Dionysos is often associated with intoxication and divine madness. Classical lore talks of His maenads, women claimed by and/or devoted to Him, going into ecstatic ritual frenzies so intense that they were wont to tear animals and occasionally men apart. Have you ever tasted this type of madness and if so, what role do you feel it plays in His devotion?

I haven’t, and neither has any other male because only women can be mainades and only certain women at that. Of course, mainades aren’t the only ecstatic votaries of Dionysos—in antiquity or today—and I’ve definitely experienced his mad blessings myself.

The first couple of times it came upon me spontaneously and I wasn’t really prepared to deal with it. You can read all of the ancient accounts of Dionysiac ritual madness and survey similar phenomena from other traditions—Tarantism, Shamanism, Sufism, charismatic Christianity, and Vodoun—but none of that really prepares you for what it’s like when it’s actually happening to you!

Somehow with the grace of the God I not only managed to survive my first brushes with ekstasis and trance-possession but discovered that I actually have some aptitude for entering these altered states, and now I actively cultivate them every chance I get. They range from light inspiration where the world seems strange and cinematic, shapes dancing on the periphery of my vision and whispered voices filling my head, on up to full possession where I’m not there any longer and Dionysos has complete use of my body. It’s rare for it to be at quite that level (I can think of only a handful of times over the last two decades) as it’s usually more of a cooperative effort. He’s taken over, manipulating my words and actions but I’m still conscious and can direct things if need be. It’s kind of like putting on a mask and acting a part, only the mask is a living thing itself. I’m not sure who’s the mask or the mask-wearer in this analogy however—maybe both of us at different times!