Devotee of Dionysos: An Interview with Sannion, Part One

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The Holy Powers are on the move and nowhere is that more evident, at least to me, than in the outpouring of devotional work that has graced our various polytheistic communities over the past couple of years. People are being swept up and swept away in love and sometimes ecstatic devotion to their Gods and this is a very good thing, a joyous thing to see. It is not, however, a new thing. Our Gods have been doing this to one degree or another for as long as we have had records of religious practice, and amongst the Greeks one God in particular stands out as the arbiter of this divine ecstasy: Dionysos.

An awareness of Dionysos and His mysteries has graced my life since the beginning of my active awareness as a Pagan. One of the first initiatory rites I had the honor of witnessing was that of a young woman, an artist, dedicating herself to this God. After that, every few years, I would encounter someone who in some way had tasted of the sweetness that is His to offer. Eventually I began to pay attention. Owned by Odin as I am, Who carries His own brand of ecstasy, I could well understand how easy it is for such a God to twine His way into one's heart. I learned much about how to navigate the intensity of devotion my own God evokes from reading and interacting with devotees of Dionysus. For that I am grateful. I was also very lucky, about a year and a half ago, to have discovered the work of Sannion.

Sannion is a devotee (that hardly seems a strong enough word) of Dionysos, a diviner, a poet, and one who carries this God's wisdom to our mad and disconnected world. His recent book Ecstatic is a sizeable compilation of articles, essays, prayers, and poems about this God that he loves so well. It is a phenomenal and comprehensive book and upon reading it, I could hardly wait to interview him. This interview was conducted via email on July 14, 2011.

Tell me a little bit about yourself. How did you come to Paganism (if you prefer a different word, let me know).

Well, I suppose the best way to describe myself is as a Classical Polytheist and Dionysian who lives in the Pacific Northwest. I serve my god as an oracular priest and am a prolific author, having just released my fifth book through Nysa Press. I like spiders and I'm learning Italian. There's not a whole lot else to say, but I guess if you want to find out more about me you could always visit my blog and website at thehouseofvines.com.

As for the second part of your question—like most polytheists today I began my spiritual life in a totally different religion before eventually finding my way to Dionysos and the other gods. My family moved around a lot in my youth, so I was exposed to pretty much every form of Christianity imaginable, as we attended whatever church was close by (often the only church in the small, rural towns we tended to settle in).

Eventually I came to have serious misgivings about some of the core tenets of Christianity, which led me to look elsewhere for divine truth. On top of that, in late adolescence I had a series of encounters with a strange, earthy, sensual, masculine figure—dreams, visions, and related phenomena—the memory of which haunted me through my early teen years. I chased his shadow through a variety of different religions and philosophical systems before coming to realize his true identity as Dionysos.

Wishing to learn everything that I could about his nature, history, and preferred forms of worship I began an extensive phase of research on all aspects of ancient Greek culture and religion. Eventually I discovered that I wasn't alone in my love of antiquity and desire to see this religion revived when I encountered a thriving community of Hellenic Reconstructionists online. I spent the next few years active in this community, participating on the lists and forums, writing voluminously, organizing events, and founding and leading a number of different groups.

Then around 2004 I had a series of powerful encounters with the Kemetic deities, which led to an interest in the fusion of cultures that took place in Hellenistic Egypt under the Ptolemies. Eventually I discovered some kindred souls and we formed a syncretic Greco-Egyptian religious group called Neos Alexandria. My time there was extremely pleasant and we had many ambitious plans, including the founding of a publishing line to bring about devotional books honoring the gods of Greece, Egypt, and neighboring lands—which is still going strong several years on!