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Dionysus:God of Wine and Revelries

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places.

dionysusgod-of-wine-and-revelries

Introduction

Recently my friend from the Royal Air Force invited me for a glass of wine at the Singapore club. This is an exclusive place and has hundreds of varieties of wines, whiskey, and champagne available. As I sipped my wine, the first thought that occurred to me was about the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam attributed to Onar Khayyam (1048–1131), dubbed "the Astronomer-Poet of Persia". This book extolls the virtues of wine and women, both together. I mentioned this to my friend and he informed me that mention of wine was much earlier in the western world. He mentioned Greek mythology and the god of wine, Dionysus. He gave me a lot of interesting information about Dionysus and now I know that he was worshiped in ancient Greece sometime between the. 1100 to 1500 BC.

A bit of research tells me that the Hindu God Kaal Bhairov, a manifestation of the Supreme God Shiva pre-dates Dionysus. He can be considered the Hindu god of wine. At temples dedicated to Kaal Bhairov, wine is offered as an offering to the deity. In the temple at Ujjain, I have witnessed the diety drinking from a cup of the choicest wine and whisky and draining the cup held to the lips of the deity. There is no explanation for it. How does the wine disappear from the plate? There is no answer.

Dionysus and his origin are shrouded in mystery. One aspect of his life does stand out. His name is associated with happiness and revelry. One cannot say why but throughout the age of man, wine and its derivatives have been associated with the celebration of some event. When man discovered that grapes could be fermented to produce wine, obviously this event had to be celebrated and probably that is the time that the God Dionysus appeared. He is a creature of mythology.

During ancient times, important and propitious events were celebrated and wine was an important part of the celebrations. Propitious events like harvesting and birth of children as well as union between a man and woman were celebrated and a god was made the patron deity.

Wine was an important ingredient of all celebrations and it was but natural that there should be a god associated with this elixir. This led to the origin of the god of wine Dionysus.

The myth of the god metamorphosed and the god was worshiped. An entire set of rituals came into existence, a few of which survive to this day.

dionysusgod-of-wine-and-revelries
dionysusgod-of-wine-and-revelries

Dionysus

Records of Dionysus and associated rituals are available from 1500 BC. This was the age of classical Greek civilization. Dionysus as the god of wine became associated with human relationships and revelry.

The birth of the god of wine is a mystical event that arouses great interest. He was the son of Zeus, the king of gods, and a mortal woman named Semele. She was the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia. Semele was very lovely and Zeus fell in love with this lovely woman. As she was a mortal a relationship with a God was outside the realm of possibility. Even if there was a relationship, a mortal could not look at a god. That was the reason Zeus met Semele in secret and made love to her without she ever having seen him. One day she confessed to Zeus her desire to see him as he looked. Zeus told her it would be dangerous for her but she insisted and as he loved her very much he promised to show himself to her.

One night Zeus came in his chariot and entered the chamber of Semele. He made ferocious love to her. After the love bout, Zeus acceded to her request to show himself. He got up from the bed and soon there was light all around. He showed himself completely nude in his true form to Semele. The naked Zeus was brilliant and glowing and his phallus mesmerized her. As it had been decreed that no mortal could see any immortal, the sight of Zeus naked in all his glory had an effect and Semele died. Zeus was heartbroken but he was happy that she was pregnant. He took her fetus and nurtured it till a boy was born. This was the God Dionysus and he came into earth as a son of Zeus.


dionysusgod-of-wine-and-revelries

Loves of Dionysus

The god of wine is credited with innumerable love affairs. He had love affairs with goddesses, semi- goddesses, mortals, and men.

Immortals. Dionysus loved two immortals namely Aphrodite and Aura. Aphrodite is the goddess of love and she loved Dionysos briefly. She was punished for it and Hera cursed her with an ugly child, Priapos. The second immortal was Aura. As per legend, she was made drunk and repeatedly raped by Dionysos. She bore him twin sons, the first she devoured in anger but the second, named Iakkhos, was saved by the gods.

Nymphs. These are known as semi-mortals. Dionysus loved 4 of them. The first was Beroe who married her uncle, the second Kronois(perhaps Hera) who gave him a son Kharites. The third was Nikaia from who he had a daughter Telete, and the last an unnamed nymph who was the mother of his son Priapos.

Dionysus also loved 6 mortal princesses and 2 men. Obviously during the classical age of Greece same-sex relationship was perhaps in vogue.

dionysusgod-of-wine-and-revelries

Revelry

Wine and its derivatives have a peculiar effect in that they do away with inhibitions. This property of wine was used to further help celebrate the various festivals. The orgy originated during this period. The festival normally began with wine being freely served to the men and women who would then sing and dance. As the night wore on, wine would make the men and women lose their inhibitions. it was not uncommon for men and women to pair together and move into the woods. These celebrations were greatly awaited as they were a source of great entertainment and pleasure.All this was cloaked under the patronage of the god Dionysus.

After the demise of the Greek civilization, the Romans did not lag behind and had their own god of wine named Bacchus. Their festivals were similar, but more often than not they degenerated into mass orgies.


Epilogue

The 21st century is supposed to be the century of enlightenment. How many nations in this world still practice obscurantism and there doesn't seem to be any end to it. Wine and its direct derivatives like whiskey and champagne are drunk all over the world including the Muslim nations and I have found wonderful bars in Turkey, the UAE, Egypt, and Albania.

There needs to be a lot of clarity on this thought and this great heritage we have inherited from the God of wine. We can accept it as a human failing and at the same time educate the people about moderation. It will go a long way in taking the taboo out of drinking wine and whiskey. Come to think that even in the armed forces on a ceremonial occasion like the 'Dining- in- night' ends with a toast of wine either to the king or the president. As a member of the officer of the corps of the Air Force, I have had the privilege of attending many dining- in- nights.

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 28, 2021:

Bill, I m so glad, you gave your valuable comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 28, 2021:

No matter what you write about, it is always an interesting read. Thank you for the information. I have studied a bit of this, and your details added to my knowledge.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 28, 2021:

Thank you Pamela, so nice that you commented

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 28, 2021:

This is very informative and excellent article about the God of wine. I didn't know that aspect of history, and it is fascinating. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article, MG.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 28, 2021:

Jennifer, such a pleasure to read your comment. Yes, I also love red wine and champagne.

Jennifer on June 28, 2021:

What a wonderful article. I love champagne and red wine. I guess I must thank Dionysus for it. Oh god, what if he was not there.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 28, 2021:

Ishika Mehere, Thank you for your comment

ISHIKA MEHERE from NAGPUR on June 27, 2021:

It was really interesting to know more about Dionysus, always heard about him but never really got to know much. Thank you for this article.

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