The Rites of Dionysus

From the first time I saw this back in 2006 I have been somewhat underwhelmed by it. Situated in the Mediterranean biome at the Eden Project, the ‘Rites of Dionysus’ is a sculpture by Tim Shaw, a sculptor from Cornwall who was born in Belfast. The installation draws inspiration from the accounts of the Bacchanal – of women who roamed mountains in a trance and at the height of ecstasy seized an animal, tore it apart and ate it raw.

Dionysus, Greek god of the vines, is a creature of mystery. Here depicted as a bull.

The Maenads, who were followers of Dionysus, dance and writhe through the vines beating drums and sounding horns.Β  The Dionysus myths give us an insight into one of the oldest civilisations and also tell us something about mankind and its unchanging nature. Madness, sacrifice and death echoing the mayhem and breakdown of civil order when war rips through a country.

Dionysus started out as the god of vegetation and good intentions. However thingsΒ  changed when he changed from growing the vine to drinking its fermented juices!

It’s possible to go too far
It’s possible to regain the balance.
People can change things for the better.

On this visit with the grape vines in growth I actually enjoyed the installation.

Source: Information plaques in the biome

~wander.essence~ | photography


  1. Installation looks pretty savage, but I can see how the vines would make a difference.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Yes the vines soften it somewhat and add context of course.

  2. beetleypete says:

    I think it probably only works in that vineyard setting, giving it context. Not really my thing, I confess.
    (Unlike the wine, of course. πŸ™‚ )
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. Heyjude says:

      Totally agree Pete.

  3. It’s interesting and evocative, but I wouldn’t pay to own any part of it. Except, like Pete, perhaps the wine πŸ™‚ Well done on the brilliant photo essay though Jude πŸ™‚

    1. Heyjude says:

      I have always found it weird to have in a place where families are welcome, in fact encouraged. Not sure how parents explain the cavorting to their offspring!

      1. Lol. Yes, I never thought about that. It is a bit gruesome too if you think about it. Hopefully the vines will grow. And grow. And grow around it πŸ™‚

        1. Heyjude says:

          I shall return next month and have a look.

  4. Tish Farrell says:

    I first saw this on the Eden Project’s winter evening opening a couple of years ago. I seem to think I have some very weird photos of it in consequence.It makes much more sense with the vines. But somehow the orgiastic hyperness seems too much for a Mediterranean wine drinking context – more like laid back and laid out. And then a big headache. And more lying down.

    1. Heyjude says:

      Without the vines it looks a bit grim. Too much wine sends me to sleep, so yes, lying down sounds about right!

  5. pommepal says:

    What a gory myth, but well depicted in the animalistic sculptures and well captured in your photos Jude especially with the vines twining around suggestively

    1. Heyjude says:

      First time I have seen it with the vines growing, and I think there are more sculptures than previously. I’ll have another look next month and see what it looks like then.

  6. Su Leslie says:

    I definitely recognise the dissolving g of good intentions in alcohol. Stark work by the looks of it πŸ˜€

    1. Heyjude says:


  7. bushboy says:

    Love the installation. Thanks for taking me there Jude πŸ™‚

    1. Heyjude says:

      You are very welcome Brian.

  8. Joanne Sisco says:

    I had the same reaction as Tish. I enjoy my fair share of the fermented grape, but it never drives me – or anyone I know – into an orgasmic dancing frenzy … more like drink, get sleepy, have a nap.
    … maybe we’re not doing it right πŸ˜‰

    1. Heyjude says:

      Or maybe we are too old? πŸ˜›

      1. Joanne Sisco says:

        Distinct possibility! πŸ™‚

  9. It’s a pretty gruesome story. I don’t remember even seeing this when we were there. I must go back through the photos and have a look.

    1. Heyjude says:

      In the Mediterranean biome on quite a large plot by the cafΓ©.

  10. restlessjo says:

    Pretty challenging to photograph well I should think, Jude. I’m not too fussed, but save me a drop of that white, could you? πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    1. Heyjude says:

      I only saw empty bottles. I shall seek out some full ones next visit πŸ˜‰

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