Thursday, March 23, 2017

Learning From The Greek Gods: Dionysus

I'm proud to continue my long-time series Learning From The Greek Gods by today talking about Dionysus, spelled Dionysos in Greek transliteration. He is a fascinating God to say the least, and the youngest of The Dodekatheon, or the Twelve Olympians. Dodekatheon simply means "Twelve Gods," referring to those who rule Olympus. Some Hellenists still retain the belief that it is Hestia, not Dionysus, who sits upon the 12th throne. While not denying the vast importance of the God, they do not accept the belief that Hestia vacated Her throne to Him and came down to live more closely to mortals. However, most of the Hellenic community views the contrary; that Dionysus occupies Her former throne. In fact, in Walter Burkert's book, when he lists the 12 Gods, is it Dionysus he includes in the section, not Hestia.

Many know Dionysus is the God of Wine, and broadly, the God of the Vine itself. He is also extremely tied to the natural world and is considered an Earth God. But many people in the mainstream, and perhaps even some in the general Pagan community, do not know that He is the God of Life who brings joy, happiness, revelry, and a rescue from death. Because of the goodness He can bring through His presence and gifts, He is called a Saviour in addition. He's also considered to be a Sun God. All of these reasons are why He is included centrally in my weekly addresses through my Temple, during which time we pray and drink wine or grape juice to the God, asking for His blessing of life. But the deeper question is, how did Dionysus become such a God? 

There is more than one version to His death and rebirth story, but the one I enjoy and believe the most is the Cretan version, which says that as a child, Dionysus was attacked and ripped apart by some of the Titans (presumably those who hated Olympus). All that remained was His heart, which Zeus placed in the womb of His mortal Mother Semele, and through Her, Dionysus was reborn, which is why He retains the title of "Twice-Born." Literally, death was not able to overcome Him. He returned to life in defiance of it, which is why He's the God of Life, and so we can look to Him as a rescue and a salvation from all things that hinder or destroy our lives and the happiness and joy within them.

What to learn from Dionysus is that life is meant to be loved and enjoyed. If you're living in sadness, depression or any form of self-loathing, you are not enjoying your existence, and Dionysus wishes for you to do the opposite. He is the embodiment of a happy and joyous life and time. He is a Saviour because He literally saves us from ourselves and all the things that take our life away. To learn from and connect with Him is to know that death in any form cannot and will not hold rule over you when you are supposed to be living. From us, He drives away death, destruction, depression, destitution, sorrow, loathing, and brings to us life, prosperity, happiness, joy, wonder, and love, both for ourselves and others.

In the Goodness of the Gods,