When I first met Dionysos, I was working in the University of Iowa libraries, in the summer of 1997. I was in the habit of spending my breaks browsing the stacks for interesting books, and I came across Arthur Evans’ The God of Ecstasy. At lunch that day, sitting in the break room, eyes closed, meditating on a point from the text, Dionysos showed Himself to me.
Unbidden, my mind formed a picture of the room I was in, except that youthful Dionysos was standing a few feet away. He said, “What took you so long? I’ve been waiting.” It wasn’t something especially profound, no earthquake or sudden bout of madness. Just a quiet afternoon in the Midwest, with an ancient Greek god dropping in on a twenty-something modern Pagan.
That’s how most of my contacts with Him have been. In prayer or meditation, I’ll see or (more often) hear him in my mind, usually as a beardless youth with violet eyes and green-tinged skin, less often as a bearded Bacchus, gentle and patient. Sometimes, He’s a disembodied sense of presence just behind my shoulder. They feel important to me, but don’t sound like much when I describe them; I guess you had to be there.
Once, praying on the subject of my doubts, I asked how I could be sure that I was hearing from Him, and not just making something up to comfort myself. The response I got back was, You choose the words I speak, but the spirit that inspires them is not yours.
There’s a stream of information, images and sensations mostly, coming from somewhere at times like that, varying in force and volume. Usually, it’s ignorable if I happen to be otherwise engaged, driving or somesuch. A few times, it’s been a pressure I’ve felt in my mind and my throat, with implications of dire results if I don’t translate it into words and speak it out loud right now.
I think this is the real language of the gods. A rush of pictures and feelings and fragments of song, pouring into us with strange urgency. If we’re listening, we’re getting our egos out of the way and letting the part of our brain that sculpts dreams translate this stream into something we can understand.
Perhaps those who lose conscious awareness when possessed by a god have been swept under by the strength of the flow. I’ve never gone that far out myself, but most of the times when a god has spoken through me, I remember it only as well as I remember a dream that fades upon waking.
It’s important to share the details of our experience. When I was a baby Pagan, back before the Internet had pictures, I found it very frustrating that I didn’t have elaborate dreams full of Mystical Significance, that I wasn’t knocked down by Rapturous Visions whenever I contemplated the gods.
Here’s to leaving a little less confusion for those that come after.