The Natural Evolution of the Dionysian Cult

I am really pleased to announce that my latest book, Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy is now available from all good bookshops, including direct from the publishers, Avalonia Books. This book has been an absolute journey in the making. As with my first book, Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide, I was compelled to write this book and as such, it felt like quite a mission from start to finish! As the Introduction explains, my study was born out of a series of synchronicities, prophecies and other mystical occurrences which happened to our small ritual group in Hampshire, in the UK. Hampshire is a seemingly unlikely place for the Dionysian current to manifest. Both trained to our third degrees in Alexandrian Wicca, myself and my ritual partner began taking applications for our own ritual group in 2005. We were not a conventional Wiccan group; having received training with teachers from several different occult traditions, we were already working outside of the standard Wiccan framework. After a few years, we adopted the more general term of Initiatory Witchcraft, which allowed us to explore alternative mystery traditions and magical practices. it was all semantics of course – but it helped us in some way to remain true to our journey. In a way, the publication of my first book, Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide to Paganism and Witchcraft, marked this moment – drawing a line beneath my previous work whilst also leaving one or two clues about the new direction our ritual group was taking. Craft of the Wise did not attempt to cover this new ground.

Within Initiatory Witchcraft, many of the ritual themes are received intuitively, and then reconstructed with historical research into that particular mystery tradition or practice. A lot of it is down to synchronicity, messages and intuitive work. There is very little scripted work. It is based on studying and recreating the more mystic aspects of ancient traditions. However, we often use the ritual framework from Wicca as a structure for the practice of the mysteries (either magical or theurgic) because it does work in terms of creating coherence and structure. We also found, through our own experiences, that the ethos of Wicca and Witchcraft (and the very nature of the gods and forces working within them) behave in a very similar way to the ecstatic cult of Dionysos, and gods and goddesses of a similar ilk – and are therefore conducive with the ritual and practice of Wicca. Ultimately, they seem to follow the same ‘current’ in the universe.

It is important for any reader to realise that this book is written from a modern Western Mystery Tradition viewpoint – the only viewpoint I can give. I would like to stress that the material in this book is only my own interpretation of what has already been written about the god, together with my own inspiration and ritual experiences. I hope that I have managed to step far enough away from modern practices (whilst still recognising parallels) in order to view the evidence from an objective point of view – but inevitably, my interpretations will be influenced by modern thinking. As the author Robert Brown writes, ‘our acquaintance with earlier times is probably insufficient to enable us to judge whether … a particular assumption is (correct) or not’, that is, no matter how well read we are on a subject, we will always be influenced by our modern way of thinking and preconceptions; but perhaps we have to accept this on some level as part of the natural evolution of the Dionysian cult.

The aim of my book is to present a historical study of Dionysos and a reliable basis upon which the Dionysian current can develop and grow. I believe that the way we work with the ancient gods should always be evolving and transforming in tune with the modern world, just like Dionysos himself – but that it is just as important that we unify well researched ancient practices with our modern interpretations.

Certainly, the Dionysian philosophy suggests that it is impossible to develop spiritually without also embracing the realities of life – for Dionysos is a god of substance. The ancient Greeks had two different words for our word, ‘life’ the first was ‘bios’ which referred to the literal, mortal existence of an individual, and the other was ‘zoe’, which referred to the ‘spirit’ of life. This ethos was reflected at the core of the Dionysian religion, which recognised both the reality of existence and also a profound spiritual awareness. Dionysos was sometimes described as ‘otherworldly without being world-denying’ the Dionysian cult brought religion and the corporeal into one, without negating the importance or viability of either; arguably, perhaps something that is missing in many spiritual and religious paths today.

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