My initial contact with Dionysus was probably not especially atypical. I was part of an "enrichment" program at my HS that included an English class that mixed in a great deal of mythology. In a way I feel pretty thankful for that; though we were mostly working with Bulfinch's, our teacher was especially passionate about the subject and repeatedly tried to get it into our heads that these were psychological metaphors. At the time I was mainlining Mountain Dew and fixated on most of the things adolescents fixate on, but it must've gotten in. Dionysus was portrayed as something of a sideline divinity in most of those texts; his real role in the pantheon or in my life wasn't at all clear.
Not long after, I became obsessed with Nietzsche- there's something about his writing that seems particularly attractive to young, intellectually-oriented outsiders. Especially, though not exclusively, males. (The same could be said of Crowley.) His framing of the Apollonian / Dionysian dichotomy in art was really compelling to me, but still, the symbol remained fairly intellectual. It did lead me to a class in college on Dionysus, which framed the Dionysian in the context of creativity, rather than the more mundane Roman rendering of the image as Bacchus. (Not the same image at all, but the distinction is often lost.) We read artists like Artaud. I remember a number of classes with particular amusement, like when the professor came in, clearly with a stiff back, and offhandedly commented that he'd injured himself during Tantric sex with his wife.
There was a more personal side to this connection, too. From my earliest memories on, women have always served a central role in my life. This is unsurprising, given that my parents were always women- my Mother, and her girlfriends. I didn't have a real male friend until I was thirteen, most of my early socialization was with girls- more out of preference than anything else, as well as the fact that the boys always seemed to sense something "other" in me and have a strong desire to attempt to squash it, like a bug. The most common insult from their quarter was always to call me "a girl." Even at the time I remember finding this curious. The insults stopped when I began meeting every slight related to this supposed insult with violence, but it always confused me: why was being a "girl" such an insult, when it seemed to clear to me that, before society had its awful way with them, women were closer to nature? Perhaps I didn't consciously think this last part just yet, but the feeling was there. I still remember it clearly. And even when the insults stopped, I still remained somewhat other, at least until the social dynamics of HS took me in for a while.
For those that are familiar with the Dionysus myth, this should be very familiar. For those that aren't, by the time he has attained the status of a deity, the first sign of his appearance is in the form of the bacchante, the wild women of Dionysus; in his earlier life, he was alternately hidden by his mother Semele from the wrath of Hera- he was raised by nymphs in seclusion- or he was hidden by Zeus "in his thigh." This is not to say that I was raised by nymphs, but the psychological significance of this element of the symbol is there. These symbols always must be read psychologically. In some ways I have grown further from him as my life has gone an, even as I've learned more about him and become mentally closer; I can only imagine that this is because of the effects of living in the society that I do. But the current is there, even when not clearly apparent. Still waters run deep.
Dionysus himself is considered effeminate, though I'm not aware of any direct reference to homosexuality that isn't juxtaposed there. We simply assume he is effeminate, bivalent, surrounded by wild female energy- there must be an element of homosexuality in the image. Perhaps there is, but it always struck me as something else. Certainly the consciousness represented by his symbol is beyond pairs of opposites in the social sphere, so there is a strong current of pansexuality throughout the symbol, but not strictly homosexual. And, as I said, this rarely enters into the traditional portrayals of the symbol.
I have an explanation for this. Dionysus is the mythological necessity of a feminine current that seeks to return a society divorced from nature back into accord with her, even if it is the nature that Lord Tennyson refers to, "bloody in tooth and claw." In Western mythological terms the male, solar energy is necessary to give the lunar, female energy light; you can read this as the sexist statement of an aeon of male dominated mythology, but there is a sense to it if we consider the meaning of the symbols themselves outside the context of human society. To whit, it is the lurking sense that the "passive" is "weaker" than the "active" that is the coloration of a male dominated mythology, rather than the meaning of the symbol. Is the negative pole or a magnet "weaker" than the positive? Perhaps the Chinese Yang and Yin are preferable; they mean "sunny" and "shady" side of the hill, which is to say two states of the same thing, the active and receptive. When you consider that Dionysus is a bull God, this inversion of roles gets even more complicated, but I'll save that for a later post as it wanders back into the historical rather than personal interpretation of symbol.
All of these ideas are central to understanding the significance of the Dionysus symbol, though hopefully I explore that more successfully in my fiction than I could here. Should the screenplay make it to screen, and or comic book, I certainly hope you come along for the ride.