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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy, Vikki Bramshaw, 25 Feb 2014
Dionysos is a God that most people generally have heard of and his name has survived through millennia; even if the specifics of his cult are not common knowledge. If pushed, people may be able to say something about his role as a God of the Vine. However, those who work with and worship Dionysos know his many faces and the depth of his concerns, which are much greater than the generalised understanding held by those who do not.

Bramshaw's erudite and informative book comes from the latter perspective. It explores Dionysos in his many guises and how he is presented through history and myth. For those who have little knowledge of Dionysos - and even for those who know this God - her book is a goldmine of information. It is a complex, in-depth book and a joy to read.

The Cult of Dionysos is an ancient mystery religion and the cycles of birth, death and rebirth are explored through the myths of Dionysos the thrice-born. The concepts of sacrifice, dismemberment and rejuvenation are part of his Mysteries and Bramshaw explores the meanings of these rites and their links to other mythos. For his adherents, Dionysos is a God who walks all the realms. He is a God born of a human mother and an immortal father. The cyclic nature of the pattern of his worship is followed through a three- year cycle with each year being allocated to an aspect of the God: absence, presence and unity. Each year has its own observations and obligations, which are explored thoroughly; and the aspects accompanying each incarnation are placed in the context of the weather patterns of the countries surrounding the Aegean Sea and the year of his trieteric cycle of worship. The nature of the God is explained through each phase, with the duality of present / absent being central to understanding his interactions with his worshippers and cycle of the year.

One of the general misconceptions that may exist about Dionysos is that drunken orgies are part of his rites. Bramshaw deftly quashes this and explores the part that alcohol actually does play in his rites, some of which is very surprising and thought-provoking. In addition to wine, Dionysian worship also involved mead and a drink made from milk and honey, called melikratos. The time of fermentation is part of the acknowledgement of his mysteries and links back to the duality of this God: absence and presence. This facet of his worship is extremely interesting and certainly clears any misunderstandings about Dionysos as only a God of out-of-control drunkenness.

The role of the Maenads, the female devotees who are portrayed as wild women during their rites, is explored and explained. Again, the truth of their role is surprising and much deeper than the general reader may have initially understood. These women, who included matrons as well as maidens, communed with Dionysos by altering their consciousness with ecstatic rites - one aspect of the frenzy of worship. The purposes and the methods are beautifully described. However, Dionysos is a God of duality and the Maenads have their counterpart role: the Thyiads. This role seems to belong in the `absent' - the quiet time, a time of personal sacrifice, awakening, renewal and nurturing. One can only speculate that the Thyiad is less well-known because it is not associated with actions that would raise either an eyebrow or a frisson of Victorian disapproval.

Bramshaw's book is extensive and her sources reach back to writers such as Nonnus, Homer, Ovid and Euripides. This volume comprehensively documents Dionysos, his myths and symbolism through these early writings. The animals and vegetation sacred to him each have their story to tell and their symbolism to explain and explore. As with the parts of the book highlighted here, these sections too are thorough and thoughtful. The bull, goat, snake and big cats all have significant roles and meanings for adherents of Dionysos. The book concludes with tables giving a calendar of correspondences of Athenian months and the rites and rituals associated with Dionysos. All of it adds complexity and layers of meaning to a God who is much more than a mere ancient God of the Vine.

Although it may not necessarily be an easy read for those who have scant knowledge of Dionysos, this book is highly recommended. It is well-written, well-sourced and well-referenced. Bramshaw's style gently leads her readers through a maze of complex relationships, interpretations and understandings of ancient practices and texts through the prism of one who honours Dionysos in the present day.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dionysos: Exciter to Frenzy by Vikki Bramshaw. Book review by Dorn Simon-Sinnott, 17 Feb 2014
I ordered this book primarily as a 'feeler', as Dionysos was raising my awareness of him in a myriad ways, so to see what he was trying to say coinciding with the release of this book, I bought it!

I am so grateful I did...I give eternal thanks to Dionysos for inspiring this book & to its author Vikki Bramshaw.

The book itself is a concise, fountain full of easily flowing knowledge, both scholarly & historical, both readable & immersive, it is written by way of the authors personal take on the well researched evidence she has found, it simply is a 'must have'.

Not only does this book look at, in refined detail, that of Dionysos, but of every other aspect to him, his counterparts, his origins & multitude of affiliations.
Through this book I have been transported through not only Dionysos' history but my own too, as I recognise each synchronization that has occured during my lifetime, that was , simply put, Dionysos' call!
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