Thursday, December 30, 2010

Pomegranate Martinis

It has occurred to me that while I have showcased several other pomegranate based cocktails, I have never posted a recipe for a Pomegranate Martini.  If I go out for cocktails, I always seek out the pomegranate martinis from the menu.

Pomegranate Martinis have become very popular with bars and clubs and when you search for them it isn't hard to find several tasty looking options.  I thought I might catalog several offerings here. 

Oprah even has a favorite recipe
This one includes vanilla
This website has several recipes
And this website has a few as well

Enjoy a pomegranate martini at your next Persephone themed cocktail party!  What, you don't have those?  Well, you should. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What makes a family?

I have been in various conversations about just this subject over the years and this holiday season has really made me think about my place in the structure. 

Persephone has two very specific family roles.  She is a daughter and wife.  One thing she is not, as I have discussed before, is a mother.  Her identity is defined by what she is as well as what she is not, which is really what a lot of us deal with when understanding our place in our world.  

Starting about a year ago and brought up again this year, a friend of mine is very offended by a jewelry commercial that plays during the holidays.  While I don’t get as worked up as the people in the linked forum discussion, I do agree that a baby doesn’t necessarily make a family and I think it devalues child-free couples as non-families in our societies. 

In another conversation at The Wild Hunt, there was talk about whether or not marriage as an institution is in crisis in America.  I have a particular stake in this debate as I have specifically opted out of “Marriage” in my relationship.  There are a lot of reasons for this including financial choices, spiritual choices and not wanting to support a program that is discriminatory by nature.  In that post there was a great point made by blogger and friend Cara Schulz: 

“I don't think marriage is obsolete any more than families are obsolete. How we define "marriage" and "family" may change, though, and has changed in the past. I think Americans are disillusioned by marriage because we, culturally, have placed marriage into a fairy tale.

Looking to the past, before we get into such a rush to throw it all away as meaningless, there is some wisdom to be learned about marriage.

We marry (in this country) primarily for love. We love the person and decide to make it official. That's OK as far as it goes, but it shouldn't be the only factor in that decision. What about shared core values? When looking for a mate are you choosing one based on if they have the capability to be a full and true partner to you? Do you respect one another and is that respect reflected in your actions? Do you love this person in a non-romantic way plus a romantic love -meaning - do you see them as FAMILY? Family that you can stick with even when they piss you off? Are they your ally in life? Do you have each other’s back? Can you count on them? Are they reliable?

In the past parents arranged marriage based on property, title, wealth, connections, and other economic reasons. But they also looked for mates for their children (and for themselves) based on the questions I listed above. Parents in the past didn't love their children any less than parents do now. And parents in other cultures where arranged marriage is still the norm don't love their children any less. But they did have a firmer grasp that a spouse isn't just a romantic interest - a spouse was a new member of the *family* and great care needed to be taken when accepting a new member.

I'm glad I didn't have an arranged marriage and I'm happy our culture encourages marriage for love. But we've gone too far. We now exclude almost every other consideration other than romantic love when deciding who to marry. We don't look at spouses as *family* anymore.”
What is interesting about both of these discussions – about the Kay Jewelers commercial and about the marriage crisis in America – is that they are both the same issue.  We don’t seem to look at our partners as “Family” anymore because apparently we aren’t family until we have babies.  That is why gay marriage seems to be such an issue in our country.  Fundamental opponents to gay marriage are worried that it will destroy family values and because gay couples can’t have children in the truest biological sense, then they are not “Families”.  

So, for Persephone – is she more of a daughter or more of a wife? Which is her family?  Of course Demeter, her over protective mother, is her family but do we view Hades as her Husband – her Partner?  Do they have each other’s back when it really counts?  In spite of some indiscretions that are common for the Gods, I believe that they do.  When it really mattered, Hades let Persephone go because it was for the good of their family. 

My partner and I have been together nearly 16 years.  While we love each other very much romantically we also love each other as true partners.  We work together to achieve common goals.  We support each other emotionally as well as practically, which includes financial and household matters.  We provide each other with the things that each of us needs to feel fulfilled spiritually.  I think for that reason alone, my partner is very much my family.   

So, what makes a family? 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Small White Flowers

This is something that I wrote back in January of 2008.  I had requested an oracle from Kate Winter, author of the Girls Underground Blog. I asked her to see if Persephone had a message for me for the coming year.  Check out her information on her mantic practice here.  I wrote this at the time to sort out the meaning of the message, but it was very personal and I never shared it.  With the dawning of this new year around the corner, I feel like it is the right time to share.  There isn't anything terribly revelatory here, but I thought the images of the small white flowers would bring us through this winter on our journey with Persephone. 

“I saw a pretty gentle year ahead of you, but with a lot of work. But even though there will be work, you will have help and encouragement and gifts along the way. I saw Persephone handing you a bunch of small white flowers and then stepping back to oversee what you were working on. It was pretty sweet, actually.
I think this is straightforward (unlike so many oracles I get!) but if you have any questions, let me know.” – oracle by Dver

When I received the email, I thought to clarify which “small white flowers” Persephone was giving to me. However, I had a sudden sense that this wasn’t something Dver could provide for me. She is the vessel, she is the oracle – but I am the one living my own life. I was inspired to take her words and discover for myself what flowers Persephone might have chosen and, using the Victorian conventions for the language of flowers, determine just what the message might be. So I researched white flowers and came across 10 types that I though the Goddess might have gathered in her bouquet. Then I looked up what those flowers meant. What follows is the message I believe I was given.

Baby’s Breath

A typical addition to wedding arrangements, bouquets of red roses and high school prom corsages, Baby’s Breath seemed to fit the description of “small white flower” more than just about any other. They don’t get much smaller, or more delicate. The Victorians ascribed the message of “Everlasting Love” to these flowers. For Persephone this may describe her own marriage to the Lord of the Underworld. For time and memorial, she remains his loyal and faithful queen returning to his underworld realm each year as promised and taking up her mantle of wife. I’ve often seen her journey back to the upper world to see her mother more of a visit or a vacation, her real work and her real life exist with her husband. Is this not true for most people? Especially in modern America. Children are raised by their parents to be independent beings and eventually leave the nest and make their own fortunes. I myself have been in a long term relationship. I have been with the same person since I was 19 years old and our partnership continues to get better with time. Persephone approves of my choice in made and gives us her blessings that this is indeed an Everlasting Love.


I originally overlooked the carnation as a flower that Persephone might have chosen for me, but I was drawn back to it. When I read the meaning that it was given, I was glad that I did include it on my list of the flowers. The Victorian’s believe is represented “Sweet and lovely”, “innocence” and “pure love”. All of these things fell in line with what Dver saw in Persephone’s message. However, there was one final meaning that seemed more appropriate to me; “Woman’s good luck gift”. Would Persephone have handed me a carnation to give me a boost of “luck” or even her blessings for the coming year? I think a wish of “good luck” form a Goddess would be fortuitous indeed.


I needed to include the Daffodil, or Narcissus, in any bouquet of flowers that Persephone would have gathered. I know, typically they are yellow but indeed they do come in white varieties as well. The Daffodil was the very flower that was planted for Persephone to find that led her to Hades himself. And I was surprised to find what the Victorian’s had considered it’s meaning: “respect”. This gave me a new understanding and appreciation for the choice of the Narcissus as the “trap” for Persephone to fall into. Perhaps it was Hades way of showing that he respected her. It makes the store a little sweeter, in my opinion. Persephone places it in the bouquet for me as a symbol of respect – her respect for my goals for the year or my respect for her presence in my life.


I chose the daisy because it is indeed one of my favorite flowers, and certainly it fits the bill as a small white flower. The language of the Victorians gave it the meaning of Innocence. Innocence is an interesting concept in my life. At my age, I feel perhaps a little old for it. However, it doesn’t need to have that kind of connotation. Perhaps Persephone’s message to me is to live life with more wonder or stay on the path of living life with open and innocent eyes. Enjoy the things that come you way, without to many preconceived notions.


I chose this flower based on its physical attributes. It is a tiny white daisy like flower – individual white petals with a yellow center. It symbolizes protection. It is also a useful medicinal herb helping headaches and fevers. For Persephone to hand me this flower meaning protection I again feel cared for and feel as though she will be looking out for me in the coming year. This does not mean, however, that I should be lax about my own personal safety. I just know that I have some divine assistance along as well.


Though typically seen in purple, I discovered that Heather comes in a beautiful white variety. They are tiny bell shaped flowers with red at the stems. I imagine a cluster with the evergreen foliage would be placed in Persephone’s bouquet. White Heather also represents protection but also, according to the Victorians, they mean that “wishes will come true.” Based on the very gentle nature of the oracle I thought this was a terribly appropriate message. Thank you, Persephone, for allowing me the ability to make my wishes come true. Though, I know it will not be without a lot of hard work.

Lily of the Valley

This was another seemingly obvious choice. They are tiny delicate flowers, bell shaped like the Heather but with big broad green leaves. The Victorians believed it meant a return to happiness. Sweetness was another message they ascribed to the Lily of the Valley, which sounds like it was Persephone’s intention all along. It also stands for humility. Humility is a hard one for me. For some reason, and probably from a “wounded Christian” perspective, I have a negative connotation associated with Humility in my brain. I don’t see why that should be the case. Perhaps that is Persephone’s lesson for me in general. However, recent research into the subject suggested that in many religious traditions, humility is part of the process to finding inner peace. I will take that for what it is worth.


I felt it was important to include the White Rose. The rose has, arguably, the longest continuing history in the “language of flowers” out of any of the blooms discussed here. In mythology, the rose is sacred to lots of Goddesses including Aphrodite. The white rose can symbolize so many things including innocence, purity, secrecy, friendship, reverence and humility. There is the word humility again. I have also read that it can mean Eternal Love and silence. Out of all of these meanings, a couple stand out specifically: Secrecy, Reverence and Silence. What could these mean in terms of Persephone’s message to me? I have always felt that much of my relationship with Persephone is a secret. Not out of shame, but more out of Reverence. I understand that I am breaking this idea with some of the essays I write so that others may better understand my relationship with Her, but there will always be parts that I will remain silent about. To conclude, the Rose may not be able to be explained in word. Rumi, the Muslim mystic might have put it best when he says: “In the driest whitest stretch of pains' infinite desert, I lost my sanity and found this rose”


I understand that the Stephanotis might be an odd flower to choose for me as an avowed unmarried person since its meaning is so tied up with weddings. However, I chose it for a purpose. Persephone, I don’t think, has a preference for those who are legally married. However, I have been dedicated to the same partner for [16] years. Persephone herself, as a queen but not as a mother, holds a special place among the Greek pantheon as a goddess of wives alone. Happiness in marriage has little to do with the paperwork that a couple must file with the state. I think we have demonstrated happiness in marriage more than many married couples that we know (though certainly not all). I also read a meaning that indicates that the Stephanotis represents the desire to travel. In my life, travel may be the second most important thing to me besides my relationship. Brilliantly, it is also immensely important to my partner. Happiness in marriage indeed.


Even though this flower is more commonly found in its purple or even its yellow varieties, I chose the white violet for a specific purpose. I loved the Victorian meaning ascribed to it in the language of flowers. “Let’s take a change on happiness”. I think little more needs to be said than that. Happiness isn’t a right, it is a privilege and we must make the conscious effort to either be happy or not. So, as a final message from Persephone, let us take a chance on happiness!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Your Holiday Song

My favorite holiday songs are ones where everyone is included.  I have written about "Christmas" by Blues Traveler before as well as Dar William's classic "The Christians and the Pagans".  I think this season should be about celebration, no matter what it is you want to celebrate.  Celebrate everything or just celebrate because it is a good time to do it.  That is my wish for everyone during the winter season.  In this dead world where Persephone is hidden beneath the earth and Demeter mourns covering the ground with her frozen tears, we need to love each other so that spring will return.  That is one of the many things I celebrate. 
Well, I just found another holiday song that I love.  The Indigo Girls released a holiday album this year, Holly Happy Days.  It features some originals including a great bluegrass Christmas song as well as many of the traditional carols we all grew up with.  There is also their version of "Happy Joyous Hanukkah". There is also an original song called "Your Holiday Song" that, like the Blues Traver's song feels very inclusive of the winter holidays.  The Unitarians will like it, I bet.
Gather round girls and boys,
It's time to make your joyful noise
Some feel it in the feast after the fast,
Or the oil lamps everlasting,
Or the Solstice in the wild,
or the birth of a baby child.

It's your holiday song
No one more true or right or wrong
When our faith calls our name
Someone else's does the same
Hallelujah! Thank you.

So gather round girls and boys
It's time to raise your holy noise
Some feel it in the drum, in the snare
or the silence of their prayer
or the church bells on the hill
or the harmony of goodwill

For every voice lifted in song
The sacred place we all belong
A chance to heal a broken world
with every voice in every song
of every boy and every girl!
You can listen to it and even download it for free here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winter Ponderings

I make no excuses.  I love the winter holidays - all of them.  I suppose I've never really celebrated Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, but I love the idea of celebratory days during the winter so I still appreciate them.  Recently, posted this article about the real "Reason for the Season."  I am grateful for the research that went into that piece and it is an incredibly well written offering on the topic.  I'm not here to argue for or against it in anyway, I just wanted to say that I don't really care what someone celebrates this time of year, I am willing to wish that they have a good one in any case.

I believe that the winter holidays were created essentially to keep people from killing themselves when the world was dead around them.  I have a couple of friends who suffer from SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder and I don't think it hurts to have something to celebrate. Sure, the self- or society-imposed stress when it comes to the holidays doesn't help the situation, but if we really look at it as a reason to be with friends and family and honor the changing of the seasons or the birth of the Son or the return of the Sun, it is simply a beautiful time of year.

My holiday officially begins on December 21st.  My partner, Matt, and I celebrate the solstice. We started this tradition several years ago mostly for practical reasons.  We travel during the holidays and we learned after the first year that it made no sense what so ever to haul our presents from Georgia to Michigan and the back again.  The Solstice was a convenient time to celebrate for ourselves because it is usually before we leave for Detroit and also it is a day that is meaningful to me as a devotee of Persephone, the goddess of the changing seasons.  Our home is already decorated with our tree and lights and other assorted holiday items. The entire spirit of the season is festive and pleasing to me.  I always feel a sense of wonder this time of year.

After our Solstice celebration this year, we leave the next day to travel to Michigan to be with our families for Christmas.  Both of our families still celebrate the christian holiday and frankly, I just don't want to miss out on being able to celebrate with them.  For me it is not at all about the Christ the Savior(as my savior, after a fashion, is Persephone Soteira) but about going to Matt's cousin's house for dessert and white elephant gift exchange, or out to dinner with my best friend, or making a gingerbread house with my sister and the youngest member of the family.  It is, simply, about celebrating life even while the earth herself sleeps waiting for spring.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pomegranate Stocking Stuffers

I often find myself buying products just because they have pomegranate in them.  This applies to food, of course, but also to other products like lotions and even razors. For me, using pomegranate products brings me closer to the Goddess whom I love so deeply. I thought maybe I would share some of my favorite products and maybe they would even make good stocking stuffers. 

I started using Intuition Razors years ago for my leg shaving needs.  I love it and couldn't imagine going with out it.  Recently, I discovered that they make a pomegranate refill, which is awesome. 

Bath and Body Works has an entire line of fragrance called Midnight Pomegranate.  I love this scent.  It has the sweetness of the pomegranate but the mystery of something more, like patchouli. 

I have a pomegranate scented candle that has a central spot on my altar to Persephone.  The one I have is a brand called Illuminations and it smells amazing and makes the whole house smell amazing.  I've googled every combination of words to find it, but I can't.  However, Yankee candle has a scent called Pomegranate Cider that I imagine would be satisfying. 

One of my favorite pomegranate products is shampoo.  Burt's Bees has a great shampoo that makes my hair feel great but also gives me that pomegranate fix. 

And if you're interested in a refreshing pomegranate drink but not pure pomegranate juice, Izze's sparkling pomegranate juice is awesome. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Persephone's Winter

This is an interesting time for the story of Persephone.  It is the part of the story where we don't hear from her at all.  This is the season that feels ultimately introspective.  Persephone is in the underworld and while there, even though she is spending time with her husband, she is also forced to spend time with just herself. 

I'll admit, spending time with just myself is one of the hardest things that I do.  Not that I am not capable of it, but I don't prefer it.  I would rather be around other people.  When I am alone, I feel the constant need for background noise.  This winter, one of the things I want to work on is being more contemplative.  Letting myself be in silence with just my own thoughts.  I'm not sure what I am afraid of hearing, but I have a feeling if I just listen I will be surprised by what I find. 

Here, however, is a lovely resource for a winter meditation.  

Contemplative Persephone

Monday, November 22, 2010

Prayer for Demeter at Thanksgiving

I wanted to share this alternate prayer that you might offer before your Thanksgiving dinner.  

Deo, Bringer of the Seasons,
You who gave us the gift of the harvest,
taught us how to work the land and gather the fruits of our labors.
You who gave us your daughter so that we
may not fear death.
We honor you in your veil of sadness
As you walk the earth in mourning.
Know that we are grateful for your sacrifice.
We honor you with the foods we have made,
We honor you with the family and friends who have gathered.
Demeter, Giver of Gifts,
We give you great thanks on this feast day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lectio Homerica: Homeric Hymn to Demeter Part Eight

You may recall from my last Lectio Homerica entry that I left you with a cliffhanger of sorts.  Demeter, upon being reunited with her daughter, demanded to know just what the King of the Dead did to seduce her.  And so, I bring you Persephone's answer with the final installment of this exploration.

Then beautiful Persephone answered her thus: "Mother, I will tell you all without error. When luck-bringing Hermes came, swift messenger from my father the Son of Cronos and the other Sons of Heaven, bidding me come back from Erebus that you might see me with your eyes and so cease from your anger and fearful wrath against the gods, I sprang up at once for joy; but he secretly put in my mouth sweet food, a pomegranate seed, and forced me to taste against my will. Also I will tell how he rapt me away by the deep plan of my father the Son of Cronos and carried me off beneath the depths of the earth, and will relate the whole matter as you ask. All we were playing in a lovely meadow, Leucippe and Phaeno and Electra and Ianthe, Melita also and Iache with Rhodea and Callirhoe and Melobosis and Tyche and Ocyrhoe, fair as a flower, Chryseis, Ianeira, Acaste and Admete and Rhodope and Pluto and charming Calypso; Styx too was there and Urania and lovely Galaxaura with Pallas who rouses battles and Artemis delighting in arrows. We were playing and gathering sweet flowers in our hands, soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths, and rose-blooms and lilies, marvelous to see, and the narcissus which the wide earth caused to grow yellow as a crocus. That I plucked in my joy; but the earth parted beneath, and there the strong lord, the Host of Many, sprang forth and in his golden chariot he bore me away, all unwilling, beneath the earth: then I cried with a shrill cry. All this is true, sore though it grieves me to tell the tale."

So did they then, with hearts at one, greatly cheer each the other's soul and spirit with many an embrace: their hearts had relief from their griefs while each took and gave back joyousness.

Then bright-coiffed Hecate came near to them, and often did she embrace the daughter of holy Demeter: and from that time the lady Hecate was minister and companion to Persephone.

And all-seeing Zeus sent a messenger to them, rich-haired Rhea, to bring dark-cloaked Demeter to join the families of the gods: and he promised to give her what rights she should choose among the deathless gods and agreed that her daughter should go down for the third part of the circling year to darkness and gloom, but for the two parts should live with her mother and the other deathless gods. Thus he commanded. And the goddess did not disobey the message of Zeus; swiftly she rushed down from the peaks of Olympus and came to the plain of Rharus, rich, fertile corn-land once, but then in nowise fruitful, for it lay idle and utterly leafless, because the white grain was hidden by design of trim-ankled Demeter. But afterwards, as spring-time waxed, it was soon to be waving with long ears of corn, and its rich furrows to be loaded with grain upon the ground, while others would already be bound in sheaves. There first she landed from the fruitless upper air: and glad were the goddesses to see each other and cheered in heart. Then bright-coiffed Rhea said to Demeter:

"Come, my daughter; for far-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer calls you to join the families of the gods, and has promised to give you what rights you please among the deathless gods, and has agreed that for a third part of the circling year your daughter shall go down to darkness and gloom, but for the two parts shall be with you and the other deathless gods: so has he declared it shall be and has bowed his head in token. But come, my child, obey, and be not too angry unrelentingly with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos; but rather increase forthwith for men the fruit that gives them life."

So spake Rhea. And rich-crowned Demeter did not refuse but straightway made fruit to spring up from the rich lands, so that the whole wide earth was laden with leaves and flowers. Then she went, and to the kings who deal justice, Triptolemus and Diocles, the horse-driver, and to doughty Eumolpus and Celeus, leader of the people, she showed the conduct of her rites and taught them all her mysteries, to Triptolemus and Polyxeinus and Diocles also, -- awful mysteries which no one may in any way transgress or pry into or utter, for deep awe of the gods checks the voice. Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom.

But when the bright goddess had taught them all, they went to Olympus to the gathering of the other gods. And there they dwell beside Zeus who delights in thunder, awful and reverend goddesses. Right blessed is he among men on earth whom they freely love: soon they do send Plutus as guest to his great house, Plutus who gives wealth to mortal men.

And now, queen of the land of sweet Eleusis and sea-girt Paros and rocky Antron, lady, giver of good gifts, bringer of seasons, queen Deo, be gracious, you and your daughter all beauteous Persephone, and for my song grant me heart-cheering substance. And now I will remember you and another song also.
This begins the section where I read a very different attitude into Persephone's retelling of the tale than most scholars seem to suggest.  Nothing I am about to say comes from any sort of research but from my reading of the hymn and how I let it permeate my entire soul.

I see a young woman flat out lying to her mother.  Not because she has something to hide specifically but because she wants to spare her mother's feelings.  Persephone wasn't kidnapped, she ran away.  And after she learns of Demeter's sorrow and how it causes the earth to die, she doesn't want her mother to feel like she did anything wrong in this situation.  So she exaggerates.  She saw a beautiful flower.  A flower to magnificent that she was unable to resist plucking it from the earth.  When she did that, she found herself face to face with a man she felt the same way about and she joined her hand to his and followed him down to his kingdom. 

Also, in this section of the Hymn we see a small walk on role by Hecate who then is given the job of the new Queen's handmaiden. 

The news is given.  Zeus decrees that Persephone will spend some portion of the year with her Mother and another with her Husband.  Here the hymn tells us the year will be spit in thirds.  I don't doubt that it was for the ancients.  I feel much more drawn to Persephone's story as a cyclical solar cycle following the seasons as I experience them.  It may not be traditional, but it feels right for me. 

At this time, Demeter is so overjoyed that she brings back the spring but also travels to teach her "mysteries" to the kings all over the world.  These "mysteries" are presumably the Eleusinian rites.  There is just the tiniest hint of what they could be about with the phrase, "Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom." 

The end of the very long hymn ends like all hymns.  This entire story, in fact, was to gain the favor of Demeter and thus it is common for the poet to give great thanks to her this way.  "And now, queen of the land of sweet Eleusis and sea-girt Paros and rocky Antron, lady, giver of good gifts, bringer of seasons, queen Deo, be gracious, you and your daughter all beauteous Persephone, and for my song grant me heart-cheering substance. And now I will remember you and another song also."  It is so fitting to me that I finish this series so close to the American Thanksgiving holiday.  I view that celebration as a day to give thanks to Demeter for teaching us about the harvest but also giving us the great gift of her Daughter - a daughter who, in a way, died so that we could be saved, to use the phrasing from other religious traditions.  Because Demeter has allowed this sacrifice, we all are able to face the Queen when it is our time to pass into the underworld. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Online Temple for Persephone

This website was just brought to my attention.  It is part of a website for a business in California, but I love the photos and stories that have been posted on this on-line temple.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

from North to South

I have said often that I associate Persephone's trip into the underworld with my own journey from the Midwest to the Southeast United States.  Music that speaks to the journey is also very important to me, as you might imagine.  One of my favorite songs of this type is Wagon Wheel by a band called Old Crow Medicine Show

Plus, the trippy showgirls/carnival theme is cool.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Samhain for Aaron

The wheel of the year continues to turn and we find ourselves at Samhain.  Though Samhain is not a Hellenic celebration, I have always found myself drawn to this holiday.  Even as a child, before I knew what Samhain was, Halloween was always my favorite day of the year. Today seems like a day that Persephone and her husband would fully appreciate. It is a time where we can celebrate the lives of those who have passed on this year. This year, I experienced a loss that affected me a great deal. 

A couple of years ago, my husband's cousin had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Six months ago at Beltane he passed away.  I had a lot of trouble with the news at the time of his death.  Matt had gone to the memorial in Reno and I was alone to deal with the loss. At first I thought I could handle it, but I couldn’t.  My grief woke me up in the middle of the night where I cried alone in the darkness.  Aaron was my age and it was hard to accept no matter how sick he had been.  He had always been in shape and healthy.  There was nothing fair about his death.  To make it worse, Aaron and I had a sort of love/hate relationship.  I loved him and I'm pretty sure he loved me too, but we often disagreed about things and that would usually end up with a shouting match.

The funny part is I remember those fights, but I don't remember any of the reasons for them.  Even though we disagreed on a lot of things, I knew he would do anything for a friend.  I remember fun times with him too.  I remember going to a Halloween show that Matt's band was playing at and dancing with Aaron all night. It seems fitting that one of my favorite memories of him would have happened on Samhain night.  The last time I saw him was after we had moved to Georgia and he had moved to Reno.  We were both in Michigan for the holidays.  It was so much fun to hang out with him and many of our other friends.  We stayed up all night and played games and talked. 

So as these six months have passed my grief has turned to quiet gratitude.  I am grateful to have had Aaron in my life.  The only thing I wish I could do is tell him that.  And so this Samhain I will tell that to Persephone, the benevolent queen of the underworld, and hope that she can deliver the message.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Persephone for All Seasons

I just wanted to share some photos of Persephone in North Carolina.

Starting with Autumn.  I was just in Asheville this past weekend and I loved the soft blanket of leaves around her feet.  

And then the winter comes. Persephone becomes contemplative. 

But Spring does come again.  (This is the only photograph I didn't take, it was taken by a friend last Spring Equinox)

Spring leads to the lush green summer celebration of life.

And the season cycle begins again.  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Persephone Greatest Hit: Breakfast

I wanted to share this recipe again.  Since it is Autumn, pumpkin puree and pie filling has made its way back to the store shelves.  That means I can make the vanilla yogurt and pumpkin breakfast again.  It tastes like fall and is a great way to start a cool October morning.  And November, and December.

So, here is my original post from the end of last year: 

There is no specific reason why I am associating this with Persephone except that one of the three ingrediants is pumpkin.  When I think "Pumpkin," I think "Autumn" and so I think "Persephone". 

I am not exactly sure where I saw this - it was on either on Yahoo! or MSN.  With the glut* of on-line articles about how to reign in your weight for New Year, this particularly suggestion sounded very tasty. 

It starts with Vanilla Yogurt.  I couldn't remember the amounts, so I guessed.  I got regular low fat vanilla yogert - just the grocery store brand.  One serving was a cup, but I didn't think I needed that much so I went with half a cup.  Next you add 100% pure pumpkin puree:  I added with a tablespoon which turned out to be plenty.  Mix.  Then add ground cinnamon to taste.    And Voila! A yummy morning treat or anytime snack.

*No pun intended...?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vivaldi Autumn and Sand Animation

It is kind of long, but it is lovely.

I actually would have loved to see the entire sand art display in progress instead of edited to go with the music. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Shady Grove, my little love

There is an Appalachian folk song that I associate with Persephone.  The connection is entirely in my head but it comes from the Josh Joplin song "10 Feet Small", which I have written about before

I wanted to share some music on this blog today so I went to YouTube and searched Shady Grove.  The coolest thing about the folk tradition is that there are so many version of the same song and each unique. 

Here is an awesome version by Doc Watson:

Even the Stray Cats did a version:

But the coolest and most endearing version that I found was from The Andy Griffith Show:

Enjoy the music on this fine October morning!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

She Stays Because She Wants To

I keep seeing commercials for Disney's Beauty and the Beast. They have released it in High Definition.  If I had to pick a favorite Disney movie in the classic fairy tale genre, it would most certainly be Beauty and the Beast.  I know it isn't a perfect comparison, but I see this story as something like Persephone's.  At least in the way she journey's into the realm of the beast because she has to, but she stays (or returns) because she chooses to. I know for Persephone there is the whole Pomegranate story, but I do think too much attention has been paid to the magic of the thing.  Not that the seeds somehow magnetically bind her to the underworld, but rather it symbolically binds her to Hades.  Like a wedding ring. 

I love how strong a character Belle is in the Disney version of the story. But I also love Beast and can see in him the changes that Hades himself must have experienced after he brought Persephone into his world. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Recipe Time!

I love going back to the old standby of the Hellenic Cookbook from the Greek Orthodox church in Detroit for its culinary gems.  I missed posting something for the Autumn Equinox and there is still a month before Halloween/Samhain, but I thought I would share this tasty sounding recipe for Greek Pumpkin Pie as a offering of the Autumn season. 

It is written, like all the recipes in this collection, with the imprecision of all good Greek household recipes. I have transcribed it directly from the book without any changes to language or ingredients.  I think there are some substitutions that could be made.  For instance, it explains how to prepare the pumpkin but I think the modern Greek cook could replace that part with canned pumpkin puree.  And you certainly can't beat any dessert that uses a pound of butter. 

1 lb pastry sheets
1 lb butter (melted)
1 medium sized pumpkin
1 tbsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
3 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup white raisins

Cut and prepare pumpkin, removing seeds.  Proceed to cut into 1 inch cubes.  Using medium disc, pass pumpkin cubes through food chopper.  Place ground pumpkin in cheese cloth and sprinkle with salt.  Let stand overnight to remove moisture.  Using only 8 cups of strained pumpkin, place in kettle adding olive oil and one cup of butter. Simmer for one our, stirring to prevent scorching.  During last five minutes, add sugar and raisins.  Remove from heat and add one cup walnuts.  Set mixture aside to cool.  Brush bottom of pan 14x20" with melted butter and line with pastry sheet, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with walnuts.  Repeat this process until 1/2 lb of pastry sheets are used.  Pour pumpkin mixture in center and cover with remainder of pastry sheets; brushing each sheet with butter and sprinkling with walnuts.  Top with six individually buttered pastry sheets.  Trip and cut into 2" diamond pieces.  Pour remaining butter over pastry and bake at 375 degrees for one hour.

3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey

While pastry is baking, boil sugar and water until a clear thin syrup is formed.  Stir in honey and remove from heat.  Cool.  Spoon cool syrup over hot pastry. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

One Year

Today marks the one year anniversary of this blog.  When I started it, I don't think I was consciously aware that I had begun so close to the Autumn Equinox.  It make sense though, to begin a journey with Persephone at the beginning of Persephone's descent.  I am sure I was subconsciously aware of it, however, because it is impossible to be dedicated to Persephone without feeling the overwhelming draw of seasonal changes. 

It is officially Fall in Atlanta, and temperatures still hover in the 90s.  What I wouldn't give for a good Midwestern fall with crisp autumn air and the symphony of colors in the trees.  We get that eventually, but not until late October. I remind myself that I am taking a trip to Minneapolis this weekend and will get a lovely dose of Autumn there before returning to Atlanta to get a second turn in another month.  But the night of the equinox was breathtaking.  The sky was clear and the full harvest moon magnificent and even though the lights from the city were glaring you could still see Jupiter, Persephone's own father, as the second brightest thing in the universe.  Maybe he was saying goodbye to his daughter as she left him for the dark half of the year. 

Last year, I spent a lot of time exploring the seasonal themes of Persephone's story.  I haven't really thought much about how I want to continue this blog.  Is there anything anyone would like to see me explore? 

I will, however, share again the poem that I posted on the day I created this page.  Honestly, it was a place marker that day.  I had created the account and picked out the page design (which I have since changed) and get things all set up the way I liked it. I was afraid, though, if I left it that day without any content I might not get back to it, so I posted this poem. I wrote it a while back while up in Asheville to honor the glade where we placed her statue and created a space to commune with the Goddess.

"Persephone's Glade"

A soft spring maid picking daffodils
Autumn wife and most dread Queen
A field of white sweet asphodel
A soft spring maid picking daffodils
Olympos high above the rolling hills
Halls of Hades in the world beneath
A soft spring maid picking daffodils
Autumn wife and most dread Queen

Monday, September 20, 2010

Journey Back to the Underworld

We were in Asheville this weekend and I had an opportunity to honor Persephone's journey back to her underworld Queendom at the statue that I have on our land.  I made her a crown of pretty orange flowers (I am not sure what kind they are) and offered it to her.  The Autumn Equinox is just a few days away and the half of the year she spends with her husband is just beginning. 

While there, I also had an opportunity to offer prayers for an elder of the Pagan community who passed away just days before Autumn.  May her journey to the underworld be gentle and may she be comforted in the presence of Persephone.  I didn't know Lady Sintana personally, but anyone who is that influential in our greater community deserves great honor. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lectio Homerica: Homeric Hymn to Demeter Part Seven

Now when all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer heard this, he sent the Slayer of Argus whose wand is of gold to Erebus, so that having won over Hades with soft words, he might lead forth chaste Persephone to the light from the misty gloom to join the gods, and that her mother might see her with her eyes and cease from her anger. And Hermes obeyed, and leaving the house of Olympus, straightway sprang down with speed to the hidden places of the earth. And he found the lord Hades in his house seated upon a couch, and his shy mate with him, much reluctant, because she yearned for her mother. But she was afar off, brooding on her fell design because of the deeds of the blessed gods. And the strong Slayer of Argus drew near and said:
"Dark-haired Hades, ruler over the departed, father Zeus bids me bring noble Persephone forth from Erebus unto the gods, that her mother may see her with her eyes and cease from her dread anger with the immortals; for now she plans an awful deed, to destroy the weakly tribes of earthborn men by keeping seed hidden beneath the earth, and so she makes an end of the honours of the undying gods. For she keeps fearful anger and does not consort with the gods, but sits aloof in her fragrant temple, dwelling in the rocky hold of Eleusis."
So he said. And Aidoneus, ruler over the dead, smiled grimly and obeyed the behest of Zeus the king. For he straightway urged wise Persephone, saying:

"Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother, go, and feel kindly in your heart towards me: be not so exceedingly cast down; for I shall be no unfitting husband for you among the deathless gods, that am own brother to father Zeus. And while you are here, you shall rule all that lives and moves and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless gods: those who defraud you and do not appease your power with offerings, reverently performing rites and paying fit gifts, shall be punished for evermore."

When he said this, wise Persephone was filled with joy and hastily sprang up for gladness. But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter. Then Aidoneus the Ruler of Many openly got ready his deathless horses beneath the golden chariots And she mounted on the chariot and the strong Slayer of Argus took reins and whip in his dear hands and drove forth from the hall, the horses speeding readily. Swiftly they traversed their long course, and neither the sea nor river-waters nor grassy glens nor mountain-peaks checked the career of the immortal horses, but they clave the deep air above them as they went. And Hermes brought them to the place where rich-crowned Demeter was staying and checked them before her fragrant temple.

And when Demeter saw them, she rushed forth as does a Maenad down some thick-wooded mountain, while Persephone on the other side, when she saw her mother's sweet eyes, left the chariot and horses, and leaped down to run to her, and falling upon her neck, embraced her. But while Demeter was still holding her dear child in her arms, her heart suddenly misgave her for some snare, so that she feared greatly and ceased fondling her daughter and asked of her at once: "My child, tell me, surely you have not tasted any food while you were below? Speak out and hide nothing, but let us both know. For if you have not, you shall come back from loathly Hades and live with me and your father, the dark-clouded Son of Cronos and be honoured by all the deathless gods; but if you have tasted food, you must go back again beneath the secret places of the earth, there to dwell a third part of the seasons every year: yet for the two parts you shall be with me and the other deathless gods. But when the earth shall bloom with the fragrant flowers of spring in every kind, then from the realm of darkness and gloom thou shalt come up once more to be a wonder for gods and mortal men. And now tell me how he rapt you away to the realm of darkness and gloom, and by what trick did the strong Host of Many beguile you?"
I have continued with the Loeb edition as it is one of the easiest to come by.  

I read this portion of the hymn differently than I would think that most scholars read it.  I think this is the moment where we see the love between Hades and Persephone.  Zeus sends Hermes into the underworld to retrieve Persephone and there it is Hades speech to her that I find lovely.  "Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother, go, and feel kindly in your heart towards me: be not so exceedingly cast down; for I shall be no unfitting husband for you among the deathless gods, that am own brother to father Zeus. And while you are here, you shall rule all that lives and moves and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless gods: those who defraud you and do not appease your power with offerings, reverently performing rites and paying fit gifts, shall be punished for evermore."   I love this so much I feel it bears repeating.  He tells Persephone she can go and see her mother but know that she has a place of honor in his kingdom and will be honored and worshiped by all who pass through their halls, which will ultimately be everyone.  Then the poet indicates that Persephone is joyful by this turn of events and casually mentioned the pomegranate seeds.  Such a powerful moment boiled down into just a few short words.  The fruit was just a sacred to Hera as she ruled over the sanctity of marriage and it would have been reasonable for Hades to give one to his wife.  And Persephone ate it. The hymn says he gave it to her secretly, but how precisely would someone sneak such a sweet seed past another's tongue?  The light crunch of the seed and the sweet burst of juice is a singular experience, and I believe it was one that Persephone relished.  She accepted this marriage gift from her husband.  It was at that moment that she was crowned his Queen. 

And it seems as thought Demeter knows this exchange would have happened.  When she first sees her daughter after their long separation she carefully spells out what it would mean if she had eaten any of the food offered to her.  Demeter knows that her child has grown up and will never again be an innocent child. 

I've left you with a cliffhanger for the next section of the hymn. Stay tuned for more insights. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Autumn in Clay

I hadn't intended to post here today, but I discovered something I had to share.  I was searching for photos of Autumn just to change up my computer's wall paper.  I am tired of this long hot summer and I want to encourage Autumn in my world. 

It was during this very benign search that I discovered this website.  Just the the Beauty doll that I discovered yesterday, I find these sculptures incredibly evocative; though of the opposite emotion.    So many of the sculptures reflect the feelings of Persephone.  As I mentioned just the other day, I see the Autumn aspect of The Goddess to be as important as her springtime aspect.  And is was specifically this piece that inspired me.  Unfortunately, it is no longer available.