Dionysus and Death

On Memorial Day I have often visited the graves of those I have loved, and, while living in Los Angeles, walked the Labyrinth at Forest Lawn, a large and exquisitely landscaped cemetery located over the hills of Los Angeles. Here in North Carolina I don’t have graves to visit that are personal to me, so my observances have mostly been in the home with prayers and altars dedicated to ancestors of mine and of those I am grateful to.

Tonight a friend in Asheville had a party that felt like a Dionysian ritual – an abundant banquet, with bottles of beautiful wine she provided, beauty and nature surrounding the location, and a friend brought CDs of really fun music so that after eating and drinking the wild spirit of abandonment to dance and play took over.

Driving home I remembered the sweet story told to me by a friend of my sister who lives in Austria. After one of their colleagues died, when visiting her grave they would take her favorite drink and imbibe it there to commune with her. Another friend of mine here in the mountains told me a similar story of sitting around the grave of a friend who had just died. His buddies took some beers and sat and drank them together with and in honor of him.

Dionysus is the god of wine and celebration, as well as a god who communes between the living and the dead. Tonight our Dionysian ritual seemed timely and appropriate to the occasion of Memorial Day. As I returned home I felt the spirits and the ancestors happy and well fed. I pour wine into the ground to honor their lives here on earth and the life they live wherever they are now.

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