Once upon a time, Tereus, the king of Thrace, had raped Philomela, the sister of his wife Procne. To keep his evil deed unknown, he had sliced off her tongue and kept her imprisoned in a dismal old house, in the deepest recess of a solitary forest. Thereafter, Tereus, with tearful eyes, expertly spun a false tale about Philomela’s death, which everybody believed, and they mourned her death. A year had passed, since that horrendous event took place.
During this time, the tongueless Philomela burned for revenge. Using a warp, she wove a cloth with white and purple markings, which told the tale of the crime. Then by gestures she begged her guard to give the cloth to Procne. Failing to understand the dreadful tale woven artistically in the cloth, the guard delivered it to Procne. In sad silence, Procne deciphered the mournful story. Procne’s grief was great, but greater was her anger for the evil done, and greatest was her flaming desire to punish Tereus.
As it was the festival time for honoring Bacchus, Procne loosed her hair, covered it green with vine leaves, hung a deer skin on her left, a light spear on the right, and rushed in the night to the woods, with a screaming horde of women followers, in Bacchic frenzy. They reached the house where Philomela was imprisoned, overpowered all the guards, and entered the house. Seeing the pale and emaciated Philomela, the eyes of Procne brimmed with tears, but she quickly disguised Philomela, in ivy leaves, deer skin, and other symbols of the Bacchanalian rites.
Both the sisters, disguised as frenzied Bacchics, rushed from the woods, to the palace of Procne, where they hugged each other and cried for a long time. Philomela, unable to lift her tearful eyes heavy with sorrow, raised both her hands instead, as if to call upon the Gods, to give witness that she had truly not done any wrong. Wiping her sister’s tears and holding her hands, Procne shared her grief, but Procne’s enraged heart, yearned for vengeance.
Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani