Young Bacchus (Dionysus), situated on the bulwark of the Palais de la Berbie garden’s, Albi, Tarn, France – PNG File, Attention only the maximum original size is in png format.,
originally uploaded by MAMJODH.
Since bread and wine are traditionally bound together as symbols of life-giving nourishment from the gods, it is not surprising that in ancient Greece Demeter, the goddess of the grain, was often worshipped together with Bacchus, the god of wine. Bacchus was the child of Zeus and a human mother. He is best known to us as the personification of wine and ecstasy. The worship of Bacchus was characterized by wild dancing, music, and madcap abandon.
Like other gods of vegetation Bacchus was believed to have died a violent death, but to have been brought back to life again. Zeus’ wife, the goddess Hera, hated this child born of a human mother and plotted his destruction. Knowing how she felt, Zeus entrusted young Bacchus to the care of guards that he thought he could trust. Hera, however, bribed the guards, and by amusing the boy with a mirror – which he stared into, becoming fascinated with his image – she lured him underground into a trap. The Titans, whom Zeus had imprisoned in the earth, were now co-conspirators with Hera, and they ambushed the boy, tore him to pieces, boiled his flesh, and ate it. But Athena, the goddess of Wisdom, who had shared in Hera’s treachery, now repented and saved the boy’s Heart. She brought it to Zeus, and confessed the whole sordid story. Enraged, Zeus blasted the Titans with a mighty thunderbolt, reducing them to ashes. He was then able to nurture the heart of Bacchus, and from the heart the boy was reborn.
Out of the ashes of the Titans, Zeus had Prometheus craft the Human Race. A composite creature, our lower nature is made of the remains of the Titans themselves (stardust), who had become wicked and distorted because of their long and bitter involvement in the depths of the material world to which Zeus had banished them. Our higher nature, however, comes from the burned remains of the god Bacchus, pieces of whom the Titans had devoured. It is for this reason that the Mysteries taught that suicide is a horrific crime, since every human being contains a portion of the god, and thus our body is his property and his temple and must always be treated reverentially.
Bacchus, a combination of Heaven (his father Zeus) and Earth (his human mother), was thus “of both worlds – and he is thus a symbol of the Soul, which is also “of both worlds” (and so is Wine, which can produce either lunacy or ecstasy). Bacchus became spellbound by his image in the mirror, hypnotized by the illusory reflection of reality, and thus he was ensnared by the Titans who cut him up into fragments and scattered the pieces amongst themselves (which means, symbolically, that they scattered them everywhere). In just this way the human soul is mesmerized and ensnared by the fascinating world of matter, and is fragmented and devoured by life, toward which it disperses its scattered attention (hence the need to practice meditation and learn to focus our attention). But all is not lost! When Zeus saw that the Titans, in a degraded caricature of their original generative purpose, were now scattering pieces of the divine idea throughout the lower world, he immediately destroyed them so that the divine idea would not be completely lost. From the ashes (dust) he created human beings, whose purpose is to preserve and nurture the Soul, their little piece of Bacchus, and eventually release it from the lower world of Matter back into the Heavens.