On the Wine of Dionysus: Ecstasy, Longing & Duende
Essay | This study emerged out of a wine bottle that slipped through my fingers one night in a seemingly preordained descent, crash-landing on the pavement at the top of a hill on my way home.
The duende’s arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm.
Federico Garcia Lorca
Hello everyone. Wishing you a gentle Sunday. Today’s piece explores one of my favourite gods of the ancient world: Dionysus. So I have just poured two glasses of wine, one for me, and one for him. You may want to do the same.
Dionysus is one of the most misunderstood figures of the Greek pantheon, and one of the most ancient, with his roots reaching all the way back to the vegetation god of the Neolithic. Where he became the god of wine, he was initially the god of mead. Where he became the bull, he was once the bee. In my research, I compare Dionysus, or the Dionysian current, to the spirit of Duende, a concept that comes from Spain and that we use to describe an experience that is otherworldly, often within the context of flamenco or the bull fight. By comparing these two forces, I hope to shed a little more light on the pre-patriarchal teachings of ecstasy and longing as a form of encountering the divine. Writing this essay meant opening myself to Dionysus. It meant letting him court me and letting myself be dreamt by him. And for the month I was researching him, I must say, I certainly experienced his current. While comparing notes with a friend who was simultaneously researching him, we found that he had experienced his more sober side, while I got avalanched by his full divine madness. And as I then discovered, he does not impose, but rather, invoke that which is already within us. Go figure! So here we go, a journey and libation to the temple of Dionysus through ecstasy, longing and Duende.
I thoroughly enjoyed this essay. It is vividly and authentically written, but also well-researched. Comparisons between Dionysus and the spirit of Duende shed new light (and dark) on both.
Alice Oswald, award-winning poet