Saturday, August 7, 2010
Dionysus (Greek: Διόνυσος or Διώνυσος) is the ancient Greek god of wine, wine cups, wineskin, grapes, theater, and fertility. The god who inspires ritual madness, joyful worship, and ecstasy, carnivals, celebration and a major figure of Greek mythology.
Included as one of the twelve Olympians in some lists, Dionysus is typical of the god of the epiphany, "the god that comes". He was also known as Bacchus, the name adopted by the Romans and the frenzy he induces, bakkheia. In addition to winemaking, he is the patron deity of agriculture and the theater.
Hailed as an Asiatic foreigner, he was thought to have had strong ties to the East and to Ethiopia in the South. He was also known as the Liberator (Eleutherios), freeing one from one's normal self, by madness, ecstasy or wine.
The divine mission of Dionysus was to mingle the music of the aulos and to bring an end to care and worry. Scholars have discussed Dionysus' relationship to the "cult of the souls" and his ability to preside over communication between the living and the dead.
In Greek mythology, Dionysus is made out to be a son of Zeus and the mortal Semele. He is described as being womanly or "man-womanish". The retinue of Dionysus was called the thiasus and was comprised chiefly of maenads and satyrs.
Dionysus is a god of mystery religious rites. One of the most famous mystery religions was the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which Dionysus may have had a minor role. In the Thracian mysteries, he wears the bassaris or fox-skin, symbolizing new life. His own rites, the Dionysian Mysteries practiced by maenads and others, were the most secret of all.
Many scholars believe that Dionysus is a syncretism of a local Greek nature deity and a more powerful god from Thrace or Phrygia such as Sabazios or Zalmoxis.