DIÓNYSOS SON OF ZEFS

ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟΣ

Who Gives the Wine-Aithír

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DIÓNYSOS (Gr.  Διόνυσος, ΔΙΟΝΥΣΟΣ. The D in Diónysos is pronounced like the soft th in thee, not like the hard th in thesis: thee-OH'-nee-sohs.) Diónysos is commonly called by the name Vákkhos (Gr. Βάκχος) or as the Romans pronounced it, Bacchus.  

 

THROUGH DIÓNYSOS, ZEFS ACTS ON EARTH 

Diónysos is one of the most important deities of the pantheon of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, but he is not included as one of the Twelve Olympians. He holds a very special position: Diónysos is the Klironómos (Gr. Κληρονόμος) by means of which Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) acts on Earth.

  

THE BIRTH OF DIÓNYSOS

There are two major stories regarding the birth and early life of Diónysos: he is said to have been born of both Pærsæphóni and also of Sæmǽli. They are not just different and conflicting stories, but, rather, they represent two separate births representing degrees in his progression. And there is yet another birth, the birth of Diónysos from the leg of Zefs; this is why in the Orphic hymn to the God (O.H. 30.2), he is called Thrice-born (Τρίγονος),

 

THE BIRTH OF DIÓNYSOS BY PÆRSÆPHÓNI:  

According to the Orphic hymn 29, the mythographer Nόnnos (Nonnus; Gr. Νόννος), and elsewhere, Diónysos is the son of Zefs and Pærsæphóni (Persephone; Gr. Περσεφόνη) [1] by which (in Nόnnos) he is known as Zagréfs (Zagreus; Gr. Ζαγρεὐς) [2] This birth is called the first influence of Zefs.


Mighty Zefs united with Pærsæphóni in the form of a serpent. From this union, Zagréfs was born. Zefs was delighted with his son and enthroned him, giving him his thunderbolts and presenting him to the Gods as their king 
[3]

The seven pairs of 
Titánæs (the Titans; Gr. Τιτᾶνες) smeared their faces with gypsum and lured little Zagréfs away from his thunderbolts by giving him seven toys, referred to as The Toys of Diónysos [4] :

 

1. Mirror (Ǽsoptron; Gr. Ἔσοπτρον)

2. Knuckle-Bone (Astrágalos; Gr. Ἀστράγαλος

3. Sphere or Ball (Sphaira; Gr. Σφαῖρᾰ)

4. Top (Rómvos; Gr. Ρόμβος)

5. Apples (Míla; Gr. Μῆλα)

6. Cone (Kónos; Gr. Κῶνος [Orphic verses] or Stróvilos; Gr. Στρόβιλος [Clement])

7. Pókos (Gr. Πόκος, tuft of hair)


Zagréfs, fascinated, gazed into the mirror. The Titanæs grasped him and prepared him for a great sacrifice. They cut him into pieces, carefully preserving the heart and limbs. They then took the remaining pieces, placed them on spits, roasted them and ate a portion 
[5]. Zefs smelled the savor of the ritual and sent Athiná (Athena; Gr. Ἀθηνᾶ) who rescued his still-beating heart, bringing it to him in a silver casket [6]. The limbs of Zagréfs were entrusted to Apóllohn by Zefs and he interred them at Mount Parnassós (Parnassus; Gr. Παρνασσός). [7] Mighty Zefs struck the Titánæs with a thunderbolt and from the soot that fell from their burnt bodies he fashioned a new generation of creatures who have immortal souls but who are chained to a sorrowful cycle of births and deaths, sometimes being reborn male, sometimes female, and they become tiny things such as insects and worms, and tiny animals of every kind and large animals of every kind, as well as human beings. [8] But regarding this sad state of affairs, Zefs, in his great compassion for his creatures, conceived a wondrous solution.


THE BIRTH OF DIÓNYSOS BY SÆMǼLI

Now we continue with what is to many readers the more familiar mythology. In this story, Diónysos is produced from the union of 
Zefs (Zeus) and Sæmǽli (Semele; Gr. Σεμέλη), the daughter of Kádmos (Cadmus; Gr. Κάδμος) and Armonía (Harmonia; Gr. Ἁρμονία). This birth is called the second influence of Zefs.

Aphrodíti (Aphrodite; Gr. Ἀφροδίτη) united with 
Áris (Ares; Gr. Άρης) and gave birth to Armonía (Harmony). Armonía was given in marriage to Kádmos and they produced several children, but the most beautiful of them was a daughter whom they named Sæmǽli. Mighty Zefs fell in love with Sæmǽli, impregnated her with the heart of Zagréfs, and promised her anything she desired. Íra (Hera; Gr. Ήρα), having discovered the liaison between her husband and the girl, obtained work in the household, disguised as a simple housemaid. She now gained Sæmǽli's confidence and the girl told her of the promise Zefs gave to her. Íra then tricked Sæmǽli into asking Zefs to appear to her in the same form that he had appeared to Íra when Zefs had courted the great Goddess. And Sæmǽli took her advice and made the request to Zefs. Unable to refuse because of his oath, Zefs came with his chariot and lightning and thunder. Overwhelmed by the majesty of Zefs, Sæmǽli died in the blazing flames. Zefs now rescued the infant Diónysos and sewed the little God into his very own thigh. When the gestation of the baby was up, Zefs undid the stitches and gave birth to Diónysos. Thus, from the heart of Zagréfs a new Diónysos is born who with Pærsæphóni will teach men Mysteries, rites and sacrifices to free them from the cycle of births.


Zefs entrusted the child to mighty 
Ærmís (Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς). Ærmís (Hermes) gave the boy Diónysos to Athámas (Gr. (Gr. Ἀθάμας) and his wife Inóh Lefkothǽa (Ino Leukothea; Gr. Ἰνώ Λευκοθέα), who was sister of Sæmǽli and the daughter of Armonía and Kádmos. Ærmís made them disguise Diónysos as a girl for safekeeping, but Íra saw through their ruse and drove Inóh and Athámas mad. Therefore, Zefs transformed Diónysos into a kid goat and Ærmís took the kid away and left him in the guardianship of the nymphs of Nýsa (Gr. Νῦσα) in Asia. 

 

THE CELEBRATION OF THE EPIPHANY OF DIÓNYSOS

According to Greek oral tradition as passed on to the author of this website, the Epiphany or birthday of Diónysos is celebrated on December 25, or rather beginning on the evening before the 25th, the commencement of the Twelve Days of Diónysos.

 

THE ORPHIC HYMNS TO DIÓNYSOS

The principle hymn to Diónysos in the Orphic Hymns is number 30. In old editions of Thomas Taylor, the translation we prefer, the hymn was numbered 29 (To Bacchus). All the hymns in these editions are off by one increment but this numbering problem has been corrected in the Prometheus Trust publication of Taylor's translations entitled Hymns and Initiations.

Next follows a list of all the Orphic hymns which relate, in one way or another, to Diόnysos, with the correct numbering.  

29. PÆRSÆPHÓNI  [Gr. Περσεφόνη]  

30. DIÓNYSOS  [Gr. Διόνυσος] 

42. MÍSA  [Gr. Μίσα]  

44. SÆMǼLI  [Gr. Σεμέλη] 

45. DIÓNYSOS VASSARǼOHS [Gr. Διόνυσος Βασσαρέως]  

46. LIKNÍTIS  [Gr. Λικνίτης] 

47. PÆRIKIÓNIOS [Gr. Περικῑόνιος] 

48. SAVÁZIOS  [Gr. Σαβάζιος] 

49. ÍPTA  Gr. [Ἵπτα]  

50. LYSÍOS-LINAIOS  [Gr. Λυσίος Ληναίος] 

52. TRIETIRIKOS  [Gr. Τριετηρικος]  

53. AMPHIÆTOUS  [Gr. Ἀμφιετοῦς] 

54. SEILINÓS, SÁTYROS, VÁKKHAI  [Gr. Σειληνός, Σάτυρος, Βάκχαι] 

74. LEFKOTHǼA  [Gr. Λευκοθέα]

75. PALAIMOHN  [Gr. Παλαίμων]

 

DIÓNYSOS IN ICONOGRAPHY 

In Iconography, Diónysos is depicted in several ways: Diónysos the infant; Diónysos the beautiful long-haired youth; Diónysos the mature bearded and richly adorned God. He often holds a fennel staff with a pine-cone at its end called the Thýrsos (Gr. Θύρσος). His head is frequently crowned with grape-leaves and even bunches of grapes, or a royal crown, sometimes wearing the skin of a panther. In his entourage can be found Mainádæs (Maenads; Gr. Μαινάδες), his female devotees, and Sátyri (Satyrs; Gr. Σάτυροι). He can be seen riding a tiger, or even a lion, an ass, or a panther.  Diónysos is often portrayed holding a wine-cup. 

 

DIÓNYSOS AND THE BIRTH OF THEATER

 

The origins of Theater in the western hemisphere have their roots in ancient Greece, most likely having its roots in the festivals of Diónysos called the Rural Dionýsia (Gr. Διονύσια). It is said that the plays began as performances of songs by groups of men in goat-masks, the goat being sacred to the God.

 

 

THE ETYMOLOGY AND MEANING OF THE NAME OF DIÓNYSOS

The etymology of the name Diónysos (Gr. Διόνυσος) is Διός (genitive of Zefs) + οἶνος (wine), as explained from the Mystical point of view.  

Diós (Gr. Διός, not to be confused with Δηώ, the name of Dimítir [Demeter] ) is the genitive of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς); it means "of Zefs." Diós is the name used to designate the dividing (Dionysian) power of Zefs; the name Ζεύς itself is used to designate the uniting (Apollonian) power of the God. 

The word Diónysos can have several meanings:

1) Diónysos is the action of Zefs on the soul.

2) Any deified soul is a Diónysos, referred to in the feminine because she has accepted the influence of Zefs on her soul, but such a Diónysos is not necessarily the Diónysos.

3) Diónysos is a personal God, a particular God, one of the Six Kings (Vasilefs or Basileus, Gr. Βασιλεύς). Who is the Diónysos? Diónysos Vasiléfs is the Successor, the Successor to Zeus. [9]

WHO IS DIÓNYSOS?

Looking around the various websites and discussion groups, we find Diónysos described as the king of drunkenness and irrationality. He is often contrasted with his brother Apóllohn who exemplifies moderation and reason. While it can be understood where these ideas come from (greatly exaggerated by Nietzsche and others), somehow the reality of who this God is escapes such reduction. But his purpose is clearly stated in the Orphic fragments and elsewhere.

Why has Diónysos come? The Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony (See The Sixth King) is very clear. Zefs has created a new generation of beings, our generation. This is the best generation possible constrained by natural laws to which even the Gods are subject. Although we have opportunities to experience the wondrous beauty that our world offers, there is also gripping pain. We have immortal souls from our Father, but we have mortal bodies. If we live a long life, old age will rob us of our beauty and health. Eventually sickness or violence takes us down. After death our souls wander to find new bodies and we repeat this cycle endlessly, becoming male and female and every kind of creature in an relentless circle of births (κύκλος γενέσεως). This process is not voluntary. But Zefs foresaw our lot; he looked upon his children with great compassion and devised a plan: Zefs conceived a great son, Diónysos, who has come to us with his Mysteries to free us from the sorrowful cycle of births [10]. Diónysos is the fulfillment of the providence of Zefs. Diónysos is the action of Zefs working on earth in a magnanimous plan to save us from our suffering.

 

DIÓNYSOS BRINGS US WINE

Wine or Ínos (Gr. οἶνος) and its intoxicating character is a major symbol in Hellenic mythology. Its primary association is with Diónysos. Wine is representative of the divine Aithír (Aether; Gr. Αἰθήρ) of Zefs' influence on the soul. Dark red sweet wine is symbolic of the blood, the Ikhóhr (Ichor; Gr. Ιχώρ) of Diónysos, and therefore used in libation as a type of sacrifice. As the Titánæs (Titans; Gr. Τιτᾶνες) ate of his body in a great sacrifice, we partake of the God's essence by drinking the wine.

The poet Nónnos in the 12th book of his Διονυσιακά tells the story of how the Thrakian Sátyros (Satyr; Gr. Σάτυρος) Ámbælos (Ampelos; Gr. Ἄμπελος, grapevine), a lover of Diónysos, was killed by a bull. The God revived his beloved companion in the form of the grapevine from which the wine comes forth. In the same chapter Nónnos refers to wine as Ikhóhr [11].

 

 

DIÓNYSOS AND THE SIX VASILEIS

Diónysos is a constituent of the evolutionary progression of Aithir (Aether; Gr. Αἰθήρ) known as the dynasty of the Six Vasileis (Basileis = Kings; Gr. Βασιλεῖς [Βασιλεύς is singular]): Phánis (Gr. Φάνης), Nyx (Gr. Νύξ), Ouranós (Gr. Οὐρανός), Krónos (Gr. Κρόνος), Zefs, and Diónysos.

 

FESTIVALS OF DIÓNYSOS

This is short list of festivals celebrated currently by own community. There are many others.

Amvrosía - (Ἀμβροσία, ΑΜΒΡΟΣΙΑ) The Amvrosía is a festival of Diónysos. (Etymologicum Magnum 564.13)

Anthæstíria

Phalliphória - (Gr. Φαλληφόρια, ΦΑΛΛΗΦΟΡΙΑ) The Phaliphória is a festival of Diónysos held during the brumal month of Poseidæóhn (Poseideon; Gr. Ποσειδεών. Dec./Jan.). A herald bearing a staff with a leather phallus at its peak heads the procession of ivy-crowned participants wearing masks or having painted their faces, drinking the new wine. Ref. Ἀριστοφάνης Ἀχαρνεῖς 241-262.

Twelve Days of Diónysos


The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

 

NOTES:

[1] Orphic Hymn 29.6-7:

“Zefs and Kóri bore you on a secret bed” (trans. by the author)

[2] The first mention we have of the name Zagréfs occurs as a tiny fragment from a lost epic by an anonymous author, Ἀλκμαιωνίς:  

"Holy Yaia and Zagréfs, greatest of all deities."

[3] Νόννος Διονυσιακά 6.155-168.

Orphicorum Fragmenta 208:

"Listen Gods! This is your king!" (as quoted in Próklos)

[4] This list from the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria, in his criticism of the Mysteries Exhortation to the Heathen  2.176

Arnobius of Sicca in Against the Heathen 5.19, a century after Clement, gives a shorter but almost identical list. Mirror, Dice, Balls, Tops, Golden Apples, and Hoops.

[5] Orphicorum Fragmenta 210b

"They divided the child into seven parts." 

All this very colorfully described in Νόννος Διονυσιακά 6.169.

See also Παυσανίας Ἑλλάδος Περιήγησις 7.18.3 where he describes the plot against the God by the Titans

[6] Orphicorum Fragmenta 35, 210.

[7] Orphicorum Fragmenta 35, 216.

[8] Orphicorum Fragmenta 140, 220, 224.

[9] Orphicorum Fragmenta 208:

"Listen Gods! This is your king!" (as quoted in Próklos)

From Próklos:

For Night (ed. Nyx) receives the sceptre from Phanes;  Heaven (ed. Ouranós) derives from Night, the dominion over wholes; and Bacchus (ed. Diónysos) who is the last king of the Gods receives the kingdom from Jupiter (ed. Zeus). For the father (Jupiter) establishes him in the royal throne, puts into his hand the sceptre, and makes him the king of all the mundane Gods.

"Hear me ye Gods, I place over you a king." 

κλυτε θεοι τον δ' υμμιν βασιλεα τιθημι 

(Extract from the Manuscript Scolia of Proclus On the Cratylus of Plato, found in The Theology of Plato: Proclus, trans. Thomas Taylor, 1816; Prometheus Trust, 1999, p. 673.)

Orphicorum Fragmenta 218: Vákkhos ruled after Zefs.

From the Διονυσιακά of Νόννος:

 - 6.164-168 Zagréfs carries the thunderbolts, the symbol of Zefs.

-  10.292-299 again makes reference to the thunderbolts and rain and calls Diónysos by the name of Zefs.

- 39.70-73 Zefs gives his throne and scepter to Zagréfs.

In Orphic Hymn 54, he is called “student king.”

Finally, the tradition states that he is the sixth of the Six Kings. Nonetheless, this kingship must be understood as explained in the tradition, for, as strange as it may seem to the uninitiated, Zefs remains the father and king of Gods and men forever.

[10] Orphicorum Fragmenta 229, 230.

[11] Νόννος Διονυσιακά 12.292 and 12.316.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía
 (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kosmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 



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The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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