I’m about a month late getting to this, but back in September, Drabblecast released their 415th episode, “The Best Scarlet Ceremony Ever!” written by Shaenon K. Garrity and narrated by Renee Chambliss. You can read/listen to it here.
This is like Christmas come early for me. Not only did my favorite podcast release an episode written by my favorite comedic writer, but it’s also read by my favorite narrator! It doesn’t get much better than this.
I don’t feel like the episode art really captures what the story is about. It’s basically Judy Blume meets The Wicker Man. A small rural community is preparing to perform a sacrificial ritual to appease their Goddess, but our viewpoint character, Hazel, is more concerned about the fact that she hasn’t gotten her first period yet. The whole human sacrifice thing is more of a background issue since she needs to worry about what she’ll wear to the ceremony, which part she’ll be assigned in the pageant, and what to write for her school assignment about “What the Scarlet Ceremony Means to Me”.
There’s a lot of really funny lines in this one. The Wakefields, one of the families living in the community, don’t fit in with the rest of the town. They actually showed up to the maypole dance fully clothed! And Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield don’t even take part in the sacred orgies! The Wakefield children don’t even know basic stuff everyone else learns in Sunday school like how showing disrespect to the bees can lead to failed crops, barren land, and mead too sour to offer the gods!
A lot of what is said about the Goddess cult could be applied to actual religions, such as the fact that some members view The Goddess in a more metaphorical way than others and the tensions caused by ancient ways having to adapt to modern times. The kids point out things in their religion that don’t make sense while the adults struggle to come up with explanations. It reminded me a bit of the Carl the Casual Satanist skits from the Infants on Thrones podcast in which Carl, who was raised as a Satanist, has doubts about his religion, but still feels like it’s a part of his identity.
I like that the kids get the words to the sacred hymns wrong. It makes the cult seem more realistic than if everybody got everything about the ceremony right. At the end of the day, cultists are people too with their own particular foibles and insecurities. Do yourself a favor and listen to this episode now!