Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Solstice Blessings - of the furry kind.

The Queen of the Underworld works in mysterious ways sometimes.  Some things happened over the last few days that made me extremely aware of her presence, as if I wasn't already.  Others might attribute it to other things, or deities, but I like the warm feeling that it gives me to think of it as Persephone. 

It started with some sadness. At the end of 2009, my best friend shared with me that her dog had passed away at home.  Kody was a big red Chow and he was old, but I had been there from the beginning.  I was a senior at Western Michigan University and met Jill there. We became very fast friends and spent a lot of time together.  Then one day, she became the proud owner of little Kody.  I went to her house to meet him and he was such an adorable little ball of orange fluff.  He looked like a furry little bear cub.  I watched Kody grow up.  When Jill moved to Illinois, I would visit her and Kody.  When she moved back to Michigan, I was one of her default Kody-sitters.  He would come stay at our house if Jill went on vacation.  I have a lot of great memories of Kody.  One time, when he was staying with us, he and I got back from a walk and Matt was napping on the couch. Kody walked right over to him and started licking his face with his big purple tongue, waking him up.  He was the sweetest, and laziest, Chow ever.

Then, Matt and I adopted Piglet - 9 years ago.  When she was 8 months old, we were going on week long vacation to Vegas and Jill offered to return the pet sitting favor for us.  I wouldn't say Piglet and Kody were "friends" but as you can see from the photos, they did all right together. 

I was very sad when I got the news that Kody died last year.  I really loved that dog and I really miss him. 

Then in February of this year, my friend Carl McColman was faced with the difficult decision at the end of his 20 year old cat, China's, life.  Carl blogged about the experience and his feelings in great detail, and with much more eloquence than I could recreate here.  Out of the four cats in the McColman household, China was my personal favorite.  She was sweet and friendly with an adorable "Purrt".  I loved her coloring most of all.  She was actually the same color as my Piglet, but because Piglet is furless her coloring appears as blotches on her wrinkly skin.  China's lush black, orange and white coat is what I would imagine Piglet to look like with fur.

Then, just after Beltane, Matt and his brother made their epic pilgrimage out to Nevada for their cousin's memorial service.  I blogged about that too, because I had a real hard time dealing with it.  Matt's brother, though, had a harder time when he got the news while he was gone that his old dog, Otis, had to be put to sleep. 

But then, just like in the myth of Persephone, life is a cycle.  The cycle of birth, death and rebirth.  We all know, as pet owners, that our pets are not likely to outlive us so we are all faced with the eventual loss of a dear furry friend.  The greatest gift, and the greatest memorial, a person can give in honor of their lost companion is the gift of adopting another animal. Another animal that needs a good home. 

And just like that, the solstice bloomed with new animals ever where I looked. Animals all with very literary names, I might add.  

First, Jill shares a photo of their new puppy, Gryphon.  He is only 4 weeks old now, so he can't come home for another month, but I am already smitten. 

Then Matt's brother announces their newest addition, Veruca - a lab/shar pei mix!  She looks like quite a handful.  And I am certain she has Jim wrapped around her paw by now.

And then today I was introduced to Margery, the newest kitten addition to the McColman family.

I know one day, I'll lose Piglet.  And I will be devastated.  But I will be comforted to know that Persephone will never have a more loyal companion as she takes up residence with the Queen of the Dead.  And I know that there will be another little hairless cat in my future who needs someone to love them.  And the blessings of life just keep going.  

Thursday, June 17, 2010


It has been super encouraging to see all the very talented blogging going on in the pagan community.  I am biased, of course, since I started writing for the Juggler a couple months ago.  I have also been keeping track of The Wild Hunt, the mastermind behind the Pagan Newswire Collective, as well as my sister sites Pagans+Politics and Warriors&Kin.  Over at the Patheos website, the pagan portal is active with the Pantheon blog.  I've also been watching some personal blogs, like the Girls Underground blog that I have mentioned before as well as Kate's other site, The Forest Door.  And there are countless others that I have not listed. 

Because a lot of these featured introductory posts to start the blogging process, I found it interesting to read the many descriptions of individual practices.  It led me to think about definitions and what I am and what I am not. 

It comes down to something very simple.  I am neither Wiccan nor am I a reconstructionist.  I am simply a devotee of the Goddess Persephone. 

I associate with Pagans because that appears to be the closest community of people who would understand devotion to a Goddess, but I am not even sure that the term "Pagan" would define what I do. 

Persephone is present.  This I know beyond the shadow of a doubt.  And I honor her presence in my every day life.  She doesn't care which motions I use, what words I use or when I do it.  Because her mythology is so tied into some of the other Gods, I also honor them after a fashion. 

In the end, does it really matter how I define myself and my practice to those around me? If what I do is to honor Persephone, then it should only be her that cares. I don't know that there is a single word that would sum up my spiritual path anyway.  Maybe, just as I have said in this very blog, it is simply Persephone's Path. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Pudding Cake for Persephone

As we approach the summer solstice, I can't help but reflect on Persephone's journey.  This is the mid-point of the time she spends with her mother on Olympos.  As much as she aches to return to her husband, I am certain she is trying to be a good daughter and hold tight to the time she has with Demeter. 

Even knowing that Autumn will come and Persephone will return to her kingdom, I can also imagine Demeter doing everything in her power to keep Persephone by her side. Things like serving her favorite foods. 

I thought, what better in this hot hot mid-summer than a little ice cream and cake.  I turned to the "Hellenic Cuisine" cookbook of the Greek Orthodox Church in Michigan from 1957.  I've shared the joys of this cook book before, on several occasions, and love its infinite wisdom.  One suggestion it makes for a feast in the month of June is Ice Cream and Amegthalopeta, or Almond Pudding Cake.  Sounds delightful.  Enjoy, in the originally published form: 

Almond Pudding Cake

2 cups finely chopped almonds
6 eggs, separated
3 tsp. baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups zwieback crumbs (paximathy)

Beat egg yolks until thick and light colored; add sugar, a little at a time and continue beating.  Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Mix almonds, paximathi and baking powder together and add to egg yolk mixture, alternating with egg whites.  Pour into baking dish and bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) for about half an hour.  Test with toothpick.  Remove from oven and pour on top the following syrup:
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cups water
1 slice lemon
Boil together until slightly thickened and pour over cake at once. 

I just love the subtle nuances of these recipes.  The differing spelling of Paximathy/Paximathi is original.  And I couldn't begin to tell you what it means by "alternating with egg whites".  Or, heck, what size baking dish to use! 

But imagine serving this on a hot summer's day and honoring Demeter and Persephone. 

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer by Alexander Pope

I know it isn't specifically about Persephone, but it is just so joyful. 

See what delights in sylvan scenes appear!

Descending Gods have found Elysium here.
In woods bright Venus with Adonis stray'd,
And chaste Diana haunts the forest shade.
Come lovely nymph, and bless the silent hours,
When swains from shearing seek their nightly bow'rs;
When weary reapers quit the sultry field,
And crown'd with corn, their thanks to Ceres yield.
This harmless grove no lurking viper hides,
But in my breast the serpent Love abides.
Here bees from blossoms sip the rosy dew,
But your Alexis knows no sweets but you.
Oh deign to visit our forsaken seats,
The mossy fountains, and the green retreats!
Where-e'er you walk, cool gales shall fan the glade,
Trees, where you sit, shall crowd into a shade,
Where-e'er you tread, the blushing flow'rs shall rise,
And all things flourish where you turn your eyes.
Oh! How I long with you to pass my days,
Invoke the muses, and resound your praise;
Your praise the birds shall chant in ev'ry grove,
And winds shall waft it to the pow'rs above.
But wou'd you sing, and rival Orpheus' strain,
The wond'ring forests soon shou'd dance again,
The moving mountains hear the pow'rful call,
And headlong streams hang list'ning in their fall!
But see, the shepherds shun the noon-day heat,
The lowing herds to murm'ring brooks retreat,
To closer shades the panting flocks remove,
Ye Gods! And is there no relief for Love?
But soon the sun with milder rays descends
To the cool ocean, where his journey ends;
On me Love's fiercer flames for every prey,
By night he scorches, as he burns by day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Demeter's Piglet

In one of my many random searches I came across this web page.  It doesn't really say much, but has this fantastic image of a Roman coin featuring Ceres carrying torches accompanied by a piglet. 

I love the image.  I know that traditionally the pig was the sacrifice for some of the festivals of Demeter, but in this image it almost makes it look like the little pig is her companion.  I have always felt bad for the pigs, and I think that Persephone does to. I think that she welcomes them to the underworld with her. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Over the Rainbow

There have been some great conversations over at The Juggler in regards to the Wizard of Oz and its connection to modern paganism.  Truth be told, I never really thought of it in those terms until I saw it as part of the Girls Underground paradigm. 

But I was just thinking about the myth of Persephone and how we are nearing the summer solstice - marking the halfway point of her stay in Olympos.  I can imagine her becoming restless and wanting to go home.  It brought to mind the song "Over the Rainbow".  What if Kansas is Olympos and Oz is the underworld?  Persephone dreams of returning to that magical land

And that, of course, made me think of a delightful song by Three Weird Sisters (a couple of the sisters are friends of mine, actually) called Dumb Dumb Dorothy.  Really - I had always wondered just *why* Dorothy would give up everything she found in Oz to get back to the black and white world of Kansas.  Truth be told, this seems to be an MGM fabrication as the Dorothy of L. Frank Baum's books seems quite content to return and to even make a home there.  I have often wondered why Persephone would continue to return to Olympos year after year when her real life is in the Underworld.  Sometimes, I'm not sure she does return. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Don't be afraid

The Queen of the Underworld sits serenely on her silver throne.  At her feet, a fluffy red chow dog sleeps peacefully. On the back of the throne, a tortoiseshell cat purrs softly. 

A new cat approaches.  Persephone smiles at her.  "Don't be afraid," the queen says.  She leans down.  The chow lifts his head and blinks his amber eyes at the new cat.  Persephone scratches the cat's perfect ears. "You're here now.  It is lovely here."  The goddess looks directly into her clear blue eyes.  "Mrow," says the new cat emphatically.   She curls up in the lap of the goddess, and closes her eyes. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Workshop for Persephone: the best of Maid to Queen

When it comes to honoring the gods, I believe that action speaks much louder than words - or in many cases louder than scholarship.  Scholarship has its place in the Hellenic tradition and I have done my share of research of Persephone's mythos. But things like building Persephone's Glade and the experience I just had this weekend will always bring me closer to the Goddess.   

This weekend I attended a festival here in the North Georgia Mountains.  It is a festival that I have participated in pretty much every year since moving down to Georgia.  Each year, I offer a workshop and this time I suggested a work shop on Persephone.  It felt good to honor her by teaching others about her. 

I had a great turnout, probably about 12 people or so.  And something happened during that workshop.  I had some basic notes, but I found myself really giving in to what the Goddess and what the people wanted for me to talk about.  It felt very natural, not forced at all.  Writing this blog for as long as I have has really provided me with all the tools I need to speak confidently about my relationship with her.  And the best part is that the journey is continuous.

I shared the basic story of Persephone that most people know from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.  I shared my own take on the myth.  I told the story of Persephone and the rabbit.  People really seemed to like that one.  I spoke about her relationship to her mother and her relationship to her husband.  I spoke about her experience with Adonis.  I shared my ideas about the two symbols that I connect her with the most; the Daffodil in the Spring and the Pomegranate in the Fall.  I talked about pop-culture references including the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan and why I liked them.  And I talked about why I didn't like the movie.  I shared the joy that is Anais Mitchell's album Hadestown and how the TV show Caprica depicted a Hellenic-style funeral.  And I shared my favorite poems about her by poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay

It was beautiful to me that I had so much inspiration about Persephone to fill up an hour long workshop. It was great to be able to answer any questions that the people had about her as well. 

Honor the Gods by talking about them.  That is what they want.