Dionysus and Ecstacy
It's Time To Reclaim Both
Before I begin the review and getting into Dionysus and who He is, I have to admit I love our materialistic society. I love a good cup of coffee from a luxe coffee shop. I love shopping, I love the giddy rush from a good buy. Some might call my love of these things hedonism, and it’s OK in moderation. Really, it is. As pagans we know our Gods want us happy.
And because many of my readers live like I do, I bet your heart fills with joy and maybe you give thanks, right? And that is awesome! The Gods have given us the capacity to find joy almost everywhere. The problem comes when we forget there is a Divinity and forget to realize these brief blips of joy come from brushing against Him, in this case Dionysus. We go from spirituality to mere materialism, and therein lies the problem.
I have always been a person who accepts Jungian psychology. It is a curious blend of psychology and faith, sort of. Naturally, these learned men and women aren’t all practicing pagans, but they do believe the Gods are quite real, at least in being literal parts of the mental makeup of every human on the planet, no faith needed. And I was enchanted with the idea instantly, albeit for reasons that wouldn’t thrill a psychologist who sees their work as a scientific study of the mind.
But what if what they call the Collective Unconscious and this bit the author identifies in us as Dionysius is not only real (some psychiatrists see Jung and all who follow him as flakes of the first degree) but could be applied by those who have faith? Imagine, being handed the green light to not only believe in a God, here the wonderful Dionysus, but to be told you could never loose Him, because He is literally part of you and you will therefore always find Him?
This book is a truly fascinating read not only for those who believe in the work of Jung and those who have followed after him (Women Who Run With The Wolves is another powerful and downright mystical book) but those of pagan faiths as well.
I want to point out though that storytelling and the use of myths in Jungian psychology while vital has nothing to do with magic or belief per se. It is more a way of trying to understand the human mind and use the myths (and Gods) in a way to help modern people with their problems, and to me any way the Gods end up helping is a good thing.
So, this is one of those rare cases where no actual faith is required but an open mind and a willingness to work with the author is. This is also a book that presents joy as an actual and tangible thing, not tied to any one religion, for although the Greek God becomes the personification of ecstasy, He is presented in such a way that you needn’t feel compelled to fly to Greece and worship at a temple. Though some rituals are included. Intrigued? Then read on!
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A Loving God
First Off, Who Dionysus Is And Isn’t
Dionysus is a thrice born Greek God. I don’t want to spoil the wonderful storytelling in the book of His Divine origins, but this Son of Zues, had the deck stacked against Him. For those unfamilliar with the Greek Gods, they were mostly true to type.
Zues was (and still is) forever falling in love with mortals, both men and women. Liking to travel Greece in a human form to protect humans from His Divine Splendor, He often incurred the wrath of His wife Hera on His unlucky lovers.
And Dionysus suffered from that jealously as well and ended up having to be thrice born to escape the wrath of a justifiably jealous Goddess. And before we all hate Hera, She couldn’t help Her nature. Nor could Zeus, who kept aiding His beloved Son in any way He could.
The gentle God (He was only wrathful when threatened or denied) is connected to wine, wherein the trouble, according to the author, and I agree, starts. You see, His actual followers, those in ancient Greece, literally held the belief that the God was the wine itself. They also believed Dionysus had to be approached with a clear mind. Therefore they would have one sip and then enter into the ritual with a clear mind to be able to experience true ecstacy, the favor of the God and a union with Him.
We can thank the Romans for degrading a once noble God who gave the gift of wine and the insight it could give in moderation, into the God of drunken excess. And after that, the poor God has been mistaken for and accused of the actions of the drunken Bacchus ever since. In comparison, Dionysus only got drunk once, and you can read about the results in the book.
Who is Dionysus?
What’s So Bad About Materialism?
In moderation? Nothing. But there will always be people, after all, who live far too entirely in the flesh. They see only wine and feel only pleasure and while nothing is wrong with either action it misses the point of the original ritual. To connect to Divinity and be spiritually and emotionally elevated, and you can’t do that when you are blind drunk.
In His original form, which He still has, no thanks to humans, He is also a God of pure ecstacy. Dionysus believes strongly in laughter, dance, celebration, and true joy that come from spiritual nourishment, not the merely material kinds we chase after and are never fulfilled by. And finding that joy, and Him is much easier than you think and well worth the read of this slim work.
Finding the real Dionysus, whether you see Him as an archetype or God, helps you find real joy within you, and restores the God to His original and powerful form. And by experiencing His real nature through creativity and other endeavors you will soon wonder why He always seemed so elusive in the first place. We were just all looking in the wrong places.
Dionysus and Blue
We all have them in us, and in healthy humans, according to Jungian psychology, they are all balanced. Perhaps we display the traits of one more strongly, but in a naturally balanced society we never suppress them. Because you literally can’t. All that energy, here a God, must have somewhere to go as it is quite real. And two things happen when you deny a God or archetype. You either start to crave and seek the God in a weaker physical form that never fulfills you or makes you happy, or you get the negative version of the God.
Dionysus repressed will simply come back home transformed. Instead of joy we will get a degraded monster who runs rampant in many of modern societies ills. And these ills are believed to be a cry for help. We all want joy, we desire union through ecstacy, but we have simply been taught by a materialistic society to either deny spirituality, that it isn't 'real' as we can't touch it, or to repress it, in which case the energy turns negative.
Truly balanced Dionysus is actually a gentle God and as His mythos points out those who willingly followed Him were well loved and cared for. Dionysus is in the book, a gentle and loving God, the obviously scary tales about Him when threatened or thwarted notwithstanding.
You simply can’t kill a God nor can you deny His power. A God of fertility captured on a pirate ship simply is Himself, and that is all He needs for a profusion of vines to grow, wine to spill forth onto the decks, and terrified pirates, now realizing He is indeed a God, to be turned from cruel men into dolphins.
Did I mention how awesome His stories are? Because they are.
A Beautiful Altar Example
OK, so how do you find ecstasy? Well, one, it seriously helps to read the book. As you learn about Dionysus, archetypes, and other goodies, you start to see a clear pattern. We’ve been taught, most often by a society that is simultaneously materialistic yet based on the established religions, to not only deny ourselves (neither I nor the author condone you running wild in the streets) but to deny the very human need for true and uplifting spiritual nourishment.
As we learn about the real Dionysus, a hard task given the plethora of misinformation out there, we learn to find Him within ourselves. It does take work, of course, anything worthwhile usually does. But the book is a clear guide on how to find the God, how to work with Him, and even includes simple rituals.
And the best part is that for once no faith is required. There’s no pressure to drop your current Divinity, no insistence to lay out an altar in such and such a way, just a chance to meet and work with a truly wonderful God. Well worth the read and a must have spiritual tonic.