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Creation Story
Apollo v Dionysos

"It is a desirable thing to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors."

Otto's Dionysus ISBN:0882142143

"Wine, has in it something of the spirit of infinity which brings the primeval world to life again.
Walter F. Otto

"Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation.
Joseph Campbell

"Bacchus"  is probably from "bucca" = "he-goat," for the mythical goat pan


"There are two stories ever written: A stranger comes to town, and someone goes on a journey"

-Leo Tolstoy

Ecstasy: Understanding the Psychology of Joy


The Bacchae and Other Plays
At the end of a successful ritual participants and particularly the initiates who share a feeling of oneness with nature, experiencing it fully in all its intensity, both light and dark, along with a total egoless union with the other initiates present, all within a collective entity identified as Dionysos, along with a parallel feeling of total liberation, the removal of all ‘masks’, and the realization of one’s own inner divinity, also identified as Dionysos.
"Melampos [a mythical seer] was the one who taught the Greeks the name of Dionysos and the way of sacrificing to him and the phallic procession; he did not exactly unveil the subject taking all its details into consideration, for the teachers who came after him made a fuller revelation; but it was from him that the Greeks learned to bear the phallus along in honor of Dionysos, and they got their present practice from his teaching
Herodotus 2.49

An Invocation of Dionysos, from the Orphic Hymns

"I call upon loud-roaring and revelling Dionysos, primeval, double-natured, thrice-born, Bacchic lord, wild, ineffable, secretive, two-horned and two-shaped. Ivy-covered, bull-faced, warlike, howling, pure, You take raw flesh, you have feasts, wrapt in foliage, decked with grape clusters. Resourceful Eubouleus, immortal god sired by Zeus When he mated with Persephone in unspeakable union. Hearken to my voice, O blessed one, and with your fair-girdled nymphs breathe on me in a spirit of perfect agape."

The Roman Carnaval god Bacchus, represents the unrestrained life force, the most loved aspect of Dionysus [dy-uh-ny'-suhs ]the god of mystery and wine. Dionysus is our God of carnivals and masquerades, the liberator of souls and patron saint of those who know the masks they wear. Dionysus brings souls coming together, within the midst of ambiguity, to revel in life and feel the ecstasy of divine love. Dionysos is the heartbeat of life, for without this drumbeat, the soul withers and dies.
Bacchus by Michelangelo

Bacchus by Michelangelo (b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma) was one of his first commissions after moving to Rome at the age of 21. Bacchus or Dionysus is shown vulnerably staggering with the androgynous beauty of youth. A faun or young satyr plunders the grapes while Bacchus toast the moment holding the skin of a tiger in his left hand


Today Dionysus is most often explained as the dynamic opposite to Apollonian reason.  Our continued development as a civilization is still best understood as the tension between Apollo the sun-god, who represents light, clarity, and form in opposition to forms of the earthy deity Dionysus, whose enthusiasm and ecstasy break down the individual and connect them to a collective power. The festival arts of Carnaval and indeed most music and dance are the most Dionysian of the arts. Their appeal is not made to the reasoning mind but rather directly to humanity's instinctive, chaotic emotions. 

While the Saturnalia, (the winter solistice celebration) is best known and as the forerunner to Christmas and New Year's, is the most widely adopted Roman holiday. Our search for the roots of Carnaval points equally to two other Roman festivals which Bacchus was as likely to preside over as the Saturnalia. The  Floralia, a spring festival around May day as well as the much modified Roman version of the Dionysian rites from Greece known by the name Liberalia (and  Bacchanalia) a public version what had begun as the mystery cult of Dionysus.

In 186 BC the cult of Dionysus known under the name of Bacchus was addressed by the earliest surviving decree from the Roman senate. The republican senate felt compelled to take measures to suppress the gatherings because of their deterioration into unrestrained victimization of innocent young participants by brutish regulars. This was not a ban on the worship of Bacchus and the need for an initiation for youth into adulthood would give impetus to the Liberia. 

Still Rome's tolerance towards religious matters and infatuation with the Greek pantheon of deities would aid the spread in popularity of Bacchus who eventually become a significant religious institution. In Imperial Rome it consisted both of a serious religion and a conglomerate of supporters' clubs, a variety of eating and drinking societies held under the auspices of the god. In the south of Italy, for a very long time Liberalia | this festival was a celebration for the Roman god Liber (who, appears similar to  the Greek god Dionysos and his Roman counterpart, Bacchus. In Rome, the Liberalia was an important holiday on Mar

Dionysus seems to mean Son of God from Dio—god, and Nyos—son or child. Dionysus was a god of the lower regions including the earth and the regions below. Thus he was in charge of the fate of men and of their souls and was considered an important god to stay on good terms with.

The Mysteries of Dionysus rivaled those of Demeter at Eleusis but were more active.

Creation Story:
The most powerful stories are a culture's creation story or a
 legend or belief that answers questions about the universe, such as the origin of the world, mankind and nature, man's place in the world, animals, life and death. The story of Dionysus, representing rebirth in the cycle of life, death and rebirth is also a creation story.

"After dismembering him, the Titans first boiled the pieces in water and afterwards roasted them. Pallas [Athena] rescued the heart of the murdered god, and by this precaution Bacchus (Dionysos) was enabled to spring forth again in all his former glory. Jupiter, the Demiurgus, beholding the crime of the Titans, hurled his thunderbolts and slew them, burning their bodies to ashes with heavenly fire. Out of the ashes of the Titans - which also contained a portion of the flesh of Bacchus, whose body they had partly devoured - the human race was created. Thus the mundane life of every man was said to contain a portion of the Bacchic life."
     - Manly P. Hall(wiki) , Masonic, Hermetic, Quabbalistic & Rosicrucian Symbolical Philosophy

A mortal woman, Semele, took a love potion made from the heart and mated with Zeus. But she forced Zeus to reveal himself and shriveled up, as mortals who see the face of a god do. Her baby however was saved and, sewn into Zeus's thigh, was protected until he was reborn—another interpretation of the name Dionysus is "twice born". The god Dionysus then saved his mother from Hades and elevated her to Olympus.

After he had arisen he said to mankind:

It is I who guide you. It is I who protect you, and who save you. I am Alpha and Omega.

The earliest known depiction of Dionysos in Attic vase painting is on a black-figure dinos painted by Sophilos, around 580 BCE, in a depiction of the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.  

Bacchus on the Boat by Bullfinch
Now the attendants returned whom he had dispatched to seize Bacchus. They had been driven away by the Bacchanals, but had succeeded in taking one of them prisoner, whom, with his hands tied behind him, they brought before the king.
 Pentheus, beholding him with wrathful countenance, said "Fellow! you shall speedily be put to death, that your fate may be a warning to others; but though I grudge the delay of your punishment, speak, tell us who you are, and what are these new rites you presume to celebrate."

TThe prisoner, unterrified, responded, "My name is Acetes; my country is Maeonia; my parents were poor people, who had no fields or flocks to leave me, but they left me their fishing rods and nets and their fisherman's trade. This I followed for some time, till growing weary of remaining in one place, I learned the pilot's art and how to guide my course by the stars. It happened as I was sailing for Delos we touched at the island of Dia and went ashore. Next morning I sent the men for fresh water, and myself mounted the hill to observe the wind; when my men returned bringing with them a prize, as they thought, a boy of delicate appearance, whom they had found asleep. They judged he was a noble youth, perhaps a king's son, and they might get a liberal ransom for him. I observed his dress, his walk, his face, There was something in them which I felt sure was more than mortal. I said to my men, 'What god there is concealed in that form I know not, but some one there certainly is. Pardon us, gentle deity, for the violence we have done you, and give success to our undertakings.' Dictys, one of my best hands for climbing the mast and coming down by the ropes, and Melanthus, my steersman, and Epopeus, the leader of the sailor's cry, one and all exclaimed, 'Spare your prayers for us.' So blind is the lust of gain! When they proceeded to put him on board I resisted them. 'This ship shall not be profaned by such impiety,' said I. 'I have a greater share in her than any of you.' But Lycabas, a turbulent fellow, seized me by the throat and attempted to throw my overboard, and I scarcely saved myself by clinging to the ropes. The rest approved the deed.

"Then Bacchus (for it was indeed he), as if shaking off his drowsiness, exclaimed, 'What are you doing with me? What is this fighting about? Who brought me here? Where are you going to carry me?' One of them replied, 'Fear nothing; tell us where you wish to go and we will take you there.' 'Naxos is my home,' said Bacchus; 'take me there and you shall be well rewarded.' They promised so to do, and told me to pilot the ship to Naxos. Naxos lay to the right, and I was trimming the sails to carry us there, when some by signs and others by whispers signified to me their will that I should sail in the opposite direction, and take the boy to Egypt to sell him for a slave, I was confounded and said, 'Let some one else pilot the ship;' withdrawing myself from any further agency in their wickedness. They cursed me, and one of them, exclaiming, 'Don't flatter yourself that we depend on you for our safety,' took my place as pilot, and bore away from Naxos.

"Then the god, pretending that he had just become aware of their treachery, looked out over the sea and said in a voice of weeping, 'Sailors, these are not the shores you promised to take me to; yonder island is not my home. What have I done that you should treat me so? It is small glory you will gain by cheating a poor boy.' I wept to hear him, but the crew laughed at both of us, and sped the vessel fast over the sea. All at once- strange as it may seem, it is true,- the vessel stopped, in the mid sea, as fast as if it was fixed on the ground. The men, astonished, pulled at their oars, and spread more sail, trying to make progress by the aid of both, but all in vain. Ivy twined round the oars and hindered their motion, and clung to the sails, with heavy clusters of berries. A vine, laden with grapes, ran up the mast, and along the sides of the vessel. The sound of flutes was heard and the odour of fragrant wine spread all around. The god himself had a chaplet of vine leaves, and bore in his hand a spear wreathed with ivy. Tigers crouched at his feet, and forms of lynxes and spotted panthers played around him. The men were seized with terror or madness; some leaped overboard; others preparing to do the same beheld their companions in the water undergoing a change, their bodies becoming flattened and ending in a crooked tail. One exclaimed, 'What miracle is this!' and as he spoke his mouth widened, his nostrils expanded, and scales covered all his body. Another, endeavouring to pull the oar, felt his hands shrink up and presently to be no longer hands but fins; another, trying to raise his arms to a rope, found he had no arms, and curving his mutilated body jumped into the sea. What had been his legs became the two ends of a crescent-shaped tail. The whole crew became dolphins and swam about the ship, now upon the surface, now under it, scattering the spray, and spouting the water from their broad nostrils. Of twenty men I alone was left. Trembling with fear, the god cheered me. 'Fear not,' said he; 'steer towards Naxos.' I obeyed, and when we arrived there, I kindled the altars and celebrated the sacred rites of Bacchus."

Cured of Madness
roams the world
seeking followers

Bacchus is a  god of ritual dance and sacred mysticism, of death and new life. The wet and wild,  this Dionysus is bestial, sexual and ecstatic as he demolishes old forms and brings forth the new destroying the boundaries between the magical and real.


In 79 C.E. the Roman city of Pompeii, on the coast of southern Italy, was engulfed by the catastrophic eruption of the nearby volcano, Vesuvius. The inhabitants fled or died, but the city itself was encased in rock. It was only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that parts of the city itself, and surrounding buildings and settlements, including Herculeneum, were rediscovered. The astonishingly good preservation of the streets buildings of Pompeii have caught the popular imagination ever since

wall painting from the VIlla of the Mysteries, Pompeii






Wall painting from the Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii, showing initiation into a mystery religion, Mid-1st cent, BCE. Pompeii was a prosperous port famous for its wine grown both locally and imported (export too) from Greece. Dionysus/Bacchus together with Apollo were the spiritual forces their society was organized around. 

Christianity through the power granted by the Roman Emperor Constantine would reshape the shared Roman holidays of the empire. Soon there would be little room for the views like Porphyry (below) and the three most popular seasonal celebrations would become reformulated as Christmas (Saturnalia), Easter ( Floralia) and Carnaval (Liberalia) with dancing, masks and wild abandonment only condoned for Carnaval.

 The extent of the Roman Empire in 133 BC, in 44 BC, in AD 14, and in AD 117.

The extent of the Roman Empire in 133 BC, in 44 BC, in AD 14, and in AD 117.
The 1986 BC controvery:
Bacchanalia the voices of those who had been fraudulently drawn into these orgies, and would cry out against the shameless practices, were drowned by the shouts of the Bacchantes, and the deafening sounds of drums and cymbals..... 
Julius Caesar around 50 BC, repealed the ban on the Bacchanalia for groups greater than 13.  Bachic rites remained in existence, along with the Bacchanalian street procession, at least until the time of Augustine (A.D. 354-430)) Those Bacchic cults that survived into late Roman times are often considered degenerate forms, tending to be either rites of empty public theatre, or private excuses for orgies and drunkenness, but the cult and beliefs remained strong  in Southern Italy.
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by the Roman emperor Constantine
Apollo vs. Dionysus--Tension Between the Opposites:
Bacchus today is primarily known as the god of wine but during the rise of Western Civilization he represented a whole notion of civilization and the importance creating vitality in the present to accomplish salvation from complacency. Apollo's art exalts prior accomplishment be it sculpture, architecture, painting or epic poetry while Dionysus stands for dancing, singing, music and drama. Venetian Carnevale, resurrecting the masks and costumes of the past in an epic setting is our most Apollonian, while the new world Carnivals of Brazil and the Caribbean worship Dionysus
Dionysus, the god of wine, ecstasy and instinct, is about proximity, contact and intimacy. He is the free and dark opposite of Apollo, who personifies control and light. Dionysus shows himself negatively in addiction and alcoholism. Drugs and addictions are not the essence of Dionysus; rather, they are failed attempts at ecstasy and letting go.
One honors Dionysus by letting go like you do at a Carnaval celebration remembering an unlived life is not worth examining.

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