Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Godly and The Poison

I stopped drinking over a year ago, so my wife was recently puzzled when she heard me say, "A Greek home needs a good bottle of wine," referring to our own. Well, I would say, the keyword is "one" and the other is "wine," not liquor, and even though you can get drunk on wine, it takes a lot more and has never made me impaired. In truth, I'm not a big fan of wine either, but I do enjoy a glass that is fruity from time to time.

A few years ago, I used to drink a lot of hard liquor. Not because I enjoyed the taste, but because I loved getting drunk. Eventually, I realized I was going down a very dangerous road, as the alcohol was starting to control me in ways that sobriety never would or could. So I dropped the bottle in April 2021, I just quit cold turkey, and I haven't consumed so much as a beer or a glass of wine since. 

Liquor is not the alcohol of the Hellenes anyway, and for good reason. They had wine and also simple mead, but not the drinks we have now. I consider the difference between wine and liquor to be the difference between Divinity and poison. Wine in correct amounts is very good for you. It improves heart function and prevents artery disease. My in-laws have been wine drinkers all of their lives, and they are still healthy and active even at 81 and 78. Liquor, on the other hand, exists for no reason other than to get you hammered, as it has the highest alcohol content. Even too much beer can be fatal (my dad died at 45 from alcoholism). There's clearly a distinction between ancient wine and the monstrosities of today.

The purpose of wine, which is the gift of Dionysos, is to bless your life and give you peace and release from all that hinders it. What the God gives us is a blessing, but as per usual, humans can take a blessing and turn it into a curse, with names like Jack Daniels, Tequila and Vodka. Sometimes that's how it goes; the Gods give us something good and we defile it because we just can't accept something as it is. 

Now I'm not saying that the ancient Greeks never got drunk or tipsy, that would be absurd. But it was a different kind of intoxication. The goal of drinking in Dionysian ecstatic rites was to remove the mind and body from its normal mundane state, and they achieved this through drinking wine and also dancing. As we know now, the correct kind and intensity of dance can produce an altered state of consciousness; and alcohol would only help that process along. The Mystery Rites were probably not considered BAR trips, but an invocation of, and connection to, Dionysos. In other words, their purpose was religious, not to merely get drunk. To use the wine as a means of release and to explore the mysteries of the God, is a blessing and a Divine purpose. 

This summer, I planted a grape vine in my Dionysos precinct, in part so that on the occasion that I do drink a small amount of wine for a religious purpose, I will remember the true gift and true reason of the vine.

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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