Dionysus or Bacchus
Dionysus (Greek) or Bacchus (Roman) is the god of the grape harvest,
winemaking and wine, of ritual madness, the disenfranchised, the unexpected and
ecstasy in Greek and Roman mythology.
He was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks: other traces of
Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan Crete.
He is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religion, and is included
in some lists of the twelve Olympians. His festivals were the driving force
behind the development of Greek theatre.
The earliest cult images of Dionysus show a mature male, bearded and robed. He
holds a fennel staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus. Later
images show him as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half-naked androgynous youth:
the literature describes him as womanly or "man-womanish."
His procession (thiasus) is made up of wild female followers (maenads) and
ithyphallic, bearded satyrs. Some are armed with the thyrsus, some dance or play
music. The god himself is drawn in a chariot, usually by exotic beasts such as
lions or tigers, and is sometimes attended by a bearded, drunken Silenus.
Dionysus is represented by city religions as the protector of those who do not
belong to conventional society and thus symbolizes everything which is chaotic,
dangerous and unexpected, everything which escapes human reason and which can
only be attributed to the unforeseeable action of the gods.
His thyrsus is sometimes wound with ivy and dripping with honey. It is a
beneficent wand but also a weapon, and can be used to destroy those who oppose
his cult and the freedoms he represents. He is also the Liberator (Eleutherios),
whose wine, music and ecstatic dance frees his followers from self-conscious
fear and care, and subverts the oppressive restraints of the powerful. Those who
partake of his mysteries are possessed and empowered by the god himself. His
cult is also a "cult of the souls"; his maenads feed the dead through
blood-offerings, and he acts as a divine communicant between the living and the
In Greek mythology, he is presented as a son of Zeus and the mortal Semele, thus
semi-divine or heroic: and as son of Zeus and Persephone or Demeter, thus both
fully divine, part-chthonic and possibly identical with Iacchus of the
*from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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