Dislocation and Disorientation in the Worship of Dionysus

Abstract

The worship of Dionysus in the ancient Greek world was fundamentally based around movement and spatial disorientation. In this talk, I explore how this facet of the worship of Dionysus contributes to the experience of the god among ancient Greeks. First, the origin story of Dionysus is one of migration: the god was born in Greece, grew up far to the east, and then returned in a triumphant processional back to Greece. As such, worshipers also experience a foreignness as they follow in his footsteps, even if they remain in the land of their birth. Second, worship of Dionysus stereotypically takes place out in the countryside; this change of place (and concomitant change of pace) serves to take worshipers out of their comfort zone and to bring them face-to-face with the otherness all around them. Finally, worship of Dionysus involves the drinking of wine, the main purpose of which in this case is to spiritually relocate the consciousness of the imbiber from the world of the mundane to an altered state of consciousness. Taken together, these Dionysian experiences of dislocation and disorientation serve to dramatically remove the worshiper from his or her accustomed places and to cast him or her into a new space in which experiencing the divine is possible.

Presenters

Luke Gorton
Senior Lecturer, Religious Studies, University of New Mexico, New Mexico, United States

Details

Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Theme

2024 Special Focus—Spaces, Movement, Time: Religions at Rest and in Movement

KEYWORDS

Dionysus, Dislocation, Disorientation, Spatiality

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