A rather sad tale concerning the god Dionysus involves an Athenian named Icarius and his daughter Erigone. It came to be that Dionysus traveled to the city of Athens to unveil the mysteries of his new religion.
Immediately Icarius ran to the gates and extended a warm welcome to the god and his curious band of followers. In order to reward Icarius for his hospitality, Dionysus decided to teach the old man the art of wine making.
When the lessons were complete, Icarius loaded up his wagon with wineskins, and along with his beloved dog Maera set out to spread these new teachings across the land.
After some time, Icarius came upon some shepherds who were standing idly along the roadside. Eager to test out his new wares, he quickly stopped his cart and offered the men a taste of his delicious wine.
The unseasoned gents quickly consumed the full-bodied infusion and soon found themselves to be very light in the head. Being unfamiliar with the effects of fermented beverages, the tipsy men began to suspect that they had been poisoned.
In a fit of drunken rage, the deranged group savagely beat Icarius to death and buried his body under a nearby tree. When Icarius did not return home, Erigone became worried and set out to search for her missing father.
Laboriously she scoured the countryside looking for any clue she could find until Maera finally led her to her father’s place of burial. Filled with an unbounded amount of grief, Erigone sadly fashioned a noose and hung herself above her father’s grave. With both of his masters gone, the faithful dog Maera also chose to end his life by jumping into a nearby well.
When Dionysus learned the fate of his loyal followers, he swore vengeance against their attackers. As a punishment for the crimes inflicted upon Icarius and Erigone, the god caused a madness to come over every maiden found living in the city Athens.
One by one the unmarried females took up ropes and followed in the footsteps of Erigone. The heartbroken Athenians sought the help of an oracle, and through her words learned of both the murder of Icarius and the tragedy that befell upon his daughter.
The assassins were quickly found and justly punished for their wicked deeds. As a tribute to Icarius and Erigone the people of Athens instituted a rite known as The Swinging Festival.
During this time young women honored the memory of Erigone by coming together and playing on swings that had been suspended from trees.
Dionysus also paid homage to his friends by placing them in the sky as constellations; Icarius as Bootes, Erigone as Virgo and Maera as the Dog Star.