Mystai (initiates) into the Dionysiac mysteries participated in a secret ritual based on the ideas of death and rebirth, involving a terrifying experience, riddling language, darkness, light, and the revelation of special cultic objects.

These rites - what is their nature?

They may not be told to the uninitiated.

- Euripides, Bacchae, 471-2

In myth, the infant Dionysos was crowned king by Zeus. In revenge, Hera sent the Titans with children’s toys to lure Dionysos to his death. A 4th century BC papyrus from Egypt records these toys: a spinning top, bullroarer, knucklebone, mirror, and doll. In his anger at the murder of Dionysos, Zeus sent a thunderbolt to kill the Titans, and from the ashes, Dionysos arose reborn. The ritual gave initiates a special status, commensurate with their secret knowledge of what to expect in the next life through the intercession of Dionysos.