The Eleusian Mysteries
O my Lysicles!
Nothing of what I most recently was remains. The Antinous who
wrote to you a fortnight ago – he whose sorry lament for Vitalis
rendered him for a trying time completely inconsolable – now
stands upon the earth feeling utterly indomitable. For I, with the
deepest terror and the utmost awe, have looked directly into the
searing face of Demeter; I have felt her breath upon the back of
my throat as she kissed me; I have tasted the infinite tears of
How is that to be explained? It was the Mysteries, my beloved. The
Mysteries of Eleusis, into whose folds I have recently been welcomed.
I’ll not write of its philosophies or rituals, for they are
secrets known only to initiates – and Socrates (ha ha). Far
more astonishing are the sensations I experienced, beneath the lunar
light, on that final night in which the gods appeared to me. I must
recount them to you as fast as I can for fear of forgetting them
or seeing them fade in intensity the longer I wait to set them here.
It was very soon after the raising up of the pomegranate seeds that
I felt something churning within my stomach. It was not a nausea,
for I was hardly in danger of being sick. It was more akin to a
pregnancy. For I had the uncanny feeling of the goddess, Persephone,
growing from deep inside of me toward the surface of my skin. I
could feel the power of her young woman’s body swelling slowly
within me, pushing steadily outward as though pining to touch the
night air. As her presence filled my flesh, I discovered that I
could quite consciously will myself to release a pure and liquid
pleasure into my veins. The only substance I can think of which
could even come close to creating such an effect within me is ambrosia.
The pleasure lasted only about ten beats of my heart before fading.
But I had merely to command the experience to repeat itself, and
instantly the euphoria of the goddess flooded obediently through
my sinews once again. Her gestation within me was complete when
I felt that my skin had now become hers. We were two persons sharing
a single body, and I marvelled at the experience of her sex upon
mine. I sensed her breasts above my heart; my young manhood was
enveloped in her warm womanhood to achieve a perfect unity of form.
If that was not extraordinary enough, I soon after felt a new presence
blooming inside: the body of Hades himself. It slowly emerged from
my core, pressing ever outward. I imagined my body needing to stretch
in order to contain the might of this fearsome Olympian. But I was
not afraid of bursting, my friend. On the contrary, I felt the flesh
of Antinous inflating to match the magnitude of the burgeoning Hades.
I felt his awesome might; his pitilessness; his hurt; his aching
love; his agony; and his eternal victory over the souls of the departed.
Yet still the euphoric, nourishing, pearly-white ambrosia swirled
through me at will. It was terrifying and incredible.
And then Persephone reasserted herself, and the sensations became
feminine, creative, cooing and fragrant. It was as though the two
gods were consummating their treacherous marriage deep within my
pulsing core, and, by the union of the two, I found myself greatly
and gloriously pleasured from the inside out. The feeling steadily
intensified, building at last into a mighty climax that shuddered
through me – yet without the exchange of mortal fluid. All
I could feel were waves of immortal power and succulence.
In the aftermath of that particular glory, my consciousness was
restored to the weeping and wintry earth. Suddenly, the awesome
might of Demeter was before me. She gasped at my appearance, horrified
by the brutality with which my flesh had been commandeered by the
newlywed gods. She rushed to hold me as like an anxious mother.
She grabbed my face and kissed me – blissful and sorrowful,
angry at my disappearance yet overjoyed to find me restored. Was
I her daughter? Her son? Her husband? I cannot tell: her love for
me was the love of a mother, yet incestuous and carnal. Her hungry
lips found my own; hot breath blew down my throat, searing it deep
into my gullet.
The next thing I recall was the face of Hadrian, gazing down at
me amid a circle of people. He was smiling and there were messy
tears streaming from his joyous eyes. “You’ve been writhing
here upon the stone for many minutes,” he said.
I could not speak. My throat was completely dry and raw. Hadrian
proffered a cup of water, which I gratefully gulped down. At last
I found my voice: “The gods have revealed themselves to me,”
“And you to them,” replied Hadrian simply. At this,
there was a wave of rejoicing amid the onlookers. They hoisted me
to my feet and the celebrations intensified as more and more of
the initiates were revived from their private ecstasies.
In the hours since the conclusion of the Mysteries, I have been
a different person. My body is heavier and my mind is lighter –
but both in good ways. My flesh feels more a part of the earth than
it ever has; I am rooted, grounded – despite the vastness
of our travels. My brain is no longer encumbranced by worry and
fear, anxiety and skittishness. It is calmed to a point where I
have absolutely no compulsion to fret about those many things beyond
my control. I have discovered in myself a monumental peace –
and it is a lasting peace. It has not faded as time carries me further
afield toward my destiny. Rather, it is a peace that remains now
as firmly planted into the loamy soil of my soul as it was in those
first few moments of my awakening in the arms of my lover on the
floor of the telesterion.
My euphoria was (and remains to this moment) quite palpable. It
has settled like a warm concrete into my flesh: fortifying and unassailable.
Yet still my limbs remain supple: they rejoice in a profound and
perfect youthfulness – shameless in the fullest acknowledgement
of their effortless prime. I beg you, Lysicles: do not read into
what I am about to write anything but a profound love for the world
and its men. There is no hubris in what I am become; there is no
self-satisfaction. The truth is, quite simply, that I feel myself
transformed into a god. I strut upon the earth as though powered
by an Olympian heart. It is an awareness both terrifying and majestic.
Lest you think me become an isolated megalomaniac, know that Hadrian,
too, is visibly elevated. He marches across the smiling face of
Athens with a magnificent, godlike stride that elicits from onlookers
the tremble of utter supplication to his power.
Such, then, is the woefully under-stated summary of my astonishing
experience in the bosom of Eleusis; a relentless span of days over
which I still find myself marvelling that such a flimsy, mortal
casing as skin and bones was able to endure.
Yet I did indeed survive, and have emerged from it as like a new
Antinous: invigorated, invested, and inviolable.
The city of Athens awaits. It seems to be in a perpetual state of
twittering celebration at the knowledge that its most beloved benefactor,
Hadrian, is suddenly present among its venerable and ancient marbles.
There will be much to tell in the coming days. But for now, I must
rest again, for the exhaustion continuously assails my body as like
a persistent beggar who, despite of being repeatedly sent away with
a silver in hand, has the audacity to return, expecting ever greater
Such, I suppose, is the glory of being most richly alive, and
I will hardly complain. Let me thus embrace the beggar instead,
thank him for his flattering attentions, and invite him into my
bed to provide, in exchange for the coins of fleeting consciousness,
a strange and otherworldly weave of pleasures. A.