I have occasionally heard other Hellenics refer to Dionysos as a “Gateway God,” i.e. the God that first attracted them and drew them into Hellenic polytheism. Why do you think that He is so popular/attractive/intoxicating . . . maybe approachable is the right word?

Oh, he definitely has that function and I think one of the reasons may be that he is partly human himself and so may understand us a little better than his fellow Gods—what makes us tick, what gets our attention—allowing him to slip through our defenses and awaken us to the wider world around us. Or maybe not. What do I know?

I know he is a very generous God who loves his family; his myths are filled with accounts of him coming to the aid of other Olympians, raising mortals up to divine status, building temples, introducing cults and serving other Gods in a priestly capacity. That’s a pretty extraordinary thing when you think about it; most Greek Gods are eager to elevate their own dignity and thus are not inclined to humble themselves in the service of others.

So really what a lot of people recount today—Dionysos coming into their lives merely to turn them over to another deity—is sort of an extension of that ancient tradition.

Plus, well, Dionysos is sexy, exciting, mysterious, dangerous, etc. so it’s not a huge surprise that he’s great at getting our attention.

3 thoughts on “I have occasionally heard other Hellenics refer to Dionysos as a “Gateway God,” i.e. the God that first attracted them and drew them into Hellenic polytheism. Why do you think that He is so popular/attractive/intoxicating . . . maybe approachable is the right word?

  1. You bring up an interesting point that may be worthy of an essay or something of that sort at some stage (whether by me or you is your choice!): namely, if Dionysos is part human, as the son of Semele (though she had a few divine ancestors, too!), did that perhaps follow from the metaphysical condition that in some Orphic reckonings, He had been slain and eaten by Titans, then They were destroyed and Their ashes were used to make humans, which means a part of Dionysos that had been devoured by Them had been dusted and made into humans, and so what remained of Him followed and desired to unite with humanity in order to reunite with His disparate parts…I think you probably see where I’m going with this!

    It reminds me of that Hermetic saying, which is not best translated “as above, so below; as below, so above,” but instead “what is Above is made from that which is Below; what is Below is made from that which is Above”; or, in more Orphic terms, “I am a child of Gaia and starry Ouranos…” ;)

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    1. Oh, you should definitely write that!

      Personally, I don’t think humans were made from the ash of the Titans who ate Dionysos; we only find that in Olympiodoros, whereas there are a lot more sources that suggest we come from the blood of the Titans or Giants who fought against the Gods. Additionally, if mankind sprang from the ash that creates continuity problems since the heart of Dionysos was fed to Semele to produce his second incarnation and she is many generations later.

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