Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The Appearance of the Horned God / Dionysus in True Blood
Posted by James Curcio
There seems to be a lot of confusion circling around the use of the horned God in conjunction with Dionysus and the Maenad in True Blood- the most recent outcropping of this meme in mainstream media. This should be neither a surprising nor a new connection, although the Christian association with the devil falls more in line with the bastardization that occured with most heathen (e.g. non-Christian) mythologies after Christianity lost its Gnostic edge, and turned from a revolutionary cult to a traditional one. Would it come as any surprise that in fact the "horned God" and the mythic image of Jesus have a great deal in common?
Dionysus is commonly billed as the "God of wine," however, it is the intoxication that wine brings that is more closely linked to Dionysus- it is the means by which mortals can touch this divinity, though merely drinking wine doesn't bring you to him any more than holding a guitar makes you a guitarist. Wine is also commonly a metaphor for blood, (think of Jesus at the last supper), and this too is a useful key for understanding his "divine madness." Dionysus is not the "God of wine" so much as a god of divine intoxication, creativity, a force that smashes all social order, imposed rules, and restrictions. The wrath of Dionysus is only incurred, in the original sources, when it is restrained, or when he is not properly respected.
Looking at the additional meanings of his epithets - the other names he has been known by - also provides some insight. Zagreus, Sabazios, Tammuz. All of these make connection with air/thunder Gods like Zeus, who in the Greek rendering of this image is his father, even though his Mother's identity changes depending on the story. Zeus is also identified with the bull, as is Tammuz. Additionally, all of these images save Zeus are slain and resurrected gods. Note this: "...Some scholars, beginning with Franz Cumont, classify Jesus Christ as a syncretized example of this archetype."
Yes, Osiris, Tammuz, Dionysus, Orpheus, all re-appear, in a modified form, in Jesus Ben Panther - Jesus Christ. (Note also, the panther and leopard are sacred animals of Dionysus.)
There is much more on this topic in the notes I've gathered for the forthcoming Immanence of Myth book, though they are certainly in need of updating. Some of the background on some of the personal experience that led me to study this particular grouping of myths is in this post.