Jul 29, 2009

Et Tu, Dionysus?

Dionysus is known as the god of many names, many-forms, and a seat of ambiguity. Not only is he both masculine and feminine, his very nature is shape-shifting. By holding opposites in dynamic tension, he achieves his power of paradox like no other deity. --Carnaval.com

That cracks me up, because Charles Atlas promised to build muscle with his patented system of "Dynamic Tension".

Dionysus was identified with the lamb, and called "King of Kings," "Only Begotten Son," "Savior," "Redeemer," "Sin bearer," "Anointed One," the "Alpha and Omega." Hmmm....

Both Jesus and Dionysus were born of mortal women, both are "twice born", both are associated with fertility symbolism like the fig tree and wheat or bread, lions and panthers, and perhaps most succinctly, both are indelibly associated with wine and the vine.

Dionysus (AKA the Roman Bacchus) was the God of Wine, and his Bacchanals were the means through which he was worshiped during initiation into the Dionysian Mysteries. Jesus makes the wine flow like water at the wedding in Galilee - his first recorded miracle in the Gospels:

On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus' mother said to him, "They have no more wine."

"Dear woman, why do you involve me?" Jesus replied, "My time has not yet come."

His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet."

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." --John 2:1-10

Jesus says "I am the vine, you are the branches" and the association of Jesus with the grape vine goes on and on throughout the murals of the cathedrals of Europe. The most holy Christian sacrament is the drinking of WINE and BREAD during communion... the Last Supper.

Of course, the Jesus I was taught about in Sunday school was a chaste virgin, and all things associated with wild partying and Bacchanals were strictly forbidden. It's as if the archetype of Dionysus, the God of expansion, ecstatic love and orgasmic release, went "under cover". I wonder why? Maybe he's edging, holding back the orgasm, building the tension. maybe... he's saving the best till now. Can't hold back that dam forever. The dam WANTS to break...


Anadæ Effro said...

Oh my fooking gods! Did you say Dionysis was a shape-shifter? You rock, Michael, you jus' plain rock! Speaking OF rock, despite the rock hard abs (& glutes & pecs & quads &…) of the male models whose Classical forms you chose to pepper this stellar piece of reportage with, there was a lot of transvestism associated with the Rites of Dionysis.

I also like how the crazed Catholic film director Ken Russell's treatment of the little known precursor to Bram Stoker's OTHER vampiric novel, Dracula, we find the vampire god, DIONIN, clearly a derivation of Dionysis, sated with the blood of human sacrifices at an exhumed archaeological dig by Adam Ant's real life ex-girlfriend, the statuesque Britress, Amanda Donohoe, playing the vampiress Lady Sylvia Marsh. Of course, Donohoe is best remembered as Meggie Cleary O'Neill, the love interest in The Thorn Birds, a romance involving a lapsed Catholic priest portrayed by gay actor, Richard Chamberlain, best known as sixties TV star, Dr Kildare.

Whoa! Here come big Pagan revelries THIS weekend, Michael! It's the Feast of Lugh, one of the biggies in the Tuatha de Danaan pantheon. Stay safe, sane, and sober, y'all, relatively speaking.

Happy, happy Lughnasadh,
Anadæ Effro (•:-0}

Michael said...

All the cool kids are shape-shifters, remember Odo from Star Trek? Where's my pail?

Actually, I chose this guy (I know nothing about him except the file names imply his name is Armon) because his over-the-top physique has an almost "feminine" voluptuousness to it. He exudes masculine power and feminine grace - like a panther, or a Maserati...

Lair of the White Worm! I was just thinkin' about that crazy film after reading the latest vampyre/gay related post at Stygian Port! I think I must have been in college when I saw it, and I recall it both repulsed and attracted me - talk about pulling some subconscious strings!

Cheers, (ha!) Michael

Christopher Knowles said...

Dionysus/Bacchus/Osiris changed water into wine as well. One of the major charges against the Bacchanals during the Roman crackdown was that men were being "feminized" by the cult as part of their initiation. Not "youths," mind you- they had no problem with that. I wonder what charges against the early Christians have been lost to history.

word ver- biall. Ha!

Michael said...

Chris - "They shall know we are Xtians by our love" takes on a whole new spin, doesn't it? great WV.

My half-baked theory is that once the Dionysian Mysteries were driven underground by the Roman crackdown, they would pop up in various Messianic cults of the day, and this was probably what early Christianity was founded on.

Devin said...

Michael-I have been trying to keep up with everyone and mostly failing at it haha! Anadae sent me the link to this one as a "must see" and I appreciate it because I got a lot out of this article (Including stealing most of the pics haha) normally this would be way too buff for me-but he has a handsome face:) So many articles in synch land I dont comprende so good-but this one I did and was great! I dont find your thinking half baked or anything and would love to know more about those early Christian records. The cult of Antinous was thought to be a threat to the early church by some researchers-and his cult to me anyway-seems to resonate a great great deal with Osiris-great article as always Michael and great comments by everyone! I hope you and Var are having a lovely weekend!! WV=ressubt

Anadæ Effro said...

Yay, hooray! Talk about rising from the dead, Michael! (*winky-wink*) ~ (•:-)}

Michael said...

How odd. Back in bizness? Thanks for the comment, or I wouldn't even have known.

Esperanto Grrl said...

I for one was always a fan of Dionysus as a deity, because he has a flair for the dramatic (he often arrived on a chariot pulled by tigers), was obviously Eastern and came into Greek religion late (he was even called "The Indian" because supposedly he was from there, though more likely he's of Thracian origin).

Mostly I like him because unlike other deities, he wasn't a great warrior, a poet, or even particularly intelligent: all he did was make booze. I'm sure people in his village thought he wouldn't amount to anything.

In my opinion, not enough is studied about Greece's religious flip-side, the Cthonic earth and underworld deities, all of whom had a very dark element to their worship. In fact, it's often unclear where Zeus begins and Hades ends. Either they were twin brothers or the same god. Hades was often even called Zeus Cthonios, or Underworld-Zeus.

Mike, for once, you're totally correct and have stumbled onto true comparative mythology instead of seeing something that isn't there involving sports cars or Star Trek.

In agricultural societies, a very common story is that of the earth god that ritually dies and then comes back to life with springtime. Norse mythology has a similar story about Baldur.

It's interesting to see Christ in this tradition (what, you think it's a coincidence he comes back to life around springtime? :-)

In fact, there may be some evidence that Jesus himself was a member of a mystery cult. Lots of scholars have wondered about the significance of the Lazarus story, but many do not see it as a true resurrection, but a mystery cult initiation.

FACT OF THE DAY: The pinecone-tipped wand that Dionysus used was known as a thyrsus.

Michael said...

EG - thanks for the background on Dionysus. Speaking of cars (he,he) it's too bad there's not a Dionysus model, although I suppose it would have to run on grain alcohol, or maybe bio-diesel?

Thanks for the pine cone info. Of COURSE, the Vatican has a great big pine cone.

Esperanto Grrl said...

A Dionysus model car reminds of that scene with Homer's brother Herb from the Simpsons.

AUTO EXEC: "Yes, the car's name is Persephone, like the daughter of Demeter, who..."

HERB: "Guys, I got news for ya. Americans want cars with virile names like 'Mustang.' They don't want to buy a car named after some Ancient Greek broad!"

Michael said...

How could I forget? Jaguar is a Dionysus brand! Remember that Mike Myers drove the "shaguar" as Austin Powers - "Do I make you horny?"

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