Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy

dionysos_cover_2013DIONYSOS: Exciter to Frenzy
by Vikki Bramshaw

“There was ‘no god more present’ than Dionysos: that is, out of all the ancient gods Dionysos was one of the few who people felt that they could reach out and touch”   ~ Vikki Bramshaw

Paperback: 240 pages
RRP £14.99

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About the Book:

Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy is a phenomenal and scholarly exploration of one of the most complex, liminal and paradoxical gods of the ancient world.  The author Vikki Bramshaw guides the reader through the mysterious world of the multifaceted Dionysos, revealing his hidden faces and forms and his presence in different cultures, the growth cycles of nature, the establishment of theatre and the ancient Greek calendar.

The roots of the wine god Dionysos, like his vines, spread throughout the ancient world.  From the Cretan Zagreus, to the Thracian Sabazios and the Egyptian Iachen, his stories permeated the myths and traditions of both the untamed wilderness and the culture of cities such as Athens.  Joined by slaves and rulers, wild flesh-ripping Maenads and vegetarian Orphics, wine-makers and hunters, the thrice-born Dionysos danced his way through the challenges of rebirth and initiation, with the liberating ecstasy of trance and possession.

The god Dionysos unites opposites, he is many-formed, dying yet eternal, chthonian and heavenly. His ancient myths, mystical symbols, pagan rites and incarnations represent a uniquely detailed and relevant perspective of the transformation he brings through prophecy and personal liberation which is still relevant today.

About the Author: Vikki Bramshaw

Vikki Bramshaw is an author specialising in pre-Christian religion and esoteric traditions. Some of her passions are religious history, theurgy, initiatory rites, and trance. Her first book, ‘Craft of the Wise: A Practical Guide’ was published with John Hunt Publishing in 2009, after which Vikki wrote for several anthologies with Avalonia including Swaying with the Serpent (featuring in Hekate: Her Sacred Fires, 2010) and ‘The Scorpion & the Bridal Bed’ (featuring in VS: Thou Art That – That Thou Art, 2011). In this book, ‘Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy’, Vikki explores the numerous facets of the god Dionysos revealing the hidden faces of the thrice-born god and the extent of his influence in the mysteries of the ancient world, through the cycles of nature and beyond.

Vikki has also completed several courses as part of her ongoing research, including The Origins of Human Behaviour with Oxford University. She is also a trained Holistic Healer with the SHA, a qualified Equine Sports Massage Therapist, and has studied an introductory course in Counselling and Transactional Analysis with Peter Symonds College of Winchester.

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Extract from “Chapter 1 – Who is Dionysos?

Who is Dionysos? Portrayed as the leader of lustful processions and drunken debauchery, he appears a hedonistic god, at best – but this is a gross generalisation, and negates the true complexity of Dionysos’ nature.

Dionysos can certainly be described as a ‘complex’ character. He is Dionysos Dimorphos, ‘dual-formed’, and Dionysos Dimetor, ‘born of two mothers’. His dual nature bestows him with the authority of a liminal god: he who stands on the threshold between the worlds as a god of prophecy and initiation, and he who traverses the processes of birth, life, death and rebirth. As an ascended god Dionysos occupies the heavens, yet he also dwells in the depths of the underworld acting as a guide for souls, spirits and shades. As the bull-formed lord of death and rebirth, he is Dionysos Dikerotes ‘the two-horned one’. He is the hunter, yet also the hunted – and he is dead, yet also alive; these cycles of opposition were the driving force behind his cult rites. Dionysos offers us the joyous freedom of choice, yet he is also the toxicity that we ourselves administer by our erroneous decisions; he is Dionysos Bromios, ‘the roarer’ and loud-shouting god of pandemonium; ‘yet silence and stillness often fell upon those who were possessed by him’.[1] Often symbolic of extreme and contrasting states of being, he embodies the primal emotions that drive us and makes us who we are.

Neither was the cult of Dionysos a small one; his following was perhaps one of the most widely spread of the ancient mysteries, and stood as a serious rival to the emerging cult of Christianity. We find record of Dionysos’ worship to the west in Italy; to the east in Turkey; to the north in Romania and Bulgaria, and to the south in Libya – and pre-Dionysian ritual and culture relating to later Dionysos worship all over the Mediterranean. We also find striking similarities in terms of practice with shamanic cultures from other parts of the world, such as West Africa, the Caribbean, and even northern Europe. As Katie Gerrard writes, ‘the term ‘shamanic’ has come to represent a whole range of traditions that embrace ecstatic and trance techniques’[2] – whether Dionysianism as a whole can be described as a ‘shamanic’ path is of course debatable, however many of the accounts of the earlier Dionysian cults do show similarities, particularly in terms of techniques, themes and overall atmosphere.

Despite the widespread nature of his following, Dionysos had no central priesthood.[3] Dionysian cults were regional, and often organized internally by their founding members. Worship was freeform, focusing on different qualities of the god and practicing different rites, depending on where you lived and your social status. Even within the confines of Athens alone, the way Dionysos was worshipped greatly varied depending on the individual cult you joined, your role within it, and whether you were initiated or not. Other than the common idea that Dionysos played a part in the processes of life, death and rebirth, we cannot know if they shared any other concrete beliefs; and as Albert Henrichs writes, the so-called religion of Dionysos is more ‘a modern abstraction, the sum total of the god’s numerous facets, symbols and cults’.[4] But the Dionysian influence on the world was assured. Dionysos left behind a worldwide legacy – as his worship was instrumental (if not almost entirely accountable) for the creation of theatre and drama which originated in ancient Greece and was performed for Dionysos as an offering in his honour. However, it’s also important to remember that theatre and comedic street revelry were not the first concern of Dionysos until classical times[5] and that, as will become apparent during this book, the Dionysian cult was for the most part chthonic in nature – a cult of possession, trance and prophecy, with themes of death, initiation and transformation.


[1] Dionysus Myth & Cult, Walter F Otto (1960) 1995: P.94
[2] Seidr: The Gate is Open, Katie Gerrard, 2011: P. 187
[3] Jewish & Christian Self-Definition, ‘Changing Dionysian Identities’, Albert Henrichs, 1982: P.151
[4] Jewish & Christian Self-Definition, ‘Changing Dionysian Identities’, Albert Henrichs, 1982: P.151
[5] The God Who Comes, Rosemarie Taylor-Perry, 2003: P.56

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Paperback: 240 pages
RRP £14.99

Order your copy of Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy now:
(with Free Postage & Packaging to all destinations)

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