Thoughts on being a Dionysian
“I think about Dionysos and whether all who love him are bound in some way, needing to be free. Or sharing some other commonality of person or pattern that fits to His own. I mean, everyone needs freedom from something, but for us… is it the willingness to forsake boundaries, the realization that such chains are there, an abnormal awakeness, a divine contract?” (Ariadne in Exile)
These words echo my own thoughts lately quite a bit. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a Dionysian (and, I’ll admit, sometimes cursing it too) – how we can never settle for something comfortable or safe, how we always have to be pushing our own boundaries (and sometimes other people’s), how we must be free no matter the cost. And there is great cost, it’s just not as great as not being free.
I have had to give up so much because of Dionysos… including Dionysos in a way, because every time I would get a handle on Him, feel like I knew Him, every time I had established a dynamic with Him, everything got turned upside-down. I have been the mainad madly eating the bark off trees in the forest at night. I have been the priestess calling Him forth with ancient rituals. I have been the chthonic shaman beating my drum in the cave to His rhythms. He has been a man, a buffalo, a hollow mask, a force of nature. There have been times that I was ready to move on, and there have been times when it was agonizing to lose the Dionysos I had grown close to, or stop the way I had been worshipping Him. And yet, if I am to really worship Him, I can’t cling to these things when He says it’s time.
I am often horrified to witness how trapped most people make themselves, blind to their own volition, their own freedom. They complain about living in a city they hate, or being in a toxic relationship, or “having to” do one thing or another, and never realize they have the power to change things. Sure, there will be consequences – and maybe ones so negative that it would be preferable to stay in the situation… but then that is still a choice. But, I think I can understand a little why they avoid this awareness and responsibility. Because freedom can be quite terrible. You don’t get to fall back on comforting habits and addictions. You don’t get to indulge your fears, even if they are quite reasonable. You don’t get to let things just go on in an easy, mediocre sort of way. You don’t get to be complacent.
And maybe that’s a kind of madness too, among His many madnesses… to choose to the hard road over and over, to choose pain and fear and loneliness when our most basic human instincts tell us to choose comfort and safety and gratification. But a Dionysian simply cannot do otherwise. We must see all those things that hold us back and then we must burn them to the ground. We must risk suffering in pursuit of greatness. We must be willing to lose everything – even our very selves, our minds, and our most cherished ideas of our god – in order to worship Him purely and completely.
I do not like many things about where Dionysos has brought me most recently (hence the occasional cursing, as mentioned above). It is unfamiliar territory, and I do not feel equal to the tasks before me. It has required letting go of so much I’m not sure there’s anything left sometimes. I could have gone along rather contentedly on the path I was on indefinitely, and for another person it would have been fine. But this is what it means to be His.
In the first poem I ever wrote to Dionysos, I said “I have gone to the dark with you. I will go to the dark with you.” It is pretty damn dark in the labyrinth right now. But my god was torn apart, He was burned to cinders, and each time He became something more than He was before. There must be death before there can be rebirth. Hail Dionysos.