Friday, April 30, 2010

Persephone's Beltane

Tomorrow is Beltane. Or tonight, depending on your calculations. I completely recognize and understand that Beltane is not at all a Hellenic holiday.  I also believe that the Gods are real and not contained in a tiny little Hellenic-only bubble and that they are everywhere and see and know everything.  Including Beltane. 

And I think Beltane makes Persephone sad.  She is the very symbol of growth and fertility, and yet for this festival she has been snatched away from her husband.  She doesn't get to feel his touch or his kiss on this day.  Warning, do not click on this hyperlink if you are sensitive to harsh language or sex.

What I do think Persephone loves about this season is the Flowers.  They are occasionally described as "Springing from her steps".  Tomorrow is a great time to celebrate her along with the flowers of the season

I will celebrate the irises outside my door.

And the pretty little flowers on the dwarf mountain laurel.

And the Indigo that was given to us as a housewarming present by some friends.  (I also plan to smuggle that out of here when we move!)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lectio Homerica: The Homeric Hymn to Demeter part Five

The following is another installment of the Lectio Homerica series on the Homeric Hymn to Demeter.  Today, I am using the Loeb translation.
And straightway the unwed maiden Callidice, goodliest in form of the daughters of Celeus, answered her and said:
"Mother, what the gods send us, we mortals bear perforce, although we suffer; for they are much stronger than we. But now I will teach you clearly, telling you the names of men who have great power and honour here and are chief among the people, guarding our city's coif of towers by their wisdom and true judgements: there is wise Triptolemus and Dioclus and Polyxeinus and blameless Eumolpus and Dolichus and our own brave father. All these have wives who manage in the house, and no one of them, so soon as she had seen you, would dishonour you and turn you from the house, but they will welcome you; for indeed you are godlike. But if you will, stay here; and we will go to our father's house and tell Metaneira, our deep-bosomed mother, all this matter fully, that she may bid you rather come to our home than search after the houses of others. She has an only son, late-born, who is being nursed in our well-built house, a child of many prayers and welcome: if you could bring him up until he reached the full measure of youth, any one of womankind who should see you would straightway envy you, such gifts would our mother give for his upbringing."

So she spake: and the goddess bowed her head in assent. And they filled their shining vessels with water and carried them off rejoicing. Quickly they came to their father's great house and straightway told their mother according as they had heard and seen. Then she bade them go with all speed and invite the stranger to come for a measureless hire. As hinds or heifers in spring time, when sated with pasture, bound about a meadow, so they, holding up the folds of their lovely garments, darted down the hollow path, and their hair like a crocus flower streamed about their shoulders. And they found the good goddess near the wayside where they had left her before, and led her to the house of their dear father. And she walked behind, distressed in her dear heart, with her head veiled and wearing a dark cloak which waved about the slender feet of the goddess.

Soon they came to the house of heaven-nurtured Celeus and went through the portico to where their queenly mother sat by a pillar of the close-fitted roof, holding her son, a tender scion, in her bosom. And the girls ran to her. But the goddess walked to the threshold: and her head reached the roof and she filled the doorway with a heavenly radiance. Then awe and reverence and pale fear took hold of Metaneira, and she rose up from her couch before Demeter, and bade her be seated. But Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of perfect gifts, would not sit upon the bright couch, but stayed silent with lovely eyes cast down until careful Iambe placed a jointed seat for her and threw over it a silvery fleece. Then she sat down and held her veil in her hands before her face. A long time she sat upon the stool without speaking because of her sorrow, and greeted no one by word or by sign, but rested, never smiling, and tasting neither food nor drinks because she pined with longing for her deep-bosomed daughter, until careful Iambe -- who pleased her moods in aftertime also -- moved the holy lady with many a quip and jest to smile and laugh and cheer her heart. Then Metaneira filled a cup with sweet wine and offered it to her; but she refused it, for she said it was not lawful for her to drink red wine, but bade them mix meal and water with soft mint and give her to drink. And Metaneira mixed the draught and gave it to the goddess as she bade. So the great queen Deo received it to observe the sacrament.
For just a moment, the Goddess abandons her quest for her only daughter and spends time in the house of a deserving family in Eleusis to help them with their needs.  She shows great care and benevolence, but never once does she forget her long term task. 

There are several passages in this section of the hymn that I just love.  The way the words roll off the tongue.  When the daughters go back to the well to retrieve the old woman, they are described "As hinds or heifers in spring time, when sated with pasture, bound about a meadow, so they, holding up the folds of their lovely garments, darted down the hollow path, and their hair like a crocus flower streamed about their shoulders."  It is just beautiful.  It speaks to me of the joy and power of youth.  Perhaps Demeter saw in them the spark of Persephone.  I love the colors that paint this scene.  The yellows, purples and whites of the maidens running through the bright green grass. 

And in the last paragraph, it tells us that Metaneira catches just a glimpse of Demeter's true nature.  Here Demeter is also referred to as "Bringer of Seasons", which by my estimation didn't actually begin being a task of her's until this very story unfolded.  It also mentioned Iambe, who appears to be able to cheer the goddess with just a bit of humor.  If only we knew the words she said.  It also gives us a recipe for a drink - an offering - for Demeter herself.  Meal, water and mint.  There are some historical suggestions as to what this concoction is, but there are many ways to practically apply it to the devotional practice of honoring Demeter.  However, I can't help but think of the contradictory nature of Demeter imbibing the mint plant when her own Daughter, supposedly later in her own story, would have a negative connection to is as she turned her husband's lover into the mint plant as punishment for adultery. 

I am eager to continue Demeter's quest to discover her Daughter. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Cocktail

I have a longer post brewing about my perceptions of the Persephone Myth in relation to the Beltane Season.  For now, I'll just say that even though she is frequently a symbol of springtime and the earth's fertility, she is unable to spend the Beltane holiday with her lover, and that must make her sad. 

So, to cheer her up, here is a link to a site to make festive cocktails out of sparkling wine. 

Cheers, Persephone!

Oh, and by the way... it would probably not be a good idea to mix any sort of mint based drink for her.  It doesn't make her feel very good. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Coolest Dolls Ever

I frequently google random phrases to see what I get in terms of content for this blog.  With Beltane coming up in about a week, I googled "Beltane Persephone" and "Beltane Kore" to see what I got. 

And I got this full of awesome website.  The artist appears to be using the term Kore as simply "Maiden" or "Girl" but I don't really care.  I want all of them! 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Persephone's Garden

A friend posted a photograph in her LiveJournal today that I absolutely loved.  I asked her permission to share it, and she agreed. 

I loved the perspective of the flowers in the foreground and the Goddess in the back.  Beautiful. 

She has planted an entire garden for Persephone and the other Gods.  Here is her description:
My deck is round with a copper band around it.

On the North side of the garden that surrounds the deck I have a clay statue of the Kore/Persephone. To the left of the statue all the flowers are black. I have black pansies, tulips, and lilies. To the right, the flowers are all white. White iris, bleeding hearts, balloon flowers, annual alyssum, and a spiky flower that I can remember the name of. Up the trellis, I plant climbing moon flowers.

Moving to the East - I have an archway with wind chimes hanging down. The flowers there are all yellow and light orange. Honeysuckle, day lilies, mixed yellow annuals.

To the south - I have a copper sculpture that looks like fire. Surrounding that I have all red, orange and pink flowers - Husker red, sedum, lilies, roses, geraniums, and petunias.

On the West side I have blues and purples. Hyacinth, alyssum, balloon flowers, iris, tulips, and petunias. That's also where my bird bath is located.

I love the idea of planting a garden with spiritual intent.  She also shared a photograph of Persephone in the fall with an offering. 

I told her I was always looking for beautiful and inspirational things to share on this blog about the Goddess.  Persephone's Glade is one of my favorite places on this planet and it is great to think that there are others creating beautiful outdoor shrines for the Gods. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Prayer for Building

I wrote this poem/prayer last year before starting the build on the Tumbleweed Tiny House.  Since the successful installation of windows this past weekend and considering the work we still have ahead, I thought I may post it again.  It is writen as a prayer to be recited to the Gods to ask their favor in the project.  It is appropriate to pour libations to them as this is read. 

Prayer for Building

O Olympos, hear us now. If ever we have honored you all with words and libations, please hear our prayer.

O Hestia, you are always first and last. Hestia, we honor you.

Great Zeus, god of all: grant us calm weather in which to successfully build this week. Great Zeus, I honor you and all of Olympos for all of Olympos gives glory to you.

Great Hera, Lady of commitment: provide us with your blessing of steadfast determination. Though the work is hard, may we never give up.

Great Demeter of the Earth and your fair daughter for whom I have dedicated this land. May the springs be beautiful, the summers lush and green, the autumns alive in golden splendor and the winters gentle.

Great Poseidon of the sea: please look upon our mountain with favor and fend off natural disaster.

Great Aphrodite of the heart: bless us with the love and devotion we need for this project.

Great Apollo, Lord of Music: bring the sweet notes of success to our ears as we celebrate our progress each night.

Great and Mighty Ares: we understand that tempers may flare as we construct this house. Please help us keep any anger in check.

Great Artemis of the wilderness: as we realize this mountain is your place please keep it’s animals safe. Show favor to the deer, the turtles, the birds, the raccoons, the snakes, the mice, the bats and all the unseen wild things.

Great Dionysos, lord of the vine: protect and bless the plants here. Most especially the Hemlock, may they thrive without disease. We also ask that you help to keep the danger of Poison Ivy away from all wanderers on this mountain.

Great Athena of planning and strategy: please keep us on track and organized.

Great Hephaistos, lord of the craft: bless our tools – the hammers and nails, the power saws, the wood and our measurements. May we be honored to build this house for you.

Great Hermes, lord of travelers: keep safe all of our friends journeying to North Carolina from both Georgia and Michigan.

And finally, to Hestia, lady of the Hearth and home. May all that we do this week be in your honor as we begin this process of kindling a new hearth fire.

All of Olympos may rejoice in our labors. Grant us these prayers and all of our work will be in your name and your glory.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Girls Underground

I mention a lot of different Persephone related things here.  Music, movies, books, poetry, statues - even television shows.  I have yet to bring your attention to a specific website (as far as I recall), until now.

I have known Kate for years on-line and we have worked together on various projects within the Hellenic community.   I highly recommend her blog Girls Underground and the website that goes with it. 

I love the intensity with which she writes about the Girls Underground archetype/mythology. I completely appreciate all the work she has done to collect these stories (of all types) in one easy-to-read place.  And, of course, Persephone herself fits very comfortably into this category.  Kate describes her thusly

Persephone, or Kore ("maiden"), is the Greek goddess of renewal, and the Queen of the Underworld. While picking flowers with her friends as a young woman, she was kidnapped by Hades and brought to the Underworld. Her mother Demeter petitioned the other gods to intervene and let her go. But because Persephone ate the pomegranate seeds she was offered, she must stay as Hades' queen for part of the year. When she returns to the earth above each year, fertility returns with her.

Persephone by Wishbone Ash

Who would have thought there would be so many songs about Persephone.  I am not completely familiar with Wishbone Ash either, but the song is lovely. 

There's a light that shines on persephone,
Always a fire in her eyes,
And the last time that I went to her
I could tell things weren't right.
I just don't care to see your years go wasting,
There's no longer magic in your eyes.

In your time, you could outshine everybody else around,
But your off-stage ways might be a bore -
You take a bow, you take a fall.

I came to be here in the footlights,
To live with you through every song,
And your face displays a peaceful field.
I can't believe the curtain has to fall.

Now I know your years were never wasted,
Tonight I saw the magic in your eyes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Positive Attitude

Persephone has taught me a lot of things.  One of those lessons is simply to be positive about life in general.  In Persephone's eternal story, she is plucked from the sunshine and brought to the underworld where she does, indeed, learn to make the best of it.  She even embraces it in her role as Queen of the Dead.  Yet, each year she returns above ground to the promise of spring.  The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and the birds are singing.  Year after year, the cycle is the same. 

In my line of work, I see a lot of depressed people.  People without jobs and people who haven't been able to find employment for a while now.  The market is extremely tough. I am often surprised by how many people seem to put their head in the sand on this issues.  That 10% or more unemployment means that the market isn't job seeker-friendly.  They don't understand that they need to possess the exact skills for the job because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people competing for that same job.  And most of all, they don't seem to understand that expressing their desperation will not help them get a job.  I know it is hard.  I know money is tight.  I know a lot of people are about to lose their homes, but that doesn't mean the right approach is to walk into an interview and say to the employer, "I need this job because I am about to lose my home."  What an employer wants is someone to walk in and say, "I want this job because I can be a good employee and I will do the best job for you." 

It is easy for staffing industry recruiters to get burned out in this industry.  The constant demands of our clients and the constant drama of some employees or applicants can drive a person to want to crawl under a rock.  I can't create a job for you and I can't make the client select you, so sometimes I am on the receiving end of the misdirected frustration.

It must be the spring, though.  The dawning of new life and the return of Persephone that makes me realize that the positive attitude can make all the difference in the world.  If I were of a different religious persuasion I might encourage others to embrace this feeling for themselves, "Have you heard the word of the Goddess today?  Persephone who was drawn into the underworld for your comfort and the comfort of all and who returns each spring to bring new life to the world?"  I won't be doing that any time soon, but it doesn't mean I don't feel it - feel her presence and power each day as the year waxes toward summertime.  Oddly enough, it is a quote from the Christian Mystic Julian of Norwich that really sums up this feeling for me: 
"All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well."
photo by me

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Lectio Homerica: The Homeric Hymn to Demeter Part Four

It has been a while, so thank you for your patience.  Here is part four of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter along with my contemplative impressions. 

But grief yet more terrible and savage came into the heart of Demeter, and thereafter she was so angered with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos that she avoided the gathering of the gods and high Olympus, and went to the towns and rich fields of men, disfiguring her form a long while. And no one of men or deep-bosomed women knew her when they saw her, until she came to the house of wise Celeus who then was lord of fragrant Eleusis. Vexed in her dear heart, she sat near the wayside by the Maiden Well, from which the women of the place were used to draw water, in a shady place over which grew an olive shrub. And she was like an ancient woman who is cut off from childbearing and the gifts of garland-loving Aphrodite, like the nurses of kings' children who deal justice, or like the house-keepers in their echoing halls. There the daughters of Celeus, son of Eleusis, saw her, as they were coming for easy-drawn water, to carry it in pitchers of bronze to their dear father's house: four were they and like goddesses in the flower of their girlhood, Callidice and Cleisidice and lovely Demo and Callithoe who was the eldest of them all. They knew her not, —for the gods are not easily discerned by mortals —, but standing near by her spoke winged words:

“Old mother, whence and who are you of folk born long ago? Why are you gone away from the city and do not draw near the houses? For there in the shady halls are women of just such age as you, and others younger; and they would welcome you both by word and by deed.”

Thus they said. And she, that queen among goddesses answered them saying: “Hail, dear children, whosoever you are of woman-kind. [120] I will tell you my story; for it is not unseemly that I should tell you truly what you ask. Doso is my name, for my stately mother gave it me. And now I am come from Crete over the sea's wide back, —not willingly; but against my liking, by force of strength, pirates brought me thence. Afterwards they put in with their swift craft to Thoricus, and there the women landed on the shore in full throng and the men likewise, and they began to make ready a meal by the stern-cables of the ship. But my heart craved not pleasant food, and I fled secretly across the dark country and escaped my masters, that they should not take me unpurchased across the sea, there to win a price for me. And so I wandered and am come here: and I know not at all what land this is or what people are in it. But may all those who dwell on Olympus give you husbands and birth of children as parents desire, so you take pity on me, maidens, and show me this clearly that I may learn, dear children, to the house of what man and woman I may go, to work for them cheerfully at such tasks as belong to a woman of my age. Well could I nurse a new born child, holding him in my arms, or keep house, or spread my masters' bed in a recess of the well-built chamber, or teach the women their work.”
So said the goddess

I have to start by saying that I have been using the translation available on the Perseus Project, and I would really liked to explore some of the other translations available to as well.  Unfortunately, for today this one version will have to do. 

Here, however, we have the first introduction to Demeter's descent into the world of man.  I see it almost as a penance or a punishment, but it may have been so much more than that.  She goes all over our world, or the world as the ancient Greeks knew it, and only in one place did people show her this kindness, Eleusis.  This place, of course, would become the most sacred site in the story of Demeter and Persephone for all eternity.  Here she weaves an elaborate back story to keep her Goddess nature from being revealed.  I love that the Greeks often fell back on the pirates as the archetypal "Bad Guy".  Today, we have romanticized pirates to a great degree, but here Demeter describes the fictitious pirates that stole her from Crete and randomly plopped her down here on the Greek main land.  And because of the kindness of the daughters of the king of Eleusis, Demeter's entire story begins to unfold. This passage gives me a sense of excited expectation. Knowing the gifts that Demeter brings to the world and I am about to discover their secrets. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Persephone's Spring Feast

As I did at Christmastime, I thought this holiday would be a fine time to consult the Hellenic Cookbook for some yummarific recipes for your spring festivals.  As you might imagine, the book offers a varity for all of the traditional orthodox observances. 

They offer the Resurrection Feast, which is described as a "joyous gathering at the table immdiately following the midnight easter mass."  Christian or not, spring is the time for any sort of resurrection.  If you look at it in nature the trees are budding and the flowers are blooming.  If you look at it from my spiritual perspective, the deity of choice is Persephone returning from the underworld granting her mother, Demeter, permission to revive the world.   The Resurrection feast indicates that it begins with Greek Easter Soup and "may be followed by":

Varity Lamb Platter
(Chops, Liver, Lung or Kidney)
Colored Easter Eggs

As a continuation of the Easter/Spring Menu, the Hellenic Cookbook suggests the following items for Easter Sunday Dinner. 

Fruit Cup
Greek Easter Soup
Roast Spring Lamb with Stuffing
Wole Roasted Potatoes
Greek Salad Supreme
Red Eggs
Sweet Breads
Greek Easter Cookies

Everything sounds so wonderful, it is nearly impossible for me to decide which recipe from the book that I wanted to include.  I was just about to post the recipe for Greek Easter Soup, but it involves bits of offal that I am not sure I could bring myself to cook with.  Instead, I chose a recipe that I have made for Easter Dinner before.  I love this recipe for the way it is written.  You can hear your Yia Yia giving you instructions as you cook.  Trust me, if you try this it will be divine.  So, here is the recipe as it appears in the book.

Lamb with Macaroni or Spaghetti (Arni Guvetsi)

2 lbs. Lamb cut in peices
1 lb Macaroni or Spaghetti
1/2 cup butter
2 onions minced
Salt, pepper to taste
3 tablespoons tomato pate diluted in a cup of water

Brown meat in butter, together with minced onions.  Add diluted tomato paste, salt, pepper and enough water to cover meat.  Cook for one hour or until meat is partly done.  Add macaroni or spaghetti and continue cooking until macaroni is done.  If the liquid is absorbed before the macaroni is cooked, add a little hot water.  When served, grated cheese may be sprinkled on top if desired. 

Happy Springtime Resurrection and Renwal, however you celebrate it! 

(photo by me featuring my Nana's china and crystal set for Easter dinner)