This is a two-part festival, designed with a smallish group in mind. Adapt as your circumstances require.
Part one takes place indoors, while part two is all outdoor fun, preferably in a secluded backyard.
Set up a shrine to Dionysos Lusios in the far part of the yard, preferably a crude wooden idol draped in greenery. Its face should be whitened. Beside it should be bowls and dishes and candles, all in white, as well as an array of white offerings members may use when they are finished communing with the God.
Elsewhere in the yard erect a shrine to Dionysos Bakcheios. This should consist of a dark mask with red swaths or designs upon its face. Beside it is a whip or flogger. On the other side, bowls, dishes and candles, all in red, as well as an array of red offerings members may use when they are finished communing with the God.
Everyone should be veiled, dressed in black and sprawled out across the floor. Give them wool, string and other textile playthings. This can just be a fun distraction or folks can do some serious thread magic with this.
While everyone is doing their own thing, have them sing Italian work songs like the ones collected by Alan Lomax.*
After about ten minutes of this “Melampos” enters the room. (He should be dressed in a white linen robe with a snakeskin belt, wearing a Triskelion and spotted pelt, with his face darkened like Arlecchino.) He sneaks through the crowd, and using a cardboard sword lifts the veils one by one. Once the person’s veil is lifted they are to rise and go outside to dance and scream until the others join them.
When all are outside Melampos goes over to the red shrine and makes offerings, then takes up the whip, flogger or similar device.
While everyone dances and screams, Melampos walks through the yard periodically calling out “Hail Dionysos!” When people are ready they may approach Melampos and either receive the instrument from him so they can do it themselves or allow him to strike them. The person should be lashed 3, 6, 9, 12 or 21 times. No more and no less than these.
When they are finished, they are to then approach the Bakcheios idol and kneel before it. They may spend as much time as they need in communion with him, sharing their pain and grief and all the times they failed to measure up until Bacchic katharsis washes over them. Then they should make red offerings to him and rejoin the dancing crowd.
Do not intrude when someone is communing with Dionysos Bakcheios, no matter what kind of outward display they are making. If they need assistance, they will let you know.
Once everyone has had the opportunity to worship before the Bakcheios idol have Melampos or another ritual leader go around with a plate of child-shaped cookies. They may be decorated with red, white and black frosting or left plain.
After all have partaken in the Hippasos feast the dancing should resume. Melampos then goes among the crowd, offering them a cup of kykeon to drink. Once they have finished they are invited to go before Dionysos Lusios.
The person kneels before the idol and addresses the God, sharing with him all they wish to be loosed from their life. When they are done they are to chant the oration of Aristides three times:
Nothing can be so firmly bound
by illness, by wrath or by fortune
that cannot be released by the Lord Dionysos.
They then resume dancing.
Once everyone has had their turn the participants should gather in a rough semi-circle. Melampos goes down the line sprinkling everyone with chernips, then all join in the Recitation.
Melampos then cries:
Hail to you Bakcheios, who makes one rage with ecstasy.
Hail to you Lyaios, who grants release from all cares.
Hail to you Auxites, who causes to flourish.
Hail to you Eubouleos, who speaks for the dead.
Hail to you Mainomenôs, who helps through madness.
Hail to you Thurepanoiktes, who knows how to unlock what is closed.
Hail to you Patroôs, guardian of the ancestral rites.
Hail to you Omadios, who makes raw by tearing open.
Hail to you Meilichios, sweetest and gentlest of all the Gods.
For your limitless blessings I praise you Dionysos, Lord of many names and
To you, Dionysos, we give this offering,
you who are poured out in offering to the Gods
and bring mad blessings to the careworn hearts of mortalkind.
You who delight in all young life
and cause flowers to bloom and fruit to swell.
You who hunt in the night with the Furious Host
and open the doors so that the wild ones may revel
in wild places once more.
Lord of many names and many masks,
most gentle and most savage of all the Gods,
hearer of prayers and worker of wonders,
whose boons are beyond counting –
Dionysos, this life is yours,
oh Lord of boundless life! Together may we ever celebrate!
Finish with more dancing.
* Many of which can be found here: