Dionysus, the Shattered God

Knowing death before even birth, the child, only six months inside his mothers womb is torn from her burnt body. Zeus brings the fetus to term in his own thigh. The proud father intends this delightful young God, bull-horned and serpent-haired, to become the next ruler of the world. But Hera his stepmother, resentful of this child conceived in mortal womb, is not in agreement. She organizes her vengeance.

While Zeus is away, Hera enlists the Titans on earth below. They paint themselves white with gypsum. Invisible like ghosts of the dead, they gather together toys and a great mirror to entice the child’s curiosity. They call to him. Peering over the edge of Olympus, the child God is captivated by his own image reflecting up from the earth below. Hera needs give him only a gentle shove. Down he falls, into his own image, into the mirror which shatters into innumerable pieces. The Titans jump upon the child, and though he transforms into all the seasons of the earth, he cannot get away. He is dismembered and consumed.

Meanwhile, Zeus smells the cooking of sacrificial flesh and comes to investigate. In his wrath Zeus burns to ash the Titans and the earth along with them. But Athena, the young God’s sister has been watching. She takes the heart of her brother and delivers it to their father. Of this heart, Zeus regenerates Dionysus. From the ash of the Titans who ate the young God’s flesh, humanity is born. Of the innumerable shards of Dionysus’ mirror, which captured the soul along with the image, are born all the things of the world. And so even today, when we reflect upon what appears to be outside ourselves, we find alive reflecting back, the God who’s life in-forms our world.


This is my telling of the Orphic version of Dionysus’ birth.


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