Dionysus in Other Cultures

Given Dionysus’ reputation as a wanderer, it is not surprising that he as seen as a cross cultural deity in a way that few are.   Dionysus also has several similar deities in other cultures.

Dionysus was said to have traveled through Egypt, and India, and to have engaged in a war with the Amazons.    In his role as horned god he embodies a similarity to Herne, Cernunnos, and Gwyn ap Nudd from Celtic myths.   In his relationship to death (in the form of murder during his rites) he is connected to the Egyptian god Osiris.    In his role of wandering god he is connected to the Norse All-Father, Odin.   

Osiris also was reborn after having been killed (not to another mother, but by his wife’s magic).   Osiris was a lord of the death and the afterlife in Egyptian belief.    Dionysus was a god who in his first incarnation was born of the Queen of the Dead (Persephone), and upon his death was reborn to a human mother (both times Zeus was his father).   The fact that Dionysus was twice born, and born of a human mother, made him truly unique among the Greek pantheon of gods.   He was in fact the only Olympian who was born of human woman (even if only in his second life).

There are several Celtic gods that acted as lord of the forest, and wild animals.    Most were also associated with the moniker, the horned god, as was Dionysus.   Herne was most often called the hunter (in addition to the horned god).   Cernunnos was an Irish god of the woods, and Gwyn ap Nudd was the Welsh god of the wildwood!   These Celtic deities are certainly linked, and could be possibly the same god by many names, or a Celtic trinity.   Celtic trinities were known as triads in the Welsh, and there were many.   Dionysus, similarly to these gods, had the habit of going wild (and often raving mad) in the woods!

Odin was the supreme deity of the Norse pantheon of gods.   Odin was many things to his followers.   He was the All-Father, the one-eyed god (having given one of his eyes up to Mimir for knowledge), the hanged god (he hung nine days from the World’s Tree in order to gain the runes), and the wanderer.    In his role as wanderer he has a similarity to Dionysus.   Both gods actively sought to spend time with their followers.   They also both often used trickery to get their way!

The many deities who have associations with Dionysus are from across the ancient world!    I hope you have found this interesting.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!    This ends Dionysus week here at White Rose of Avalon!!!

Further Reading

  • Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt by Joyce Tydesley
  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton
  • Age of Fable by Thomas Bulfinch
  • Persephone Unveiled: Seeing the Goddess and Freeing Your Soul by Charles Stein
  • Celtic Mythology by Ward Rutherford
  • Gwyn ap Nudd: Wild God of Faerie Guardian of Annwfn by Danu Forest