Thursday, June 30


The fresh black figs in my basket give off a heady perfume as we walk into the deep forest. I stop to tie back my hair and the darkness under the eaves of the forest wraps itself around my sisters. The fading lantern-light calls me into the grove, set just off the path to the north, and I run lightly on bare feet to catch them. To get to the Mystery, you have to cross the brook, ankle-deep in icy water, filled with mottled carp mailed in polished chain, marked like armor after a vicious battle. The entrance to our bakcheia is delineated by weather-warped silver chimes hanging from the cypress trees, dangling over the mossy rocks. They sing a dissonant song in the midsummer wind, calling me on, faster and faster.

Our god is the god of dancing, of dangerous rhythms, the god who comes. We are fig leaves and he is the sacred vine. We bend over backwards for ekstasis, dance in reverse around a great amphora of deep red wine, unwatered, the color of blood staining our mouths. Our mouths trail along each other like flickering flames, extinguished only by someone else's greedy lips. The drums beat deep in our bodies, the dark pulse moving our feet along predetermined paths into the silvershot night.

The night is full of stars, full of the music of their laughter and the exuberant sounds of loving, happy women. The satyrs rush in, squalling for ripe figs as they snatch at exposed breasts and hips. I put down my basket and drop my robe in the darkness. The drums are in my blood and my head hangs back, hair falling from its ribbons and twining like snakes around my brow. Torchlight rises above my hands and I begin to sing, or perhaps I speak in tongues. I can no longer tell. I cannot say what happens next, I cannot tell you about the Mystery. I can tell you about the face of my god but not his hands, the fruit of the vine but not the depths from which it grows. I cannot say.

The heavy scent of grass and mossy earth mingles with the perfume of fig and wine and there is a sound. The drums beat like hearts against the night, drawing our feet behind them, and there is a sound. My star-blinded eyes focus on the krater of wine in wonder, and there is a sound. Our torches lifted high, we turn to the sound of sirens howling ever nearer, and scream defiance. We are ready to rend the sound straight from the air, ready to tear flesh from bone at a threat, when the touch of our god withdraws slowly.

We are pagans, grown tired of the bland worship of empowerment principles, who have longed for the snakeskin feel of power, like ice and fire wrenched from our hearts, who bow down in the night to the old gods, glorying in abandon. We are poised still to eat living, bloody flesh, but no longer have the power. We are no longer in the hands of our god. Here, in the flashing lights painting our half-naked bodies with blue and red, we are only trespassing.

This week's Indie Ink challenge, "of sirens and maenads", came to me from Supermaren. I was amused to note that it fit perfectly with something else I've been toying with, and glad to post a tiny piece of it on this busy, busy week. I challenged Transplantedx3 with a moody French idiom, and look forward to reading her interpretation this week.