Mythological Figure of the Day: Dionysus

Also known as the Roman god, Bacchus. God of wine, agriculture and fertility. Central figure in the Eleusian Mysteries (along with the Earth Goddess Demeter.) Dionysus was also the god of intoxication and of Dramatic arts. He is something of a mysterious and Christlike figure about whom stories are varied and conflicting. Among the myths told of Dionysus are the following: He was the son of Zeus and Semele (a mortal woman.) Semele was struck dead upon seeing Zeus in all his thunderous glory, and Zeus then gestated the unborn Dionysus in his thigh. Thus is he known as “twice born.” Dionysus is said to have, upon adulthood, undergone a journey to the underworld where he successfully pled for his mother’s return to the mortal world. There are stories of his wanderings before officially being accepted as an Olympian god, presumably due to his mortal lineage. There are several in which entire cities are destroyed or reduced to intoxicated madness after failure to acknowledge the divinity of Dionysus. There is a very strange tale in particular in which a disguised Dionysus is a passenger aboard a ship whose crew bear him ill will. He beseeches Zeus to come to his aid and the elder god sends such a violent storm that all aboard are forced to abandon the vessel. Rather than allow them to drown, Dionysus transforms them all into dolphins. Dionysus is also said to have rescued Ariadne when she was abandoned by Theseus and to have made her his lover and consort. The Maneads were the mythical madwomen who worshipped in the service of Dionysus in his capacity as god of wine. They are said to have roamed the wilds in intoxicated mania, ripping men limb from limb and devouring them. It was a band of Maneads who were responsible for the death of Orpheus, after they heard his lament for dead Eurydice.

(Culled from several sources as well as my own recollections)

# posted by corbid @ 3:50 AM