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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Dionysus

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Many Faces of Minoan Dionysos

Most people are familiar with Dionysos as a vegetation god. In fact, that’s how he started life (so to speak) among humans, dying each year at the time of the grape harvest. In the Mediterranean, where Crete is located, that happens most years in late August or early September. So in many ways Dionysos is similar to the other dying-and-reborn vegetation gods we’re familiar with from the Near East, Europe and other regions. But as so often happens, cultures change over time, inventing or importing new ideas and layering them onto what’s already there. Something like that happened with Dionysos in ancient Crete.

Before we get to his details, though, let me explain a bit about how the Minoan pantheon works. Rather than having a particular slot in a human-style family tree, the Minoan gods and goddesses unfold out of each other in a multi-faceted fashion. In a way, all the deities within the Minoan pantheon can be considered reflections or facets of the Great Mother Goddess Rhea. But for practical purposes, they behave as individual deities with their own personalities and qualities. This henotheistic setup can make it difficult to tease out exactly which aspects go with which deity name, and to sort out whether two different names belong to two different gods or a single one. In addition, as Minoan society changed over time, more layers were added onto those already-complicated facets, and some of the deity names only come down to us in later forms, from languages and cultures foreign to the Minoans. I’ll do my best to untangle some of the bits about Dionysos today. I’ve worked with him for a long time and as far as I can tell, these aspects of him manage to work well together in spite of their apparent differences.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Dionysos, Bulls and Funerals

Over at Ariadne’s Tribe we’ve been developing a liturgy for modern Minoan Paganism – a yearly calendar of sacred events and their meanings, along with tidbits about the deities who are involved with each one. Throughout the year, Dionysos plays a big part in Minoan spirituality. In fact, he’s the most prominent god, to the point that the Greeks compared him to their Zeus. In addition to his well-known associations with wine, Dionysos also figures as the dying-and-reborn god of the solar year, an aspect that adds quite a few layers to his presence. Lately I’ve been thinking about how his different festivals and annual milestones dovetail together, and what that might mean in terms of some of the well-known bits of life in ancient Crete, bull-leaping in particular.

Before we dive into this subject, it’s important to realize that Minoan civilization, in the form we’re accustomed to think of it, lasted for a solid 15 centuries, from roughly 3000 to 1500 BCE. During that time, the religious practices of the island shifted and changed, from fairly simple ancestor-based activities all the way to an official state religion run by the big temples. Alongside the official religion, the people always had their own home-based practices, which echoed the state religion in some ways and diverged from it in others. But throughout this time, Dionysos played a prominent role.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Funny, I'd just written up a piece on bull-leaping myself. Must be something in the air.
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Very nice!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Mystery at Midsummer, Minoan Style

Mystery plays were a big part of life in the ancient world, when people’s seasonal work was punctuated throughout the year by sacred festivals of all sorts. What on earth is a mystery play? It’s not a whodunit, like a modern murder mystery. In the case of mystery plays, the word takes on an older meaning. My dictionary defines it as ‘a religious truth that man can know by revelation alone,’ in other words, something you have to experience yourself rather than just being told about it. And that’s what mystery plays are all about: letting you have the experience of the gods, the myths, the sacred, right there in your own life. A mystery isn’t just something you experience; it changes you from the inside out.

The modern world still has mystery plays of a sort. The ‘living nativity scene’ that some Christian churches put on around Christmas is a snapshot or tidbit of a mystery play and those huge Passion of Christ productions are the full-scale deal, a mystery play about the Christian festival of Easter.. But for most people these days, I suspect the movies largely take the place of the old mystery plays, allowing us to roll ourselves up emotionally in the stories that make up the mythology of the modern world: superheroes, science fiction, fantasy.

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  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Beautiful!
From Gaia and Dionysus to Jesus and Mary Magdalene

"How would you like to be interviewed for a book that questions the historical existence of Jesus?" asked Minas, a journalist, editor, and old-time friend of mine. "I'd love it if you would like to point out the similarities between Jesus and Dionysus." It was an offer I couldn't resist. The interview turned out to me more than 5000 words long, opening a host of fascinating topics. It is included in the book Jesus Mythicism: An Introduction, whose English translation recently came out. It is written by Minas Papageorgiou and also includes interviews by well-known scholars, such as Maria Dzielska, Payam Nabarz, and Joseph Atwill.

I'm delighted to share a part of my interview with you, with permission from the book's author.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Christmas with Dionysos

You’ve probably seen those memes that depict the many deities whose birthdays coincide with Christmas and whose attributes are startlingly similar to Jesus’. Please understand, I have no quarrel with Jesus, though I could do without some of his followers. He is one of a long line of gods who remind us that there is light within the darkness, that all cycles turn and renew, and that mindfulness and compassion go a long way toward curing the ills of this world. But he’s not the only one with those attributes, and in fact, he’s not the only one celebrated at this time of year, either, as you might have guessed.

Let me introduce you to another god who is born at Midwinter; perhaps you will enjoy his company as much as I do. He has much to teach, for those who have the patience to listen.

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  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake says #
    Fabulous! I loved reading this. I hadn't heard this story before. Thanks for sharing it.
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    You're very welcome! Glad you enjoyed it.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
As Solstice Dawns in Knossos

Travel with me, across the world and back in time, to a Winter Solstice morning in ancient Crete. We are among the special guests, the important members of the community who have been invited to join the priests and priestesses of Knossos to witness a most sacred event. The gathering begins in the darkness before dawn.

The air is crisp and cold as we join the others waiting in silence in the great plaza at the center of the temple. We stand in the dark, pressed close together, listening for that special sound – the blast of the conch shell that announces the first glimmer of the Winter Solstice sunrise over the land to the east. Our breathing generates tiny clouds of steam that are barely visible as the sky begins to lighten from deep black to dark blue. Then, as the first rosy fingers of light stretch up from the horizon, the triton sounds, its call echoing around the stone-paved plaza. Though we are still surrounded by dimness and cannot see the Sun over the tall temple walls, we feel its presence as the process of dawning begins.

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  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    Steven, it just occurred to me that you would appreciate the symbology of the throne itself. If you look at Fig. 43 in Marinatos'
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    Thanks very much Steven. Blessings to you and yours.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Laura, I feel as if I've known this story all my life, though I first read it just now. I'll never see the Griffin Throne the same

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_night-sky.jpg

You may not know the story of how Arachne defied the Goddess Athena with the beauty of her weaving, and you may know the story of how Arachne, born again as a mortal woman helped the hero Theseus defeat the Minator. But you probably do not know the tale of what came after.

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  • Gern Laverty
    Gern Laverty says #
    I follow Athena, and I suppose you could say, I am a follower of Arachne, as well. She has amazing transformative properties. Than
  • Rob Nelson
    Rob Nelson says #
    19-11-14 "As the Butterfly emerges, you are reborn to a Higher level of Consciousness, and you are entering another level of Reali

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