Dionysus

Symbolism

The bull, serpent, tiger, ivy, and wine are characteristic of Dionysian iconography. Dionysus is also strongly associated with satyrs, centaurs, and sileni. He is often shown riding a leopard, wearing a leopard skin, or in a chariot drawn by panthers, and may also be recognized by the thyrsus he carries. Besides the grapevine and its wild barren alter-ego, the toxic ivy plant, both sacred to him, the fig was also his symbol. The pinecone that tipped his thyrsus linked him to Cybele. The Dionysia and Lenaia festivals in Athens were dedicated to Dionysus. On numerous vases (referred to as Lenaia vases), the god is shown participating in the ritual sacrifice as a masked and clothed pillar (sometimes a pole, or tree is used), while his worshipers eat bread and drink wine. Initiates worshipped him in the Dionysian Mysteries, which were comparable to and linked with the Orphic Mysteries, and may have influenced Gnosticism. Orpheus was said to have invented the Mysteries of Dionysus.

Bull, serpent and phallus

Dionysus was a god of resurrection and he was strongly linked to the bull. In a cult hymn from Olympia, at a festival for Hera, Dionysus is invited to come as a bull; "with bull-foot raging". Walter Burkert relates, "Quite frequently [Dionysus] is portrayed with bull horns, and in Kyzikos he has a tauromorphic image", and refers also to an archaic myth in which Dionysus is slaughtered as a bull calf and impiously eaten by the Titans. In the Classical period of Greece, the bull and other animals identified with deities were separated from them as their agalma, a kind of heraldic show-piece that concretely signified their numinous presence.

The snake and phallus were both symbols of Dionysus in ancient Greece, a symbolism that continued in Roman culture with Bacchus. He typically wears a panther or leopard skin and carries a Thyrsus – a long stick or wand topped with a pine cone. His iconography sometimes include maenads, who wear wreaths of ivy and serpents around their hair or neck.

In the Orphic tradition of ancient Greece, he was referred to as Dionysus Zagreus, served as its patron god connected to death and immortality, and symbolized the one who guides reincarnation.

Dionysus is born from the thigh of Zeus. Hera reaches out to snatch the child as other gods pay witness to the scene including Aphrodite and Eros (upper left), Pan (upper center), Apollo (upper right), Artemis (not shown), the three Nysiad nymphs (lower left), Hermes (lower right) and Silenus (not shown).

Dionysus is depicted as an infant crowned with a wreath of ivy emerging from the thigh of Zeus. He stretches his arms to either ward off or embrace the goddess Hera. Zeus reclines on a hill, decked with a wreath of laurel and bearing a royal sceptre. The god Apollo stands behind him, the shepherd Pan above, and Hermes below. The divine herald stands ready to deliver the infant to the care of Silenus and the Nysiad nymphs. The grasping Hera wears a stephane crown and bracelets and bears a striped royal sceptre with a lotus-shaped head.

Zeus seated on a rock births the god Dionysos from his thigh. Hermes stands beside him holding his father's royal sceptre in one hand and his own herald's wand in the other. He wears a petasos (traveller's cap), chlamys cloak and winged boots.

Dionysus stands on the lap of Zeus after being birthed from his father's thigh. Zeus is seated on a stool with a deer-skin drape and holds a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff)--the usual attribute of his son. The infant holds a wine cup (krater) in one hand and a vine in the other. Aphrodite stands to the left with two blooming flowers. On the right Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth, raises her hand as midwife of the birth.

Side A: The god Dionysus is attended by a flute-playing Satyr and tambourine-beating Maenad. The bearded god is crowned with a wreath of ivy and holds a drinking cup (krater) in one hand and a staff of fruiting ivy in the other. The Satyr is seatd on a rock and plays a double-flute. The Maenad wears a wreath of serpents and beats a tympanum drum.

Dionysus and a Maenad ride in a wagon drawn by Silenus. The god wears a headband bound with ivy and holds a thyrsus (pine-cone tipped staff) and a plate of fruit. The Maenad, perched on the side of the wagon, plays a set of double pipes. A bird, perhaps a dove, sits on her lap. Silenus is depicted as a comical, old man with an upturned nose and bestial ears, covered in a coat of fluffy, white fur. He wears a headband, deer- or leopard-skin cloak and a pair of shoes. The spirit Hybris (Hubris or Violence) flies above them in the guise of a Maenad bearing a thyrsus staff. The god's wagon is decorated with cross-hatch patterns, hung with a pair of wreaths, and cushioned.

Dionysus reaches to place eggs (or fruit) in a basket balanced on the head of a comic actor playing Silenus. The god of wine wears a draped robe, beaded shoes and a headband bound with ivy. The actor has a large nose, wide eyes, broad mouth, white hair and a pointed beard, and is clothed in a full body-suit with a pot belly and dangling phallus.

The god Dionysus rides sidesaddle on the back of a panther. He wears a robe and headband and holds a wreath of ivy and a tragedy-mask on a stick. Old Silenus dances behind him beating a tympanum (a type of drum or tambourine) and carrying a second tragedy-mask. A flute-playing Maenad and a Satyriscus (boy Satyr) lead the procession.

Detail of Hebe, Dionysus, Leto, Chariclo, Hestia, Demeter, Iris and Peleus from a painting depicting the procession of gods attending the wedding of Peleus and Thetis.

King Peleus stands before his palace welcoming a procession of gods to his wedding feast. He holds a drinking cup in one hand and raises the other in greeting. The divine herald Iris leads the procession holding a herald's wand in one hand and pointing to the gods behind her with the other. She is dressed in a thigh-length robe embroidered with a flower at the breast and a pair winged boots. Four senior matrons follow close behind--Hestia and Demeter, Leto and Chariclo (wife of Chiron, granddaughter of Leto)--with Dionysus and Hebe. These six would preside over the wedding feast--Demeter and Hestia providing bread (as goddesses of grain and hearth), Leto and Chariclo meat (as mother and wife of the hunters Artemis and Chiron), and Dionysus and Hebe wine (as god of wine and divine cupbearer).

Tondo: Dionysus is crowned with a wreath of ivy and holds a fruiting grapevine in one hand and thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) in the other. He is accompanied by a Satyr playing a double-flute.

Dionysus is attended by a Satyriscus (child Satyr). The god is crowned with a wreath of ivy and holds a vine in one hand and a drinking cup in the other. The Satyriscus pours wine from an oinochoe jug. He has the ears and tail of an ass, and the beard and erect member of an adult. In later art and literature Dionysus' cupbearer is named Comus.

Dionysus embraces Ariadne in the company of Eros (Love). Dionysus wears a robe draped loosely across his shoulder and a flanged stephane crown decked with ribbons. He holds a tortoise-shell lyre in one hand and casts his head backwards in ecstasy. Ariadne is dressed in an elaborately embroidered gown, wears a stephane crown and earrings, and balances a tympanum (a type of drum or tambourine) on her hand hand. Eros flutters at their side tapping a drum.

Detail of Dionysus and Ariadne seated in a vineyard from a vase depicting the god and his retinue.

Dionysus drives a chariot drawn by three beasts--a panther, bull and griffin. The god is crowned with a wreath of ivy and holds a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) in one hand.

Dionysus battles the Gigante Eurytus. The god is crowned with a wreath of ivy leaves and carries a miniature panther on his arm. He spears the fallen giant in the side. The giant lies prone and is trapped in the coils of serpent--presumably summoned by the god. A second giant (not shown) thrusts his spear at Dionysus.

Hephaestus is led by Dionysus back to Olympus. The divine smith has a workman's cap and mallet. Dionysus holds a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) in one hand and a drinking cup in the other. They are accompanied by a dancing Maenad and a flute-playing Satyr cloaked in a panther skin.

Sides: Detail of Ariadne, Dionysus and Comus from a painting depicting the feast of the gods on Olympus. Dionysus, reclining on a couch, is crowned with a wreath of ivy and holds a cup in one hand and a thyrsos in the other. He is attended by his cup-bearer, the balding satyr-boy Comus (Festivity). Other figures in the scene (not shown) are Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Amphitrite, Ares and Aphrodite.

King Pentheus of Thebes is torn limb from limb by the crazed Maenads of the god Dionysus. The two central figures, draped in panther skins and holding the king's body, are the sisters Agave (mother of Pentheus) and Autonoe. A third Maenad holds the king's severed foot. One of Dionysus' Satyrs oversees the sparagmos (ritual dismemberment).

Dionysus reclines in a boat sprouting a fruiting grape vine. The vessel is surrounded by dolphins--the metamorphosed forms of the Tyrrhenian pirates who had tried to enslave him.

The Tyrrhenian pirates leap into the sea, transformed into dolphins by the god Dionysus. The men are depicted in mid-transformation with the combined parts of men and dolphins.

Hephaestus returns to Olympus riding a donkey and carrying hammer and tongs. He is led by Dionysus, who bears a thyrsos (pine-cone tipped staff) and drinking cup, and a Satyriscus (child Satyr) playing a flute. Hera sits trapped on a throne--a cursed gift from Hephaestus who wished to punish her for casting him from heaven at birth. She wears a crown and veil and is attended by a goddess, perhaps Hebe, holding a (peacock?) feather fan.

"Hephaistos refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysos - in him he reposed the fullest trust - and after making him drunk Dionysos brought him to heaven." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 1.20.3

Dionysus leads Hephaestus back to Olympus. The god is depicted with shrunken and deformed feet riding a donkey. Dionysus stands before him, cloaked in a panther-skin and holding a cup of wine. A dancing Maenad follows behind with a coiled serpent in her hands.

Hephaestus riding a donkey and holding tongs is led back to Olympus by Dionysos and his retinue of Satyrs.

 

The Orphic Hymn to Dionysos

The soundtrack of this video is "The Hymn to Bacchus" by Daemonia Nymphe.

This is based on the "Orphic Hymn to Dionysos" of the 2nd century C.E.

The lyrics are the words of the original Greek text with an English translation by Andonis Theodoros.

Hades' halls

You will find on the right in Hades' halls a spring, and by it stands a ghostly cypress-tree, where the dead souls descending wash away their lives. Do not even draw nigh this spring. Further on you will find chill water flowing from the pool of Memory: over this stand guardians. They will ask you with keen mind what is your quest in the gloom of deadly Hades. They will ask you for what reason you have come. Tell them the whole truth straight out. Say: 'I am the son of Earth and starry Heaven, but of Heaven is my birth: this you know yourselves. I am parched with thirst and perishing: give me quickly chill water flowing from the pool of Memory.' Assuredly the kings of the underworld take pity on you, and will themselves give you water from the spring divine; then you, when you have drunk, traverse the holy path which other initiates and bacchants tread in glory. After that you will rule amongst the other heroes.

 

Anatolia gods - proto Dionysos

Tarḫunz was the weather god and chief god of the Luwians, a people of Bronze Age and early Iron Age Anatolia. He is closely associated with the Hittite god Tarḫunna and the Hurrian god Teshub.

 
Tarḫunz

Teshub is depicted holding a triple thunderbolt and a weapon, usually an axe (often double-headed) or mace. The sacred bull common throughout Anatolia was his signature animal, represented by his horned crown or by his steeds Seri and Hurri, who drew his chariot or carried him on their backs.

 
Teshub

Tarḫunna was the Hittite weather god. He was also referred to as the "Weather god of Heaven" or the "Lord of the Land of Hatti".

 
Tarḫunna

 

Tamuz

 

Shivta

The Nabateans built a few other cities in the desert, one of which is the archaeological site of ‘Shivta’ built in the 1st century BC on the ‘Perfume Road’ between Petra to Gaza. Like Petra, Shivta too was abandoned by the 8th – 9th century CE, after the ascendancy of Islam. A few kilometers from Shivta is located the ancient, biblical city of ‘Tel Sheva’, an archaeological site in southern Israel, which derives its name from a nearby ‘well’ or ‘water source’. The phonetic and symbolic similarities between these cities and ‘Shiva’ are obvious. In fact, the cult of Shiva-Shakti was widespread across the entire Middle East and West Asia, and penetrated deep into the farthest corners of Europe in the centuries before Christ. The biblical kingdom of ‘Sheba’ (Hebrew: Sh’va) believed to be in present day Yemen, as well as the archaeological site of ‘Shibham’ (Sanskrit: Shivam) located in Yemen, hint at the fact that entire kingdoms and cities were named after this deity.


Petra


Shiva Linga


Göbekli Tepe


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