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* All digital art by Michael @ The Dionysian Experience

Ecstatic dance is a spiritual movement gaining increasing popularity in the world today. However, ecstatic dance as a spiritual experience is far from new. It is an ancient ritual dating as far back as 8,000 BC…if not even longer. The experience is said to produce an altered state of mind leading to a transcendent spiritual experience. Really? Dancing can do this?

I think so. Regrettably, my interest in dancing has always been fueled by wanting to get hot and sweaty with women. The motive is different I suspect for many women. Women seem to have a genuine love of dancing, right? There is a curious behavior that women share with one another that men don’t do as commonly (exception possibly being gay men). Women dance alone and women dance with other women. There is something about dancing for the love of movement, release, and self expression that women are drawn to. Perhaps there is a state transcendent spiritual ecstasy women sometimes achieve through dancing? 

This happened to me…once. I felt it. I remember being in a club in my early 20’s. I can even recall where I was on the dance floor. I had a nice buzz, the clubs lights were mesmerizing, the perfect song was on, and I danced…alone. I didn’t care what other people thought and became completely lost in the moment. Any sense of self dissipated and I was transported to a place where I felt connected and intertwined with the universe. I felt high on life. In more recent years, I experience a similar “high” during long runs. The runner’s high is something that is well known in the runner community. Like the runner’s high, I suspect there is dancer’s high as well and it is an experience women are very familiar with.

Where am I going with this? My overarching journey as a writer and digital artist is a quest for deeper meaning. While I am active man and engage fully in life, I also enjoy observing others, reading, and thinking about the human experience. Over the years I have come to appreciate Dionysus (Greek god) as an archetype that provides a psychological backdrop for my personal journey. Further, I believe Dionysus (as an archetype) is a psychological force that swirls within many of us. We know it is there but we don’t have a name/label for it. I think of it as the Dionysian experience.

In ancient Greece, Dionysus was worshipped as a divinity. He was known to have a disproportionate number of female followers and women have been historically portrayed as his most trustful and faithful companions. Indeed, the origin story of Dionysus describes him as being raised in the forest by women – the Maenads or Thyiads.

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In Greek mythology, maenads was the term used for female followers of Dionysus. Their name literally translates as “raving ones”. Often the maenads were portrayed as inspired by Dionysus into a state of ecstatic frenzy through a combination of dancing and intoxication.

The worship of Dionysus in ancient Greece by women wasn’t a fringe following. Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, was a devout follower as was the Queen of Macedonia. These powerful and notable women, along with women throughout the social strata, took the forest and mountains to participate in secretive Dionysian mysteries and rituals to invoke the presence of Dionysus – transcendent ecstasy. Dionysus was one of the strongest and most important psychological and spiritual forces of the ancient world until a conquering Rome morphed Dionysus into Bacchus, degraded his spiritual essence, and ultimately suppressed his followers – see Dionysus: The Rise and Fall (and Rise).  

Archetypes don’t die and can’t be suppressed forever. They are psychological forces and dreams imprinted on the collective unconsciousness of humanity and demand release. Spiritual transcendence through dance is once again entering our consciousness in the western world.

Whether you are partaking in an ecstatic dance workout at your local fitness center or getting your ecstatic dance on in a club, you are reviving an ancient ritual. You are performing the dance of the Maenads and connecting to the spirit of women across the millenniums. And, if you are fortunate enough to reach a state of transcendent spiritual ecstasy, you are filled with a presence the ancient Greeks knew as Dionysus.

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My currently available posts, digital art, and videos exploring Dionysus are here – Dionysus & Psychology.

19 thoughts on “Dance of the Maenad

  1. I am smiling for the first time this morning

    1. Putting a smile on your face makes this entire post worth it. It looks good on you ☺️

  2. To dance unfettered by self-consciousness. The yearning is very real, I visit her dungeon quite often…make sure her chains aren’t chafing. She’s been a wild thing since Oct.

    1. Always the clever and sassy one ☺️Perhaps you should remove those chains that bind the wild one… You know she needs to be set free.

  3. I got really happy when I saw your post. It was a long day and this was what I needed I think. The wild side is calling how soon will we give into it? Society’s chains only wish to hold us back

    1. I think you hear the call and are shaking and pulling at those binding chains really hard now… You will find your release. 😈

      1. Alas I’m am not the one with the keys

        1. Ohhh, I like this reply…very thought provoking 🗝

          1. Always 🙂

  4. And how did you know I was planning to post a piece on dancing also? You just beat me to it haha

    1. This one had been sitting around in drafts for a while waiting for some final inspiration. I think your comment about dancing and singing the other day as way to express yourself may have been that last bit of inspiration I was looking for to connect a few dots ☺️

      1. Glad I could help give you that final push. I seem to be doing that alot recently.

        1. The final push… Your helping hands are always appreciated ☺️

  5. I absolutely know what you’re talking about here. There are many times I am transported away dancing and listening to music, letting it take over my movements. I had no idea that men don’t experience the same thing. For me, it is an almost sexual experience. My nerves tingle and I am enraptured. I lose track of time (it becomes unimportant). When I come to myself, I have a feeling of mild loss but also satisfaction and fulfillment. A natural mellow high. Many times, depending on the song/experience/high, I may touch and stroke my skin afterwards or sit in contentedness or I become energized. Love the post!

    1. Hi Tara, thanks so much for stopping by…and this breathtaking comment.💫 I have to admit, I’m sitting here a bit mesmerized by it actually. These sensations you have during and afterwards really brings the subject matter to life with a real-world personal experience from a woman very connected to her sensuality. Wow…LOVE this comment on so many levels – the heat, passion, connectivity, and spirituality.

      1. Honestly, realizing that you may not experience it in the same way makes me long for the ability to either really articulate what it’s like or to be able to gift the experience to you myself. I re-read my comment and realized it’s so pale compared to the reality of it… but I find sensuality (possibly) in some very “mundane” or normal daily activities. I embrace it for what it is.

  6. I am not much of a dancer, nothing anyone would consider good, anyway. To get moved and want to move with the music is something I do all the time. It is a higher plane, I think. We should all try to get there.

    Tim

    1. Hi Tim, thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Glad you are able to get to this plane. I imagine it is something more men should be doing. After all, it isn’t about how well we dance or what others think…it’s about the feeling we experience while movement.

Hope you enjoyed and will share your thoughts...