I’ve had a back-burner relationship with Dionysus for nearly forever. I was smitten with him when I first read D’Aulaire’s as a preteen. But I also had a weird habit of not letting myself have things that any single friend liked more, even when they weren’t objects and therefore had infinite capacity for being…and the friend who played “Greek gods” with me picked Dionysus as her favorite. (She played Aphrodite to my Artemis, and it was also decades before I could admit to having my own relationship with Aphrodite; it took me noticing that fully half of my initiates ended up dedicated to her for me to recognize that she must be hanging around the place.) Fast forward to my interest in Hinduism, which gradually led to initiation into Sakta Tantra; Shiva, who is so often syncretized with Dionysus, was the one who broke through my developed dread of male gods, and he has been important to me in many ways since. Fast forward again to three years ago, when a “random chance” gave me an oracle from Dionysus, a reminder that he was still around in that form as well and wanted to move closer. I made a little shrine for him but didn’t know quite how to proceed with him from there. So often in public ritual he becomes Dionysus of the Neverending Frat Party, and while I don’t question the validity of that, it is completely not the face of his that I can relate to; I don’t like parties, I can’t drink more than a few sacramental sips because of counterindications from my meds, and I can’t really do much with it alone in my house.
Fast forward again.
A couple of weeks ago, we were doing puja. As we sometimes do, we each drew a card for an oracle: our theme was “What do you fear?” My card was Shiva. I mean, very clearly and literally: in the deck David Bowie was part of developing, there is a card that is either Shiva himself or an ascetic dressed to resemble him standing next to a river. And not to go too much further into a ritual that happened more privately, a portion of the message was pretty much Shiva himself telling me it was time to spend time with him, seeking him experientially and emotionally.
Meanwhile, I’ve been participating in Jason Miller’s online course on Hecate, and while it’s been excellent and interesting, I recently came upon something of an issue. Morgan (who we’ll be talking much more about in another post) stepped into the middle of the astral temple where that flavor of Hecate work takes place and announced very firmly that there were certain parts of the current in which I was not allowed to participate. This weekend having been Pantheacon, I took the opportunity to get a reading from Silence Maestas to get a clearer sense of what had happened there. Part of the answer we got was that a compromise was being found that would gain me the things I’d been sent toward the Hecate class for without having certain things in conflict with the way I’ve been configured and am being configured, and that this compromise would not be disclosed by the reading but would show up soon and be very obvious.
The next night, I went to a ritual for Cybele held by the Priesthood of the Braided Path. I have been a friend and ally of theirs since inception, although I’m too far away to be a full member. I knew that the ritual intended to offer blessing work for trans and nonbinary people, and as I’m working on rebuilding my comfort level inside my own enbiness I wanted a piece of that.
What I didn’t know was that there was a school of thought in which Dionysus was the foster child and initiate of Cybele, and that he would therefore be invoked at the ritual as well, and in a form that was much more “my” kind of Dionysus. Drinking almost constantly, yes, but also always in motion, every movement half-dance, eyes alight with passion not just for drink but for Mystery and the rage and grief that are the other half of the lust and joy people focus on. But not rage at us; rage for us and with us. Throughout the ritual he was moving among people, dropping words in their ears and drinks in their mouths, helping them prepare to talk to Cybele, rousing them to drum and shout for her.
To me he said, “You need to dance with me more.” This I knew. He smiled flirtatiously. “I’ll wear any mask you like! Which one do you want?”
“I can never decide,” I admitted.
“Then I’ll decide for you.” And then he was off to see to other guests for a while. I was there as part of the support team, a drummer, so I spent the time drumming. At one point, while Dionysus was dancing and twirling among Cybele’s tribe of beasts, keeper of all Mysteries, while black-veiled Cybele was delivering an introduction to the concepts of nonduality, I thought, This is one cultural filter away from being a ritual for Shiva and Kali.
When my turn came to speak to Cybele, it was almost the end of the ritual. She said (I’m still putting it in quotes, but this one is more of a paraphrase) “There’s a lot I could do with you, but it wouldn’t be in your best interests to do it now. You need to go to my boy; go to Dionysus. When he has taught you about the masks, the kind of shapeshifting you need, then if you like you can come to me.”
So I went to Dionysus. “I spoke to her, and she sent me back to you.”
He nodded seriously. “You need my toys.” This quickly grew in urgency. I should ask the priests; I should tell a particular priest he named; he would go and tell the priest that I was to have the toys. And then he left the temple side of the suite and found said priest, delivered the instructions, and then came back to tell me it had been done and then to finish his last round among the guests. He gave me the last drink from his horn and left me holding it as his carrying priest collapsed to the floor.
The Toys are the name for a set of tools related to Dionysian Mysteries. Here is one description of them from HellenicGods.org. I don’t know what else to say about it, both because I don’t know much and because I don’t know what can be said and what should not be. But Dionysus has chosen, two weeks after Shiva’s injunction. And when I went back to the room and described the ritual, Silence said “So that’s the compromise,” and lo, so it was, that too. Quite possibly it was there before I set off with Hecate in the first place. Hard to say from here.