I will never be initiated into the mysteries of Dionysos. Unless He Himself chooses to bless me in that way –unlikely for reasons that I’ll discuss below–I will never move beyond Βούκολος. Essentially, this means I will always be an outsider to the deepest mysteries of the θιάσος and that’s a very interesting place to be. In a way, it allows me, what to me, seems a very special means of connecting to Dionysos. He is ever the outsider too. He is a God Who always comes into a community from without, ever the ξένος, stirring things up, a God of foreigners, aliens, misfits, outsiders who fit no where else. He is ever at the periphery of things–like a predator, a hunger scoping out potential prey. I, who fit few places, who struggle to tame my own savagery, who am also ξένη even to myself sometimes, well, I can connect to Him as a perpetual outsider too. I look upon it as an uncomfortable blessing, but a blessing nonetheless.
I was not actually surprised when hours of the necessary divination showed that I could proceed only so far as Βούκολος. I was (and am) in fact grateful to be permitted to go this far. To serve as His priest is a grace and gift that I shall always cherish. I am not permitted into His mysteries because I am steeped as deeply as I can be in the mysteries of another God: Odin. To become one of the μύσται of Dionysos would irrevocably change my wyrd and it would change the obligations of my afterlife; and while I may venerate Dionysos, love Him, serve as His priest even, in the end I *belong* to Odin and when I die, it is to Him that I shall go and in Him that my greatest obligations rest. I am barred from undergoing the Dionysian mysteries because I have undergone Odinic ones. These things are not pretty rituals, or fancy words. They leave their mark. They score the soul. They pattern us beyond the mortal world.
I think many of us hear the word ‘mystery’ and ooh and ahh and perhaps even seek them out without realizing (until it’s too late) that these things are more than just words. They are spiritual traumas, carefully crafted undoing and remaking, events, transformational processes. Mysteries, like all initiations, have consequences beyond what we can immediately define. They tie us too and infect us with our Gods in ways that words alone can neither capture nor transmit. They are dangerous.
I was thinking about this today because Dionysos has been very good to me, especially of late. Even as I often feel I stumble, fumble, and crash my way through my world, through the corridors of my life, He is with me sustaining and supporting me; and I am not even one of His. He doesn’t have to do that and that grace, that tremendous grace just lays me open when I think on it. It is a joy to serve Him and that I may become His priest is a gift I treasure deeply. It is a privilege.
The thing with mysteries, also something I think it’s painfully easy to forget when all of this is merely a mental abstraction, is that we’re not entitled to them. I once jokingly (more or less) said that I have enough problems with the mysteries to which I’ve a right to plumb without agitating for access to those denied me! This is certainly true, but even more, I think that it’s good to be reminded every so often that we’re not entitled to the gifts of any Deity. To be allowed entrance, to be allowed initiation, is a gift. Moreover, just because we’re given access under the aegis of one Deity, doesn’t mean that carries over to Another. It’s a reminder that all Gods are not, in fact, one Being. (So much for soft polytheism, pantheism, and the like).
It’s really driven home to me, that even though I’m denied the mysteries, I’ve been given something very precious. I’m coming to cherish the work of the Βούκολος, to cherish that I will be permitted to help and support potential μύσται in the work, in their journey to Dionysos. I like that I’ll have the potential to be useful to Him in this way and maybe that’s the thing: we can all be useful to the Gods we love in some way and maybe the best and most important part of devotion is trying to do whatever it is that we are permitted to do as well and as thoroughly as we possibly can.
In the end, I bring Dionysos flowers and He doesn’t mind my clumsiness and I will guard His mysteries and those who seek them and it is good. It allows me a different type of service. I”m ok with that. In a way, it makes the mysteries that I have born all the sweeter. Dionysos has indeed been very good to me.