I’ve started, together with half a dozen friends, a Dionysian devotional group I’m calling Thiasos Bakkheios. It means, roughly, “Folks who come together to perform rituals to Bakkhos.” I am no expert in any form of Greek, so if someone reading this can confirm that I’m using the words correctly, that would be great. Better, if I’m wrong, correct me.
The name was originally invented to fill in the “group name” blank when submitting a Dionysia for Pantheacon. As I’ve been missing regular, intense, small-group devotions in my life, I decided to open up my personal practice to friends and like-minded polytheists.
So far we’ve had two meetings, and are planning a field trip for later this month. We’ve gathered and opened by pouring libations and offering food to Hestia, to the spirits of the local land, to the ancestors, to the gods and spirits important in the life of Dionysos, and finally to Dionysos himself. Drumming and chanting and passing a cup of wine follows, and after that…
Well, it’s been interesting. The first meeting, we followed the ritual with a feast, where we drank and ate and drank and talked about what we wanted from the group and drank and got to know one another and drank… You get the picture. The session was most productive. Four bottles died in the enactment of our rites, and we made the best of their sacrifice.
The second meeting was an experiment in letting the energy go where it would. The opening invocations were much the same, but after we started talking about what kinds of ecstatic methods we’d like to explore. The group quickly lost any central focus, separating into a talking corner and a drumming/chanting corner and corner of enthusiastic cuddling. People had mixed experiences with this, and felt varying levels of comfort and inclusion.
There’s room in Dionysian worship for both intensely focused ritual and ritualized partying. But, being mortals with limits, I think that in future we need to be more mindful about which we’re engaging in. Given that the particular face of Dionysos to whom I most relate is Himself as the Host of the Revelry, there’s a strong emphasis on hospitality and taking care of my guests. As priest, I need to provide some sort of common focus, or make sure that everyone knows and understands ahead of time that lack of focus is the point of that evening.
I must admit to a certain reluctance here, though. Part of me wants to be The Guru, and I’m very wary of that bit of ego. So much so that I have, perhaps, erred too far in the other direction. I don’t like telling everyone what to do. Hell, I hope to help folks become skilled and comfortable leading these rites so that I can be one of the ones letting go. Still, someone has to point in a direction and poke everyone to go that way, and I suppose it should be me, at least at first.
That in mind, I do have a few goals for this group: First and foremost, I want to create a space wherein folks can deepen their relationships with Dionysos, where they can come together with like-minded folk and worship together. Beyond that, I’d like to have a solid team of devotees who are interested in putting on public rituals dedicated to Dionysos. Some years back, I was given in a dream a mystery initiation to share with others, and I hope that some of those who join us at the Thiasos will want to experience that.
If you’re interested in joining us, you can contact me through the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org