Dionysus being this figure of chaos and unruly desire feels like a bit of a cliche. Invoking him is too often a Nietzschean hangover, all too loosely applied to sound a bit high and mighty. However, reading Bernard Knox essay on “Greece and the Theater”, I found this description that makes Dionysus out to be, to my mind, and quite explicitly, a sort of patron saint of rave, spirit of the Home Counties, spectre beyond the M25:
Dionysus was a god whose territory was originally not in the city at all. He was a god of the country but not of the level plain that surrounds and feeds the city; he and his Maenads, ecstatic women who followed in his train, belonged to the wild — on the vases where we see them painted they range through the pine forests of the high slopes. The mythic accounts of his coming to Greece all tell the same story: his rites disrupted the normal pattern of city-state life, and the authorities acted against him, only to be subdued by the god’s irresistible power.
Not only that, but Knox also characterises Dionysus’ relationship to nature — via Dylan Thomas — that doubles up beautifully as a description of Nietzschean Will:
Dionysus is the life-spirit of all green vegetation — ivy, pine tree and especially the vine; he is, in Dylan Thomas’ phrase, “the force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”
Nothing to add beyond that… I’m reading Sophocles’ Theban plays and also Hamlet and Macbeth at the minute on a weird side quest out from my Deleuzian Virginia Woolf phase (but also via Nietzsche) trying to go deep with some stuff about time and fate. I’ve never been one to go anywhere near classics since doing English at school but I’m getting a kick out of it this December.
I didn’t expect these things to resonate quite so profoundly with a project I’m working right now. Always nice when that happens.