Hellenic Mythology: Dionysus God of Wine-Ecstasy Picture


Dionysus (Ancient Greek: Διόνυσος, Dionysos) was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Hellenic mythology. He was also the God of Resurrection.
According to the common tradition, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, the daughter of Cadmus of Thebes. When Dionysus had grown up, Hera threw him also into a state of madness, in which he wandered about through many countries of the earth.
Dionysus is the productive, overflowing and intoxicating power of nature, which carries man away from his usual quiet and sober mode of living. Wine is the most natural and appropriate symbol of that power and it is therefore called "the fruit of Dionysus."
As the god of wine, he is also both an inspired and an inspiring god, that is, a god who has the power of revealing the future to man by oracles. In the earliest times the Graces, or Charites, were the companions of Dionysus and at Olympia he and the Charites had an altar in common. Afterwards we find him accompanied by Bacchantic women. called Maenades all of whom are represented in works of art as raging with madness or enthusiasm, in vehement motions, carrying in their hands thyrsus-staffs (entwined with ivy, and headed with pine-cones), cymbals, swords, or serpents. Satyrs and other beings of a like kind are also the constant companions of the god.
He is a god of epiphany, "the god that comes", and his "foreignness" as an arriving outsider-god may be inherent and essential to his cults. The earliest cult images of Dionysus show a mature male, bearded and robed. He holds a fennel staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus. His procession (thiasus) is made up of wild female followers (Maenads) and bearded Satyrs. Some are armed with the thyrsus, some dance or play music. Dionysus is represented by city religions as the protector of those who do not belong to conventional society and thus symbolizes everything which is chaotic, dangerous and unexpected, everything which escapes human reason and which can only be attributed to the unforeseeable action of the gods.
The bull, the serpent, the ivy and the wine are the signs of the characteristic Dionysian atmosphere. He is often shown riding a leopard, wearing a leopard skin, or in a chariot drawn by panthers. The pinecone that tipped his thyrsus linked him to Cybele. The Dionysia and Lenaia festivals in Athens were dedicated to Dionysus.

Orphic Hymn 30 to Dionysus:
"Dionysos I call loud-sounding and divine, inspiring God, a twofold shape is thine: thy various names and attributes I sing, O firstborn (protogonos), thrice begotten (trigonos), Bakkheion (Bacchian) king. Rural, ineffable, two-formed, obscure, two-horned, with ivy crowned, and Euion pure: bull-faced and martial, bearer of the vine, endued with counsel prudent and divine: Eubouleos (Eubuleus), whom the leaves of vines adorn, of Zeus and Persephoneia occultly born in beds ineffable; all-blessed power, whom with triennial offerings men adore. Immortal Daimon, hear my suppliant voice, give me in blameless plenty to rejoice; and listen gracious to my mystic prayer surrounded with thy choir of nurses fair."

The Orphic Hymn to Dionysus by Daemonia Nymphe
Satyricos Xoros (Satyr's dance) by Daemonia Nymphe

TIME CONSUMED: About a week.
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Continue Reading: The Wanderings of Dionysus