Every Monday, I highlight a different Greek myth that has woven its way into the Turning Creek series. The first book, Lightning in the Dark, is out now. If you pay close attention to the details, you will see where some of the elements and history of the series originated.
Today’s post is up later than normal. Mea culpa.
I want to talk about Dionysus.
If you are like me, the first image that comes to mind when you think about this Greek god is the song from Fantasia where everything starts out nice, but then the wine comes out and they all get drunk. Looking back, it is an odd choice for a children’s musical.
Dionysus, known also as Bacchus in later traditions, is the god of the harvest, of wine, of the earth, and fertility. His image runs the gamut from an overweight fun, loving god, to a long haired effeminate youth with an over large phallus. Like many of the gods, his story varies by region. He is most commonly thought to be the son of Zeus and the Theban princess, Semele. He was the only god on Mount Olympus whose parents were not both divine.
Unfortuntely for Semele, Zeus loved her dearly and this did not make Hera, his wife happy. Through trickery, she got Semele to request to see Zeus’s true face. Being mortal, she could not gaze upon the visage of a god without dying. Before she perished, Zeus removed her unborn son and but him in his own side until he was ready to be born. After he was born (the details on just how he came to be born are sketchy), Hermes carried the infant Dionysus to the nymphs of Nyse. He lived in a cave by the sea for nine years.
“So the God of the Vine was born of fire and nursed by rain, the hard burning heat that ripens the grapes and the water that keeps the plants alive.” – Edith Hamilton
When he comes of age, Dionysus spends years wandering the earth trying to convince different cities and regions that he was a god and thus should be worshiped. Dionysus had a serious pride and image issue, like pretty much every other Greek god.
His method for proving his divinity was usually a two or three step process. He would first demand to be worshiped. When the town refused, he would show them then gifts of the vine aka teach them how to grow grapes and make wine. If this was not enough, he would cause the women of the town to go insane and rip men to shreds. This was the beginning of the origin of the maenads and the Bacchantic women. He sounds like a really fun guy to have at parties.
As history progressed, Dionysus’s role in worship and in the myths morphed into something more than just about grapes and wine. He became a god of fertility, a god of nature, and a god of order and peace. It seems that Dionysus the myth matured and found order in the natural cycles of nature and earth.
In the Turning Creek series, Dionysus appears as the owner of the local saloon, Daniel Vine.