8 Life Lessons from the Women Followers of Dionysus (The Greek God of Wine & Festivity)
The story of Maenads, and why you should not follow their footsteps to succeed in business and life.
There are plenty of women to admire in Greek mythology.
From Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, protector of young women and the ultimate independent woman, to The Muses who inspired creativity in all they came in contact with.
Modern women can take a lesson or two from the ancient stories of strong ladies like these.
The Maenads, however, are certainly not included in that list, and for an apparent reason.
The Maenads were the female followers of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and general debauchery.
Their name translates as the ‘raving ones’, and they earned this title legitimately.
Dressed in fox skins or nothing at all, the Maenads are often portrayed as always in an ecstatic frenzy, inspired by Dionysus and intended to honour him.
As part of the Thiasus or inebriated revellers who worshipped Dionysus, the Maenads spent their time dancing, getting drunk, eating wild animals and generally acting like possessed lunatics.
The goal (if there was one) was to achieve a state of enthusiasm that would temporarily free their souls from their earthly bodies so they could commune with Dionysus and get a glimpse at eternity.
You would think that losing all self-control, getting drunk and acting promiscuous would be off-putting to those with whom they came into contact with, but, according to myth, the Maenads often converted others to their hedonistic ways.
By travelling the mountainsides, banging on drums, dancing crazily and generally acting mad, they were able to build a bit of a following.
Maybe it was their absolute immersion in what they believed, or perhaps it was only because most men could not resist a semi-clothed, jubilant woman.
However, no matter how good they were at convincing others to follow them, their rituals of indiscriminate sex and drinking never led to anything productive, and you could bet none of these women went down in history as strong, successful women.
So why are we writing about the Maenads concerning career advice instead of the independent Artemis or inspiring Muses?
Sometimes the best way to learn what you should do is to take a lesson from what you should not do, and it is here where the Maenads can provide us with some insight.
Here are the eight things not to do in your career, courtesy of the Maenads, the manic female followers of Dionysus which although focused at female readers, hold as much pertinence for men too.
Eight things NOT to do in your professional career based on Maenads:
1. Don’t lose self-control.
The Maenads were notorious for not being able to control their emotions and going into a manic frenzy of celebration.
Whether you’ve scored a big deal or you’ve just had a few too many glasses of wine at the company Christmas party, the urge to lose your self-control may strike you as well.
If you find yourself tempted to throw caution to the wind around your co-workers or managers, it’s essential to remove yourself from the situation until you’re able to think again.
Women are already classified as more emotional and less level-headed than men, and the last thing you want to do is prove everyone right.
2. Don’t forget your family.
The Maenads would have given up anything for their ‘job’ (if you consider worshipping Dionysus to be a job), including family, friends, and anything that got in their way.
In a world that is rife with changing gender roles, there is evidence that modern women are more likely than men to make family sacrifices to further their careers.
Though getting that promotion or raise is undoubtedly an admirable goal; doing so to the detriment of your spouse or kids is never a good idea.
3. Don’t get drunk during work hours.
According to a recent study, one in ten small businesses has reported that employees have been under the influence while at work.
We’ve all seen the movies and television shows where the boss breaks out the bottle of scotch to share a drink with a subordinate, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good career move to drink on the job.
The Maenads acted so erratically in large part due to their wine consumption.
Don’t follow their example by torpedoing your career with an alcohol-induced incident.
4. Don’t disregard your image or branding.
The Maenads didn’t care what anyone (other than the Greek god of wine) thought of them.
They also weren’t trying to hold down a career where they were always competing with men for promotions, raises, and respect.
As a professional in the business world, your brand is one of your most important assets and something you must protect. This means not having ill-advised office romances, dressing appropriately and, as we’ve already mentioned, not getting intoxicated on the job.
5. Don’t be passive-aggressive.
The Maenads wanted the attention of Dionysus, but they didn’t express this in a way the world at large saw as appropriate.
With their outrageous behaviour, these nymphs were getting attention in all the wrong ways.
It’s important to express yourself in an assertive, not passive-aggressive, manner in the workplace.
Assertive means you’re ready to stand up for your beliefs and express yourself in an appropriate, constructive way.
If you have a problem with someone, address it directly.
If you want to see something changed, ask.
Stooping to gossip, pouting, or other juvenile behaviour is not the answer.
6. Don’t give in to low self-esteem.
Although we don’t know if the Maenads acted the way they did because they wanted someone (Dionysus) to love and appreciate them, there’s plenty of proof that those with low self-esteem are much easier to persuade and manipulate than those who think highly of themselves.
If you don’t think you’re qualified for your job or don’t believe you deserve a raise or promotion, your beliefs are probably coming through in your actions.
It’s essential to address any self-esteem issues you have and work to repair them before they hurt you in your career.
7. Don’t put pleasure before productivity.
The Maenads were all about hedonistic pleasures.
They could get away with it because they were trying to impress the embodiment of hedonism itself, but, unless you’re working for Dionysus, this method isn’t going to be successful for you.
The temptation of pleasure can show up in many ways in the office: happy hours that cut into work hours, office flirtations, and water cooler gossip, just to name a few.
The more you focus on productivity and getting projects done, the more you’ll rise above your competitors who’ve wasted hours throwing back martinis at the local bar.
8. Don’t shirk responsibility.
You are responsible for most things in your life, including your family, deadlines and paying the mortgage.
Unlike the Maenads of Greek mythology, you cannot toss that all to the wayside to live a life of debauchery unless you want to lose everything that’s important to you.
Just as you need to develop a work/life balance, you also need to establish a reputation of responsibility at the office.
Phrases such as, “That’s not my job,” or “Let someone else worry about it” should not be in your vocabulary.
When you step up and take responsibility, managers take notice.
By taking a lesson from Greek mythology on how NOT to act, you could develop good habits that will make you stand out, get ahead, and be remembered for all the right reasons!