30. Διονύσου, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
To Dionysos, God of Wine
Divine medium: storax
Κικλήσκω Διόνυσον ἐρίβρομον, εὐαστῆρα,
I call Dionysos, uproarious fair star,
πρωτόγονον, διφυῆ, τρίγονον, Βακχεῖον ἄνακτα,
First-born, dual-natured, thrice-parented Bacchian ruler,
ἄγριον, ἄρρητον, κρύφιον, δικέρωτα, δίμορφον,
Agrarian, secretly concealed, dual-horned, dual-formed
κισσόβρυον, ταυρωπόν, Ἀρήιον, εὔιον, ἁγνόν,
Luxuriant with ivy, bull-faced warrior, fair-flowering, pure,
ὠμάδιον, τριετῆ, βοτρυηφόρον, ἐρνεσίπεπλον.
In raw form triennially grape-bearing, clothed in young sprouts.
Εὐβουλεῦ, πολύβουλε, Διὸς καὶ Περσεφονείης
Fair counselor of many counsels, child of Dios’ and Persephone’s
ἀρρήτοις λέκτροισι τεκνωθείς, ἄμβροτε δαῖμον·
Secret marriage-bed, child divine, undying power,
κλῦθι, μάκαρ φωνῆς, ἡδὺς δ' ἐπίπνευσον ἀμεμφής
Hear these blessed words, sweet upon the breath, blameless
εὐμενὲς ἦτορ ἔχων, σὺν ἐυζώνοισι τιθήναις.
Good counselor, heart’s foundation, be as one with the fair-girdled attendants.
Dionysos (Δῐόνῡσος, Διώνῡσος, Διώνουσος, Δεύνυσος, Δίνυσος, Διένυσος), the immortal God of wine and its effects, is also known as Bacchos (Βάκχος) and by other names including Lysaios (Λῠαῖος), “the Liberator,” Bromios (Βρόμιος), “loud sounding,” and Likniteen (Λικνίτην), God of the liknon. The liknon is the winnowing basket used to winnow the seed from the chaff, sacred to Dionysos and carried at his festivals; liknon also means cradle.
By consuming wine, devotees of Dionysos become one with the God, seeking to experience the mind- and mood- and soul-altering effects of the wine which is the sign that they have, in fact, transcended their mortal experience and become one with the divine.
Ode 50, the “Beneficence of Bacchus,” in the Anacreontea gives a poetic overview of the blessings bestowed by Bacchos:
“The [G]od descends who makes the young
In toil unwearied, in love bold;
He adds persuasion to man’s tongue,
Which wins a maid as much as gold.
He gives the dancer grace and ease,
He points the jest and aids the song,
He makes dull care fly with the breeze,
The coward brave, the feeble strong.
“He guards the green-leaved spreading vine,
Whereon the ripe grape-clusters swell,
Soon to be crushed in streaming wine;
His darling grapes, he loves them well.
O! when we quaff the rosy juice
We freedom find from every woe,
Our features all their pallor lose,
Our cheeks with mantling colour glow.
“Then let us pledge a health around,
’Tis the best medicine there is;
And Bacchus pray to keep us sound
Till next year brings new vintage bliss.”
According to the “Dionysia” entry in the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, “The general character of the festivals of Dionysus was extravagant merriment and enthusiastic joy.” Revelers in drunken processions would wear masks, paint their bodies, wear animal skins, sing, and play flutes, cymbals and drums.
Some authorities cite four annual Dionysian festivals, one which they designate as “rural,” which may mean it was not officially recognized by the State.
-The rural Dionysia (Δῐονῡσια κατʼ ἀγρούς), during the month of Poseidon (December),
-The Lenaea (Λήναια), during the month of Gamelion (January-February),
-The Anthesteria (Ἀνθεστήρια), during the month of Anthesterion (February-March),
-The Great Dionysia (Δῐονῡσια ἐν ἄστει), during the month of Elaphebolion (March-April).”
The followers of Dionysos/Bacchos are often described as frenzied, frantic, orgiastic revelers because they are inspired with the spirit of the God. His followers are most frequently depicted in art and literature as female.
In the hymn, “First-born, dual-natured, thrice-parented” sets up a poetic one-two-three. Dionysos may be referred to as dual-natured because he takes the form of the grape and the wine. The name Dionysos may be derived from “doubly (Δι) + useful/advantageous/beneficial (ὄνησις),”
Diodorus of Sicily (3.62.7) says that some believe that Dionysos is thrice-born because he is born first as a vine, second as the fruit of the vine, and third as the wine made from the fruit.
Nonnos (48.950-960) offers another explanation for the belief that Dionysos is thrice-born, saying that he had three incarnations, as:
- Zagreus (Ζαγρευς) or Sabazios (Σαβαζιος), Persephone’s son. In this incarnation, Dionysos is the child of earth.
- Bromios (Βρομιος), Semele’s son whose gestation was completed in Zeus’ thigh (Euripides, Bacchae 90). In this incarnation, Dionysos is the child of fire.
- Iacchos (Ιακχος), Aura’s son. Aura (Αυρα, Αυρη) means wind. In this incarnation, Dionysos is the child of air.
These three forms of Dionysos are described in Nonnos’ Dionysiaca:
“They honoured him as a [G]od next after the son of Persephoneia, and after Semele’s son; they established sacrifices for Dionysos late born and Dionysos first born, and third they chanted a new hymn for Iacchos. In these three celebrations the Athens held high revel…the Athenians beat the step in honour of Zagreus and Bromios and Iacchos all together.”
Diodorus of Sicily (3.63.3--3.64.3) suggests an alternative explanation for the notion that Dionysos was thrice-born, saying he was a man who invented wine, a man who invented yoking oxen to the plough, and the son of Semele:
“The most ancient Dionysus was an Indian, and since his country, because of the excellent climate, produced the vine in abundance without cultivation, he was the first to press out the clusters of grapes and to devise the use of wine…(and) whatever pertains to the harvesting and storing of these fruits…Now this Dionysus visited with an army all the inhabited world and gave instruction both as to the culture of the vine and the crushing of the clusters in the wine vats (lenoi), which is the reason why the [G]od was called Lenaeus…
“The second Dionysus…was born to Zeus by Persephone, though some say it was Demeter. He is represented by them as the first man to have yoked oxen to the plough, human beings before that time having prepared the ground by hand…And as a special symbol and token the painters and sculptors represented him with horns…showing forth the magnitude of the service which he had devised for the farmers by his invention of the plough.
“The third Dionysus, they say, was born in Boeotian Thebes of Zeus and Semele, the daughter of Cadmus.”
It is interesting to note that in Oregon, a mountainous state in the U.S., grapes grow more prosperously after mild fires, suggesting that perhaps the Dionysos birth-by-fire legend reflects agricultural practices:
"The percent cover of Oregon-grape was greater after prescribed spring and fall fires in 1973 compared to a control site on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming."
It is also interesting to note that the name “Semele (σεμέλη)” is associated with the word for “toad (φρύνη).” Some toads lay their eggs in bunches like grapes and the male “common midwife toad” twines the eggs around his thighs until they are ready to hatch, echoing the legend that Dionysos was gestated in Zeus’ thigh.
Dionysos is “dual-horned,” characterizing his agrarian, untamed, wild nature, like his companions the satyrs and pans. This representation occurs chiefly on coins, not in statues, although many depictions of Dionysos show him with a drinking horn/rhyton in hand.
Nysia is the name of several mountains sacred to Dionysos/Bacchos. The word means “turning-point,” “starting point,” or “finishing-post,” consistent with Bacchos as a God of transitions and his transformative effect in producing enthusiasm (ἐνθουσιασμός, God within) and ecstasy (ἔκστᾰσις, standing outside of oneself).
 The Anacreontea & Principal Remains of Anacreon of Teos, In English Verse; with an Essay, Notes, and Additional Poems, by Judson France Davidson, J.M. Dent & Sons, London and Toronto, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1916.
 “Dionysia,” Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology, edited by William Smith, New York: Harper and Brothers: 1843, p. 363.
 Nonnos, Dionysiaca 5.565.
 Bacchae 90 ff :"In the compulsion of birth pains, the thunder of Zeus flying upon her, his mother cast from her womb, leaving life by the stroke of a thunderbolt. Immediately Zeus Kronides received him in a chamber fit for birth, and having covered him in his thigh shut him up with golden clasps.” (EURIPIDES. The Bacchae and other plays. Translation by Vellacott, P. The Penguin Classics. London: Penguin Books.)
 Nonnos Dionysiaca 48.960, trans. W.H.D. Rouse. Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1940.