Welcome to week one of the D’s. And I decided that I’m going to write about the same thing for both weeks. Of course. Hi, my name is Nuri and I’m a Dionysian. I’m a little god-proud. This is not a perfect essay by any means, so feel free to argue in the comments.
Dionysos: The Agony
So, my notes for this entry start off with “Fuck it, Dionysos is dangerous”. and I mean it, he really really is.
What I want to do with this two-part entry is provide an introduction to Dionysos via a basic duality: Agony and Ecstasy. There is of course, a lot in between but it’s a start. So, again, fuck it, Dionysos is dangerous. To really honor Dionysos you have to bring madness in your life and let go of the structures that you have understood to be true for your entire life.
On a surface level, this just sounds awesome. I’ll be free from everything that’s kept me down my entire life. Some might realize that this also means that everything that supports you can be broken down too. If you can’t manage this, well, there’s a reason Dionysos is the god of madness. I’ve often wondered if the rate of depression is higher than the average in Dionysians, during the times when that breakdown isn’t managed well. Would be interesting.
Dionysos is the breaker of bonds, yes, but freedom from bonds isn’t the freedom to do whatever you want. What happens isn’t utopia, because you are left with an enormous responsibility: You have to replace the restrictions, the rules and your boundaries. It’s freedom, yes, but it’s a terrible type. Dionysos takes your worldview and breaks it into little pieces. If you can’t rebuild it…well, it can be enough to find the darker side of Dionysos’s madness.
Dionysos does not shy away from taking people past the brink; he’s been there himself. When Hera finds the young God, he goes mad (somehow) and wanders across Greece, Egypt, Syria, and all the way to India. Along the way with his throng of followers, he teaches his ways: cultivation of vines and wine, creating villages and meeting people, and being cured of his madness by Kybele or Rhea, depending on the myth. Those who saw Dionysos for who he is and his divinity were blessed, and the Kings and sailors who didn’t, who not just didn’t honor him but denied him, were driven past that point, and none more famous than Pentheus.
Dionysos does not just punish Pentheus for his transgression, he does so by sending his mother to madness, and she tears her own son apart. Pentheus was terrified of the mad women, and is killed in what has to be the most offensive way possible to him.
And you can be careful, you can have the best of intentions and still struggle and hedge on just this side of madness. Here’s my own story.
My interest in Dionysos had been pretty strong since I started in Hellenic Paganism, but it was still mostly academic and mostly one-sided. Until I slipped into a near-trance like state in the bathtub, and when I came out it took hours to get into a state where I was able to coherent, and days to recover from a depressive funk. Turns out, ecstasy turns to agony quickly when you aren’t prepared for it. As academically interested I was, I was not prepared to have the support beams knocked out. In many ways, I’m still recovering from that single experience, and if I hadn’t had other structures to cling to (schoolwork and going to classes is calming) and to help me build back up, I don’t know if I would be able to figure this out now.
But I have found this experience worth it. Dionysos is dangerous, but so many good and worthy things are.
Next week? The Ecstasy, and possibly the reasoning of why I am the worst Dionysian ever.