53. The Minyades become bats

Once upon a time, the Minyades, the daughters of King Minyas of Orkhomenos, refused that Bacchus was the son of Jove and declined, to accept the Bacchic orgies.

On the festival day of Bacchus, when Ismenian women forbade all work, draped wild skins, loosed their hair, and took the leafy thyrsus to honor Bacchus, the Minyades remained content with carding wool. To pass the time, one of the Minyades suggested that they relate stories, while they swiftly twisted the wool into threads, and taking the lead, she narrated the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. Then, Leuconoe related the stories of Vulcan exposing Venus and Mars; Helios and Leucothea; and how Clytie became the Heliotrope flower. Thereafter, Alcithoe recounted the tale of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.

Although their tales ended and it was time to retire, as day was merging into night, yet they did not stop their work. Suddenly, they heard the sounds of horns, tambourines and tinkling brass. The air became filled with scents of myrrh and saffron. The thread that they were twisting turned into tendrils, and the warp became several moving leaves, with purplish grapes. Phantoms began to howl with voices of savage beasts. The house shook, the oil-dipped torches flared up and the house caught fire.

Totally affrighted, the Minyades ran from one burning room to another smoke-filled room, and failed to find a safe place to hide. While they ran from room to room, a membrane stretched over their limbs, and from their slender arms, a light wing opened up. In the smoky darkness, they remained unaware what changed their shapes, but were aware that they balanced on wings of membrane and not on wings of feathers. They tried to speak, but only a small squeak came out diminutively. They feared the light and during the day, remained in attics or caves, only to stretch their wings during the night. For not honoring Bacchus, the Minyades had become bats.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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