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You may not know the story of how Arachne defied the Goddess Athena with the beauty of her weaving, and you may know the story of how Arachne, born again as a mortal woman helped the hero Theseus defeat the Minator. But you probably do not know the tale of what came after.

Arachne was at that time called Ariadne and she had made a deal with Theseus to take her with him to Athens and make her his queen. But of course, Athena recognized her old rival and could not allow such a thing in her own city. Athena spoke softly to Dionysus, urging him to look well upon Ariadne’s beauty, and indeed he was smitten. He asked Athena’s help and she gladly came to Theseus in a dream, telling him that Ariadne was meant for another and to leave her on the island of Naxos. This Theseus did when Ariadne fell asleep on the shore on the warm sun. And this where the story truly begins.

You may well imagine that Ariadne was none too pleased to find herself abandoned. She was both hurt that the handsome young hero had left her and angry that her carefully laid plan was in ruins. She wandered the island alternately crying and cursing. Finally, in the evening, she came upon a fire where was seated a handsome man who offered her wine and food. Of course this was Dionysus and Ariadne was surprised, and not at all displeased to find herself favored by the god of wine and theatre. Dionysus wooed her well and won her heart. She went with him happily and bore him children.

Now Dionysus was a god, and Ariadne had been made ageless by one of the sons of Cronos, so although the world continued, they remained the same. But if gods do not age, they do fade if their worshipers do not nourish them. Dionysus’ worshipers performed the Mysteries and so for a time, he was well fed. But his rites were those of joyous madness and they were most secret, and that made them dangerous. Thus, the great Senate of Rome abolished the Bacchanalia. Although it was practiced in secret for many years after that time, Dionysus began to fade.

One day Ariadne came to her husband and said,“My love, you have grown thin and insubstantial. Mortals no longer feed you with joy and devotion.”

“It is true,” he agreed. “Celebration is not as important. And this new god is a rather dour sort. I think humans may be done with me and I will soon take my experiences and return to the One. But what of you? You are mortal still, and un-ageing. Perhaps this new god will take you as a consort when I am gone.”

 

She said, “For my part, I am tired. I don’t think he’s my type. As you said, he’s rather dour. I’m sure he would approve of my weaving, but I like to dance and talk too. You know how much I like to talk. Sitting in silent obedience would not be enough.”

Dionysus rolled his pale eyes, “Yes, I do know how much you like to talk! But I see too that humans need to talk well and clearly and you could help them do that. Do you remember you were a goddess once yourself?”

Ariadne looked surprised, “I’ve been wondering what those dreams were about! And look I have a new trick!” She touched her navel and drew out a thin filament of shining thread.

Dionysus took a deep breath. “My heart, you were once the Spider Goddess and you can be so again if you choose.”

“I have a better idea.” She said. “This new god may rule for a while, but nothing in this dimension can ascend forever. Do you have more to offer humans? Do you think they might someday regret the loss of joy and seek you again?”

“ Joy is what makes mortality worthwhile. They will understand that in time, but I will be long gone. Another will have to guide them.”

“I think not.” she said. “Let me cover you in my thread. Sleep. And when they realize the loss they have experienced, you can wake and guide them again.”

“But what of you? You can’t very well wrap yourself up, and how would I know what had become of you?”

She embraced him and laughed, “Silly deity! Have you forgotten about butterflies? But I do not intend to enter a cocoon. Like a good spider, I will find a safe place to keep watch and wait . Our time will come again. “

He smiled. “Let it be done then!”

So she laid a kiss upon his lips, and pulled from her navel strand after strand of silk, wrapping Dionysus in a smooth bundle. Then she took her longest cord and tossed it into the sky where Dionysus had placed her crown, and drew them both up to the stars to wait.

 

 

Evening of the Gods is published under a Creative Commons license and may be shared with attribution to the author.