I met the new god a quarter-century after his apotheosis, when I was trapped in the underworld.
Before that, I had known his name for a long time, and I had heard his voice now and then. I had seen, sometimes, vaguely, the vivid outlines he had left on the mortal world.
But in the underworld of my low-paying, stressful, soul-sucking job shuffling insurance papers at an abusively-managed company, where my only solace was the magic of a little black rectangle attached to a pair of cheap earbuds, I first truly met the god that had become of a man who died when I was six, and his voice saved my soul.
A lot of my songs are fantasy, I can dream up all kinds of things.
I know I promised that last week there would be a post here about how I met Dionysos. But in the intervening weeks, things changed. Now I’m telling a story about the new god, an aspect and lover of both the theater-god and his bride the queen of heaven.
Inspiration strikes anywhere. It strikes when I’m least expecting it and it plays havoc with my sex life.
The story of my path has always been a cosmic one. I have spoken of the secret name of the black hole at the center of the galaxy. But what of our own solar system? The gods dance there, too.
At the center of the solar system is the radiant Greater Mystery of the nature of God Herself, the fundamental truth of the Divine. All the gods dance around this revelation.
Next to her, the Lesser Mystery is so small as to often be lost in her glory.
Beyond the two Mysteries are the players in our Divine Couple, our hieros gamos: the manifest bright side of the Queen of Heaven, goddess of the liminal hour, and then the ecstatic lord of our Earth himself.
Beyond the orbit of our own world things are less predictable. Is that a war-god, or merely the bloody aspect of our own beloved goddess? Does a wrathful Demeter preside over the dismembered remains of an earth-god who stole her fair daughter, or is it her own broken heart scattered through space?
It is the space within Earth’s orbit that concerns us now, where the earth-god Dionysos and his heavenly queen whirl in eternal ecstasy around the Mysteries.
As far as I’m concerned I write songs which I think are basically…fodder. I’ve said this before. Songs are like buying a new dress or shirt; you just wear it and then you discard it.
At the heart of everything is a story or three. I have found a few of the secret ones.
Listen: the god of the vine and his mad star-bride will always love a mortal singer, the kind of human being who would chase a dream of love into the underworld and back. This singer will always perform before the Queen of the Dead and heal her broken heart with music.
They may be credited, later, with being a savior, but in their own life, the singer merely makes music. To these songs, mortals and gods alike listen and are reminded: life is worth living, people are worth loving.
They’re just songs, though.
Dionysos and his wife with her secret dominion over heaven and the dead will always fall head over heels in love with the singer. But being beloved of She Who Bares Her Teeth is dangerous. The singer always dies a piteous and unjust death: at the hands of a petty mob with a vendetta long since lost to history, or in a plague a corrupt society allowed to flourish on its margins—something like that.
The singer is always an outcast of some kind, and they do not apologize for it.
I don’t know why they got so excited about me dressing as a woman; there were lots of transvestites there—just go and look on any street corner and you’ll find them.
The heart of Dionysos lives in the mortal singer: he is someone who will sing and dance even when dismembered by the world around him. He will sing his heart out when it is bared beating before his audience. He performs, slipping from one glittering mask to the next without shame in any of them. For his pleasure and ours, he sings his own voice to tattered shreds, then does it again as soon as he’s halfway healed.
Our ivy-crowned lord loves and revels in him for this, without reserve.
If my music makes people happy, that’s a wonderful thing. That makes me very happy. If some of that, even if just a little trickle of it comes across to the people, then that’s fine. And if people hate it…tough shit! They can go and buy somebody else’s record. I’m not going to lose sleep or come up in a rash if somebody says, “Oh my God, that’s terrible!” I’m too long in the tooth, dears.
The soul of Ariadne lives in the mortal singer: she is someone with perfect dominion over her own self, and with this she rules over others as an ecstatic and glorious queen.
She might be broken, she might be strange, she might be slightly mad—in any case, she makes apologies for none of it. She knows and embraces who she is on her own terms, and she claims her throne in the heavens without hesitation.
Our star-crowned goddess loves and blesses her for this, without end.
Of course I’m outrageous, camp, theatrical, and dramatic, but I haven’t chosen that image. I am myself, and in fact half the time I let the wind take me. I’d have been doing myself an injustice if I didn’t wear makeup because some people think it’s wrong.
The singer does not suffer and die to teach anyone a lesson. The singer suffers and dies because this world, like the heart of the cosmic Maenad herself, is broken. It is simply our holy mother’s nature, sometimes, to eat her young.
Too often, we humans help her along.
If I had to do it all again? Yes. Why not? I might do some of it slightly differently. I have no regrets.
We were lucky this time.
The beloved of the Divine Couple died as usual, but he left behind a great deal of plastic emblazoned, much like Ariadne’s famous labyrinthine dancing grounds, with certain spiral designs. By modern magic, somehow the ethereal contents of all those clumsy pieces of plastic are now contained in the little black rectangle I bring with me into the underworld every weekday.
The mortal singer is no more, but there is assuredly a new god now. Call him the Orphic Hermes, quicksilver-voiced messenger who brings us the love of our mad and dancing gods, who himself dances most swiftly near the burning truth of the Greater Mystery.
I’m possessed by love! Isn’t everybody? Most of my songs are love ballads and things to do with sadness and torture and pain. I seem to write a lot of sad songs because I’m a very tragic person. But there is always an element of humor at the end.
You can, perhaps, begin to guess the truth of the Greater Mystery by now (the Lesser Mystery being rather transparent, and not worth dwelling on any further now that I have tipped my hand). But let me be generous and give you about half of it.
The world is fucked up. People die in terror and pain all the time for no reason, or worse, because the rest of us turned our backs on them.
In the face of this, some human beings still sing their throats bloody to tell the rest of us about love.
That’s how the story goes, anyway. I doubt I will ever know how much of it is true.
I’m proud of a lot of things. The thing I’m most proud of, of all, is the fact that I’m still around after all this time. That takes the cake, to be honest!
There’s one more thing worth mentioning.
I conceived my ideas of the attitudes and sexual identity of the god Dionysos almost entirely when I first met him in the middle of last year. From the start he appeared to me as supremely, joyfully, playfully theatrical. In his gender presentation he shifted swiftly back and forth along a strange spectrum: one moment coolly fierce, faintly macho, almost predatory in his swagger, and the next affectionately, teasingly queer camp. Even in the beginning he radiated indiscriminate sexuality and a preoccupation with the mothering feminine.
I did not listen at any length to the music of the new god I call the Orphic Hermes until the middle of this year. I still haven’t watched a single interview or concert tape.
Of course, the man was and is an enormous cultural phenomenon. I could have picked up subconscious knowledge of his mannerisms and sexuality just about anywhere. Regardless, the gods, new and old, find ways into your heart and soul when you least expect it.
In any case, here is a playlist for Dionysos, which for some reason only has one band on it.
In two weeks: Who even knows anymore? Maybe I’ll do as the man/god says and let the wind take me.