Dionysus and his followers

Margot A. LoudonNon classé

This blog explains how I have introduced themes associated with the god of wine, Dionysus, into my work.


In whichever land the deity of the wine first took shape as cultivation of the grape inspired a cult, Greek daily life and myth making made him their own. Dionysus, also known as Bacchus, is associated with the development of the theatre, religious rites referred to as Mysteries, with fun and drinking parties, sexual frolics in the mountains with his half man half goat followers, satyrs, and nymphs.  But he was an exquisitely cruel god when his divinity was challenged.

In ancient literary sources stories abound about the powers of Dionysus.  Greek vase painters loved to depict him and his followers, in their revels especially. My series of prints on the Dionysus theme borrow on both. Nymphs clad in leopard skins and see-through loose dress dance with satyrs or flee their attentions. They carry staffs topped with pine cones or vine leaves. The drunken satyrs exhibit crudeness and bestiality. A typically closeted respectable Athenian matron of the sixth century bce confronted with such scenes on her household jugs and cups would have found the liberated, free spirited followers’ antics shocking.

Randy Satyr

Don’t kidnap a god

Some works reference particular stories on the powers of Dionysus. Once foolish sailors unwittingly kidnapped him. When he realized their intentions, he caused vines to cover the ship, the oars to turn into serpents, and the sailors into dolphins. In the circumstances this was a light punishment.

We are the Crew

Or ignore him

My dry point work, The Bacchae alludes to a much darker tale. As Dionysiac frenzies gripped the wilds of Thrace and Greece, even respectable women joined in. A young king called Pentheus foolishly tried to drive Dionysus away and prevent his rites, and to stop his own womenfolk from following the god. Unfortunately for him he had a prurient curiosity, leading him to spy on the orgiastic behaviour that he condemned.  His own mother tore Pentheus apart as in in her blind frenzy she did not know what she was doing. In The Bacchae, a severed crowned head and limbs areunder the feet of the dancers.

The Bacchae

In my blog about Orpheus Orpheus and Eurydice I referred to the wild mountainous region of Rhodope. Dionysus was very much associated with this region too. Indeed archaeologists think an ancient early cult centre of the wine god was at Perperikon in the eastern Rhodope. A History of ancient Thracians – The holy city of Perperikon in Bulgaria (undiscoveredbulgaria.com) I have visited this fantastic site. This beautiful wild mountainous area was in my mind as I worked on a large dry point on perspex Rhodope, which shows Dionysus triumphant, and his followers dancing over the bones of Pentheus.