For thousands of years we’ve wondered what might have occurred during the rituals known as the Dionysian Mysteries. We assumed that information on these rites was intentionally obscured to limit access to outsiders. Little did we know that the adherents to Dionysus were just getting completely blasted.
I mean, who really has the time to write things down when it’s a 24/7 tribute to alcohol?
Dionysus, god of the vine, was, indeed, the source of a secretive cult in ancient Greece that featured sacred rites that we still don’t know much about to this day (especially compared to other aspects of Greek life and religion). Much like the goddess Demeter, Dionysus was considered by many ancient Greeks to be more closely associated with human life and more interested in the human condition than other more aloof or dispassionate divinities. The reasons for this are pretty plain to see when the myths are examined. Both of these gods were very much connected to the land and thus their influence was more closely felt by a culture that relied on that land for sustenance and the continuation of their civilization. While some of the personalities of Olympus (Zeus, for example) were a major part of Greek life and religion, they were also seen as somewhat removed. Conversely, Dionysus and Demeter, were far more human in their presentation. Both had known true loss and suffering, both wandered the earth for significant periods of time, and both were responsible for that most crucial facet of human life: farming.
Unsurprisingly, the cults that grew up around them shared some similarities. Both celebrated the cycle of the seasons, both were connected to life, death, and rebirth, and both seem to have constructed a set of sacred rites over a long period of time that, for whatever reason, were to be kept secret, though we certainly know more about the Eleusianian Mysteries (as the rites of Demeter came to be known). The Dionysian and the Eleusinian Mysteries were connected to each gods’ mythological history and focused very heavily on the themes listed above. While each had a secretive and likely elaborate set of rites conducted by initiated members of the cult, they both also had a more simplified version conducted for the public.
Though the Dionysian cult and its rites were somewhat secretive, we do still know a bit about them. We know that the ecstatic nature of drinking wine was celebrated heavily and that trance states, induced by said drink as well as rhythmic drumming, were associated with the divinity of the god. We know that there were initiation rites for both males and females and that there were some differences between them. We also know that some Greek rulers saw the existence of the Dionysian cult as a threat to civilization. This is not terribly surprising given the nature of wine and its effects, though it seems some of those in power wished to outlaw the cult entirely.
There are some accounts from classical quotes that give us additional details about these gods’ adherents and rituals, though it’s a bit much to get into for this blog post. Suffice to say, these gods were very important to many Greek individuals’ lives and their cults were steeped in layers of metaphor, meaning, and mystery.
Of course, one has to wonder how many ancient Greeks were just there to get obliterated on wine and dance their asses off…
If I had to guess I’d say it was more than a few.
POSTBLOG: Thanks to all of you for the wonderful thoughts and comments you’ve left me. I’ve gone through them all and I can’t tell you how much they mean to me. I’ve been feeling a lot better physically and the mental blocks that have been plaguing me as a result of the physical stuff are slowly untangling as well. I have not given up on Happle Tea at all and I just want you to know that! Thanks everybody! <3