Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Unfair Bad Rep for Dionysus in True Blood

Always rather annoyed by the way that Dionysus is represented by contemporary artists or 'alternative life-style' groups, I have become absolutely incensed by a popular series on HBO named 'True Blood'. Based on the bestselling 'Sookie Stackhouse' novels by Charlaine Harris, the series focuses on a situation wherein vampires are real AND are given legal status in the U.S. in the near future. It is a very original and compelling foundation for a series and although the sexual scenes and violence could be rather difficult for the weak-stomached viewers, it is compelling stuff.

I myself am a fan of 'True Blood', apart from one very infuriating new twist. A Maenad has been introduced to Bon Temps where she wrecks havoc in the name of Dionysus, her Lord and Master.

The Dionysian cult in 'True Blood' has been sucked dry of any profound or mystical significance and beauty. It has been equated with simple hedonism in its worst manifestations. Orgies are mindless events orchestrated by the Maenad who herself has no particular philosophical or religious beliefs. Furthermore, they are daily events, which completely goes against the basis of the Dionysian religion.

Any 'mystery religion' is based on profound psychological and spiritual beliefs and the worship of Dionysus is one of the most ancient and complex mystery religions. Much of what today is known as Christianity has its basis in the Dionysian religion. He was Lord of Birth, Life, Death and Rebirth, combining both Male and Female, fertility and sterility. The wildness of the Dionysian orgy was designed to RESTORE balance to the world and was performed seasonally. In some cultures, it was performed only one every TWO years. It brought the god back from the underworld as well as marking the point where the wine became ready. Dionysus was lord of the vine and, like Christ on the Tree of Life, was sacrificed in the cause of Life. The holy rite of 'communion' originally was a Dionysian rite.

To find all of this disregarded in 'True Blood' in favour of equating Dionysus purely with evil and brainwashing is infuriating. Yes, the writers did their research in terms of establishing some of the ancient chants, such as the call to the Lord 'Bromios' but the spirit of Dionysus is noticably absent from ANY of the acts performed in his name in 'True Blood'.

There are elements of great terror and darkness in any mystery religion but they are accompanied by great beauty and profound glimpses of light. It is a pity when sensationalism reigns... No doubt the wholly negative portrayal of the Maenad and her demonic nature in 'True Blood' will be the only view of the ancient mystery religion that many of the viewers ever will be shown.

19th Century depiction of a Bacchante by Edith Corbet

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