Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, who was a mortal. In Greek mythology, gods and mortals mixed around freely. The birth of Dionysus is a story in itself. Zeus the King of Heavens was known for his numerous affairs, which he always tried to keep from his jealous and ever-doubting wife Hera. Zeus was in love with Semele and once promised her that he would give in to any of his requests and this he swore on the river
Styx. The oath was a very important and unbreakable one. At this, Semele requested that Zeus show up to her in original form of the King of Heavens and the Master of the Thunderbolt, an idea which had been fed to her by the scheming Hera. Zeus knew that it was not possible for a mortal to behold him thus, but then he could not break the oath, so he did what was the inevitable. Semele was burnt alive when Zeus came to her in his original form, but before she could die, Zeus snatched from her the child which was close to be born. He then hid the child from Hera and gave it to his messenger, who gave the child to the nymphs to nurse him, before he could be born.
Thus Dionysus was reared like the grapes, which ripen in the burning heat, and then nursed by the rains. Dionysus was the god of wine in Greek mythology. It is said that the god of wine, could be both kind and cruel. The worship of Dionysus was centred around two contradicting philosophies, that of freedom and joy on one hand and violence on the other. In Greek mythology, there are stories of Dionysus, which revolve around him being a god who provides joy and sometimes, a god who is brutal, leading to unimaginable destruction.
This contradiction is the crux of the god of wine. Wine is both good and bad. If consumed in limits, it makes one feel light and warm, but if consumed in excess, makes one drunk and at times rowdy and violent. The Greeks understood such contradictions well and thus knew that the nice heart-warming side of the wine always came with the excessive violent ways of the same. Under the influence of wine, man felt courageous, joyous and light hearted. People felt that they had the power of doing things that they could not before consuming the wine.
Dionysus, was the only god, who was not just outside the human beings, but inside too, and that was unique about the worship of Dionysus. The momentary sense of elation provided was enough to give man wings of imagination, to do something he has not been able to do, write, compose, draw, paint, imagine or create. But all this ran out of the man, the moment he over did the sense of joy, and got drunk; leading to the destruction that Dionysus is also known for.
Thus Greek mythology feels that Dionysus is two faced, and it doesn’t take him from changing his faces – we all know what that means, don’t we?