Archive for January 2017

Lenaia 2017   6 comments




The old woman steps into the lane, tentatively sliding a blue flowered Birki onto the cold stones. Two cats flank her in silence, a sway-bellied calico and a big Siamese who moves with an odd gait. In the pasture that runs alongside the lane an old mostly blind and deaf dog pants noisily as he bumbles through the dry winter grass.

She hopes no one will encounter them. There are only three houses down this unpaved dead-end lane, but the neighbors have a more active social life than she, and often there are cars coming and going even at this late hour. And what will they see? A furtive figure in a dark hoodie and too-short red Mickey Mouse pajama pants, sensible winter socks inside the silly blue shoes. A plate of food and a bunch of grapes clutched in one hand, a glass of red wine in the other.

One could not blame folks for being wary of such an apparition.

The calico, Ivy, strops her ankles and makes a sharp remark. The woman sighs, and begins to walk down the lane, her footsteps loud in the quiet of the night. The cats begin to weave their complex pattern around her, intent on their dance. She brings her thoughts back to the ritual, to the offerings, to the God. If a car comes, there’s nowhere to go. She’ll just have to smile into the headlights, and let them draw their own conclusions. No one will ask for an explanation, and no one would care to listen to the simple truth, that an ancient ritual is being performed out of love for Dionysos.

Ivy disappears when they reach the pond, but the Siamese, Marley, delicately navigates the tall dead weeds as the old woman approaches the pond’s edge, her back still prickling with dread, not of the spirits or beings with whom she shares the night, but of discovery by unsuspecting humans. Swallowing hard, she holds the offerings aloft, says the prayers, pours out the libation onto the cold muddy earth, drinks. Marley shakes a six-toed front paw in annoyance at a puddle. With relief, everyone meets back in the lane and begins the short walk back to the farm, everyone except Tramp the dog who is still huffing around the pasture, following the scent of something long gone.

They bypass His outdoor shrine and return to the house, but the woman is restless, unable to settle in front of the fire and commune with the God at the ritual shrine. Finally she goes back out, the cats and Tramp dutifully joining her, and stands in yard in the cold wind, ice pellets hitting her in her closed eyes. There He is, now she can feel Him, glorious, overwhelming Love, the God Who Comes. She opens her eyes. The cloud cover is heavy, but the full moon is backlighting them, ever so slightly.

Tramp whuffs at the door. The cats race across the stiff grass and rub against him, calling the old woman in. They know when a ritual is over.

The second night of the festival begins late, under a sky still occluded by clouds but with moonlight heaving behind them, breaking through in weird shafts which are almost immediately swallowed. The old woman takes a pomegranate to the Persephone shrine, where she and Ivy spend a long time with the Goddess. The woman loses herself in the Presence, weeping in ecstasy and pain. Ivy has no patience with this and little respect, treading in and out of the shrine, pushing the pomegranate to make it roll away, climbing noisily in and out of the trees which drape themselves around the shrine arbor.

Finally the old woman steps away from the shrine, kissing her hand to the goddess. She carries a glass of red wine (Horse Heaven Hills merlot, wonderful) into the Dark Faery Grove. The thorns and guardian branches let her and Ivy through easily, and Marley joins them in front of the shrine. The items in the shrine are glowing with a faint silver light, even though the moon is not visible and anyway could not reach through the thick evergreens of the Grove. But a cold fresh wind infiltrates the darkness in the sacred space, exciting and invigorating. She breathes deeply, pours a small libation for the fae, and emerges to stand before Dionysos and His Dryad. She pours the wine for them, drinks, listens.

Back at the house she picks up a staff with a bindrune burned into it, and leather wrapped at its base. Tonight it is her thyrsos. She lifts it high, and begins to dance a little as she walks, banging the thyrsos onto the earth and whisper-crying ‘Io Io Iakkhos! Baby, wake UP!’ over and over. She moves to the line of lilacs behind the house, stops herself (the lilacs always tend to wake up too early on their own), then proceeds around, striking the thorn locusts and arborvitae while she dances and chants. A light comes on at the neighbor’s, and loud voices. The old woman freezes. She is probably not visible in the darkness of her back yard, not while the women talking next door stand in their bright porch light, and she makes herself move forward, chanting and striking the ground a little more softly. The cats have no such inhibitions. They love maenad Work, and chase and tackle and hiss at each other as they race around the old woman. She moves into the blessed darkness and silence of the front yard. The birches, the quakin’ asps, the new willow, Tyr the warrior, the orchard trees, Oberyn and the driveway guardians, Murbella and the giants, the Scottish warriors, all get a light thump from the thyrsos, as the sleeping vegetation and the seeds deep beneath the earth of the farm are all reminded that while this is rest time, spring will soon be upon us, and to begin to turn their dreams toward waking.

But not yet. Stupid lilacs, stop budding!

The old woman has a hard time herding the cats and dog back inside tonight. The full moon, felt if not seen, is thrumming in all their blood.

On the final night of the Lenaia the weather has turned unseasonably warm, but the moon still pulses behind clouds and will not come out. Rain is drumming on the hood of the old woman’s jacket as she brings the final libations out into the night. It would be easy to think that He has turned from Winter Lover to Spring, but He is deceptive, and she knows that the cold has not yet released its grip. But the rain feels like her thyrsos from the night before, insistent, waking, inexorable. The smell of the rain and clouds, and the wet soft earth have all the unbearable excitement and adventure of springtime in them.

The cats have declined to celebrate with her, even though the rain is surprisingly warm. Tramp has come out with her, but is standing at the door, peering dimly through the darkness hoping to see her coming toward him. His tail droops. She takes pity on him, murmurs a final prayer of love to Him, and she and the old dog go inside together.

The Lenaia festival is finished.


a week ago i heard the term ‘creative non-fiction’ for the first time and was intrigued. after a bit of a poke about, i realized that it’s very close to how i write most of my devotional stuff, so i thought i’d give ‘er a whirl deliberately for recounting this year’s Lenaia. what do you think?







Posted January 14, 2017 by suzmuse in Uncategorized