In the Greek Pantheon Dionysos is a bit of an enigma. He does not represent a natural force, emotion or state of being. Instead he encompasses many aspects of life, death, renewal. Dionysos is a transgressor, a god between, in and out, mortal and immortal. As Ovid states (BK III:638-691): “[…] there is no god more certainly present than he is.”
Dionysos exists in our reality and manifests in theatre, he lives within us through his intoxication, he is present in festivals and in triumphs of life and death. Although many try, it is impossible to deny Dionysos’ existence since he is present, real, in person and inside us. He is “a god that comes”.
So what and who is Dionysos?
The question itself is mystifying, we know from Mycenaean era tablets from Pylos (roughly 3200 years ago) his name is first mentioned. The “Dios” part of his name is Indo-European in origin, meaning Zeus or god, but… the “Nysos” part is linguistically weird. Both modern and ancient authors have attempted to answer the question, most often relating it the mythical mountain of “Nysa”. Other 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.
(Sources: Ecstatic by H. Jeremiah Lewis)
Whatever the case, the name will always be strange. Which, I find to be fitting for a god that is not definable. He is us in that he stares at us, his features are present in pottery and in theatre, he breaks the fourth wall regularly, but acknowledging the fantasy for what… it is… it is still disconnecting. Therefore his strangeness is indefinable while also being relatable to anything.
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