Dionysos – A Gift of Abundance and Divine Inspiration
At the end of the summer the four elements have worked their alchemy; a good
balance between fertile earth, air of the right temperature, the fire of the
sun and gentle rain showers will now have resulted in an abundant harvest.
Flowers proudly open up to the fullest, seeds are ripe, vegetables show
their riches, and branches bow under the heaviness of their fruits. And
like the vegetative world human beings have opened up too; they are more
happy and relaxed because of the sun, living outdoors, sharing
conversations, and eating nutrient-rich and tasteful food.
Sitting on a bench in a pleasantly warm late afternoon sun, with a glass of
wine and something nice to eat, one feels like a king or queen, blessed with
the gifts of the Divine.
Giving thanks to Father/Mother/God for all this goodness through making
offerings, feasting, dancing, eating, drinking and making love, goes back to
the roots of humanity itself.
Harvest feasts serve two purposes: giving thanks for what we got from
Nature, and taking an extra large spoon full of abundance to prepare for the
coming period of moderation in autumn and wintertime.
The Greek god Dionysos, also known by his Roman name Bacchus, strongly
belongs to the realm of fertile harvests, feasting and drinking. Dionysos
taught mankind how to make wine from grapes.
Therewith Dionysos has become more than a wild nature-god promoting
pleasure, for the wine allows one to let go of control and to relax, often
it will lift up the mood and make it easier to enter different states of
mind. Many workers in the spiritual realm, like witches, medicine-men and
shamans, use mind-altering substances to help them enter other realities.
The wine of Dionysos may serve as such. And when we look to the Greek myths
this drink of the gods indeed did so, since the maenads and satyrs,
followers of both Pan and Dionysos, are said to dance in ecstacy.
Dionysos is a god on the brink of the light of the sun and her creations,
and the darkness of the hidden realms of the inner worlds. When we look at
the seasons he too stands on the change-over of the light of high-summer to
the shortening of days in autumn. He is a god of fertility and harvest, but
also a god of mystery religions using hallucinogens.
The story of this god is an unusual one. He is the son of Zeus/Jupiter, the
chief-god, god of fortune, abundance and excess, god of thunder and sun-god.
His mother is Semele, daughter of a king and a half-goddess. (According to
another story his mother is Persephone, Moon-goddess of the underworld –
making him a child of the marriage between sun and moon.)
Zeus’ jealous wife Hera proposed Semele to ask him to show himself in his
full lightning glory, and Semele of course got burned. She was carrying a
son, and Zeus saved the baby by taking it out of her womb and sewing it into
his thigh. (According to medical astrology the hips and thighs belong to
Sagittarius/Jupiter.) Euripides describes this in his “Bacchae”:
So his mother bore him once
in labor bitter; lightning-struck
forced by fire that flared from Zeus,
consumed she died, untimely torn,
in childhood dead by blow of light!
Of light the son was born!
Zeus it was who saved his son;
with speed outrunning mortal eye,
bore him to a private place,
bound the boy with clasps of gold;
in his thigh as in a womb,
concealed his son from Hera's eyes.
After birth the baby Dionysos was raised by Semele’s sister and her husband.
Hera’s endless jealousy brought these people to insanity and suicide, and
then the boy was guided to adulthood by nymphs. (Nymphs are
Dionysos discovered the art of making wine. Furiously, Hera made him lose
his mind and he wandered for a long time through far away countries. Somehow
he retrieved his mental sanity, helped by the mother-goddess Rhea, who
initiated him into her rites. He returned to Greece.
His followers feast and dance wildly to reach a trance-state. Already during
his lifetime this was mis-understood by many; several stories explain how
Dionysos’ presence was accompanied by violent conflicts and insanity of
those opposing him.
In the life-story of this god we find there is less structure than in most
other lives: no parents, wandering through strange countries, a mind filled
with no-sense. In a certain way this makes him free (in Rome he was also
known as the god Liber = freedom).
A moderate amount of wine supports freeing one’s mind and untighing control
mechanisms. At the same time a superfluidity (remember the abundance and
excess of father Zeus) of the substance leads to completely losing your
mind. If you want a ride in different realms you need to be at the stirring
wheel – every skilled witch or shaman knows how to deal with mind-altering
herbs and drinks that might be harmful in the hands of an ordinary person.
The worship of Dionysos is a pagan one; the value of this optimistic god
will be understood by nature-based religions, celebrating life in all her
abundant and secret aspects, daring to cross boundaries. They will find the
God(dess)-force everywhere, both in- and outdoors: in the whisper of the
leaves, the color of the flowers, the ecstacy of a wild feast, the spirit of
the wine, sexual union in orgiastic rites, laughter and surrender.
Dionysos is often pictured as a bearded man, or a youth crowned with
vine-leaves and grapes. He holds a cup of wine in one hand and a wand
(fertility-creation symbol) or an egg (creation, reincarnation) in the other
one. He and his followers eat raw flesh, to incorporate animal nature.
Red wine symbolizes the color of blood, one’s life and essence. Just like in
the Christian church nowadays drinking red wine stands for absorbing the
essence of the god. If you can drink the essence of the god, and if this god
is associated with certain seasons and with light and darkness, he must be a
god of the cycles of life, of dying and resurrection. And so he is.
Celebrate him whenever you wish, but especially at the beginning of autumn,
when the new wines are fabricated.
With the arrival of autumn a period of introspection starts, in which we
reflect on our creations and efforts of the past extravert seasons of spring
and summer. Our focus gets turned more inwardly now, aimed at inner healing
and spiritual progress. And here the energy of Dionysos offers help: in
harvest feasts and rituals we give thanks for our blessings, and
philosophical conversations or rituals accompanied by a good glass of wine
will create a great atmosphere for meeting like-minded souls, relaxation and
re-definition of yourself in the colder seasons that will follow.
May the divine intoxication bring you spiritual and creative insight,
fruitful contacts with others, and joy and humbleness towards the abundance
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