Hymn to Dionysus V: Not a tame lion

Ben Whishaw as Dionysus in the Almeida production of The Bakkhai, 2015

He comes from somewhere else, at a time when he is unlooked-for.
He doesn’t wear the right clothes; his hair is too long or too short,
his walk is too butch or too femme. Women love him, but men
know better than to trust him; women crowd around him, but
right-thinking men back away. He smells of women’s perfume
and new leather and animal fur. He takes drugs and sings
lewd songs and women are always at his feet. He has no
permanent address, no stable job, no steady girlfriend.
He carries a club, or is that a parasol, or is it a stage prop,
or is it a weapon? He smiles too much; he doesn’t smile enough;
he doesn’t make sense, isn’t predictable, why won’t he follow
the rules? Rules keep us safe, and you are whatever makes us
feel unsafe, God of Nysa, stranger from far away. You are
sex to the prude, violence to the upright, drugs to the sober,
dance to the rigid, theatre to the boss man, religion to the atheist.
Yet you are also chastity, gentleness, mindfulness, stillness,
silence, and the closed mouth that has tasted the Mysteries.
Bull-horned, bull-footed, complicated god, no one is safe from you.


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Writer, musician, polytheist, and friend of birds. I like science fiction, fantasy, and superheroes a lot.

2 thoughts on “Hymn to Dionysus V: Not a tame lion”

    1. He’s adorable and also a very fine actor. Even more than I wished I could see Cumberbatch onstage as Hamlet, I wished I could get to London to see Whishaw as Dionysus. I urge you to give his Richard II a go; it was the first part of the BBC’s Hollow Crown series of historical Shakespeare. I also highly recommend the tv series The Hour, which is but two very short series and every moment is gold.


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