Every now and again, I hear (or read) someone debating whether or not the gods are greater than us. Whether they’re more valuable, more important than we are, as if such things had an objective value. This often comes up when people debate what it means to worship the gods.
For many, the word “worship” carries unfortunate connotations of self-negation, cultural baggage from some mainstream monotheistic religions. It brings to mind an image of a self-abasing sinner, grovelling before an infinitely superior God.
Many people who came to Paganism stayed because so many of our traditions encourage us to stand proud before the gods. Some even encourage us to approach them as near-equals, at least in terms of adults dealing with their parents, and in opposition to the idea of being little children or slaves or chattel before God.
But are we near-equals to the gods? They’re bigger, older, certainly. Hopefully, they’re also wiser. More powerful, yes, but their power is subtle and wide. I have never seen (and do not expect to ever see) obvious divine interventions, flashes of lightning striking down unbelievers and that sort of thing.
I think that, in a sense, their human-like faces and human-speech names are only the smallest part of what they are. They’re the entry points we have for connecting with the vastness of whatever they are when we aren’t looking at them.
Dionysos is the feeling of being drunk, He’s the diziness and sweat of hours of dancing, He’s the transcendent experience of having one’s mind completly blown by orgasm. He’s the grape growing on the vine and the yeast turning fructose into alcohol and the flavor of the wine. He’s the terror that hounds the detoxing addict, the bugs under the skin, and it’s His wrath that throws a person to rock bottom. He’s the swell of power a performer feels on stage and the awe of witnessing a great performance and the electric thrill between the two that fills the hall.
He’s all these things. The somehow masculine yet effiminate yet gender ambiguous young man with the panther robes and the bottomless amphora of wine and the mad, passionate, purple eyes I see in visions and the gentle voice that rings in my head are the smallest fraction of what He is.
To worship a god, then, is to make a companion of that small part, so as to surround oneself with the whole. I worship Dionysos-the-person not because He’s some super-human to whom I owe something. I worship Dionysos-the-person because it’s the way I make myself part of all the larger things that Dionysos-the-divine-spirit is.
It’s not about making myself worthy. It’s about how I make myself big enough for him to fit into.