Today is the Feast of the Dionysian Kings, and we had a pretty good discussion on the underlying themes of the festival and some ways to celebrate it last night in the thiasos’ fancy new Skype chat. It also prompted this piece by Galina reappraising the figure of Pentheus, who is pretty universally reviled but considered one of the heroes of the Starry Bull pantheon. Even after reading her piece some people might have a difficult time understanding why he’s included. I sure as hell did when Dionysos started pushing for it.
And yet it makes perfect fucking sense – he’s the god of outsiders, including those outside his circle. His love is too large to be fit into rigid little boxes. A while back I said that you don’t really know Dionysos until you hate him – but you also don’t know him until you really know how big he is. He is big enough to take all of the hate and all of the rage we can muster, just keep taking it and taking it until we have nothing left to pour out of us – and yet he’s still there, still bigger than us, stronger than us and most terrible of all, still loving us.
Now, don’t get the impression that he’s weak or sentimental from that. There comes a point where we’ve made our choice and the consequences come crashing down on us and he won’t stop it, even if he could. If nothing else, Pentheus shows that. But it doesn’t mean he stops loving us, even when those horrible things we’ve brought upon ourselves play out – or after.
And I think that’s why Pentheus is one of our heroes – to remind us of how limitless Dionysos’ love is.
Or maybe it’s a challenge – everything about Dionysos challenges us in one way or another. But this is a challenge to look beyond the surface, to look beyond the commonly accepted truths, to look at things with other than human eyes and human values.
To see the world how Dionysos sees us.
Do you think there’s any part of you he doesn’t know, any thought or desire that remains hidden from him? When you drink that wine or give yourself over to a spontaneous ecstasy you’re inviting him into you and he sloshes about in all your crevices and crannies, slips through all those dusty, boarded up places inside your mind, rushes through your bloodstream, dances through your liver, wears you like meat pyjamas and gets pissed out of you the following morning.
Yeah, sit with that image for a while.
Now, depending on the nature of your relationship, he may never let on that you guys have shared that level of intimacy – but the knowledge still colors his perception of you.
Think about that for a moment too. There’s nowhere to hide and nothing you can hide from him.
All your fears, all your weaknesses, all those countless ways you don’t measure up, all your gross little human bits.
He’s seen them. He knows them. He’s felt them.
Through you and everyone else that’s let him in going back to the beginning of humanity, he’s felt them.
And he loves them. He loves you. As long as you are you – whatever that is, whatever it was, whatever it’s becoming – he loves you. That’s why he asks, “Who are you?”
It’s putting a mirror before your eyes and asking you to see yourself as he does.
As he did when he was a little child gazing into his reflection in a burnished surface in an empty hall, hearing the approach of the horrible chalk-faced monsters come to devour him, and not caring because what he saw was beautiful, too beautiful to look away from.
And what he saw was you – something worth getting torn apart to see.