Dionysus Picture

Robert Sheehan as Dionysus

God of wine, parties and festivals, madness, chaos, drunkenness, drugs, and ecstasy.

The recurrent themes of life and death, run though the legends of Dionysus. They teach us that the journey from being the Divine Child to a fruitful kingship requires the "giving up" (death) of the old self and rebirth in a more mature form.

The Greek god Dionysus was lucky to even survive long enough to become an adult. The story of the premature birth of Dionysus is an interesting one. Dionysus was the son of the beautiful and gentle mortal Semele, who had been a moon goddess during the reign of the Titans, and the mighty Zeus, ruler of the Olympian deities. Zeus and Semele had been having a love affair for quite a while...only Semele had no idea who her lover really was since Zeus always came to her in another form, refusing to disclose his identity. But Hera, the wife of Zeus and Queen of Mount Olympus, didn't have any trouble figuring out what her husband was up to and decided to put an end to it. Hera, disguised as Semele's nurse, convinced her to make Zeus take an oath that he would grant her a single wish. And he did. Semele then asked him to reveal his identity, his true self. Zeus knew what would happen should he grant her request and was heartbroken. But Semele refused to change her request, and Zeus had no choice to to comply since he had sworn an oath. So he changed into his true form, and his thunderbolts filled the room. Semele was struck by the lightning and died. Zeus, with the help of his trusted assistant Hermes, had to rescue Dionysus from Semele's womb as she lay dying. They stitched the premature infant into his thigh, and Zeus carried him there until the baby was ready to be born. (Needless to say, Hera was not amused with this turn of events!)

So Hera had the newborn Dionysus killed by a couple of Titan assassins who tore him to bits, even though he kept trying to escape them by changing forms to hide from them. When he died a pomegranate tree began to grow where his blood had fallen. Disconcerted by this, the Titans decided to be on the safe side and boil the pieces of his body in a great cauldron. Luckily he was resurrected by his grandmother (though in some accounts it was by his half sister, Athena) and was entrusted to the goddess Persephone for safekeeping. Persephone, in turn, hid him with a king and his wife, who disguised him in girls clothing and hid him in the women's quarters of their palace. Eventually, of course, Hera discovered he was still alive and resumed her campaign of harassment, driving his royal foster parents insane and causing them to kill their own son when they mistook him for a deer. To protect the infant god, Hermes changed Dionysus into a baby goat and took him to a group of mountain nymphs (the Hyades) to be raised. They doted on the child, feeding him honey and doing everything they could to help him feel wanted. While living in the mountains with the nymphs, Dionysus invented the process of growing grapes and making wine. (Who wouldn't need a drink after all he'd been through!)

As he grew to manhood, Hera found him again and drove him into a state of madness. Dionysus started to wander mindlessly though the Greek countryside where he became known as "The Wanderer". He developed quite a following of men and women who worshipped him in the mountains, drinking, dancing ecstatically to frenzied music, and otherwise behaving like "wild ones". Their celebrations alternated with periods of deep meditation and extended contemplative silences. ( The word "orgy" comes from these gatherings where the celebrants reached an ecstatic state and felt that they were "at one" with the Greek god.) Dionysus was rapidly becoming well-known as a result of his followers and their wild celebrations. Naturally, Hera soon heard of him. Rather than deal with her next moves, Dionysus did the smart thing and simply "took off". Travelling to Egypt, India and the Aegean Islands, Dionysus had many adventures and acquired many friends and worshippers, teaching the locals to grow grapes and make wine wherever he went. In some versions of the myths of Dionysus, he traveled as a warrior with his troops and became a military hero. During a foray into the Middle East, while warring with the king of Damascus, Dionysus built a bridge from vines and ivy that allowed him to cross safely across the Euphrates river. And the river Tigris got its name from one of the myths of Dionysus--Zeus had dispatched a tiger to help him cross the river. During his travels abroad, Dionysus continued to gather more followers, which was very threatening to the rulers of these countries. Many of them opposed him, and there was often great bloodshed. Frequently Dionysus used the "trick" of turning the ruler, or his family, or the citizens of his country (especially the women) completely mad . . . often with horrific results.

In one of the more dramatic myths, Dionysus and his followers, the Maenads, had been arrested by the king of Thebes, who instantly went mad and mistook a bull for Dionysus and shackled the bull instead. The Maenads escaped and ran throughout the countryside brutally killing all the livestock. Then they returned and tore the king to pieces, with the assistance of his mother who tore off his head, having been driven insane as well. Dionysus tired of his travels and began to yearn for home. To make the trip, Dionysus boarded a ship scheduled to sail to Greece, not realizing that it was actually a pirate ship. The sailors, unaware that he was a god, turned the ship around to sail for Asia where they planned to sell him into slavery. Realizing their intent, the Greek god Dionysus foiled their plans. Turning their oars into serpents, causing vines and ivy to engulf the mast and rigging, Dionysus turned himself into a ferocious lion. While all of this was happening the air was filled with the eerie sound of flutes and ghost-like beasts floated around the ship. Crazy with fear the pirates jumped into the ocean and quickly turned into harmless dolphins. Given his spectacular success in foreign lands and with his worship now being established world-wide, his divinity could no longer be ignored on Mount Olympus and Dionysus was asked to come home and take his rightful place among the other Greek gods. Even the vengeful Hera finally accepted him.

In addition to his having been resurrected from the dead himself, Dionysus brought his mother Semele back to life, descending into the Underworld and escorting her back to live on Mount Olympus. By bribing Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, with a sprig of myrtle to gain admittance, and then by standing up to Thanatos, the Greek god of Death, dionysus secured Semele's release.Although Semele had to change her name and live in an apartment, so that her presence among them would not be scandalous, even Hera was willing to accept her presence there. Dionysus married Ariadne, a princess of Crete and daughter of King Minos; Ariadne had been engaged to the hero Theseus who had deserted her. Dionysus fell in love with her and together they had several children, none of whom achieved great fame. Dionysus was one of the few Greek gods who were faithful to their wives (perhaps because he'd already sown his wild oats before settling down).

The myths of the Greek god Dionysus remind us that the possibilities of intense, ecstatic experience (whether through alcohol, other drugs, dancing, or spiritual experience) include both a dark side with the potential for great harm to ourselves and others, as well as a bright potential for communion with others, including a greater power, and for works of healing.


Mad - When Hera found him again and drove him into a state of madness. Dionysus started to wander mindlessly though the Greek countryside where he became known as "The Wanderer".

Caring - Dionysus cared greatly for his wife Ariadne, his children and his followers. As the leader of the Maenads he would curse anybody who either hurts or kills a single one of them.

Sacred Symbols and Animals

Wine - Wine is the most natural and appropriate symbol of that power, and it is therefore called "the fruit of Dionysus." (Dionusou karpos) by the ancient Greeks.

Thyrsos - Pine-cone tipped staff

Leopards - Dionysus chariot was drawn by a pair of leopards.

Tiger - Which he found during his travels in India.

None of this information belongs to me or has been written by me, expect for the casting face claim. The information collected belongs to these sources:

Greek Mythology Wikia/Dionysus
Camp Half blood Wiki/Dionysus
Men Myths Minds/Dionysus
Myth Man/Dionysus

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