Look at that sky, life’s begun

At one end of the room there was a bull’s skull
on a red blanket, with ivy wound round his horns
and plates of cakes and meat
and pomegranates and grapes
and bowls of wine and candles
and spread out like warspoils were his Toys
– mirrors and dolls and rattles and wheels and all the rest,
brought by the guests. And on the other side
was a tent of twigs and leaves,
and under it stood a statue of Ariadne,
and before her was a Labyrinth of white rose petals
and offerings equal to her Husband’s,
possibly even a little more,
and woven through it all,
and climbing the wall behind,
were white, blinking Christmas lights,
otherworldly in the dark and incense-cloudy room.
On the right, midway between, they’d set up
a table full of cups inscribed with epithets
and little pictures of Dionysos and his Bride,
some with red wine, some with pomegranate juice
and the rest with pure, cold water
because the remainder of the space
was filled with hot, dancing bodies.
Ophelia tried to get a count at the start,
when she was spritzing them all down with chernips
and chanting the purificatory oration of Aristides at them,
but the repetition put her in a trance
and she forgot around fifty or so.
So maybe a hundred, hundred and twenty?
Nice turn-out, considering
they hadn’t done much to advertise.
It was always a little strange
in a good way, but still strange –
doing ritual like this, with a crowd
rather than the more intimate
six to thirteen person thiasos she was used to.
Harder to find the rhythm
and keep herself from getting swallowed up
into the group energy.
She felt like she was being tugged
in a dozen different directions at once
and didn’t know which way to go,
or which version of herself to be.
And yet, when she stopped resisting,
stopped trying to make the experience
like what was familiar to her,
and instead just let it be what it would be
and go with the flow,
she found she was able to fly higher
and access parts of her God she could not on her own.
She wasn’t quite there yet in this rite,
which left her overly conscious of the white facepaint
and lacy dress she was wearing,
all the jewelry around her neck and wrists,
and even the ivy crown in her golden hair irritated her.
Normally these aesthetic tools helped her slip easier
into her role as his Mainad, but tonight they felt stifling
and she wanted to strip them all off, and smash them,
and then roll around on the ground,
getting her dress and hair all messy,
crawl like an animal over to the table of wine
and knock all those carefully inscribed
and prettily illustrated cups off, then drag that dude
dressed like a Satyr over, straddle him,
and fuck him silly in the wine,
spreading it all over his hairy body
and licking it off, and then,
just when he’s about to come inside her,
lean down and take a bite out of his shoulder.
“Oh my,” Ophelia said, fanning herself,
and suddenly she felt okay in her skin again,
and so joined the crowd, spinning and dancing
her way across the room until she reached the
shrine of the Bull God, where she prostrated herself,
poured an overflowing libation into one of the bowls,
and offered her mind, her heart and her soul to him,
knowing already that he possessed her body.