Olympos: Dionysus, the God of Transgression

304px-Dionysos_Louvre_Ma87_n2Studio Tablinum: writing about the God Dionysus is like going into a world of transgression and mystical delirium. A god who looks more like a young girl, with his curvy body and his curled and perfumed hair. Son of Zeus and the princess of Thebes Semele. His birth is even more unusual than the birth of the Goddess Athena, born from the head of his father Zeus: Dionysus indeed was born from his father’s thigh.

When Hera discovered her husband’s affair with a mortal woman, Semele, furious for the new husband’s adultery, she thought about how to eliminate his lover. Let us say that does not predicted anything good for Semele and her child.

Hera took on the appearance of the old nurse Beroe, and beginning to creep into the mind of the princes bad thoughts about Zeus. She began to suggest that Zeus did not love her honestly: he had never shown himself to his mistress, but ony embraced her before vanishing, into the darkness of the lamps. He began to suggest that Zeus did not love her honestly: he had never shown himself to his mistress, but he embraced her into the darkness of the lamps and before vanishing. Semele decided that would never be granted to the Father of the Gods if he did not appear in his true nature.

jupiter-semele-della-vecchiaZeus tried to explain to his young lover that this was not possible, for his safety, but the young woman would not listen to reason and, struck by the true aspect of Zeus, the young woman dies electrocuted.

Zeus was just in time to snatch the little Dyonisus from the body incinerated of Semele and he decided to carry the pregnancy to term alone. So he putted the little Dionysus in his thigh and then he sewed the wound. After ninth month Zeus took the infant Dionysus from his thigh, and introduced him to the world as his son. In fact the name Dionysus means “twice-born”.

dioniso e silenoBut the little Dionysus was not still there safely by Hera and then was hidden by his father Zeus in a country called Nisa, a country without a precise location, some are in Asia, others in Africa. Hera unleashed on his trail the relentless Titans who found him intent on playing near a source.

The Titans are trying to attack Dionysus but although very young Dionysus defended himself using his main talent: the metamorphosis.

First, he turned himself into a lion and after in a bull and got the better of the attackers.

Hera, furious with his emissaries that they could not kill the little Dionysus, slammed the doors of Olympus so vigorously that the noise spread throughout the universe and also spreading on the ground stunned Dionysus, then the Titans ripped him in and he cooked the pieces in a cauldron.

When the father Zeus learns of this cruel wickedness flashed instantly the Titans and recomposing the body of his son gave back life.

dioniso e chironeAccording to the story the Centaur Chiron was his first mentor of Dyonisus and he taught to his pupil the arts of dance, song and the rules of future initiatory rites of Bacchus. After the time spent with Chiron, Dionysus, decided to undertake several expeditions around the world and his presence did not pass unnoticed. Unlike the God Hermes, like him a God wanderer, usually move with fleetingness, unnoticed and plush just like you would expect from the God of Thieves, it was impossible not to notice its passage.

The epiphany of Dionysus is always a shocking event and the people who come into direct contact with him will never be the same.

piratiAs happens to a pirate crew that sail the Aegean Sea looking for prey. Suddenly a sailor saw the figure of a beautiful young man who was standing on a promontory of the island, this young man was Dionysus. Landed on the island the pirates decided to capture the young man and to request a sumptuous ransom to the family; so the pirates dragged him on board and tried to chain him to the mast of the ship, but they were unable to take him prisoner: but, somehow, the nodes and chains were loosed and the young man freed himself and smiled at his tormentors in a mysterious way.

At that point the helmsman of the ship, seeing the scene, shuddered and began to scream to his fellow leave free the young because he recognized him as a god and exhorted his comrades to not hurt him.

But his companions began taunting the helmsman, but suddenly happened the first miracle. The sailors heard a fascinating scent given off from the deck of the ship, and they realized that he was spouting a source of pure wine. Then the wonder and terror seized the crew, but it was too late: an ivy growing up and clung to the mast, and the oarlocks.

Dionysus, amused by what was he doing, decided to become a lion and pushed the crew, except the helmsman towards the stern of the ship, forcing the pirates overboard. But here is the second miracle, one by one were transformed into dolphins. The only survivor was the steersman who was awarded by the God of Transgression as a reward for being the only one to understand its true nature.

prosimno e dionisoWell known was his journey to Hades to try to bring back to life his mother Semele; was at that moment that he knew Prosymnus who suggested to the god as a guide in the world of the dead, took Dionysus, to his mother near Lerna.

It was then that the guide asked his reward and it was really strange: Dionysus would have to give herself to Prosymnus, as a woman: Dionysus accept it, but asked him to return to the world of the living to get out of that place of death the mother Semele Prosymnus consent and telling him that he would wait for his return.

Occurred, however, that the pastor Prosymnus died before the return of Dionysus. However Dionysus, back near Lerna in order to fulfill the promise, he decided to “satisfy” at least the shadow of the shepherd.

When he arrived in front to the tomb of Prosymnus created with an olive wood a kind of foul and sat on it, and just like a woman enjoyed this practice. Finally eternally grateful to the pastor, he placed among the stars of the sky the figure of his guide.

trionfo di dionisoWhen Dionysus became adult received by Hera an unpleasant gift: he became crazy and began to wander in different parts of Greece and Asia followed by his tutor Silenus, and a group of satyrs and maenads.

The God of Transgression, head of this unique expeditions, fought against the Titans, in Egypt, returning his scepter to the God Amun. Later he went to Syria where he defeated and deposed the king of Damascus, flaying him as punishment for trying to resist him, a God. They say that Dionysus with its procession came to India and along the way he introduced the cult and founded the city.

After the last venture, when he defeated the Kings Indian Deriade, he decided to return to Greece. But on his return opposed him the proud people of the Amazon, daughter of Ares. In this last battle Dionysus did not participate actively but he was a spectator of the fight between the Amazons and maenads devoted to him. Finally, the Maenads won the fierce rivals and the procession could start over again for Greece.

PenteoThe revenge against the King of Thebes, Pentheus and women of the city who did not believe the claims of their princess Semele who claimed to have slept with Zeus was dreadful.
Then Dionysus punished with madness the women of Thebes and pushed to keep the orgiastic rites in his favor in the woods surrounding the city, and infused into the mind of the King Pentheus the “enthousiasmos” *. It was so that women become maenads, worshipers of Dionysus. When they discovered on top of a tree the curious King Pentheus who, driven by Dionysus, tried to to spy the women, they captured the poor Pentheus and devoured alive; Among the cannibals was also present Agave, the mother of the King, who recognized her son just too late. Back in themselves sank into eternal desolation.
As a result of their deeds were banished from Thebes, and only then Dionysus was satisfied with their revenge.

dioniso e ariannaWhile the vicissitudes that saw the God reaching Nasso is much more benign.
The God found poor Arianna on the beach wandering disconsolately, after being seduced and abandoned by the hero Theseus.
Dionysus moved by love for a girl decided to take away from that island poor Arianna and later decided to marry her.

The bride Ariadne, took certanly part in the famous triumph of Dionysus, she was in a chariot pulled by goats, while Dionysus was on chariot drawn by panthers, in a jubilation of happiness and shouting, dancing between satyrs and Sileni. The maenads accompanied the wedding procession with the music of tambourines and syringes, while Silenus, the old guardian of Dionysus, with difficulty was riding his donkey.

As you understand Dionysus was worshiped everywhere is unlike the other gods could bring that sentiment that not all the Olympians were able to offer: the ekstasis *.

But woe to abuse, Dionysus demanded special rituals and much devotion, otherwise the abyss of madness was always open for the transgressors. We can say that the power of the God of Transgression knew no bounds.

Next month we will treat the events of the Goddess of Nature, Demeter.

Alessandro Cerioli

 

* Enthousiasmos literally means “to have a God within themselves,” us today we obtained just a positive condition: enthusiasm.

** Ekstasis literally mean “get out of themselves”, today we speak of ecstasy when something interferes with the human soul.

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