Adapted from Olivia's wiki page design for Sunny.
In some form or another, its advocates argue that the Cult of Dionysus has always existed; for like wine, the taste of which varies from region to region, the name of their God has a different taste on different lips, in different lands and within different cultural bonds. It is not the devotion to the name that they cherish, but to his ideals: hedonism, revelry, duality, and the inversion of self away from societal judgement. It is a cult which celebrates sin, madness and reckless abandon.
In principle these ideals of liberation can sound very tempting, particularly to those who feel they've been in some way marginalised by society or condemned as outcasts. Lured in by promises of equality and freedom, it has a habit of drawing in women, criminals, the poor, the mentally ill, the handicapped, foreigners, ethnic and sexual minorities. Outsiders, however, often view the cult as a dangerous and exploitative organisation that preys on those vulnerable to indoctrination and abuses its own members.
Explicitly venerating madness and viewing psychological destruction as a path to enlightenment, they make heavy use of intoxicants and stimulants in order to induce altered states of consciousness. They view hedonism and suffering as two sides of the same coin, requiring their members to undergo both harrowing and ecstatic rites in order to obtain trusts and power within the Cult's inner circle. Moreover they have very few scruples when it comes to inducing enlightenment in others against their will. Often victims do not realise they have been drugged by a member of the Cult until it is far too late, for just as they believe in embracing their carnal selves, they place high value on integration and the presentation of a socially acceptable front. Only those capable of mastering both their carnal selves and their social selves are trusted with leadership in the Cult.
Particularly sacred to the Cult are werewolves, who submit to the madness of the Moon; shifters, whose dual selves proves their twin-natures more apparent; viniculturists, who cultivate the sacred grape; and Divine descendants of Dionysus himself. Men who claim Dionysian lineage are uniquely granted trusts within the Cult that others of their gender are forbidden.
In veneration of madness and quiet disdain of imposed societal inhibitions, the aim of the Cult is to spread its influence through the dregs of the world, poisoning the water, so to speak, as a corrupting force for chaos.
Where possible they seek a paradigm shift for the oppressed, degenerates and lepers of man — and more often, womankind; however, they do not offer and do not pursue practical freedoms, nor seek to make their message of so-called 'liberation' openly heard. Instead they view empowerment as a process that is entirely internal, mental and spiritual, requiring a mystical process of rebirth through the aid of intoxicants, hedonism and even pain and suffering.
An emphasis is placed by the Cult on the duality of self, the importance of outward appearances, secrecy and masquerade. In modern terms this can be described as 'Philosophical Anarchy' — they seek to destroy the very foundations of society, yet not through any form of protest or outward aggression. Instead, through false integration, denouncing the law in secret while playing along in public. Sins and criminal acts are celebrated — but only if you can get away with it.
Where many societies seek the ultimate destruction of their enemies and thus the removal of a threat, the Cult of Dionysus views this as wasteful, dull and churlish. Its greatest weapon is temptation, and its members are encouraged instead to corrupt, convert or expose their enemies for who they really are: degenerates, for we are all born in sin.
While embracing most criminal acts, . Seeing the act of sexual congress as a sacred offering to their God, it is the willing surrender to temptation that they value and not the physical act in itself. Sexual abuse, therefore, is seen as a cheater's way out of having to corrupt or charm their target. However, they do not view consent under the influence as less valid, for when intoxicated human beings are their truest selves. They also do not police the actions of any members outside their Cult, even against their own members, unless it gets in the way of their activities; this law only applies to the actions of their own members.
Curiously, the Cult is not all that focused on making outsiders believe in their God by name; like wine, they claim that Dionysus has a different flavour in different regions, and therefore prioritise imposing his tenets on others rather than requiring explicit worship.
In plainest terms, members of the Cult are expected to try and fuck with people at all times, particularly those who view themselves as very virtuous, straight-laced or adhere to some rigid personal standards, such as judges, policemen, clergy or politicians. Influencing others to break their word, their vow, their commitments, their sobriety or to betray their friends somehow is in itself its own reward for the Cult which eschews imposed inhibitions and worships liberation, libation and the inner inversion of self.
Their means of degrading others may include drugging them against their will, blackmail, manipulating them into making decisions they'll regret, and so on. Only by bringing people face to face with their true and darker reflection do they believe they can spread the influence of their God, inducing enlightenment and unlocking hidden potential.
Violence is not condemned by the society in any sense, and in many circumstances is often celebrated as revelry. However, this should be enjoyed for its own sake or used as a tool for teaching, and not seen as an end-goal. Murder is generally seen as wasteful and rather boorish unless it serves a good purpose, such as food or sacrifice. The dead, after all, make for very poor puppets.
And of course, being a Cult that venerates wine, no Dionysian should ever shy away from a good party. Bonus points for spiking the punch and taking pictures of enemies in compromising positions.
All who seek to join the Cult of Dionysus begin as Slaves, regardless of their personal might; some never rise above this rank. At least initially, this confers significantly more respect than would appear on paper, for the Cult celebrates the inversion of societal roles. As such, women are by default granted seniority of men, especially if they are addicts, sex-workers, handicapped, foreign, non-white, poor or categorically insane.
Progressing from Slavery, Applicants must undergo a rite to become Initiates. Men cannot rise above this rank unless they are of divine blood, and claim descent from Dionysus. In this case, they are given many freedoms and granted great prestige within the Cult.
Cultists are given increasing trusts based on their devotion to their God and their usefulness. It is not enough to merely claim worship, for they must prove it in deed. In truth the most trusted within the Cult are often the most abused and exploited by their peers, for they must endure extensive intoxication, substances and torture in order to attain this rank. They often suffer from crippling mental illness and are psychically fed upon by the leaders of the Cult. Should they survive this, they are given the chance to lead, thus repeating the cycle of feeding and exploitation on newer slaves and initiates.