(continued from last post)
C.) The Mysteries of Apollo and Dionysios
While the Mithraic mysteries succeeded those of Zoroaster,
they followed those of Dionysios, through which the core of Hellenic
mystery teaching found its way into the Western Mystery Tradition.
Two streams of consciousness are discernable within the Classical
mysteries, which might be called Dionysian and Apollonian. The
Apollonian mysteries related to reason, to the heavens and to order;
this is in contradistinction to the chaotic, ecstatic mysteries of
The priests of Apollo were more interested in wresting
the political power away from the earlier Goddess worshipping
peoples who held sway as the Oracle at Delphi, and so their
mysteries were not so widely spread because they were tied to a
specific location and shrine.
The Mysteries of Dionysios were those of the sacrificial
king: they pertain to the underworld side of things, the chthonic
and ecstatic cult of maenads and bacchantes. The mysteries of
Dionysios, as well as those of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis, seem
to be the closest link between the Mystery Religions and the more
primal Shamanic lifeways of Ancient Europe.
The myth of Dionysios' origins tells that he was first born from the
union of Zeus with Persephone. Zeus designated this 'Zagreus' as his
heir, but the jealous Titans lured him away while he was yet a child,
killed, dismembered him and devoured all the pieces except for the
heart, which Athena rescued and preserved. Thus Dionysios is
identified with Osiris.
Zeus, in anger, reduced the Titans to ashes, from which the new
race of humanity was fashioned. Thus each person contains a fragment of
Dionysios within their 'Titanic' earthly body. From the heart of the
god was brewed a love potion, which was given to Semele, a mortal, who
then forced her lover -- Zeus again -- into revealing himself to her
in his primal form. This unveiling was so overwhelming as to annihilate
her, but the child she was carrying was saved by Zeus enclosing it in
his loins until the time came for its birth as the second Dionysios.
The young god grew up in Thrace, suckled by goats and raised by
satyrs and sileni. When he reached maturity, he descended through the
Alcyonian Lake to rescue the shade of his mother Semele from Hades
and then raised her to Olympus. Afterward, accompanied by a motley
train of semi-human beings, maenads and panthers, he set off on
wanderings throughout the world, from Libya to Arabia to India and
thus back to his homeland.
On the Isle of Naxos he discovered the Cretan Princess
Ariadne, abandoned there by Theseus, and joined with her as her
husband. Together they ascended to the heavens, whence he offers a
similar blissful reward to his devotees, temporarily in this life and
permanently after death.
(more next post)