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Dionysus

Updated on June 25, 2009

 

Dionysus

            With the Greeks heavy reliance on mythology, all aspects of life were in some way contributed to the gods.  Dionysus was to have been the Greek god of wine and fertility. The Romans also had their version known as Bacchus.  There are also readings portraying Dionysus as patron god of the Greek stage.  As the god of wine, he held the ability to bring a joyous ecstasy or a violent rage showing the two polar opposite sides of the partaking of wine. 

            According to some, Dionysus’s mythological origins begin with Zeus as his father.  There are two versions I found that explain the birth of Dionysus.  One myth says that Dionysus is the child of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the underworld.  Hera in a jealous rage has the Titians literally rip Dionysus, who at this time was known as Zagreus, into pieces.  Zeus then reassembles Zagreus from his heart, which had been saved by another god.  He then places Zagreus into the womb of Semele of Thebes who delivers Dionysus Zagreus.  This telling refers to Dionysus as the “Twice Born”, and praises him as the god of resurrection or at least the origin of it.

The second myth I found claims that Zeus had taken a mortal lover in Semele.  Unable to view her godly lover in his true form, Hera, in disguise, went to Semele and tricked her into getting her lover to show her his true form.  When Zeus next came to see Semele, she made him promise to consent to giving her one wish and made him go as far as to swear on the River Styx.  Heartbroken and knowing that revealing his true form to a mortal would kill her; he consented due to his promise.  Upon sight, Semele burst into flames and perished.  Zeus was able to save the child, which was protected in her womb and sewed him into his thigh to be born latter as Dionysus.  This aging gives the story of the “twice born.” 

Dionysus’s followers were said to be wild living in the woods and killing animals to eat raw.  He was to become one of the most relevant gods in everyday life.  Not only was he known for rebirth but he is also said to be one of the few gods that could bring someone back from the underworld.  He is thought to have been so concerned for Semele  that he retrieved her and brought her to Mt. Olympus.  Dionysus was also to be one with his followers.  By the consumption of his wine, they were able to do what they thought were god like feats.  This left a lot of drunken restlessness and the feeling of possession of a higher power. 

There is a Festival for Dionysus that centers on theater and happens in the spring when the leaves come back to the vines.  Any participants were thought to be at the service of Dionysus.

 

 

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