Dionysus

Summary

Dionysus (Aeolic Greek: Ζόννυσσος or Ζόννυσος; in Linear B) is a deity of Greek religion.

Originally he was an archaic god of vegetation, related to the vital lymph flowing in plants. Later he was identified as the god of ecstasy, wine, drunkenness and liberation of the senses; therefore he came to represent the essence of creation in its eternal and wild flow, the divine spirit of a boundless reality, the primordial element of the cosmos, the spiritual irruption of the Greek zoé, that is existence understood in an absolute sense, the frenetic current of life that pervades everything.

God “hybrid” from the multiform nature of male and female, animal and divine, tragic and comic, Dionysus embodies, in his mystical delirium, the primordial and instinctual spark present in every living being, which remains even in civilized man as its original and irrepressible part, and that can re-emerge and explode violently if repressed and not properly processed.

He was identified in Rome with the god Bacchus (similar to Dionysus), with the Fufluns venerated by the Etruscans and with the Italic divinity Liber Pater, and was nicknamed lysios, “the one who dissolves” the man from the bonds of personal identity to reunite him to the universal originality. In the Eleusinian mysteries he was identified with Iacus.

Closely related to the origins of the theater, Dionysus is perhaps the god of Greek mythology of greatest fortune in contemporary culture, particularly in the twentieth century, after the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, in the Birth of Tragedy, created the aesthetic category of Dionysian – emblem of natural forces, vitalistic and irrational – contrasting it with that of Apollonian.

Usually accompanied by a procession called thiasos and composed by his priestesses (called maenads or bacchants, women in ecstatic frenzy and invaded by the god), ferocious beasts, satyrs and silenes. Dear to the god were the plants of the vine (from which the link with wine and harvest) and ivy (in particular some species of ivy, containing psychotropic substances and that were left to macerate in wine).one of his attributes was in fact the sacred tirso, a knotty stick wrapped by ivy and vines and surmounted by a pine cone; another of his attributes is the kantharos, a drinking cup characterized by two high handles that extend in height beyond the brim.

Following are some of the epithets by which the God was called:

Origins

The origin of the name Dionysus is suggested by the genitive Διός and νῦσος, then the nysos of Zeus: the “young son of Zeus”. For other scholars, the etymology is instead linked to Mount Nisa, where the god was raised (and there are also those who lean towards the meaning of “night god” (theos-nykios). The poet Apollonius Rhodius instead proposed the meaning of “born twice” (from di-genes) or “the child from the double door”.

According to Detienne, Dionysus is the foreign god par excellence, since he came from Thrace. The most recent researches, in fact, have highlighted the existence of common elements in the Greek cult of Dionysus and in the cults of Thrace, with the possibility of mutual relations, perhaps combined with influences from Asia Minor (ancient authors, such as Euripides, already supported the Phrygian origin of Dionysus, which has strong affinities with the god Sabazio). This thesis agrees well with the fact that several elements attest to the antiquity of the cult of Dionysus in Greek lands: in particular the presence of the name on Mycenaean tablets in linear B, the orgiastic character of the cults of vegetation of the Minoan religion, as well as the belief, widespread in Crete, that the bull represents a form of divine epiphany (and Dionysus was sometimes invoked with the name of “bull”).

The news related to the modalities of the birth of Dionysus are intricate and conflicting. Although the name of his father, Zeus, is undisputed, that of his mother is instead the victim of numerous interpretations by mythographers. Some say that the god was the result of the love of the god with Demeter, his sister, or Io, or even Lete; others still make him the son of Dione, or Persephone.

This last version, although it is not accepted from the majority of the mythographers, has not been discarded from the literary tradition. In some orphic legends the mother of Dionysus is in fact defined as “the queen of death”, which makes one think of Persephone. Zeus himself, fell in love with his daughter, who had been hidden in a cave at the behest of Demeter, turned into a snake and reached her while she was busy weaving. He fertilized her and the girl gave birth to two children, Zagreo and Dionysus himself.

Birth of Dionysus

The generally best known version is the one that wants as mother Semele, daughter of Harmonia and Cadmus, king of Thebes: on the other hand her name can mean “the underground”, if not referring to Selene, the Moon goddess, which thus reiterates the image of the Earth as a dark womb, but strangely fertile, which takes life from the light and absorbs it to reproduce it, in an eternal cycle of death and resurrection. Even on the versions of the conception of Dionysus traditions do not agree: according to some Zeus, after having collected what remained of the body of the beloved godson Zagreo, generated by his brother Hades and his niece Persephone and killed by the Titans, cooked the heart of the child in a broth that made the young Semele drink, his lover. Or the father of the gods himself, hopelessly in love with Semele, assumed the appearance of a mortal to join her in the thalamus, making her pregnant with a child.

The umpteenth betrayal of Zeus with a mortal did not remain obscure to Hera, who could be considered the only legitimate wife of the god. Enraged, and not being able to take revenge on her husband, the goddess inspired in the three sisters of Semele envy for her sister, who despite being at the age of single could already boast a lover and even a pregnancy. The poor Semele suffered the cruel mockery of Agave, Ino and Autonoe, who criticized not only the fact that she was already pregnant, but also that despite the conception the father of the child had not yet decided to come out and declare himself.

In the meantime the queen of the gods, taking advantage of these contrasts, assumed the appearance of an old woman, Beroe, nurse of the girl, who was her assistant since birth. The queen of the gods presented herself to Semele, already pregnant for six months, who, believing her to be the nurse, began to talk to her until the speech fell on her lover. The old woman warned Semele, advising her to make a singular request to her lover, that is to reveal his identity, stopping to deceive her and hide, otherwise she could think that his appearance was actually that of a monster. According to a different version, Semele was aware of the identity of her lover and Hera had warned her against trusting the god, urging her to demand proof of his true identity. She therefore suggested to ask Zeus to present himself to her as when he presented himself before Hera.

After some time, when Zeus returned again to his lover to enjoy the joys of sex, Semele, mindful of the old woman”s words, begged Zeus to reveal his identity and to stop continuing to pretend. For fear of his wife Hera”s jealousy, the god refused, and at this point Semele objected to sharing her bed with him. Angry, Zeus appeared to her among thunderbolts and blinding lightning, so that the girl, unable to withstand the tremendous glare, was incinerated. According to the other version when the father of the gods returned to his lover Semele asked him to offer her a gift and he promised to fulfill any desire of the girl. Semele then asked the king of gods to manifest itself in all its power. Zeus, desperate, was forced to realize the request of Semele, who was killed.

To prevent the child from dying Gaea, the Earth, made grow fresh ivy in correspondence of the fetus, but Zeus instructed Hermes (or according to others he did it himself) to tear the fetus from the womb and sewed it inside the thigh. After another three months and finished the period of gestation, the king of the gods gave birth to the child, perfectly alive and formed, giving him the name of Dionysus, which means “born twice” or even “the child from the double door”.

Childhood and youth of Dionysus

The newborn “born from the thigh of Zeus” already from his coming to the world had small horns with snake curls; Zeus immediately entrusted him to the care of Hermes.

When the baby Dionysus was born from the thigh of Zeus, he entrusted him to the care of the sister of Semele, Ino and her husband Atamante. This, however, did not go unnoticed by the attentive eyes of Hera, which made the two spouses go crazy. Atamanthus, believing to see a deer in his son Learcus, killed him with an arrow, while Ino threw himself into the sea dragging with him the small Melicerte.

Dionysus remained alone in the abandoned house and who knows what would have happened to him if Hermes had not taken him with him. He took him to a distant mountain in Asia Minor on which lived the Hyades, nymphs of the woods. These nymphs lovingly raised the little Dionysus until it was time to find him a tutor. They asked Silenus, an old man, son of Pan and of a nymph who possessed an extraordinary wisdom and the gift of divination.

The wandering divinity

Reached maturity, Hera could not help but recognize him as the son of Zeus, but at the same time punishing him with madness. He then began to wander with his tutor Silenus and a group of satyrs and Bacchae (so were called the followers of the god) to Egypt, where he fought with the Titans.

Later he headed east, towards India, defeating many opponents along the way (including the king of Damascus, which flayed alive) and founding many cities: after defeating the Indian king Deriades, Dionysus obtained immortality. But his return was opposed by the people of the Amazons, that he had already previously rejected up to Ephesus: women warriors were again defeated by the god and his entourage.

It was then that he decided to return to Greece in all its divine glory, as the son of Zeus, after being purified by his grandmother Rhea for the crimes committed during the madness, landed in Thrace, where reigned King Lycurgus. When the king of Thrace Lycurgus knew that Dionysus had made inroads into their territories, he opposed him by imprisoning all the followers of the god, but these managed to escape taking refuge from Thetis.

Angry against the king of Thrace, Dionysus sent a terrible drought that triggered a revolt among the people, and cursed Lycurgus making him crazy: made crazy by the god, the king killed his son with an axe, exchanging it for a branch of ivy. An oracle in the meantime, to whom was asked for advice, had issued this verdict, that the whole kingdom would remain dry and barren as long as Lycurgus remained alive: the people dragged out of the palace their king and lynched him in the public square.

With the death of Lycurgus, Dionysus freed Thrace from the curse. In an alternative version of the story, Lycurgus had tried to kill a follower of the god, but the follower, who was immediately transformed into a vine, twisted himself tightly around the angry king and held him in his coils until he strangled him.

Later Dionysus also took away the sanity of the half-brother of Lycurgus, the pirate Bute, who had raped one of the Maenads.

The return to Greece

Subdued Thrace, passed in Boeotia and then to the Aegean islands, where he rented a ship from some young sailors headed to Naxos, these then turned out to be pirates who wanted to sell the god as a slave in Asia, but Dionysus was saved by turning into lives the mast of the ship and himself in a lion, while populating the ship of ghosts of wild animals that moved to the sound of flutes.

The sailors, distraught, threw themselves into the sea, but the god saved them by transforming them into dolphins: although aware that they would no longer regain their human form, the young men also understood that the god had wanted to give them the opportunity to redeem themselves, and so they dedicated the rest of their lives to saving the shipwrecked. Because he had shown himself to be kinder than the other pirates, Acetes, the helmsman, did not undergo a metamorphosis, becoming a priest of the god.

When Dionysus arrived in his native city, Thebes, the sovereign Pentheus, his cousin, opposed the new rites introduced by the god, making Acetes and some Maenads arrested. The revenge of Dionysus on Thebes and his family is narrated by Euripides in the tragedy entitled The Bacchae, composed while he was at the court of King Archelaus of Macedonia.

In the play, in which is argued the most terrifying and destructive nature of the god (to the point of suggesting that this is a critical work towards the Dionysian religion), Dionysus makes the women of the city go crazy, striking first his aunts (Agave, Ino, Autonoe) who in their time had not given confidence to the statements of Semele who said she had been made pregnant by the father of the gods.

Dionysus also wants to punish the entire city that continues to deny his divinity and therefore refuses to worship him. The Theban towns leave the city to go in the woods of Mount Citerone to celebrate the sacred orgies to Dionysus.

Finally the god pushes slowly to the madness also king Pentheus, convincing him to disguise himself from woman to go to spy the maenads while they celebrate in the thesis the sacred rites to the god. Attracted on the Citerone mountain, it makes him to kill from the Theban women, that invaded from the divinity, they mistake Pentheus for a wild animal; the sovereign comes literally made to pieces.

The first to attack him is Agave, his mother, at the head of a group of Bacchae. The woman returns to Thebes with the head of her son on a pike and does not recognize her own son if not when it is too late and can not do anything but shedding bitter tears. Dionysus finally condemns his relatives to exile from Thebes, thus ensuring his total revenge.

Once recognized as a god, according to the will of Zeus, Dionysus ascends to Olympus.

Love relationships

It is also said that the young Dionysus was one of the many illustrious pupils of the centaur Chiron: according to Ptolemy Chennus (testimony collected by Photius in his Library) “the young Dionysus was loved by Chiron, from whom he learned the arts of song and dance, as well as the initiatory rules of the future rites bacchici.

The first pederastic love of Dionysus was expressed towards the young satyr named Ampelos: the teenager with kid feet was killed falling from the back of a bull crazy for being stung by a horsefly sent by Ate, the goddess of malice. The Moire, following the plea sent to them by the same god who wanted to intercede in favor of the lover, granted Ampelo a second life in the form of a vine shoot.

One of the best known stories about the descent of the young demigod in the realm of the dead to bring back to life his mother is the one that also tells of the homosexual relationship he had with Prosimno. Guided by the man along the journey that led him to the gates of Hades, on the coast of Argolis near Lerna (and considered by all an infinite well with no possibility of exit) he was asked as a reward to be loved as a woman: Dionysus accepted, he asked only to wait until he had brought Semele to safety from the clutches of death. On his return from the underworld, however, Dionysus discovered that the shepherd had died before he could honor his commitment. Directed to the mound that contained the mortal remains of Prosimno, Dionysus undertook to meet at least the shadow: from a branch of olive tree (or fig) created a wooden Phallos and sat on it. Finally he placed the figure of his friend among the stars of the sky.

This tale has survived only thanks to Christian sources, whose primary objective was to morally discredit all previous pagan religion: however, it served as a partial explanation for some of the secret objects that were revealed during the Dionysian mysteries.

The god came to the island of Naxos, where he met Ariadne abandoned by Theseus and married her, after which resumed again the sea to Greece. Landed in Argos, Perseus erected a temple to placate the women of that city, made crazy by the god as punishment for the slaughter of his followers, allowing Dionysus to enter Olympus.

In anthropology Dionysus represents the myth of the “resurrection of the killed God”. The Orphic religious version of the coming into the world of Dionysus renames the god with the name of Zagreo. Zagreo (Zαγρεύς) is the son that Hades, in the form of snake, had by his wife Persephone (or, according to other versions, born from Persephone and Zeus father). This name appears for the first time in the poem from the sixth century Alcmenoide, in which it says: Potnia veneranda and Zagreo, you who are above all gods. According to Diodorus Siculus, the Cretans considered Dionysus son of Hades, or Zeus, and Persephone and their countryman. In fact, the epithets of Dionysus in Crete were Cretogenous, Chthonian, as the son of the queen of the underworld, and precisely Zagreo.

According to this myth, Zeus had decided to make Zagreo his successor in world domination, thus provoking the anger of his wife Hera. Zeus had entrusted Zagreo to the Curets to raise him. Then Hera turned to the Titans, who attracted the small Zagreo offering him games, kidnapped him, cut him in pieces and devoured his flesh. The remaining parts of the body of Zagreo were collected by Apollo, who buried them on Mount Parnassus; Athena instead found the still beating heart of the child and brought it to Zeus.

Depending on the different versions:

Zeus punished the Titans by electrocuting them, and from the smoke that came out of their burning bodies would be born men. This version is also narrated by Grandfather of Panopolis in the Dionysiacs.

In the Orphic Hymns, which present a different theogony than the most famous of Hesiod, in the list of the kings of the gods, Dionysus is the sixth (the father puts him on the royal throne, gives him the scepter and makes him king of all the gods”, Dionysus is torn to pieces by the Titans and reassembled by Apollo. And, speaking of the birth of Dionysus: “The first is from the mother, another is from the thigh, the third occurs when, after he has been torn apart by the Titans, and after Rhea has put back together his limbs, he comes back to life”.

An ancient popular etymology, would date back di-agreus (perfect hunter), the name Zagreo.

The impetuous advent of Dionysus and his mysterious presence are symbolized by an image from which the perturbing enigma of his duplicity and with it his frenzy transpires: the mask. In the feast of the grape harvest, for example, Dionysus was present in the figure of a mask. The mask, indeed, also recurs in other Greek cults, but only the Dionysian masks represented the god in his epiphany. Because of their large size, these masks were not worn but were conceived as the images of the god himself. The matter is still controversial, but the different hypotheses converge on the concept of the mask as “epiphany” and essence of the god, and not a simple symbol.

On the François vase, Dionysus, in the procession of the gods, presents himself differently from the others: while those are shown in profile, only he turns his gigantic face with immense eyes directly to the observer. This peculiarity is generally explained by the fact that until ancient times Dionysus would have been represented preferably with a mask, but he was represented in this way because he was “the contemplator”, the god of the most immediate presence. From the vase François looks at us in such a penetrating way precisely because it is his characteristic to appear suddenly, and with such power in the eyes of men that the mask – typical of naturalistic divinities and primitive spirits – serves as a symbol and personification in the cult.

The face with the scrutinizing eyes has been considered from time immemorial as the most characteristic manifestation of human or feral natures, and this manifestation is effectively reaffirmed by the mask, as it is the strongest image of presence, of frontality, of what “comes to meet”: its eyes barred in front of it are such that one cannot escape, its face is intense, vibrant and ambiguous, a contradictory symbol of immediate presence and absolute absence, of reality and illusion, reason and madness.

The mask of Dionysus differs from that of the other divinities because it is more penetrating and immediately sensitive, and it is connected with the infinite enigma of duplicity and contradiction: the ultimate mysteries of being and non-being stare at man with huge eyes in a totalizing experience, which invests the dimension of the absolute. This spirit of duplicity that distinguishes Dionysus and his kingdom recurs in all forms of his work, is the cause of that distortion that every Dionysian element never fails to arouse because it is the spirit of a wild and universal nature.

Typical element of the cult of Dionysus is the essentially female participation in the ceremonies that were celebrated in various areas of Greece: the bacchae (also called menads, lene, tiads or bassarids) invoked and sang the presence and, also by means of masks (important in the cult of Dionysus, which is supposed to be linked to the birth of Greek tragedy), ritually reproduced the mythical Dionysian procession of silenes, satyrs and nymphs. They identified with the god and acquired the “fury”, understood as a state of divine invasion: The purpose of the rite was to remember the mythological events of Dionysus; they were crowned with laurel branches, vine shoots and vine bushes, and girded with the skins of wild animals, and held the tirso, a rod weighted down at one end by a pine cone that made its movements unstable; the men were disguised as satyrs (slaves also participated). Drunk with wine, the procession, called tiaso, abandoned itself to the whirling musical suggestion of the dithyramb, choral lyric and rhythmic dance obsessive and ecstatic. A particularly violent and brutal rite was the Sparagmòs (σπαραγμός), which consisted in tearing apart animals with bare hands in order to eat their raw meat. This rite is even described in The Bacchae of Euripides.

In the Dionysian rituals were overturned the logical, moral and social structures of the usual world. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Birth of Tragedy, stated that the Dionysian power induced in a state of ecstasy and drunkenness breaking the so-called “principle of individuation”, that is the subjective coating of each individual, and reconciled the human being with nature in a higher state of universal harmony that demolished conventions and social divisions established arbitrarily by man. Nietzsche argued that life itself, as the principle that animates living beings, is instinct, sensuality, chaos and irrationality, and for this reason he could not but see in Dionysus the perfect metaphor for existence: what infuses life into the arteries of the world is in fact a primeval and mysterious source that fluctuates chaotically in body and spirit, is the primordial storm of the cosmos in eternal change. Hegel, for his part, in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit, depicted in a Dionysian image the knowledge of the True, when he compared it to the “wavering of the bacchante, in which there is no member that is not intoxicated”.

Mircea Eliade writes: “The Mystery was constituted by the participation of the Bacchae in the total epiphany of Dionysus. The rites are celebrated at night, far from the city, in the mountains and forests. Through the sacrifice of the victim by quartering (sparagmós) and the consumption of the raw meat (homophagy) communion with the god is realized, because the animals cut into pieces and devoured are epiphanies, or incarnations, of Dionysus. All other experiences – exceptional physical strength, invulnerability to fire and weapons, “prodigies” (water, wine, milk that spring from the ground), “familiarity” with snakes and the young of the ferocious beasts – are made possible by enthusiasm, by identification with the god. The Dionysian ecstasy means above all the overcoming of the human condition, the discovery of total liberation, the achievement of a freedom and a spontaneity inaccessible to mortals”.

Interesting reconstruction of the Dionysian rites and mysteries is offered by Donna Tartt, American author, in the book God of Illusions.

The nature of Dionysus

An enigmatic and bewitching divinity, Dionysus made a mockery of every order and convention, shattered consciences, broke down rules and inhibitions, leading men, in a delirious vortex, back to their state of primordial purity. According to the philologist Walter Otto, it represents “the divine spirit of a boundless reality” that manifests itself in an eternal explosion of opposing forces: ecstasy and terror, life and death, creation and destruction, roar and silence; it is a wild and disruptive vital impulse that fascinates and disquiets: the intoxicating symphony of the universal reality of the cosmos.

For Karl Kerenyi “where Dionysus reigns, life reveals itself irreducible and without boundaries”. For Roberto Calasso, the drunken god was “pure intensity” which “overwhelmed in drunkenness and used sarcasm towards anyone who opposed him”. For Giorgio Colli, he is “the god of contradiction, of all contradictions… he is the absurd that proves to be true by his presence”.

And again: he is the god of providential and destructive power for Jeanne Roux; he is “the god of ambiguity”, “the different one”, who unites the contradictory polarities of the human for H.S. Versnel; he is the god of a no man”s land in which the opposites of wisdom and madness unite for Claude Calame; he is the god who represents that element of otherness that every human being carries within himself for Jean-Pierre Vernant; it is not a Greek divinity like the others for Dabdab Trabulsi; it is “an unlimited arborescence of double tensions” for Charles Segal; it is a paradox, “the sum of innumerable contradictions”, so much as to present itself as “abyss and enigma”, for Albert Henrichs.

The cult of Dionysus, widespread throughout Greece, was particularly alive in Boeotia and Attica. In Athens were important the rural Dionysia (or Small Dionysia) and the urban ones (or Great Dionysia). In the first, celebrated in the various villages of Attica, is a typical element the phallophoria, or procession of phallus, which refers to the agricultural connotations and fertility of the god, in the urban Dionysia are central theatrical representations, also present in another Athenian Dionysian festival, the lenee.

The cycle of official celebrations in honor of the god in Athens was closed by the three days of the Antesters, at the beginning of spring: there is the relationship with the vegetation and the link with the realm of the dead (the third day was thought that the dead returned to the living to be then, at the end of the festival, ritually removed). At Delphi the three winter months were sacred to Dionysus, and the image of the god and his procession was depicted on one of the two sides of the temple.

The cult of Dionysus was introduced in Italy by the Greek colonies and was also the subject of repressive measures, such as the senate-consult of 186 BC that prohibited the bacchanals, but in mystical religion always had great importance until the imperial age. In late antiquity, the cult of Dionysus rose to cosmic religion and expanded widely in a completely spontaneous: only the historical events put an end to its influence.

Tragedy is a creation of the Greek world, but regarding its origins the sources are scarce and fragmentary. All scholars agree, however, on the initial religious matrix of Greek theater that should be traced in the rites celebrated in honor of Dionysus, of which dance and music were an integral part. Aristotle connects the tragedy with the dithyramb, a choral song in honor of Dionysus that was sung by a procession of dancing satyrs, led by a coryphaeus, on the occasion of festivals related to the cult of the god, and with a satirical element; also providing the etymology of the term as “song of the goats”, (ōdē, song), from the masks of the participants. Later interpretations speak instead of “chant in honor of the goat” or “chant to obtain the prize of a goat.”

According to tradition, the dithyramb, which arose in the seventh century BC in the region of Corinth, was introduced in Attica by Thespis, an almost legendary character who not only gave literary form to the genre, but was also the first to create the figure of the actor, introducing the presence of an interlocutor (the hypokrités) who conversed with the coryphaeus, and thus giving a dramatic dimension to the primitive song. From here would have sprung the real theatrical representation, accepted in the social context as part of a cycle of celebrations that took place periodically in Athens twice a year. An analogous origin would have given life to the comedy, derived from a spontaneous procession with a buffoonish character in honor of Dionysus concluded by a phallic song.

Dionysus in the interpretation of the Jungian school

James Hillman (1926-2011), one of Jung”s main successors in the school of analytical psychology, developed profound reflections on the figure and archetype of Dionysus. In his short essay Dionysus in Jung”s writings, the first chapter of Figures of Myth, he summarizes what Jung had written about Dionysus and the Dionysian and then provides a personal interpretation.

Dionysus was not a central theme for Jung: according to Hillman, this is caused on the one hand by the original studies of Erwin Rohde and Nietzsche that left little room for further exploration from the theme, on the other hand by Jung”s prevailing interest in schizophrenia and the archetypal figure of Hermes-Mercury rather than in hysteria and the Dionysian archetype; It is no coincidence that Freud, who began the construction of his theory starting from hysteria, on the contrary made several times use of Dionysian metaphors (the zoé, the child and bisexuality represented by Dionysus) in talking about erogenous zones and the infant as a polymorphous perverse. Nevertheless, on several occasions Jung analyzes the classical god and the archetype to which he gives his name. In Jung”s alchemical writings, Dionysus is associated with the monkey and the Black Mass, with “His Majesty the Devil”. In other writings Jung highlights the affinities between Dionysus and Wotan, analyzing the figure of Nietzsche and the madness that characterized the last part of his life in reference to the dismemberment of Zagreo. The dismemberment of Dionysus is however the demonstration of its divisibility in parts: on the one hand, the dismemberment refers to the disintegration and decomposition of the body of the individual and his own life, and is somehow replicated by the processes that underlie the psychosomatic symptoms, hysteria, in fantasies-phobias about cancer; on the other hand, the experience of the dismemberment of central control represents the “resurrection of the natural light of archetypal consciousness distributed in each organ of the body”, the same “distribution of consciousness in the limbs, organs and areas of the body” that can be inferred from the symbolism of Joyce”s Ulysses.

Hillman develops his master”s reflection on the Dionysian by stating that the consciousness of analytical psychology “has always been governed by an archetypal structure that privileges the principles of light, order, and distancing over emotional involvement, or, more briefly, the Apollonian principle over the Dionysian.” therefore, both psychiatry of traditional system and classical studies would have prevented the awareness of the Dionysian and the resolution of fundamental analytical problems related to this archetype, causing indeed a removal and a distortion of all phenomena related to it branded as “hysterical, feminine, uncontrollable and dangerous”:

Sources

Sources

  1. Dioniso
  2. Dionysus