Of late I have had a lot of people, online an offline, request more info on divination. Guess what? now I have a go to for recommendations.
I’m thankful to know Sannion, and to be involved in a number of his divination classes. So I will happily recommend folk to buy his newest book dealing with this beautiful art form, a perfect gift for this festive time of the year!
I don’t condemn or condone the cast, but acknowledge they are serving a sacred, natural and inherent purpose of the theatre. I always say that democracy was born on stage and that is because the ancient origins of the theatre was a revolution in culture. It gave a space for not politicians, nobles or royalty to speak, but common people, at times the lowest of the caste system, to freely discuss issues to the masses. Some of the first words spoken in the Greek theatre were politically motivated taunts, mockery, slapstick farce and satire of the ruling class. While concepts like free speech are relatively modern now, it’s first expression is found in the amphitheatre.
In ideal circumstances the artists are protected by the theatre (or laws of the nation), but there has been a long history of artists being punished, even put to death. The theatre has *never* been a safe place, for either audience or artists.
When artists are being forced to apologise for their expression by members of authority it is a very disconcerting sign and something that merits acknowledgement and watchful eyes.
In honour of my partners birthday on the 11/11 I thought I’d do a quick tribute.
Wayne is the funnest bastard I know, he is also magical and powerful. This year marks 13 years of fun, laughter, love, anger, tears, blood and adventures. Without him I would not be here today.
So fun facts:
Wayne was born on the 11/11/83 (8+3=11), at 11:11AM.
Part Australian Scotts/Irish and part Nauruan and spent time as a child on the isolated island republic. His Nauruan family are of the chief of chief family caste with his distant cousin being a previous president and his grandmother owning portion of the sole airport strip in the nation.
Everyone who has ever met Wayne says he is funny and scary… which is true… he’s been described as a hippopotamus, fun and playful at a distance, but up close he’ll eat you.
As mentioned in the introduction Lenaia and Anthesteria* are two major Athenian festivals dedicated to Dionysos. There is also the Dionysia, divided between Rural (Later winter months) and City (after Anthesteria). Usually the Dionysia would spread throughout Greece, during the spring and summer months. Surrounding towns would celebrate based on their local customs and time. Most often these festivals involved public performance, pomp / processions, plays, coming to age rituals, day of the dead, public drunkenness, vulgar language / insults, feasting, role exchanges between masters and slaves, prisoner pardoning, wine miracles, singing, sacrifice and religious observances and Mystery performance / initiation.
*Lenaia is celebrated between January to February. Anthesteria in February to March. Dates depends on the lunar cycle, likewise for other Hellenic festive dates.
In Italy these festivals are the Bacchanalia (The Dionysia) and the Liberalia (In part a indigenous holiday heavily influenced by Dionysian festivals from Greece).
Nowadays modern Polytheists still practice these rituals, although to a lesser extent to what is recorded in ancient times. Also some of these customs still exist in Greece, between March and May, with phallic processions or dressing in goat skins ringing bells, performed by locals who generally don’t identify as polytheist / pagan.
In my own practice I rarely celebrate festivals. This is in part my location being in the southern hemisphere and festivals never ‘jived’ with my personal practice.
Offerings are interesting and I admit that I think quite philosophically in this department, going into realms that were not regarded by the ancients.
When one brings it down to the basics what constitutes an offering, what is it?
My point of view is that offerings, sacrifice and devotion is expression.
Sometimes this expression involves objects and physical sacrifice, other times it can be as simple as a breath, spoken word or gesture. But when it comes down to the very foundations of it, it is always an act, an expression. I therefore see offerings as a form of art.
This is one of the core concepts of the Dionysian Artists, (devotional artists). Any act dedicated to the gods is a form of devotional art, thus the devotee giving an offering is an artist. This is a really nuanced philosophy that I go by, but it allows great freedoms of how we engage with the gods. It allows us to respectfully dedicate whatever we can to the gods. The act, by its very nature, is holy.
That aside, the question is about specifics.
Like many aspects of Hellenic polytheism offerings often depend on circumstance. There are everyday offerings typically represent Dionysos in some way like: wine, grains, bread, honey, fruits and flowers, spices, common incense (I prefer pine based oils and Indian style incense.)
Then offerings that may be used during festivals: eggs, meats – especially beef and chicken – resin incense, water, blood (Bloodletting), giving yourself to Dionysos through drunkenness and ecstasy. As mentioned already it depends on the circumstance and intent of the ritual.
Then there are music, art, performance, singing and hymn reading. (Me spending time writing these posts is a form of offering.)
I’m not aware of any general taboos against offerings given to Dionysos.
As a god of foreigners and strangeness I see no problems in offering non-traditional offerings like fruits and veg, spices, incense, modern produce like sweets lollies (candy) etc., not native to Europe or time period. This may be regarded as ‘UPG’, but makes perfect sense to me.
As a livelihood I produce classical themed artwork in public, most of these pieces have a Dionysian element to them which therefore encourages strangers to talk to me about Dionysos. This is an interesting position to be in as it gives me an idea of how much common people know of the gods, especially the one I love.
It is not uncommon for people to express their revulsion at the idea of him being the god of wine. Calling him a hedonistic god, a god of orgies and sex. I acknowledge that these aspects are very much in his realm, but also express that he has a far greater meaning than those three features. It’s an all too common misconception of Dionysos and one that devalues his place within the Pantheon of Greeks.
What’s more, it’s not uncommon for this misunderstanding to be found within the “pagan” community. A group of people one would hope to know better. Yet it happens.
Much of the demonising of Dionysos comes from cultures that maintained strict prudery (Romans) and later Christians that took every opportunity to make Dionysos as a god of excess.
Dionysos is a god of many things, some of which does involve drinking, parting and sex. But also he is the god of death, a god of life, nature, theatre and art, mysteries and refinement of our souls. He is a god of madness and a god that heals, he is many things other than what the common idea of him.
Whenever I discuss the cult of Dionysos I always add a plural, cults. There is no one authoritative singularity of the expressions of Dionysos. Throughout history people have viewed multiple identities of the god, even at the same time and place. For example there are references of two temples being side by side both dedicated to Dionysos, each dedicated to a specific aspect of Dionysos. Each with their own cultus, methods of worship, taboos, decorum and practice, yet they worshipped the same god. This is just one example in one city with differing cults. Imagine that across the entire Hellenic world.
Athens is often the default location to look at for Hellenic polytheists, but as we look outwards from there we see regional differences. In the barbaric north of Thracia and Macedonia the Dionysian expression is much more wild: involving hunts and practices which can be related to shamanism. To the west in Magna Graecia, the “Mecca” of Dionysos, the god plays a prominent role in everyday life with a emphasis on the deathly side of Dionysos. His place in this land is so strong that much of the artwork from there was dedicated to him.
This is a trait found within liberal polytheist cultures. When we look at monotheistic religions there is an orthodoxy in practice, only *one* legit way to honour and view god. Yet, when with the Greeks they allowed open interpretations of practice, this is usually regarded as the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxis.
This environment invites regional cults and differing belief systems.
As a specific difference in cultic identities the most obvious in the Orphic religion. A belief system that claims to be derived from the hero, Orpheus. Even within Orphism there are variants that range from location and teacher. I’ve been studying this unique aspect of Hellenic religion for a long time now (5 years?) and even after all this research I cannot illustrate an absolute “common core” of their beliefs. In general, however, it is believed that that soul has a divine component which needs to be ‘unlocked’ to rest eternally in bliss. Most of the time this divine aspect is Dionysian in nature.
Co-existing with the Orphics is the Dionysian Artists, this was a sacred guild based in Athens but spread throughout the Hellenic world, including Egypt and Italy. I’ve written extensively on this guild and continue to do so. The identity that this guild mostly dealt with was the God of the Theatre.
So when examining ancient Hellenic culture it is key to keep in mind that the way people viewed the gods varied on circumstance, even in the same location and amongst the same people.
So… I did an idiotic thing and looked up my name on Google. Seeing what people are saying about me. Luckily nothing too abhorrent that I can see. I noticed one person calling into question my initiation status apparently, “claims to be initiate into an ancient Sicilian cult”.
I have never claimed anything of the sort.
Actually if one has that amazing and commendable ability to not be lazy and read my writing, including those from my previous blog, my initiation claims are definitely *not* derived from Italy or any lineage or fraternity. What I claim are newly ‘invented’ traditions passed on from spiritual experience.
And know you what? I don’t care if you want to dismiss my ‘claims’. I underwent an intense experience last year that went over three months. This experience was made whole with physical private ritual, physical ordeal and confirmed by myself, people I know and outsiders who had NO knowledge of what I was going through. (In fact one guy totally freaked out when he saw me…) This was an intensive period of divination and ritual.
Anyway, this gives me rights to claim an initiate in some sort of Dionysian mystery (I categorise it a the Dionysian Artist, hence the name!) If you don’t want to believe that… fine. I’m not forcing anything on anyone here unless someone wants physical mentorship into *my own* mystery tradition.
I doubt there will be any takers in soon as I believe the Mysteries must be a physical experience and I’m aware of exactly three Dionysians in my entire country and none to my knowledge are interested in what I have to offer.
So for the sake of ease here is summery of facts:
– I don’t claim to be initiate into an ancient lineage.
– I am indeed closely associated with The Starry Bull tradition. Right now, I am NOT initiated into that tradition.
– The Dionysian Artists mystery tradition is based upon the Guild of the Artists of Dionysos, found in ancient Greek history. However I am not seeking to entirely replicate this guild. (Although I wish I could.) Instead the idea is create a mystery tradition revolving around art, embracing all forms of art from performance, music, visual, writing etc. And also being inclusive of the differing views of what constitutes art in modern theory. The idea is encouraging members to create or admire art to bring them to states of ecstasy which invokes initiatory experiences. This is all a work in progress.
As a god that moves freely between realms of divine and humanity, even the animal kingdom… it is possible to find my beloved god in all and everything. He is commonly associated with *many* deities.
As I have limited time contrasts so I’ll requote stuff I’ve already written:
– Jesus Christ has many resemblances to Dionysos, he was born from a god with a mortal mother, he was hunted down as an infant and smuggled out of his homeland to escape death, he travelled in his youth becoming enlightened before returning to his homeland. He taught a retinue followers his radical system of belief, he performs a series of miracles that prove his holiness including turning water into wine, he is betrayed by his peers and judged by a non-believer as a false prophet, he is sentenced and humiliated dressed like Dionysos and crucified, he dies and is resurrected as a great divine and continues to teach his followers and forgives his foes before ascending into heaven. Throughout the New Testament and other Christian texts, Jesus is referred as the grape vine, or the grape. Wine is symbolic as his blood, likewise bread is his flesh. They share similarities with the concept of a holy spirit, divine force within all. The trail by Pilate is also has parallels to the Bacchae by Euripides.
– Hindu god, Shiva shares many similarities to Dionysos. Both are creator destroyers, prescribe asceticism, considered the greatest of gods, is judge in the afterlife, wears snakes, sacred animal is the bull, sits on a tiger skin, is called god of the mountain, is both male and female, is the super soul found everywhere, drums , dancing, fertility, wild women, god of animals, god of ambiguity and paradox, nakedness, enlightenment, liberator, drinker and phallic worship . The list goes on and on.
More info found in the book: Gods of Love and Ecstasy: The Traditions of Shiva and Dionysos By Alain Daniélou
– Some Greeks and Romans believed Dionysos was from Egypt, originating from the Osiris cult. It was thought that a mythical prophet, Melampous, taught the Greeks the mysteries of Osiris, but in a ‘Greek’ way. This lead to the creation of the Dionysos cults. Just like Dionysos, Osiris is a nature and death god, he is killed and dismembered, only to be reassembled to create life once again.
– In regards to the Roman Bacchus, I don’t view the god any different from the Hellenic Dionysos. Bacchus is a Latin version of the Greek epithet Bakkhos: meaning loud and roaring, of the frenzy or of the berry. So unlike other Roman gods, which were sometimes a mixture of Etruscans and indigenous deities, Dionysos’ Roman identity is still Greek in nature.
This gets somewhat confusing as there is the indigenous god Liber (Liber Pater / Father Freedom). I see Liber as a separate deity or at least another expression of Dionysos. Throughout Roman history though, Liber, Bacchus and Dionysos were used synonymously by Romans.
Lastly another god compared with Dionysos by Romans is the Etruscan Fufluns: god of wine, happiness, plants and happiness.
Other divinities that can be associated:
The Minoan Bull god
(And gees, literally many other gods!)
I hope it does not come as a shock that Dionysos has a complex and often confusing family tree. I’ve divided this into three tales:
Standard myth: has him the son of Zeus and Semele, daughter of the founder of Thebes, Cadmus (his grandfather) and Harmonia (his grandmother). If we look back through Cadmus’ family tree Zeus is something like Dionysos’ great, great, great, great grandfather via Io. Zeus is also his great grandfather on Dionysos’ grandmother’s family side. And as a technicality Zeus is his father and mother… is your mind twisted yet?
If we regard Orphic mythology: the Olympian Dionysos is a second incarnation. His first incarnation is known as Zagreus-Dionysos, the son of Persephone and Zeus.
Zagreus is a supreme deity that Zeus concedes the throne to his son, thus giving Zagreus the universe as a mere babe. As is typical in myth: Hera is jealous, and employs the Titans to kill Zagreus. The Titans play with the child with toys, eventually presenting Zagreus with a mirror. The reflected splendour of Zagreus entrances the god himself, giving the Titians an opportunity to pounce on him; killing the child and eating him.
Upon smelling the foul odour of his son being cooked Zeus discovers the crime of the Titans and smites them to ashes (From which humanity rise from the ashes, part evil Titan and part divine Zagreus-Dionysos). Zeus saves the essence of Dionysos (his heart, soul or phallus) and impregnates Semele, therefore giving birth to Dionysos we know now.
If we want it take it further into the odd we can look at speculated myth: (What follows should not be treated as acceptable myth. There a few ancient sources to supports this, but not in a linear fashion I present it.)
In vague references Zagreus is the second incarnation, the last being the third. The first and most pure is Phanes, the first god of the cosmos. Zeus either eats Phanes or engages in cosmic fulicio… (that is not a joke) …. whatever the case, Zeus absorbs the supremacy of Phanes and passes this to his children. In some cases this can be Dionysos and Athena. (Thereby making them divine twins?)
This is source of Zagreus’ supremacy. Continue on with the the myth above.
These tales of back and forth death and rebirth, “refinement”, are typically regarded as the farming of vine and the process required to create drinkable wine. (As already mentioned in previous posts).
Immortalised in play by Euripides, The Bacchae is my favourite mythological tale of Dionysos: it tells of Dionysos’ return to his birthplace Thebes:
The common people and some nobles follow Dionysos. However the young king of Thebes (and the cousin to Dionysos), Pentheus, rejects the divinity of new god and quite literally has a hissy fit that his family and friends are honouring the “supposed” god and ignoring him.
Dionysos enters the city in which Pentheus thinks him only a priest, not a god. Pentheus confronts Dionysos and the two engage in a debate. Dionysos pleads to the king to concede to his divine argument and gives him a fair warning about the hubris being committed against the godly family member, but Pentheus does not listen, in fact he takes it to the next step and imprisons Dionysos.
Thus invoking the wraith of Dionysos.
Dionysos destroys the Theban palace (scaring the crap out of everyone). Somewhere between then (I’m doing verbatim here!) a herder appears informing Pentheus of the marvels of the Maenads, their powers and witnessing miracles.
Dionysos emerges from his prison as the great god, intoxicating the king, he convinces the Pentheus to dress as a maenad in order to spy upon the women. He then leads the king into the woods. Pentheus climbs a pine tree to view upon the mysteries of the women – only to have his disguise transmuted into a lion by Dionysos who then informs the mad women of the intruder. Thinking the king a lion, the frenzied women hunt and kill Pentheus, tearing him limb from limb.
The maenads, which include Pentheus’ mother and other female family members, enter the city with their trophy, proud of their hunt. To then realise from the shock and horror of others that the lion is their king, son and brother…
What follows is the exile of the royal family. Their neglect and crimes against the king is unforgivable.
The Bacchae is one of the most usual and violent plays in the Greek tragic cycles. It is also one of the most important tales to Dionysians. At face value it is easy to think this play is simply about the pride and hubris committed by a tyrant king. But with analysis it is apparent that Pentheus is the victim of his own family’s neglect. His family do not take the him seriously and refuse to counsel and teach him of his hubris, instead they only offering vague warnings before abandoning him to his own demise. Dionysos therefore is an agent, a force of nature. In the process of the debate between king and god and further with Pentheus’ intoxication and the manner of his death Pentheus is initiated into the Dionysian cult. Pentheus becomes Dionysos, the two merge into one as the Pharmakos, the sacrifice, which teaches the ills of the citizens of Thebes.
His death, as horrific as it is, is a blessing and cathartic. This is exemplified in later pottery where Pentheus stands amongst the Blessed Dead as a Dionysian hero.
Compared to other Greek gods, who’s wraith typically involve smiting – death and eternal punishment in Tartarus – a quality of Dionysos is that he converts his victims. His enemies become him, he forgives them and teaches them of their ills. He is also an indirect god in his wraith, he is the agent of his foes demise and thus works through others, the effect of his wraith is contagious to those that are influenced by him as they also learn of their own ills.
Dionysos has many symbols associated with him, I have divided these into categories for ease of use.
One of Dionysos’ major symbol is the grape vine. It symbolically represents his association with life. In terms of humours it is regarded as the hot plant. As the grape vine is a cultivated plant it requires constant maintenance for it to bear fruit. Meaning that the community had to care for it. After season it is, as a necessity, killed (i.e. pruned back for winter), the labours of its fruit turned into wine (which continues to be a community intensive work and symbolic life / death process.)
The differing stages of the grape vine symbolically represent Dionysos’ death and rebirth process.
The second major plant symbol of Dionysos is the Ivy, the counterpart of the grape vine. It represents his association with death, completing the dualistic nature of Dionysos. In humours it is cold, this is why drinkers of wine would wear ivy on their head, it was to level out their humours. As the grape vine represents life with its tasty fruit, ivy represents death with its poison fruit. The common ivy also bears fruit in winter as oppose to the grape (summer). In addition Ivy does not die back in any season, it continues to wildly grow spreading out it’s tendrils, whereas the grapevine requires support and tender care.
Fig and Apple tree
Dionysos is known to have discovered both the fig and apple tree, both being sacred to him. The fig is his most beloved fruit next to grape. He was worshipped as Dionysos Sykites (of the fig) and Meilikhios (Gentle) due to the gentle nature of the fruit. Figs were popular fruit in classical times and made up a stable diet and also there is sexual connotations in classical and Roman vulgarity they give appear like the anus, “fig fucker” and “giving the fig” being insults for “up the arse”. This is due to dried figs (and fresh figs cut in half) looking similar to the human anus.
In some mystery traditions the apple is one of Dionysos’ childhood toys.
The evergreen nature of the Pine has a strong connection to the everlasting, immortal life. Another concept that is important to Dionysos known as: Zoë. The symbolism continues today with the Christmas tree, potentially a remnant of the Dionysian cultic expression adopted by Christians.
The pine cone too is extremely sacred, see below.
A note: the pine tree is a feature in the death of Pentheus (more of this will come in following posts.)
Specifically the Ferula communis is another sacred plant. It is used as the support for Dionysos wand called a thyrsos, however he is featured in pottery simply holding the blooming fennel flowers. It may be symbolic of the phallus.
Thyrsos and Pine Cone
The Thyrsos is a staff carried by Dionysos and his followers, it is usually constructed as a long fennel shaft, with a pinecone atop and red and white ribbons. When wielded by a maenad it has to ability to create honey and milk from the earth and bring about springs of wine. It can raise the dead and also kill, again with the dualism of Dionysos.
The Thyrsos is usually broken up into symbols:
-The fennel shaft being the phallus.
-The pine cone is the head of the penis, it’s seamen being honey and bearing pine seeds.
-The two ribbons can be regarded as the liquids of life, seamen and blood.
As a god of nature and fertility the phallic symbolism of Dionysos is very strong. His earliest representations of him being a tree or a pole. The phallus is very easy to understand… a rod that produces life. During Dionysian processions it was often accompanied with a giant phallus that was carried around by men. This phallic procession would move out into the countryside blessing the farmland with fertility and regrowth.
The cup is commonly regarded as the counterpart of the phallus, it is a container that holds the liquids of life. As a vessel is sometimes connected with the vagina and female reproductive system. Cups were often decorated with Dionysian scenes and dedicated as votive offerings.
Masks and Eyes
Mask are perhaps the oldest known images of Dionysos, therefore he is god of masks. This establishes his connection to the theatre and mystic performance. Masks act as barriers in reality, living idols, a paradox of an inanimate object that is made animated by its living host – which by the nature of donning a mask is disconnected from reality. Only the actors eyes can be seen behind the mask.
Eyes hold a special purpose to Dionysos as a symbol that confronts. As a apotropaic (evil averting) his eyes hold special symbolism. This is especially noted when examine pottery, Dionysos is quite famous for confronting the viewer, as exemplified in the Francois vase where he is the only god looking at the viewer, and other examples where even in profile his eyes are prominent compared to other deities around him.
It should be noted that this is not exactly ancient in source, but the number 7 is thought to be sacred to Dionysos.
It comes several references related to Dionysos:
– The seven Pleiades were nurses to Dionysos.
– The Corona Borealis (Crown of Ariadne) was given to Ariadne as wedding gift by Dionysos. (seven stars)
– The seven youths and maidens given to the minotaur, (Dionysos is strongly connected to the minotaur, AKA the Starry Bull.)
– When Dionysos is dismembered and eaten by the Titans he is cut into seven portions, legs, arms, torso, head and penis.
Colours and Metal
Purple: a colour associated with priests, royalty and wine. It was commonly worn by high ranking members of the Artists of Dionysos.
Red, Black and White: Orphic colours with many symbolic purposes. More info here.
Gold: A metal famous for its purity, value and sacredness it was commonly worn by Dionysian priests and Artists of Dionysos. The myth of Midas associates Dionysos with gold.
Dionysos is god of all natural liquids, often categorised as all still fluid in nature. (That said, he has a strong relationship with the sea and some lakes.)
As with the grape vine, wine represents the life cycle of Dionysos. To make it the grape must die. It also requires a communal collaboration, dedication and patience. Wine is often thought of as the blood of Dionysos, the liquid of life and death
Dionysos discovers honey in myth. With deep connections with early prehistoric man. It is possible that he was a mead god before being a wine god. More info on this topic can be found in my writings. His Thyrsos is said to drip honey.
A life giving liquid, especially to babes. It is often connected with Dionysos. Milk too plays an important part in the Orphic mysteries and practice – where it was thought to be the only liquid to clean ritual tools. Also the saying: theos egenoy ex anthroopoy, eriphos es gala epetes – you have become god from man, lamb you fell into milk.
Water (Swamp water, the Sea)
He is known to be god of swamps and marshes. Some of the most organic and thriving environments of life.
Dionysos has strong connections to the sea, he uses it as a refuge and hiding place. Also he is often depicted in both pottery and festivals on a boat. The concept of a float during civic parades is Dionysian in origin.
Big cats: Leopards, lions and tigers
Lions illustrate a connection to the Rhea cult, Rhea being one of the few gods to aid Dionysos in his madness. Leopards and tigers being exotic animals illustrate his foreign nature and connection to the east and India.
Dionysos is a bull god, he has strong links with the Minotaur (Starry Bull) and also he turns into a bull in which form he is killed by the Titans and consumed. The bull is symbolic of his sacrifice and therefore his flesh (as like wine being his blood). The bull is a creature of considerable strength, power and fertility. It is also the victim to be killed and consumed. It’s death supporting the longevity of the community.
Snakes are sacred animals to many gods, they are dangerous, beautiful, alien, odd and cold animals. They are symbolic of living death, undead by their very nature. The snake is legless, yet quick and powerful creatures. They hold mysteries and educate Dionysians their power of reincarnation through shedding their skin. They taught Dionysos how to make wine in myth.
Griffons are common mounts for many gods, they often symbolise the sun and gold. In the case of Dionysos can be symbolic by their dual nature being part bird, part large cat. Part in flight, part grounded on earth.
The sacred mountain of Nysa is the home of Dionysos, the land that hid him from the agents of his step mother Hera. Nysa sits between the realms of reality and myth, existing in its own mythscape. Throughout history people have sort Nysa, especially Alexander, seeking out the sacred grove that protected the great god.
One of the first triumphal acts of Dionysos is conquering India, since it has been his land. India represents Dionysos’ exotic nature the land that is strange compared to what it known in ancient Greece.
Dionysos is famous for his few temples. However as a god of nature his temple is all around us. The theatre is a symbol of Dionysian expression, a place that is open to nature, but also built by man. It is set into a hill with carved seating and a theatrical circle, yet also exposed to the sky. The theatre is therefore a symbol of duality, nature and cultivation, in and out.
In some regards I was fortunate to be raised in a religiously liberal family. All members being agnostic with a New Age / Mystic streak. It was not unusual for us to attend New Age festivals, have “crystal parties”, we even had a family psychic / medium who was a close family friend.
My sister is a practising “Neo-Shaman”, “Earth worker” and “Light Worker”. She performs various rituals: “healing nature and correcting vibration energy that has been imbalanced by the wrongs of mankind”.
My mother is very causal, she has a shrine dedicated to Ganesh in her house and an ancestor shrine – she is naturalistic in her ‘practice’, I don’t even think she is aware of what she is has done – this makes it all the more beautiful.
Being raised in this environment was something I’m grateful for, but resulted in feeling “empty”. I have always been curious about religion and begun seeking something when I was very young. At around age fifteen I looked into several religions, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, Druids, Heathenry – none really clicked. Something I always found myself drawn towards was Greek mythology, the stories, the gods, the heroes inspired me. I would skip school and just read Greek myths all day until my mother came home from work where I would dress in my school uniform and pretend I went to school. This was when I first became aware of Dionysos and begun my devotion to Hellenic Gods. Throughout my teenage years I did this, reading Greek myths, history, cultic practices – despite my low attendance grades at school, my history teacher was impressed by my knowledge of history. At this time Hypnos, Nyx, Morpheus and Hermes were the first gods I was dedicated towards.
After high-school I focused on my artistic inclinations and went to arts school, at this time I became more connected with Hermes, Hephaestus, Athena and Apollon. These four “patrons” being the core of my practice.
In art school I meet my life partner and we made plans for when we finished school, establishing a business call Hephaestian Studios: making and selling statues dedicated to the Greek gods. After two years we decided to close business and downgrade our work to making art on the streets of Melbourne for free, moving into the city. Another two years we decided to go the next step, throw out our belongings and go homeless. Travelling around Australia making art.
This is when Dionysos entered my life.
I cannot put an exact date when it happened, but it was the around the end of 2011 to 2012, I experienced a number of epiphanies from Dionysos. He has been a massive part of my life ever since.
I have been banned from facebook over an image I shared a few years ago. As these things work: someone must have reported me.
Honestly I can’t remember what I wrote about this, I’m supposing it was a rejection of the nationalism and appropriation of classical symbolism for modern day politics.
As I *despise* censorship I’m re-posting the image here. Right now I hold no feelings for it, nor opinion. Artistically, it has merits in making a good image. Politically, my only concern is using sacred classical themes and terms as a means of promoting secular modern day concepts.
Regardless, I would point out when this image was first published it went “viral”, it was shared by millions of people and featured in newspapers, magazines and facebook.
Yet…. suddenly I am banned from facebook for something I posted years ago (Like many other people at the time).
I shared this image to discuss the phenomenon especially as it was using a title for a sacred role played by women of the Dionysian cults. I certainly was not sharing it for sexual gratification or being obscene.
I’m not naive enough to think that facebook gives a shit, I understand that they have blanket bots that look for nudity and censor it, but based upon my countries law, (laws I have to adhere to as a “citizen”, even with my use of the internet), this image would be regarded as genuine art. The image has cultural, historical and social importance and has gone down as an icon for it’s time.
This is a quote by facebook TOS:
We remove photographs of people displaying genitals or focusing in on fully exposed buttocks. We also restrict some images of female breasts if they include the nipple, but we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding or showing breasts with post-mastectomy scarring. We also allow photographs of paintings, sculptures and other art that depicts nude figures. Restrictions on the display of both nudity and sexual activity also apply to digitally created content unless the content is posted for educational, humorous or satirical purposes. Explicit images of sexual intercourse are prohibited. Descriptions of sexual acts that go into vivid detail may also be removed.
So… in terms of law in Australia this image is regarded as genuine art. In terms of facebook’s own TOS it falls into he category of artwork for its: “educational, humorous or satirical purposes.”
Today marks a year since my initiation by formal ritual (22nd of October 2015). As such I thought I’d celebrate this with the 30 days of devotion challenge. This will be dedicated to Dionysos. Most of this writing will be deliberately written as a brief, only exploring basic concepts. I hope turns out as a basic and helpful resource for new comers.
A basic introduction to Dionysos
Dionysos was and still is a popular god, most famously known as the god of wine, but he has many other important attributes. Our first archaeological proof of his name comes from linear-B clay tablets found in Pylos, dating his existence (in terms of proof) to 1200BCE. Dionysian cultic expressions, such as ambiguous artefacts that share similar themes, go far back further into history, meaning it is more than possible that his cult existence is much older, potentially running far into pre-history.
In terms of linguistics his name is very unusual, “Dios” is usually regarded as Zeus/God, the “nysos” part being linguistically mysterious in origin. Both ancient and modern scholars have attempted to find its meaning, the most accepted being God of Mount Nysa – the mountain where Dionysos was raised and protected as an infant. The others meanings being: Dios Nous – Mind of Zeus. Diemai nũsa – he who runs amongst tree. Nonnos claims that it means Zeus-Limp, the Nysos meaning limping in Syracusan language. (Source: Ecstatic by H. Jeremiah Lewis)
By the classical period of Athens, Dionysos was well established as the god we know today, the god of wine, theatre, mystery, nature and ecstasy. There were two major festivals dedicated to him one being: Lenaia (celebrated between January to February) and Anthesteria (February to March; dates depends on the lunar cycle). Lenaia being a private civic festival celebrated by woman and comedic plays, Anthesteria being a public festival lasting three days, including massive theatrical performances, games, pomp / parades, public mockery, drunkenness and fun, coming of age ceremonies and finally a day of the dead. After Anthesteria in Athens the Dionysia spread throughout Greece with traveling performers dedicating plays and inviting celebrations to the far reaches of the Hellenic world.
There is always a misunderstanding of Dionysos, he is often considered the god of excess, sexual promiscuously, god of hedonism… but Dionysos is a god of duality. The God that confronts. As equal to his celebratory nature is his death (chthonic) connection. This expression of Dionysos is found in his mysteries and funerals. Many Dionysian artefacts, such as pottery, sarcophagus, votive icons etc., originate from funeral sites. In fact, a large sum of what we know of Dionysos and his cult originates from tombs and grave monuments. A god of life and a god of death.
The Dionysos of the afterlife became popular especially with the unusual Orphic cult that sometimes see Dionysos as a saviour of souls. Being initiated into this cult granted passage to blissful death, the end of the grievous cycle of reincarnation.
Dionysos is also a god of nature and agriculture. He has strong connections to earth including seasons. He is a god of trees, plants and fruits.
As I’m attempting to keep this brief I will discuss one final major aspect of Dionysos as being the god of Ecstasy. This is perhaps the eldest expression of Dionysos, (I suspect it having to do with what we now call Shamanism.) Dionysos is the god of Epiphany, The God that Comes, he does this through ecstatic performance of man. If it be through intoxication via substances, dance, music or performance. He manifests and blurs the lines of reality inviting us into the divine through his ecstatic presence. He breaks down the inhibitions and logic that hinder our potential and opens the world to us. This gift he grants to all humanity, regardless of who you are.
My partner Wayne is offering icon oil paintings on board. 6 by 8 inch icon is $350USD. Larger sizes are possible increasing from the base price.
These are original, one of a kind, pieces of devotional art. Created to be used as sacred icons.
As these are religious work there are some terms and conditions:
– Wayne maintains the right to deny work for whatever reason.
– Payment for the artwork must be up front before work begins.
– Payment preference is PayPal or direct bank transfer.
– These pieces are painted in the highest professional quality oil paint on prepared board, they can take a few months to design, create, dry and ship. We expect clients to be aware of how much time they can take.
– As of now this is part time work, we both have multiple projects going. Clients are welcomed and encouraged to request updates if there are delays. But please respect that these take time, you have been warned. (Twice now.)
– Wayne and myself are experts on the Hellenic / Italian pantheons, these cultures are a preference. Other pantheons such as: Norse, Celtic, Middle Eastern, Hindu and Asian etc. may be possible. For obscure or unfamiliar gods we expect client input. We will go through an interview process if required. Monotheist religious icons *may* be possible, this has to be negotiated, we are polytheists… there are plenty of talented Christian iconographers out there.
– Clients are welcomed to give input, but the artwork is final. Alterations to the design based on client input may require extra funding at our discretion.
– Paintings can be shipped by post, but must have insurance, tracking, etc. If clients prefer we can ship by courier or other options, obviously, expect much higher costs for these services.
Our shipping fees to the US range between $40 to 60+USD.
Australian postage is between $20 to $30+AUD.
International courier prices are between $90 to 170+ USD.
We prefer to give a quote and request the amount for shipping when the painting is packed and ready to ship. So please set some money aside for the final shipping quote.
– It is possible to order multiple paintings which can be shipped together. Note that there is an insurance threshold for standard post, $2000 AUD.
– Wayne owns the copyright of all artwork. Clients may request limited licensing for prints and sales. This must be negotiated prior to use.
We attempt to be as fair as possible with our clients and we both take this work very seriously as a devotional duty. Each piece is consecrated with prayers and offerings during the creation and the packing process.
My input is limited, however I aid Wayne in some areas such as spiritual services and research. I act as liaison between clients and Wayne. If you would like to take a commission you may contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The Dionysian Artist, Δ, is apolitical unless the arts are under attack.
[Keating joking about establishing a museum of Australian culture under Liberal leadership] “We thought we could basically make the changes and put some of the cultural icons of the 1950s down there. […] The Morphy Richards toaster, the Qualcast mower, a pair of heavily protected slippers, the Astor TV, the AWA radiogram. And, of course, the honourable member for Wentworth and the honourable member for Bennelong could go there as well. When the kids come and look at them they will say, ‘Gee, mum, is that what it was like then?’. And the two Johns can say, ‘No, kids. This is the future’. Back down the time tunnel to the future—there they are.”
Prime Minister Paul Keating, famous ‘Cultural Cringe’ speech , 1992.
The Australian political right has had a long history of attacking the arts. They are known to openly assault funding to museums, galleries, artists and art work purchases, art censorship and classification, film and theatre, music, dance… the entire spectrum of art. No amount of protest by the public and experts in the Arts and also economists has hindered their vile and unmerited fund cutting. This behaviour is referred to as The Cultural Cringe.
This was exemplified last year with a proposal to dismantle the Australian Arts Council, an independent organisation that administers government grants to artists in all fields. The Liberal’s suggestion was to consolidate a new arts organisation run directly by the government, in effect creating an Orwellian Ministry of Truth. Since the previous government was removed by itself this never came to complete fruition. However full funds have not been returned to the Australian Arts Council.
When one looks at the list (below) it is apparent that this is targeting the film and performance industry the most. The biggest arts industries and in fact one of the biggest money making industries the world over, grossing higher revenue than the mining sector and agriculture.
In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Australia was next to New Zealand in producing large scale Hollywood movies, for example: the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix films, Moulin Rouge!. This prompted investments into new movie studios in Sydney and Melbourne. Of which are now rarely used. The movie industry in Australia has completely died because lack of support from the government and the GFC. (Not to mention that John Howard, another Liberal, literally sold our culture to the US.)
However when one looks east to our cousins in New Zealand their film industry is thriving, with its citizens considered experts of modern movie production, they are often subcontracted for US Hollywood movies like Avatar. How do they do this? The New Zealand government invested in arts and as a result it has become one of the country’s major exports, this also influences other sectors like tourism and hospitality.
Let’s look at some of the other courses being cut, they include Jewellery design, Floristry, Journalism and Professional Writing. All of which are valid careers paths. Of note: I did Dip. of Professional Writing in 2008, at the time it was FREE! This blog would not be what it is without the course. So since 2008 the government has made these courses paid, via student loans, to denying the loans altogether.
In regards to writing courses it’s interesting to note that Australia is a reading culture, reputed to be one of the biggest consumers of books in the world. Ever wondered how a media tyrant Rupert Murdoch rose from a hick nation of Australia? Because we read a lot, we are world’s largest newspaper readers. Obviously writing, journalism is a locally supported arts industry.
Perhaps the most disturbing and racist is the cancelling of VET for the Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts Industry Work. Aboriginal people are seriously underclass in Australia. When compared by ratio of Aboriginal deaths in police custody to the deaths of blacks in US it is frightening and disturbing that there is no mainstream, international, Black Lives Matter movement for Aboriginals. So we have one of the most vulnerable, discriminated and poor groups being denied financial support for education. What’s more, arts is very important to Aboriginal communities, with Indigenous art being one of the main commodities that supports their culture and peoples, international sales of Indigenous art is a major Australian arts export.
In short I can go through each of these courses and demonstrate how these are not “hobby courses” but a legit vocational training. This is speaking from experience. I can not afford university and instead opted for TAFE (Technical college) Diploma of Visual Arts and partial Diploma of Professional Writing. These two courses helped me become who I am today, without them I would not be here. If I was born a generation later it would be impossible for me to get this necessary training to pursue a career in the arts to the capacity I have today.
I’ve been warning folk about this nihilism in Australian politics for a long time, I’ve been pointing out the constant erosion of Australian culture by the Neo-conservative right-wing government. Yet the public keep voting for these degenerates. It looks like Keating’s vicious rhetoric has failed and instead he has become a prophet: ‘No, kids. This is the future’.
The list of Courses being affected by the cuts: (Source)
Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Musical Theatre
Diploma of Live Production Design
Diploma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts Industry Work
Diploma of Ceramics
Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
Diploma of Floristry Design
Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Advanced Diploma of Jewellery and Object Design
Diploma of Broadcast Technology
Advanced Diploma of Performance
Graduate Diploma of Classical Ballet
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Diploma of Fashion Styling
Diploma of Screen Acting
Diploma of Screen Performance
Advanced Diploma of Acting
Diploma of Circus Arts
Diploma of Social Media Marketing
Advanced Diploma of Acting for Contemporary Screen Media
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship for Creatives
Diploma of Stage and Screen Performance
Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Acting)
Advanced Diploma of Professional Screenwriting
Graduate Diploma of Elite Dance Instruction
Advanced Diploma of Stage and Screen Acting
Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Visual Communication (Design Communication / Photo Communication)
Advanced Diploma of Music Theatre
Diploma of Cinemagraphic Makeup
Diploma of Styling (Fashion, Image and Media)
Advanced Diploma of Commercial Song and Dance Performance
Diploma of Journalism
Advanced Diploma of Art (Musical Theatre and Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Film, Television and Theatre Acting
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Acting)
Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Theatre Arts
Diploma of Product Design
Advanced Diploma of Screen and Stage Acting
Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Creative Arts in Christian Ministry
Advanced Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Arts (Professional Writing)
Diploma of Mass Communication
Advanced Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Performing Arts
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts
Graduate Diploma of Photography
Diploma of Fashion Products and Markets
Advanced Diploma of Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) (Commercial Dance)
Advanced Diploma of Animation
Most likely a response to the New Age Movement many call out the identifier of “Shaman” as cultural appropriation. I understand the contention, especially being aware of the origins of the word, it’s history and overuse in spiritual circles, academia and popular culture. However as it stands it is an apt word to describe certain spiritual practices found around the world that share a “common core” in their ecstatic actions and traditions, some of which are open to the West. This is my current definition of it:
“There is no definitive definition of shamanism used by anthropologists, rather, it used as a catch-all term for local ethnic beliefs and practices around the world that has a common core of members communicating with spirits and deities through ecstatic rituals. How one reaches these states vary greatly, but in general shamans utilise dance, drumming, mask donning, identity transference / acting, substance use, etc. A secondary aspect of shamans is initiatory rituals which simulate or physically enact a near-death experience. This experience gives the shaman insight into the afterlife.”
Many traditions perform these shamanic acts, often with their own cultural titles to describe the spirit workers. Without intentionally inciting insensitivity it is it’s overuse that allows the general populace to understand what a writer is discussing, without providing additional context.
An example of this is the common misunderstanding of The Dionysian Artists. Many, including friends and family assume that I identify with the guild because I am an artist. However, it is conceivable for a member *not* to identify as an artist in the sense we know now. The Western view of a shaman may be applicable in describing the acts and mysteries of The Dionysian Artists.
This is a subject I explore in an essay written for the next issue of Walking the Worlds (submissions close in Nov. ‘16.) In brief I explore the various themes found in the cults of Dionysos, especially the theatre. For the sake of ease I use shamanism as an adjective in describing the expression found in the theatre. Likewise I have a strong belief that ALL Western art originates from shamanic-like practices performed in pre-history.
I am fortunate because I have a lot of theory and research for the Dionysian Artists, I am privileged in using Shamanism as an adjective, others, however, may follow a different path and use it as a noun because there is no other descriptor for their practices.
In these instances I think it’s fine, “Neoshamanism” as it’s called, may draw upon closed ethnic traditions, but from what I have observed of it, it is totally different. They may utilise similar themes and actions that may be found in ethnic Shamanism, but adapt it to the point that these themes are general and common in open belief systems. They are themes, acts which can be traced in many world religions, including the Abrahamic and related fringe sects.
Last point, the critics I have seen mostly argue in favour of Native American tribes rights to the word… Given that the word originates from the East / Eurasia this is a wrong argument and is as insensitive as a Western person using the word to describe their practices.
So to critics of the used of the word I point my middle finger. This is an aspect of our overall culture. Being hung up on a word diminishes the spiritual acts and devotion one performs to their gods.