Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, surprisingly draws many parallels to Jesus Christ.
Birth of Dionysus (Story #1: Semele)
The story begins with Zeus (“King of all gods”) having yet another affair on his wife, Hera. He fell in love with a mortal princess named Semele and eventually impregnated her. When Hera found out, of course she was furiously jealous, so she played a trick on Semele. Hera disguised herself as a nurse and asked Semele about her affair with Zeus.
Hera said to Semele, “are you sure that Zeus is truly who he says he is?”
You see, in the world of mythology, gods and goddesses cannot reveal themselves in their “true form” to humans. They take on humanlike forms in order to interact with them, but this is not what they actually look like. As mere mortals, we humans cannot handle the true image of gods and goddesses without our eyes burning.
And so, Semele replied (not knowing that she was speaking to his wife), “yes… I believe so…”
“Well,” Hera said, “if Zeus really loved you, then he would prove to you that he actually is a god.”
Falling for Hera’s tricks, Semele ran back to Zeus and asked him to promise her that he would do anything for her. Zeus agreed, doing anything to please Semele. And then she demanded — “show me yourself in your true form, so that I know for sure that you are Zeus.”
Zeus hesitated, reminding her, “if I show you my true form, then you will die!”
But Semele was insistent. And Zeus made a promise to her. So, he transformed into his true form of powerful lightning bolts, inevitably killing his lover. Upon her death, still pregnant, Zeus was able to save their unborn baby by sticking it into his thigh (which most people can agree by “thigh,” this means “balls.”)
Dionysus remained inside of Zeus until maturity. Thus, he was born twice.
Birth of Dionysus (Story #2: Persephone)
In the second tale of the birth of Dionysus, (because Greek mythology is full of infinite variations) he is still the son of Zeus, but instead of Semele, he is son of Persephone.
In this version, “the original Dionysus” had already existed in the form of Egyptian god Osiris. It was in Zeus’s intentions to create a “new Dionysus,” this one being much stronger. Zeus took the form of a serpent to impregnate the virgin Persephone.
Zeus intended Dionysus to be successor as ruler of the cosmos. As an infant, baby Dionysus was taken to Mount Ida and guarded by the dancing Curetes.
When Zeus’s wife, Hera, found out about Dionysus, she ordered the Titans to attack him. Dionysus retaliated back, the Titans struck again, Zeus got involved, and there was a whole, destructive war. This resulted in forest fires and boiling oceans, causing poor Gaia (Mother Earth) to suffer. Taking pity on Gaia, Zeus ultimately resolved the war through a great flood, cooling down the burning land.
Dionysus is accredited as the inventor of wine. He was the first one to extract the juices of vine and harvest alcohol.
Hera, threatened of his divine status, was constantly keeping him under attack. She struck him with madness, which caused him to wander and travel the world — Egypt, Asia, India, and so forth. Through these travels, he learned religious rites from various cultures.
Eventually, he returned to Greece, where he was determined to introduce the invention of religion. However, the Greeks were petrified by the madness it could bring.
It is said that Dionysus took the brave journey to the Underworld in order to rescue his dead mother, Semele. Through this dangerous journey, he was able to save her and bring her back to life as a goddess, renaming her “Thyone.”
Ariadne is the name of his wife. He was faithful and loyal to her, as there are no myths of him ever betraying her.
Connection to other gods
Just like Hades and Osiris, Dionysus is strongly associated with the Underworld.
Dionysus could be Hades, another Greek god. Hades is the husband of Persephone — in this case, this would mean that Dionysus is Persephone’s husband, not son — and this could explain the connection that he has to this goddess.
Dionysus is directly related to Egyptian god Osiris (wife of Isis). What stands out the most is their similar story of being dismembered. As already stated, Dionysus was dismembered by the Titans due to Hera’s jealousy. In the Egyptian story, Osiris is dismembered by jealous brother, Set (and in another version, also the Titans), and Isis recovers all of his body parts, except for the phallic — which she recreates with gold.
Alternatively, Dionysus could be the Egyptian god Horus — son of Isis and Osiris. Just like Horus, Dionysus draws many parallels to Jesus (which I am about to get to!)
Comparison to Jesus
First off, Zeus is often compared to the God of the Old Testament. Alongside, he is called “King of all the gods.” Being the son of Zeus, this draws a parallel to Jesus being the son of God.
Like Jesus, Dionysus was born with royal authority which automatically made him a threat from the day of his birth. There is also the similarity of how Jesus “wandered the desert,” as Dionysus was struck with madness and wandered the world. It has also been said that Jesus spent many years in India, learning Buddhism and other religious beliefs. Upon return to his homeland, he taught his followers his wisdom and created the religion of Christianity.
Jesus is very famous for “turning water into wine” — which is representative of how Dionysus invented wine and introduced it to the world. Dionysus was also a healer who performed miracles. Alongside, these are two figures who were friends with the sinners and preached forgiveness.
Dionysus is said to be born on winter solstice or December 25 (like Jesus — also may be same birthdays as Osiris and Horus.) And if he was indeed the son of Persephone, this would also make him “born of a virgin.”
And most of all — the story of multiple births and resurrection. But of course, there are still so many differences between the two, and some of these parallels may be inaccurate, there’s no way to prove it.
More than “God of wine”
You may hear pop culture references to Dionysus as merely “the god of wine” who liked to get drunk. There is so much more to him than that. Alcohol certainly plays a large role in his myth — but in a religious, rather than strictly recreational, aspect. His cult followers saw drunkenness as a sort of “divine madness” that came with the blessing of easing pain and inspiring joy. Even in modern-day Christianity, wine can be seen as a holy connection to Spirit.
What stands out to me most of Dionysus is his bold bravery — embarking a journey to the Underworld in order to save his mother, striking back against Hera and the Titans, and living his life under constant attack. I also find it so fascinating how he studied many different religions and then brought this esoteric wisdom back to his homeland.
Now, go pour yourself a guilt-free glass of wine! Cheers to Dionysus!