August, 2018

Meet the Gods: Dionysos

Merry meet.

This month we get to know Dionysos, the Olympian god of the grape harvest, wine and wine making as well as the god of ritual madness, wild frenzy, festivity and pleasure. He is also called Bacchus.

He was usually accompanied by Satyrs (lustful, drunken woodland deities who were part human and part horse or goat) and Mainades (frenzied female devotees).

The thyrsos (a staff topped with a pinecone), a crown of ivy, fruiting grapevines, a drinking cup and a panther are all associated with him. Frequently represented in ancient art, he was first shown as a mature, bearded adult wearing an ivy wreath and a long robe that was sometimes draped with the skin of a fawn or a feline. In later times, he was depicted as youthful and beardless, effeminate, and partially or entirely nude.As such he is among the most versatile and elusive Greek gods.

According to, Dionysos’ life began with intrigue and disaster. “Zeus was attracted to the lovely princess of Thebes but his appreciation of Thyone did not escape the notice of his sister/wife, Hera. The vengeful goddess dared not interfere overtly with Zeus’s affairs but she was a master of subtlety. When it became obvious that Thyone was pregnant, Hera enchanted Thyone and induced her ask Zeus to come to her in his radiant splendor. Zeus was flattered and revealed himself to Thyone in all his flaming glory … she was utterly consumed by the flames.

Zeus’s son Hermes rescued Thyone’s premature child from the conflagration that consumed Thyone’s mortal body and gave the babe to a woman named Makris, daughter of Aristaios, on the island of Euboia. Makris did what she could to sooth the child but Hera was quick to realize what had happened … she drove Makris from her home. Zeus took the infant from Makris and sewed it into his thigh so that it might have his protection.”

Dionysos later journeys to the underworld, gets his mother and takes “her to Olympus where Zeus transformed into the goddess Thyone,” according to the Theo Greek Mythology website.

When Dionysos and his companions as were traveling through the Land of Thrakian, the king drove them into the sea. “As punishment,” the website states, “the god inflicted him with madness causing him to murder his wife and son and mutilate himself with an axe.

When King Pentheus of Thebes refused to accept Dionysos’ divinity, Dionysos retaliated by driving the king’s daughters into a crazed frenzy and they tore him apart limb from limb, Theo Greek Mythology states.

Another myth shared on the website tells of Dionysos traveling through the Aegean Sea when he was captured by a band of Tyrrhenian pirates who planned to sell him into slavery. “The god infested their ship with phantoms of creeping vines and wild beasts, and in terror the men leapt overboard and were transformed into dolphins.”

Dionysos married princess Ariadne of Krete (Crete) whom he found abandoned by Theseus on an island.

He traveled as far as India, and upon his return to Greece, those who welcomed him adopted his rituals. His followers also wore or carried pinecone-topped staffs, ivy crowns and drinking cups. Dionysos punished those who rejected him with madness or physical afflictions, or he would turn them into animals. Over time, drinking wine became his sacrament, even to the point of drunkenness.

According to N.S. Gill’s article on, “Dionysos is a patron of the theater and an agricultural/fertility god. … Writers often contrast Dionysus with his half-brother Apollo. Where Apollo personifies the cerebral aspects of mankind, Dionysus represents the libido and gratification.”

Despite being the creator and god of wine, the ritual madness associated with Dionysus did not involve alcohol or drugs. “Their wild dancing and estate ecstatic behaviour were interpreted as ‘madness’ only by the uninitiated,” according to the Ancient World Project at the University of Michigan.

Greek theater is said to come from the worship of Dionysus in Athens. The Theater of Dionysus held 17,000. Plays were performed honoring Dionysus as god of wine. It’s said that tragedies dramatized his negative and destructive traits while comedies incorporated innocence, humor and his many festivals

When you incorporate wine into your celebrations, rituals, or for cakes and ale, honoring Dionysus can bring fertility and gratification.

Merry part. And merry meet again.


About the Author:

Lynn Woike was 50 – divorced and living on her own for the first time – before she consciously began practicing as a self taught solitary witch. She draws on an eclectic mix of old ways she has studied – from her Sicilian and Germanic heritage to Zen and astrology, the fae, Buddhism, Celtic, the Kabbalah, Norse and Native American – pulling from each as she is guided. She practices yoga, reads Tarot and uses Reiki. From the time she was little, she has loved stories, making her job as the editor of two monthly newspapers seem less than the work it is because of the stories she gets to tell. She lives with her large white cat, Pyewacket, in central Connecticut. You can follow her boards on Pinterest, and write to her at woikelynn at gmail dot com.


Spiralled Edges

November, 2015

Spiralled Edges – Soul Ancestors and Pagan Practices

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about ancestors and past-life memories, and how that may be influencing my Pagan practise in this current life.

Humans place a great value on their cultural group. And well we should! This is our family, our home, our traditions, our rituals and celebrations. Of course we are going to get peeved when someone comes along and treats it all as a joke or picks up the pretty bits to wear like a necklace then tosses it aside when the next shiny comes along.

There is a lot of awareness in recent years of the ways in which people of European descent have wrongly appropriated the practices and beliefs of other cultures. Absolutely, this is something that needs to be addressed, and claiming to be a part of another culture when you have been neither reared nor adopted into that culture is always wrong.

What various Gods have told me a number of times, in different ways, is that They don’t just see our current life. They see our ancestral life as well, ancestors of the blood, through birth or adoption, and also of the ancestors of the soul. It may be that we find ourselves called to honour a Deity from a culture we have no blood connection because of this Soul Ancestry.

Through my own work, I have come to understand that Deities see our Soul ancestry (our past-lives) as well as our blood ancestry. In working with Deity I have on several occasions been tapped on the shoulder by a Deity outside of the Celtic pantheon. Each time the encounter has had to be dealt with in a way that both honoured and respected the Deity, and at the same time showed sensitivity and awareness of the human culture associated with that Deity, both in antiquity and today.

People though, people can only see your current life and blood ancestry line. This is the one we are meant to be focusing on in this life time. (They’re called past lives for a reason, they’re part of our past!)

In this lifetime, I am a Western European mutt born to two white parents, who in turn had two white parents, who each had two white parents, who each had…In other words, I claim not even the tiniest drop of African tribal, Afro-Caribbean, Indian (subcontinent India), ancient Mesopotamian, Anatolian, Persian, Russian, or pre-Inca South American blood. But Deities and spirits from each of these groupings have chosen to speak to me or through me to another person. Some have worked through or with me, not because I was expected to take up the mantle of that culture but because the knowledge had some bearing on my current life experience. Others have chosen to speak or work through me when I’ve been doing healing work for another person that they have claimed. They speak through me, or at least give me the message and I pass it on. Once I pass on the message, I don’t hear from that Deity again. That’s right – They used me as an answering service!

Others have come round when I am doing past-life healing work for myself. Right now I am working my way through some issues around food and diet that appear to be related to a past-life experience in ancient Peru and an even more ancient past-life experience in ancient Anatolia. I have Soul Ancestry connections to both times and places. I am not doing this work as someone who has a spurious claim to an ancient Chavin or Moche heritage, or an ancient Anatolian heritage though. I’m doing it as a Western European white woman who has a lot to learn.

Part of me questions why Western Europeans are so eager to claim a Soul Ancestry connection as part of their heritage today. I think it has to do with the ways Europeans have scattered themselves across the globe over the past 600 years.

In my own family line, I can trace my family back into 8 different countries. They were Puritans, Lutherans, and Huguenots, and at least one German multi-great grandfather trying to avoid being drafted to fight in a war, who travelled across the Atlantic to the New World between the 1500s and the 1800s. Where is my connection to a land? If I were to return to the land of my ancestors where would I go? On the other hand, at least all of my family lines can be traced back to the same continent. Some have branches that split into 2 or 3 or more different continents.

Ironically, my youngest son, born in England, tells people that he is half-American while I tell people I am part this, part that, a drop of the other.

What we don’t have, with our ancestral lines stretching back into half a dozen or more countries around the world, is that sense of connection to a people, to a community, to a land stretching back hundreds of generations that indigenous people can have. I think that some grow jealous of that connection and are trying to claim part of it for themselves.

As part of my training in shamanic healing methods I learned about Soul Loss, and Soul Retrieval, and Soul Stealing. The first two are fairly self-explanatory. The third can happen when someone deliberately or inadvertently steals a part of our soul from us, but also when we deliberately or inadvertently steal a part of someone else’s soul from them. This is what we are doing when we try to claim someone else’s culture as our own without benefit of having been born or adopted into that culture.

Like the soul piece taken from another, we can’t use it. It gives us no extra self-power. It gives us no real connection to the Earth.

I think as well, that many people have this idea that Europe has no ancient noble, indigenous culture. They are trying to validate and justify their own Pagan (or other) beliefs and instead of looking inwards to their own cultural history, try to give validity to their beliefs by assuming the cultural history of a “real” indigenous group. You see this today with people making tourist jaunts into South America in order to take part in plant healer ceremonies, and in people trying to claim they are Native American. 60 years ago, these same people would have been traipsing over to India and Nepal to live in an Ashram.

Always they look outside of themselves, outside of their culture, outside of their ancestry trying to find something that is right in front of their eyes and inside themselves.

Just because you think you were a Cherokee princess in a previous life, that doesn’t mean you get to claim to be a Cherokee in this lifetime. Not even if First Woman speaks in your ear. Not unless you have also been raised in the Cherokee culture in this lifetime or have been formally adopted into a family and are embracing the entire culture as your own. This does not mean that First Woman hasn’t spoken to you, and it does not mean that you cannot or should not do things in your personal practice to honour Her. Just don’t claim to be something you’re not at the same time.

Remember these words from Valiente’s Charge of the Goddess – If that which you seek to find you seek not within, you will never find it without.

What Pagan spiritual practices can you find within your own blood ancestry lines?