When I was 22 years of age, I was busy having wild sex (which, of course, evolved into sex magick) and busy enjoying my new freedom to become inebriated. After one of those drinking/sex sessions, I made the mistake of having a conversation that would come to have long term implications on my life. My then-girlfriend and I were talking about deities, and I noted that while I often wished I could resonate with one deity or another I couldn't think of any deities worthy of my veneration.
“Except,” I added, “Maybe Dionysus.”
I went home around 3 AM and broke out the black mirror and decided to use it for what it was designed for: scrying spirits. And so I tried to scry up the mythological realms of Dionysos. My head imploded: I saw vines dripping with honey, swarms of dead souls (I had no idea what they were), and rivers of wine that ran like red blood. These images would, along with that of a Mask or disembodied head which speaks in an Oracular voice, become constant companions for me.
A month or two later, Red handed me two books which became – if I need to use a term everyone can understand – my “bibles.” One was Walter F. Otto's Dionysus: Myth and Cult and the other was Morton Smith's Jesus the Magician. One was inspiring due to its descriptions of Goetia in antiquity; the other gave me an appreciation for the concept of the cult that I retain today.
These days I have a larger, and much better stocked personal library to draw upon for sources – although there never seem to be enough, and I've devoted more time to utilizing spirit contacts for information than is probably good for you. But those two books remain two of my favorites. If I had my way, I'd create a cult dedicated to Dionysos which was also overloaded with thaumaturgy and Hero veneration (as in antiquity; not the trite bullshit we have today. It's either dance around clad in armor and beating your shield and sword/spear while venerating those that came before you and the flow from which they come, while around you buzz the mad sounds of bullroarers, which rise to a frenzied pitch... And be lead to the purple clad Throne of God, upon which sits the thunderstone – or nothing at all, I say. Disembodied heads, ala Orpheus, would probably also be involved. Because the HedKult is not quite done with me, I think.)
Anyway: the point of this long diatribe is that I was introduced to the deity in a bizarre, if fulfilling fashion and that I've never truly strayed from that path. Try how I might, anyhow. My feelings about various divinities has also largely changed, of course.
I'd mentioned some of this in brief to a fellow we'll call M.M., following a conversation about how easy it is to mistake the “nature” of Dionysos, which is more akin to the nature of nature or something. One of the recurrent arguments that Otto makes throughout the admittedly dated, but nonetheless badass text, is that if you pigeon-hole the god then you're probably not only wrong, but worthy of academic derision. This is incredibly easy to do with Dionysos, because not only do many people like their views of god to be simplistic, but he's also easy to try and simplify.
My favorite goes something like this:
“He's, you know, the God of Wine. So he's drunk a lot. So we just drink cheap boxed wine in his name or whatever. Yay, Diony-shuuush!” (Also: if you do that, it's still proper and Dionysian. There's just more to it all than... that. But, fuck man, if that's as close as you can get - it's close enough. He'll come and get you.)
Sannion recently written a pair of posts (see here and here), along with Galina Krasskova on the savage nature of Dionysos. This brightens my day, as it's a subject that doesn't get nearly enough discussion. Instead you hear much more of about the bliss of ecstasis – which certainly occurs – than you do about being driven into an almost militant proper frenzy. (Which is arguably always somewhat militant, anyway.)
The subject has been getting some other press, however, as M.M. Also had been telling me about JSK posting that “Dionysos is not just a piss-head.” Incidentally, if I were to add two more books to the two above mentioned beloved volumes, it would be both volumes of the Geosophia. JSK's dialogue about some of the principle processes of the Dionysian cults (particularly involving the incorporation of “savage” or “barbaric elements” into one's own life) are fantastic. My only complaint about the two books, really, is one that quite a few people have shared already: it would benefit from information more easily traced back to his sources. Still, the narrative flow of the two books more than makes up for that.
[Addendum]: Incidentally, when I find a link VI threw my way about the Curetes and their orgiastic dances providing potential “cures” for madness, I will probably update this entry to include it for seemingly no real reason. It seems to have slipped from my bookmarks at some point, however.