Dionysian Festivals

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.

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Offerings to Dionysos

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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.

So the skies the limit!