Dionysus is also known as Bacchus, is the Greek God of fertility and wine and later considered a patron of the arts. He invented wine and taught how to tend grapes. Dionysus had a dual personality, He could bring joy and ecstasy or fly into a brutal rage, reflecting both sides of wine’s nature. Dionysus presided over the Mysteries of birth, life, death and rebirth.
Like Cernunnos, He is the spirit of untamed wilderness, male sexuality, intoxication, shamanism, magick joy, hallucinations, madness and sexual healing.
Dionysus never harms anyone directly, instead he strikes them temporarily insane so that they harm or even kill themselves. He can also heal mental illness and save people from madness. If He is angry at you he may cause you to become an alcoholic! He is also able to heal this affliction too.
Dionysus festivals of night time parades with music, dancers, and masked revelers were the origins of modern Carnivals and parades.
His original homeland is thought to be Thrace (modern Bulgaria) and he was the son of Zeus and Semele, a mortal woman. Zeus fell madly in love with Semele and came to her under cover of night to hide his true identity. The darkness made him invisible to Semele, though she felt his divine presence and was pleased to have a God as a lover, even if she didn’t know which God it was. Semele became pregnant with Dionysus. Zeus’s wife Hera soon learned of her husband’s infidelity. She disguised herself and convinced Semele that she should see her lover as he truly was. When Zeus next visited Semele she asked him to grant her one wish. Zeus agreed, and Semele requested that he reveal himself to her. Zeus was very unhappy because he knew what would happen, but having sworn he had no choice. He appeared in his true form and Semele immediately burnt to a crisp at the sight of his glory. Zeus managed to save the unborn Dionysus and stitched him into his thigh to hold him until he was born. Being born of Zeus made Dionysus a God.
Hera remained jealous of Dionysus and plotted to have him killed by the Titans. The Titans ripped him to pieces, but he was brought back to life by Rhea. To protect him, Zeus sent him to the mountains to be raised by nymphs.
Dionysus was one of the few Gods who could travel safely to the underworld. He was concerned about the welfare of his mother Semele, so ventured into the land of death. He bribed Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, with a gift of myrtle to release his mother, faced down Thanatos (Death) and brought Semele back to Mount Olympus.
Originally Dionysus was served only by women who were known as Maenads or Bacchanals, wild women, flush with wine, shoulders draped with a fawn skin, carrying rods tipped with pine cones The Maenads were the leaders in the Dionysian rites of ecstatic worship, dancing themselves into trances. To resist Him was to risk madness. Dionysus presided over rites performed in the forests called orgeias, from which the modern word orgy derives. He wandered the world with a caravan of Maenads, satyrs and panthers teaching agriculture, artisan skills, wine making and how to overcome military opposition.
Dionysus met and fell in love with the beautiful Ariadne, they married and she bore him Oenopion, Thoas, Staphylus, Latromis, Euanthes, and Tauropolus. He sailed to Argos and caused the women to go insane until their king, the hero Perseus, acknowledged his divinity and built a temple in honor of Dionysus.
His worship eventually firmly established throughout the world, Dionysus was then free to ascend to Mount Olympus, where he took his seat at the right hand of his father Zeus. Even Hera, his tormentor, finally accepted him. Some claim that the wise Hestia, goddess of the hearth, gave up her place at Olympus to make room for him, and indeed she was happy to be rid of the petty jealousies that were rampant in the heavens.
"Hail, child of fair-faced Semele! He who forgets you can in no wise order sweet song." Homeric Hymn to Dionysus
MANIFESTATIONS: Dionysus manifests in the form of a man, lion, bull or goat, He is a horned green man, crowned with snakes. When He manifests as a man He has long, beautiful, dark, wavy or curly hair. Dionysus is wine: by drinking wine one shares the sacrament of Dionysus’ body.
ICONOGRAPHY: He is sometimes worshipped as a large phallus.
ATTRIBUTES: A thyrsus wand made of a fennel stalk topped with a pinecone. Cymbals, drums, and all percussion instruments.
SACRED ANIMALS: Leopards, panthers, snakes, mules, donkeys, goats, and lions.
MOUNT: Dionysus rides a chariot drawn by Griffiths.
PLANTS: Grapevines, ivy, walnut trees, fig trees.
COLORS: Purple, wine
ALLIES: When He’s hung over Dionysus wants to be left alone. The rest of the time he likes to be surrounded by a posse of devotees, animals and other Deities including Apollo, Demeter and Persephone, Hecate, Kybele, Pan, Satyrs, Semele and Silenus.
SACRED SITE: Delphi where he shares a shrine with Apollo. Dionysus was considered Apollo’s opposite representing hot ecstatic energy to Apollo’s cold rationalism.
- Dionysia – end of November/beginning of December
- Lenea – end of December /beginning of January
- Anthesteria – end of January
- Great Dionysia – end of February
- Theodosia (the gift of God) – Dionysus’ birthday and the day that the water in the sacred spring of Dionysus’ Temple tasted like wine.
Encyclopedia of Spirits – Judika Illes