Dionysus and the Legend of Wine
The Thracian God of Wine – Zagreus is thought to be the inspiration for the Greek God of Wine Dionysus1 who is more widely known across the world. Dionysus is associated with wine, joy, feasts, the Dionysus’ mysteries2 and has become a synonym for “enjoying oneself”, “having a good time”. So, what is the story of Dionysus?
The legend goes that Dionysus was born from his father’s Zeus’ thigh. Dionysus was yet another of Zeus’ children that was a result of one of his numerous affairs. This is why Zeus’ wife – Hera did not like the boy. On the contrary, all other Olympus Gods were fond of the young Dionysus because he was beautiful and joyful.
When he entered adolescence Dionysus started surrounding himself and enjoying the company of the maenads. The name “maenad” literally means “the raging one”. The maenads were a group of women who were famous for their lustfulness, feasts and frivolous spirit. All these characteristics of the maenads drew the young Dionysus and he started enjoying their company regularly until the point when the maenads were the constant entourage3 of Dionysus.
Soon Dionysus left Olympus with his entourage of maenads and set on travelling and experiencing the world. One of the group’s early journeys took them to a beautiful town with splendid gardens. The wife of the town’s ruler was famous for her unsurpassed beauty. Dionysus heard of her beauty and wished that he seduce her. He saw her in one of the gardens and persuaded to follow him in his journeys across the world. She accepted and escaped from her husband to join Dionysus and the maenads. Thus, she became Dionysus supreme wife.
She had long, red hair, voluptuous body, passionate temper and frivolous spirit, so she became a perfect match for the merry group of travelers. Thus, Dionysus, his beautiful wife and the maenads traveled across the world, enjoying themselves at every stop, organizing feasts and bringing chaos and frivolity. Somehow their behavior mesmerized the ordinary people and wherever they stopped, people discontinued their chores and engaged in the feasts.
One of their stops happened to be a town that was ruled by the brother of the husband who Dionysus left with no wife. This was a perfect opportunity for Hera, Zeus’ wife who did not like Dionysus, to satisfy her desire to punish Dionysus. She appeared in the dream of the deceived husband and pointed to the location of his wife and urged him to avenge Dionysus by killing her. So, it happened. The husband sneaked into the place where Dionysus and his entourage were feasting and speared the beautiful woman with a dagger.
Dionysus was outraged. He immediately turned the husband into a rock and took the dying woman in his arms. He could not bring her back to life because he did not have such powers. However, he wanted to perpetuate her in some way. This is why he wished that she turns into a plant that is wild and passionate like her and the juice of which brings happiness and frivolity like their love. And so, as the woman was dying she turned into a vine tree. Soon, grape bunches were hanging from the tree. Dionysus picked them; their color was like the hair color of his beloved, their taste was like the taste of her lips. Dionysus squeezed the juice out of them and left it aside. He declared days of mourning.
Weeks passed before the heartbroken Dionysus put an end to the days of mourning. He ordered to his group that before they leave they should drink the juice. The fermented juice penetrated their bodies and suddenly they felt divine intoxication, immense happiness and they started feasting like when the beautiful woman was still with them. After they sobered, Dionysus took some branches with him and decided to travel the world, plant the vine tree and teach people how to make wine so that his beloved could be forever alive.
Thus, to this day when we are drinking wine, we are tasting the passionate love of Dionysus and his beloved. The only thing left to relive the memory of the Dionysian feasts is to enjoy wine in a good company, nice setting, and with delicious food. So, come and create your own Dionysian mystery!
2. Dionysus’ mystery 古希臘的一種儀式，有時會使用迷幻劑和其他催眠技巧（如舞蹈和音樂）來消除壓抑和社會約束，使人得到解放，回到自然狀態。
3. entourage 伴隨者，近侍。