Monday, May 24, 2010

The Return of Persephone

I was googling "Persephone", as I frequently do, and I came across a poem I had never read before.  It is by a poet named Alec Derwent Hope:

The Return of Persephone

Gliding through the still air, he made no sound;
Wing-shod and deft, dropped almost at her feet,
And searched the ghostly regiments and found
The living eyes, the tremor of breath, the beat
Of blood in all that bodiless underground.

She left her majesty; she loosed the zone
Of darkness and put by the rod of dread.
Standing, she turned her back upon the throne
Where, well she knew, the Ruler of the Dead,
Lord of her body and being, sat like stone;

Stared with his ravenous eyes to see her shake
The midnight drifting from her loosened hair,
The girl once more in all her actions wake,
The blush of colour in her cheeks appear
Lost with her flowers that day beside the lake.

The summer flowers scattering, the shout,
The black manes plunging down to the black pit --
Memory or dream? She stood awhile in doubt,
Then touched the Traveller God's brown arm and met
His cool, bright glance and heard his words ring out:

"Queen of the Dead and Mistress of the Year!"
-- His voice was the ripe ripple of the corn;
The touch of dew, the rush of morning air --
"Remember now the world where you were born;
The month of your return at last is here."

And still she did not speak, but turned again
Looking for answer, for anger, for command:
The eyes of Dis were shut upon their pain;
Calm as his marble brow, the marble hand
Slept on his knee. Insuperable disdain

Foreknowing all bounds of passion, of power, of art,
Mastered but could not mask his deep despair.
Even as she turned with Hermes to depart,
Looking her last on her grim ravisher
For the first time she loved him from her heart.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Marriage of Land and Sea

Back in 2005, I was part of a Celtic Spirituality group here in Atlanta.  That year, I wrote a Beltane ritual that unfortunately never got used.  The premise was the marriage of Land and Sea using the gods Manannan Mac Lir and Dana.  I was thinking today about the myth of Demeter and the story where Poseidon pursues her so she turns into a mare to escape him and he turns into a stallion to seduce her.  The marriage of Land and Sea!  From

"When Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she was followed, it is said, by Poseidon, who lusted after her. So she turned, the story runs, into a mare, and grazed with the mares of Ogkios [in Arkadia]; realising that he was outwitted, Poseidon changed into a stallion and enjoyed Demeter. At first, they say, Demeter was angry at what had happened, but later on she laid aside her wrath and wished to bathe in the Ladon ... Demeter, they say, had by Poseidon a daughter, whose name they are not wont to divulge to the uninitiated, and a horse called Areion ... In the Iliad there are verses about Areion himself: ‘Not even if he drive divine Areion behind, the swift horse of Adrastos, who was of the race of the gods.’

In the Thebaid it is said that Adrastos fled from Thebes: ‘Wearing wretched clothes, and with him dark-maned Areion.’ They will have it that the verses obscurely hint that Poseidon was father to Areion, but Antimakhos says that Gaia (Earth) was his mother." - Pausanias, Guide to Greece 8.25.
I thought I would share the original script even though it names the Celtic gods.  But it could easily be reworked for a Poseidon and Demeter ritual.

Beltane  2005

Open the ceremony with the traditional lighting of the Beltane fires.


Spirit of fire carry me
Spirit of fire carry me
Spirit of fire carry me home
To myself 
(This is a chant I learned in Ireland at a St. Brigid's Day Celebration.  I do not know who wrote it, but the nuns at Kildare taught it to us)

Opening meditation/opening of the gates

Should include this somehow:
“Manaunaun was the Irish god of motion, who sent tremendous tides sweeping through the universe to keep its particles fresh until the time should come for the gods to make of them stars, seas, suns and worlds.” - Liner notes from “The Tides of Manaunaun” c. 1912. Henry Cowell

Introduction of Manannan Mac Lir.  (A participant dressed as the god of the ocean enters the ritual space and says:)

Ebb and Flow, the tide rolls out
the sea is the blood of the earth
The light of the sea and the pull of the moon
the waters within us are the same waters for generations
the same waters the flow and run through the land
the same waters that come in on the tide with the sea
(Invocation by Me)


Spirit of water carry me
Spirit of water carry me
Spirit of water carry me home
To myself

Dana and the 4 treasures* enter the circle

Introduction of Dana (A participant dressed at the goddess of the earth enters the ritual space and says:)
The heart of the earth beats within all people
the light of the earth is resonate within usThrough the land we grow the roots that connect us with all things
There is a place in our hearts
a light in our hearts
that connects us to the land of our ancestors
and the land on which we live
(invocation by me)


Spirit of the earth carry me
Spirit of the earth carry me
Spirit of the earth carry me home
To myself

The Wedding of The Land and the Sea

The god and goddess approach and face one another. They alternate lines (should be obvious) and both say the last stanza together.  ("Vows" written by me)

I roll in on the tides
As the ancient tales abide

I am the mother who gives birth
To the plants and trees and the earth

I am water’s ebb and flow
You are the grains that we grow

I am the goddess of the land
As your waves approach the sand

I am the rains that bring to life
I ask the land to be my wife

I know your waters, streams and lakes
I do agree and your hand I take

I myself do vow to thee
The marriage of the land and sea

They should take each other’s hands at this time and kiss once on each cheek. Perhaps embracing at this time, as they are comfortable.

The presentation of the 4 gifts:

The stone of destiny is brought in and presented to the “couple” with some appropriate words. Then a basket or bag of small stones is presented to the group.

The sword of the warrior is brought in and presented to the “couple” with some appropriate words. Then a warrior blessing is offered to the entire group.

The spear of the druid is brought in and presented to the “couple” with some appropriate words. Then a druid blessing is offered to the entire group.

The Dagda’s Cauldron is brought in and presented to the “couple” with some appropriate words. Then “cakes and ale” is presented as the bounty to the entire group.

Closing words or “meditation”

Sing "Walk with Wisdom". (This was a chant we used to close all our circles, but unfortunately I don't remember who wrote it or what the words were.  If anyone knows, please feel free to shout it out!)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Praise Demeter and her Daughter

There is a great book called Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation by Andrew M. Miller.  It is a great collection of ancient Greek poetry by everyone who wasn't Homer or Hesiod and it is collected in one easy to use volume. 

Here is an offering for Demeter and her daughter by Bacchylides.  This is a portion of an Ode to celebrate Deinomenes, an Olympic charioteer*.

In Praise of Demeter, Queen of fruitful Sicily,
and of the Maiden, violet crowned,
sing, Klio, giver of sweet gifts; and sing as well
 of Hieron's horses that ran swiftly at Olympia 

*As an aside - I do think they should bring back chariot races as part of the Olympic games.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Demeter and Mother's Day

So much of Persephone's mythology is rooted deeply in her relationship to her Mother.  And so much of her mother's mythology is rooted deeply in being a mother - the name "Demeter" may even mean "Earth Mother".  She is not only mother to Persephone, but in some ways to all humankind.  The Homeric Hymn 13 to Demeter :
"I begin to sing of rich-haired Demeter, awful goddess, of her and of her daughter lovely Persephone. Hail, goddess! Keep this city safe, and govern my song."
Persephone will be spending the next three months with her mother in Olympos, celebrating the summer and the love of mother and daughter. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Persephone's Beetle

The other day, I was up in my bedroom getting ready to turn in for the night.  There was a knocking and a buzzing at the bedroom window.  When I opened the blinds, I saw a junebug flying clumsily into the window pains over and over again.  Piglet, my kitty, came over and watched the giant beetle for several minutes before walking away. 

For some reason, that got me thinking about Persephone. I wondered if she had any connection to beetles.  So I googled it. 

That was when I discovered the Tooth Cave Ground Beetle.  Her scientific name is Rhadine Persephone.  I continued to read about the beetle that is native to Texas.  Apparently, this little bug lives her entire life underground sort of like Persephone herself.  She is a tiny beetle, just a quarter of an inch and reddish brown in color.  They almost look like pomegranate seeds.  But these little beetles are endangered because of the expansion of cities.  We hear a lot about the cute endangered animals, but it is rare for anyone to rally behind an ugly little beetle.  I realized this was a part of a larger problem.  The link above suggests that we can help by keeping trash and pollutants out of caves.  I see all caves as potential entrances into the underworld, and therefore they are all spiritual places.  By following good practices like "Leave No Trace" when camping we can help keep natural spaces not just clean but also sacred.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Consequence of Moving

So, I have been having a few bad days.  The reason for this is the recent news of the death of an old friend.  I actually haven't spoken to him for a couple of years, but about a year or so ago we learned that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Pancreatic cancer is nearly always fatal, so as soon as we heard the diagnosis everyone knew he had limited time.  He died on Sunday.  He was my age. 

When I first heard, I didn't feel very sad.  I equated it to when my aunt had died of breast cancer about 10 years ago.  When I learned she was sick, I was inconsolable but by the time she passed away I had processed my feelings.  I said that I felt that way about this friend. 

But I quickly learned that wasn't true.  With Matt out of town on business (and leaving tonight to go out west where the friend lived for the memorial this weekend), I began to dwell on the situation.  I had a "mini-meltdown" as one friend called it.  I turned to my personal blog just to have someone to talk to, even virtual.  One friend pointed out something pretty profound: 

Here's a thing, or rather two things: Regardless of the fact that you all made a deliberate decision to sell your house and move as part of your overall goals, and you wanted to do all that, it's still stressful. Then there's the fact that we've lost many of the rituals and social ceremony around death, the purpose of which is to help people cope. So cut yourself some slack.
And suddenly it hit me.  Because the house has been for sale, I had packed away my Persephone shrine.  I would have normally gone to it to make offerings and prayed for my friend.  I didn't realize how lost I felt without it, especially at this time. 

Having symbols or rituals to help us deal with the death of a loved one is imperative.  Without it, we feel lost and alone, even though we know we are not. 

I decided that I would come here and share my memories and make a virtual shrine for my prayers and offerings.

I have so many memories of my friend.  He was ridiculously stubborn.  I remember a time when he got mad at the people he was with at a strip club in Canada and he decided to walk home...back to Detroit! We didn't know where he was and he showed back up again the next afternoon. I remember being so mad at him once while we were playing a board game with friends, I don't remember which one, and I threw the dice at his head and screamed at him.  I couldn't begin to tell you now what we were fighting about.  He was a good guy.  And he was way too young. So I offer this prayer, by Edna St. Vincent Millay, slightly altered: 

Be to him, Persephone,

All the things I might not be:
Take his head upon your knee.
He that was so proud and wild,
Flippant, arrogant and free,
He that had no need of me,
Is a little lonely child
Lost in Heaven,—Persephone,
Take his head upon your knee:
Say to him, "My dear, my dear,
It is not so dreadful here."

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stravinsky and Disney

When Disney Released Fantasia 2000 in Imax, I saw it several times at The Henry Ford. While it was out, I would take all my friends to see it every time they came ot visit. The production of The Firebird definitely speaks of Persephone to me. 


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Major Announcement

I can't begin to explain you how excited I am about this.  I have been tapped to write for a new blog project, Pagan Newswire Collective's culture blog, The Juggler

Writing about popular culture is not something that is new for me.  I've written about new musical projects, favorite television shows and books that I have loved, all from the perspective of a devotee of Persephone. I'll share a secret with you: it was popular television that first introduced me to Persephone.  I now it sounds crazy.   As a little girl I watched The Incredible Hulk.   The episode Equinox* featured a masquarade party where the hostess dressed as the Goddess and acted the part of Persephone rising from the underworld.  My love of television and my long journey into the myth of Persephone began together in the 80's. 

Stay tuned to the Juggler for my first post - a Movie Review and Social Commentary.  I am very excited to get started and I am honored to be a part of this project. 

*Link features full episode from Hulu