The Triple Dionysia
(Ta Triploa Dionysia)

A Dionysian Spring Equinox Ritual
for small group

Apollonius Sophistes
© 1997, revised 2000


The principal goals of this ritual are (1) to experience rebirth through the Divine Child, (2) to welcome the dawn of the year, and (3) to acknowledge the importance of balance. For background information, see
"Eoster: Mysteries of the Resurrected Child."

I. Equipment & Supplies

If possible, use a salpinx, a natural (valveless) brass trumpet. A keras (natural horn, such as a shofar), especially from a bull or goat, may also be used.
Other Instruments
Frame drums, cymbals and natural horns.
Two identical, for potion and wine.
Picture of Titans
A drawing or other picture on paper, which can be burned, of seven Titans sitting around a cauldron.
Hot-crossed Buns
Use a dark red wine.
Yellow and green.
Cauldron in which meat can be boiled, if it is to be done during ritual.
Some vessel in which the meat can be seered, if it is to be done during the ritual.
Veal or Kid
There should be seven pieces; if ground meat is used, it should be formed into seven "meat-balls."
White Egg
One hard-boiled egg with an unblemished white shell.
Red Eggs
One hard-boiled egg dyed deep red, or one for each participant.
Liknon (Winnowing Fan or Basket)
Any shallow woven basket will do. It holds two eggs (e.g., the Red and White Eggs) and the Kradía (either a Phallus of Figwood, a small Thyrsus, or other phallic symbol).
Bowl of Lustral Water
White Linen Cloth
Annointing Oil
For aspergill

II. Preparation

Green, and pastel colors, such as lavender, sky-blue and pink, are best.[1]
If necessary, the seven pieces of meat can be prepared before the ritual. They should be first boiled in milk, then roasted.
Altar, with images (Dionysos, Persephone), censer, incense, candle stick holders & candles. Brazier, cauldron. Thyrsus. Liknon. Basket with hot-crossed buns, bread. Two goblets, one with wine. Extra wine in jug.

III. Location

If possible, perform the ritual outdoors. In some areas it may be necessary to perform the "noisy" energy raising indoors.

IV. Timing

The ritual may be held any time in the month following the Spring Equinox (the "Festival of Red Eggs").
[2] Moon phase is not especially significant. It is best to perform the ritual at dawn, but in any case during the daylight.

V. Ritual


Hiereus/Hiereia (H):
Proskunetoi (P):

1. Circumambulation & Purification

The basic ritual structure is given here in outline form; see
"Ta Hiera: Neoclassical Sacrifice" for more detail.

H: Say,

Bear the sacred objects round the altar.

H & assistants: Circle three times.

For this festival it is especially appropriate to begin circumambulations in the east, the direction of dawn.

H: Face east, say one or more of these:

Begone, all that is unholy!
Hekàs, o hekàs, éste bébêloi! (Greek)
Procul, o procul, este profani! (Latin)

H: Light the brand on the altar fire and thrust it into the lustral water.

H: Use brand as aspergill to sprinkle lustral water over altar etc.

P: Dip hands in lustral water and dry on white cloth.

H: To each P. say,

I consecrate thee in the names of all the Goddesses and Gods,
and bid thee welcome in Their temple.

H: Mark invoking pentagram (from top to lower left) on P.'s head with consecrated oil.

H: Say,

Sacred Silence!

H: Do Olympic Lesser Banishing Ritual of Pentagram. (optional)

2. Rite for Kore

H: Say,
We call this season of renewal Easter time,
a time of new beginnings and rebirth.
In olden times in Europe's northern nations
Eoster was the name we gave this month,
a month named for a Goddess of the Dawn.

O Muse, sing now this glorious Goddess so
that we may learn Her holy offices.
In all the ancient tongues of Europe and
of India there is a word for "shining": Aus.
And so the Goddess of the Dawn, who brings
the shining day, is Eos to the Greeks.
The Romans called Her by the name Aurora,
and She's worshipped mainly at the Dawn.
Eoster's radiant home is in the East,
and so that quarter takes its name from Her.
So too She governs all that's fresh and young,
and rules whatever shines forth new, and so
Her season is the Equinox of Spring,
when Dawn is found directly in the East.
And so in ancient Greek the season gets it name
from Her, for Ear was its olden name.

The Equinox has come, when light and dark
are equal, now the Day will rule the year.
The world, now poised in balance, waits rebirth,
and all that lives upon it seeks rebirth.

Today we celebrate two Reborn Gods:
Dionysos and Persephone.

H: Tell myth:
Attend and hear ye first a mystery:
   Three Goddesses are one,
   and likewise one, three Gods.
Now listen how the Heavens came to be,
for words can mean much more than words can say,
and truth divine is veiled in paradox.
Great Muse, I pray that I might tell the tale!

The older race of Gods was called the Titans,
great and strong, with faces shining white.
The Titans crafty king was Kronos called,
for ancient sages say His name means "Time."
His Queen was Rhea, Mother of the Gods,
whose name means "Flow." The Romans called the God
Saturnus and His consort Goddess Ops.
The time They ruled was called the Golden Age.
Their child was Zeus, the Sire of Gods and Humans,
He who brought the Gods to Mount Olympus,
seizing Heaven from the savage Titans,
bringing better order to the World.

But Rhea had a plan and made Herself
a Snake, who sheds Her skin to be reborn,
and hid Herself within a dismal cave,
a tomb beneath the earth, a secret chamber
and a womb within the fertile soil.
She called Her offspring, Zeus, to Her and bade
that He become a Snake and mate with her,
entwining in a knot. From Zeus then Rhea
bore Deméter, Mother of the Grain.
And when the Child was grown then Rhea bade
Her daughter to become a Snake and call
to Zeus from in the Cave, to come into
the Earth and mate, to make another God.
And so They did; Persephone was born,
the Maiden, as She's called. And so there were
the Holy Three, the Maiden, Mother, Crone:
Persephone, Deméter, Rhea, Queens
beneath the Earth and on the Earth and in
the Sky, the Waxing, Full and Waning moons,
three seasons of the year, the Spring, the Summer,
and the Winter times, for in the ancient
calendar the seasons were but three.
And yet again did ancient Rhea speak,
commanding Zeus as Snake to mingle with
Persephone, who bore to Him a child,
the infant Dionysos, Son of Zeus.
But first today we celebrate the Two,
the Mother and the Maid, Deméter and
Her regal daughter, grave Perspehone.

The story is well known how Zeus the Father
gave His daughter to His brother Hades,
Ruler of the Underworld, and how
Deméter grieved for Her, and all the Earth
was barren, starved, until the Sun and Moon,
bright Helios and Hecáte, guessed Her fate,
and how Persephone was brought back to
the light and Earth rejoiced, but not before
the Maiden ate the fruitful pomegranate,
binding Her forever to the World
Below, and so the seasons come and go,
with light succeeding dark succeeding light.

H: Exhibit the hot-crossed buns and say.
Observe these Cakes made with the Mother's grain
and marked by Solar Cross, the Sun's four rays,
the ever-rolling seasons of the year.
We consecrate them by the Maid and Mother.

H: Say,

Deméter and Persephone:
By North and South,
By East and West,
And by You Two,
These cakes are blessed! [4]

H: Break the buns.

H: Burn some of the buns on altar, saying

We always start with Thee, Hestía.

H: Buns are shared with everyone. Say,

Whoever knows the secrets of Deméter
will have joy forever in the world to come.

3. Rite for the First Birth of Dionysos

H: Tell myth:
We turn attention now to Dionysos,
to the Thrice-born God, returning from
the Dead and bringing Life to human kind.
This time of year was when Persephone
enmeshed Herself in Love with Father Zeus,
and nine months hence gave birth to Dionysos,
at the Winter Solstice, when the Sun's
reborn and dismal Winter starts to wane.
Then Hera planned destruction for the Child
and sent Kourêtes from the Underworld,
the savage white-faced Titans, sending Them
to kill the Child, enticing Him with toys -
a perfect Ball, a mirror showing Him
Himself, with these a spinning Bull-roarer,
which wails and moans like Beasts from the Abyss -
with toys like these the Neophyte was drawn
within the Cave and in the murky depths.
They sat Him in a Gypsum Throne and danced
around Him, weaving Him in Magic Webs.

Then They killed the Child.

And, like a calf or kid, with knives They carved
Him into Seven Parts and boiled them in
a Cauldron, seething Him in Mother's Milk.

H: In the cauldron, seethe seven pieces of meat in milk.

The Child was soon dismembered and reduced
to smaller parts, dissolving in the Milk,
returning to the Mother, to the Womb.
The savage Titans pierced the parts with spits
and roasted each above their blazing fire.

H: Roast the spitted meat over the fire in the brazier. Explain:

The Titans ate the Child God piece by piece,
first one, then two and three, then four and five,
until six parts were eaten, and They said:

"No longer mortal, you will be a God."

And each, when He had eaten, made reply:

"A kid, I've fallen into milk."

Now also in this Mystery of Life
and Death, like them we eat and speak these words.

P: Taste the meat (six pieces are used).

H: Explain:

The fragrance of the Titans' roasting meat
was carried upward by the outraged Wind,
until it reached Olympus, Zeus's home,
and Zeus immediately knew the Titans' crime.
He threw His blazing Bolt and blasted Them,
and burned the White-faced Titans into ash.

H: Burn paper picture of Titans.

H: Explain:

Now hear this Mystery, a story taught
by Orpheus, the Chanter of the Songs,
who moved the forest animals and plants,
the very rocks, until they danced in rapture,
Orpheus, who went down underground,
to Hades, searching for his new-wed wife
Eurydice, and brought her back to life.
(Ignore those lying tales that say he failed!)

Now hear the secret doctrine taught by him,
that people were created from the Ash,
and since we're molded from this ancient mud,
our nature is Titanic and Olympian,
savage and sublime, the earthborn Titans
having eaten of the Flesh Divine,
the Flesh of Dionysos, Son of Zeus.

H: Light green and yellow candles. Say,

These candles represent our earthly and celestial parts.

4. Rite for the Second Birth of Dionysos

H: Tell myth:
The Titans hadn't eaten everything,
the Seventh Part was left, the Heart of Life,
the Part we say is like that from a Fig.
And so a Goddess sent by Zeus approached;
Athena or Deméter brought it back
to Him, they say, enclosed within a Fan,
a woven fan for winnowing the grain.
And ever since, the women devotees
of Dionysos dance upon the peaks
of mountains, wakening the God who hides
within the ancient fan for winnowing.

O Dionysos, mystic Twice-born God,
attend the tale of how Thy Father Zeus
prepared a potion, grinding up the Seventh
Part and gave the drink to Sémele,
who would be called "the One Below the Ground."

H: Put the seventh part in the potion goblet. Other sacred ingredients may be added. (Replace it at back of altar near wine goblet.)

H: Tell myth:

Within her womb the Child was born again
and grew until the Goddess Hera roused
her jealousy and doubt about the Sire.
Consumed by doubt she asked to see the God
unveiled, compelling Him to show Himself.
But know: "Whoever sees the God unmasked
is quickly burned to ash." This was her fate,
but cooling Ivy, wound around her womb,
protected baby Dionysos, saving Him
till Father Zeus had snatched Him from the fire.

H: Show the White Egg and explain:[5]

Observe this Egg, unblemished, white and round,
a thing that doesn't seem to be alive,
and yet engendered by a living thing,
and bringing forth new life in its own time,
an ancient sign of Self-renewing Life.

But which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The riddle has been solved by Orpheus,
who said the Universe was first an Egg,
until around the Egg came coiling winds,
the Snake of Nature, squeezing round its shell,
until the Cosmic Egg was cracked in two,
one half becoming Earth, the other Sky.
And from the Egg shone forth a Newborn God
called Love, the Craftsman who created all
that is or was or evermore shall be.
This mystic truth was known by Orpheus,
"For I have seen the Egg before the Hen,
and know the Acorn comes before the Oak."[6]

Behold the Egg, an ancient mystic symbol
of New Life, an offering for the Dead.
We offer Eggs by ancient custom to
Lord Dionysos, for they mean rebirth.

H: Crack shell for ice melting, peel white for snow melting, to free golden sun.[7] Do this into a dish.

As Sémele, His Mother, burned away,
so also Springtime's Sun will crack the ice,
and melt away the white, concealing snows,
revealing, glowing in the wintry depths,
the Golden kernel, giving birth to Life.
From Winter's grip the Reborn Sun is freed.

All: Share the egg.

5. Rite for the Third Birth of Dionysos

H: Tell myth:
O Muse, recount the wondrous plan of Zeus!
He sewed the baby in His groin, a Child
within a man! and journeyed to the East,
to Eos' shining realm, the Land of Dawn,
the Kingdom of Beginnings and New Birth.
Like Grapes plucked from the vine and crushed to pulp,
and put beneath the ground in earthen jars,
like those that hold the ashes of the Dead,
like blood-red grapes that ferment into Wine,
transforming into something nobler, an
Elixir with a fiery inborn Spirit:-
so in Zeus's groin the Child transformed,
and was reborn much better than before.
And when the time approached for His rebirth,
the people called Him forth, and so we call
Him every year, now when the reborn wine
emerges transformed from its earthly grave.

Circle sunwise now and when I say,
"Invoke the God!" then call Him by these words:
    "Sémele's Son, Dionysos!
    Giver of well-being!"

All: Begin to circle sunwise.

H or assistant: Sound trumpet to call D.

P: Play drums & cymbals. Sound trumpets. Lots of noise!

H: Periodically call out:

Invoke the God!

P: Respond:

Sémele's Son, Dionysos!
Giver of well-being!

All: Begin to circle faster and faster.

If the ritual is being performed partly indoors, the time to go outdoors is when power has been raised. H determines the moment and leads the running crowd outside (through a previously cut door in the sacred circle). In this case s/he will have to take the wine outside, or have previously put it outside for the revelation.

H: When power has been raised, say:

Everyone now call the God up from the Earth!

Everyone pounds or stamps on the ground, while continuing to call the God ("Semele's Son, Giver of well-being!" "Bacchus!" etc.), to "raise Him from the dead."

6. Rite for the Epiphany of the God

All: Return indoors (unless ritual is conducted entirely out-of-doors).

H: Say,

Behold, the God has come!

H: Reveal wine goblet (perhaps the result of a magical transformation of the "potion").

H: Say:

Behold the Bread and Wine, for these are gifts
and blessings of the Goddess and the God,
two substances transformed to nobler state,
converted by the sacred Force of Life.

Behold this Egg that's Red, the hue of Blood,
the Vital Force of Life and Nature's Strength.
May Dionysos' Blessings grace this Egg,
and by its Magic might they come to us!

Circle sunwise now toward the altar,
coming forward each to share the fruits:
Deméter's Bread and Dionysos' Wine.

If you have seeds or other things to bless,
approach and leave them also on the altar.
While we circle we shall sing our hymn.

P: Come forward for blessing.

P: While they are waiting, sing Hymn:

Dionysos, Hail to Thee,
  Lord of Abundant Clusters!
Grant that we may come again
  rejoicing in this season,
also from this season on,
  for many further years.

H: As they come forward, give wine to each celebrant for a taste. Say,

May you never thirst.

H: Break bread for each celebrant. Say,

May you always have enough and some to share.

H: A Red Egg is touched three times to each person's forehead as a blessing. Say,

"Hugíeia! Zôê!" (Health! Life!), "Phoínix Leukón" (Red White), "Khaire" (Be well), "Blessed be," etc. [9]

P: If there are enough Red Eggs for everyone, then they should be given to the persons blessed by them, who may touch each others Eggs together and say, "Our Lord has risen!" and reply "Indeed He's risen!" etc. Afterwards the Eggs may be eaten, or the shells and meat thrown in the garden for fertility.

H: When everyone has been blessed, say:

Recall: in winter's cold we saved our seeds
enclosed in darkness, buried underground.
But now we bring them out into the Sun,
to see the light and soon return to life.

H: Tap the seeds three times with the thyrsus and say:

Now the dark half of the year has passed.
Now the days grow light, the Earth grows warm.
I summon Thee, the Spirit of the Seeds,
which have slept in darkness, safe from harm.
Soon you will be planted in the Earth
to sprout and grow and generate new fruit.
By Deméter and Persephone,
Hear this charge and by it blessed be![10]

H: Explains:

When Dionysos had been born again,
He sought His mother in the Underworld,
and found Her, rescued Her, and raised Her to
Olympus' heights, the deathless realm, so making
Her a Goddess, as He is a God.
So Dionysos raises all of us
to Heaven's heights and brings to us rebirth.

H: Open the circle. Invite celebrants to feast.

The Rite is done; the Circle opened.
These gifts are dedicated to the Gods,
and we may have our festive feast anon.

All: Sacred foods (meat, eggs, bread) should be consumed in the sacred precincts or disposed of there, or dedicated to the Gods in some other way.

H: Say,

The Rite is ended!

7. Feast

The energy should be grounded in a feast. Lamb is especially appropriate. After the feast, suggest celebrants take a walk to appreciate the beginnings of Spring.

VI. Notes

1 Cabot, Celebrate the Earth 117.

2 Newall, Egg for Easter 210.

3 For the background on Eoster see Opsopaus, "Eoster" and Newall, App. 2.

4 adapted from Campanelli, Ancient Ways 46.

5 For background on the White Egg see Newall, esp. ch. 1.

6 based on an ancient Breton song (Newall 78-9).

7 Serith, Pagan Family 125-6.

8 adapted from Evelyn-White tr. of Homeric Hymn XXVI

9 for the Red Egg, see Newall, esp. ch. 9. Hugieia Zôê translates the traditional "Healthy Alive," and Phoinix Leukon translates the traditional "Red White." Phoinix refers to a deep crimson or purple-red, the mystically intensified color called Purpur by Goethe. However, it is also the Phoenix, the bird reborn from its own ashes, born like the serpent or dragon from the World Egg (Newall 156-8). And it is the color of fire. Leukon is the color white and the quality of being brilliant and clear; it is also specifically the white of an egg. As phoinios means "blood-red," so leukon means fair, pale, wan; so they are a complementary pair.

10 adapted from Campanelli, Wheel of Year 54.

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Last updated: Fri Sep 1 17:32:45 EDT 2000