Right at the outset, I want you to know this is not an historical treatise about Dionysus nor does it cover ancient practices of any Dionysian cult. What this article is about is exactly what the title says. Dinner and drinks with Dionysus.
And when I say “exactly what the title says”, that’s a bit of a fib too. I didn’t have dinner or drinks with any person named Dionysus. He didn’t text me and say “Hey Gwion, see you at 7 for canapes and champers”.
What happened was I started thinking about making dinner. Then I started thinking about drinks. Drinks and dinner thoughts inspired me to consider enjoying my repast outside. Which, in turn, made me think of idly languishing on a chaise lounge quaffing copious quantities of excellent wine and stuffing my gob with tasty comestibles.
But Dionysus Was There
Now after that rather elaborate set up paragraph and saying that no person named Dionysus joined me for dinner, Dionysus was absolutely there with me. Let me explain…
Earlier on in the day, when the first inklings of what to eat for dinner sparked in my brain, I started thinking about Dionysus. That’s Dionysus the god. Imagine this conversation running in my head:
Me: Should I make lamb burgers with a mint, yogurt sauce?
Me: Mmm…Sounds good. What else could I make?
Dionysus: Hey there! Dionysus here. Could be the god. Might be a figment of your imagination. Up to you. Any chance we can have olives, pickled red onions, and some feta with that?
Me: Oh! Hello there Dionysus. Yes. Let’s figure this menu out. I’ve got lots of ideas.
Dionysus: Me again. Did you mention wine? You know, you have an exquisite bottle of red wine you bought in Napa a couple of months back. We could have that. Oh and I think eating outside is a great idea. Why don’t you get some of those lovely wooden platters you have. Maybe we should think about doing a ritual as well. You know, a ritual for me. I like rituals. Do you have any poetry you want to read out loud? You could light a fire, eat finger foods, and drink that gorgeous bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s just gathering dust in your cupboard. I like it when you read Yeats, or Shelley or Byron. You have a cute accent when you’re drunk and their poetry is so full of life and the angst of it all. Have I told you about death yet? It’s coming. You know, you should drink that wine during my ritual while you’re still alive.
Setting A Plate For Dionysus
Whether it’s a real god or the divine madness he inspires or my over active imagination, my conversation with Dionysus went on for quite some time. In the end, I/we decided on a variety of tantalizing nibbles including pistachios, grapes, feta, cured meats, olives, and lamb chops with mint sauce.
I prepared most of the food on a wooden cutting board, in my back garden. A fire was lit and I cooked the lamb chops in my favourite cast iron pan, right over the open flame. I popped the cork and poured the wine into a favourite carafe. There was no diluting of the wine, as would have been the thing to do in ancient Greece, but rather threw my lot in with Dionysus and drained a few glasses by me lone self.
I set two plates and two glasses. One for me. One for my unearthly guest. I piled an assortment of goodies on his plate first. Topped up his glass first. Then I went about eating and drinking from both settings, tossing in the occasional “don’t mind if I do”.
Poetry and laughter and Dionysus
Whether it was the presence of a god or the presence of 12.8% alcohol by volume, we’ll never really know, I became giddy. And when I’m alone (or with a god), satiated by a surfeit of foods, and perhaps a wee bit tipsy, I like to sing.
Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” burst forth. A surprising choice, you might think, but it’s not the first time Dionysus has requested that. There’s something of the tragic about that song after all. Then, quite loudly and with desperately long pauses, for the most impact, I read “Her Anxiety” by W.B Yeats.
Earth in beauty dressed
Awaits returning spring.
All true love must die,
Alter at the best
Into some lesser thing.
Prove that I lie.
Such body lovers have,
Such exacting breath,
That they touch or sigh.
Every touch they give,
Love is nearer death.
Prove that I lie.
A Serious & Silly Ritual with Dionysus
Now you might be thinking to yourself that this ritual sounds completely silly. It was. Let’s be clear, the entire ritual consisted of me eating, drinking, singing, reciting poetry, and sitting around a fire for hours. I conversed, audibly, with a person that wasn’t there and took his requests at face value. It was his ritual as he wanted it.
Its also possible that you’re thinking to yourself that this ritual sounds completely serious. It was. Let’s be clear, the entire ritual consisted of me eating, drinking, singing, reciting poetry, and sitting around a fire for hours. I conversed, audibly, with a person that wasn’t there and took his requests at face value. It was his ritual as he wanted it.
Devotional rituals don’t have to be all gloomy and somber. Or dull and sober. This one was exquisite. I laughed. I cried. I thought about mortality and the singular beauty that my life is. I contemplated the horror of oblivion. I understood that the sweetness of life can only be measured against the inevitable onrushing of death.
So yeah. A pretty spectacular night of dinner and drinks when all was said and done.
Cheers Dionysus. Let’s do it again.