The God of the Rave

  1. Bellatrix says:

    Wow, this is a great article. Thanks for posting this for PBP. I too traveled to Greece when I was a teen and had a great time “meeting” my Gods on their turf, so to speak. It was wonderful to experience that and I am so glad you had the chance to as well!

  2. Patchouli Autumn says:

    I too have found myself drawn to Dionysos. A few years ago I had a brief foray into Chaos Magic, and really discovered the chaotic nature of this god. I’m a true sucker for the deities who represent the celebration of life’s pleasures, and Dionysos certainly fits that bill.

    Thanks for “liking” one of my first posts! It alerted me to your blog, and I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. I’m always interested in a younger person’s point of view on paganism or witchcraft. I often wonder how my life would be different had I discovered this path earlier in my life.

  3. etain1 says:

    Excellent. Thanks for sharing

  4. loona wynd says:

    This is an interesting take on Dionysos. I think you would be interested in http://twistedingenue.wordpress.com/2012/02/17/pagan-blog-project-dionysos-part-1-the-agony/ It is another blog I follow that has a focus on the same God.

  5. loona wynd says:

    I was also wondering if you had a comment about the god Pan? They are very similar deities and have some very similar attributes associated with them. Wild crazy and challenging are things I see between them. As a follower of Dionysian I was wondering what your thoughts on the matter were.

    • Pixie says:

      Pan… well, I have worked closely with Pan and I suppose I include him in my Dionysian worship as a friend of Dionsysos but I see Pan as more connected and kin to Loki (a god I also have a deep affection for). Dionysos produces ecstasy and madness – not always of the dancing blissed out ecstasy kind but sometimes the disorientating spinning out of control why can’t I make it stop who I am what is going on why me kind. He is a tragic figure, the tragic hero, the sacrificial lamb in search of divinity. Also, I think there are other kinds of more chaotic madness that both Pan and Dionysos can invoke – the reckless, manic kind.
      I think of Pan more as pure chaos and extremely neutral, more carnal for sure… More about fertility. Dionysos in my relationship with him has been a source of chaotic-good: what is broken will be transformed (even when that broken thing is Me). I see Dionysos as also similar to the Indian goddess Akhilandeshvari which I learned about as the goddess of “be never not broken” from my yoga practice. Obviously not the same – there are some big differences here but for me the pan-ic aspect of Pan is not transformative necessarily. I suppose my devotion to Dionysos is also largely a product of my own character – that even when it seems like I won’t, I do eventually pick myself up and start again.
      Though I think this dark aspect as well is to be expected: any ecstatic tradition has highs and lows, I am grateful that Dionysos has chosen to grace me with his pretense and strength at all of these points.

  6. Pingback: Miscellanea « The House of Vines

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