Back to Mundane Life… Sort of

I’m finally back from Spring Mysteries Festival, and it’s taking me a while to recover. It’s always challenging returning to the mundane (“normal”) world after spending the better part of a week in magical space.

Persephone Returns HomeI think this was more challenging than in the past because I really pushed my limits this year. Besides being the Vessel of Persephone, I was also the ritual director for the event, and I was part of a couple of other rituals leading up to the main rituals on the weekend.

Leading up to Spring Mysteries, I had already drained my reserves pretty low. I’ve been working with my naturopath to figure out what has been causing fatigue, and we are finally getting closer. However, I’ve been dealing with fatigue for months, and keeping a very busy schedule in spite of the exhaustion. There was only one weekend I had off rehearsals since January, and that weekend was spent sewing costumes.

The week before I left for Mysteries, I stayed up late every night to get the final touches on my (and my husband’s) costumes finished, and packing everything we would need for our week plus trip. We arrived at the last rehearsal ready to drop.

I recovered a little during the couple of days between final rehearsal and the event itself. The cold I had been fighting off for weeks threatened to take me out, but I managed to ward it off, using every natural remedy I had on hand.

The event went BEAUTIFULLY! There were only a couple of minor hiccups that were barely noticeable. Many said the event was one of the best yet. My Circle mates made me proud with how much they helped with the clean up on the final day.

And then, I crashed. I was pushing through, because there was more to be done, when Bella came and took my hand, and told me to come with her. She made me rest, and took care of me, and so many people loved on me. It was absolutely, positively, exactly what I needed. I cried and cried and cried from the release. There wasn’t anything wrong, there just wasn’t anything LEFT.

Once home, I slept, and had a massage, and went to the chiropractor, and slept. I ended up taking an extra half day off work and slept. On the weekend (I had a weekend!) I slept until noon, or almost noon. I allowed myself to NOT get into any of the projects I’ve been putting off until after Mysteries. I read a book that had nothing to do with Greek mythology, or self help, or school (it was an autobiographic look at one woman’s family and their experiences with residential school in BC).

I’m back to work now, and teaching, and so many other things. The Goddesses are with me, behind the veil, though I can feel them and connect when I want. I can feel that my energy reserves are still low. I’m working to rebuild. We’ll see how long I can keep still the pace slow slower than it was.

Blessings,

Mary

The Countdown is on!

I can hardly believe it is almost Spring Mysteries (Happy Equinox, by the way). This coming weekend is the last rehearsal before we are on site for the Festival. Which means I have less than a week to finish my costumes, and my husband’s costumes, and a few other details.

persephone returns by madam monte cristo

persephone returns by madam monte cristo

I’m feeling the pressure! I’m tired (it’s been a really long run this year). I’m feeling cranky, because stress. I’m making good bad choices – I REALLY want junk food, because I tend to eat my stress – but instead of getting Cool Ranch Doritos, Dr. Pepper, and peanut M&Ms, which are all full of foods I am nit supposed to eat, I am getting salt & vinegar chips (the ones WITHOUT milk – and as an aside, who needs milk products in salt & vinegar chips???), and kombucha.

I wonder if Persephone feels like this every time she goes between Underworld and Earth?

You won’t hear from me now until the week after Spring Mysteries Festival. I’ll be up to my eyeballs in preparation, and then recovery. See you on the other side!

Blessings,

Mary

Pomegranates and Poppies

One of Persephone’s main symbols is the pomegranate. Homer tells us that Persephone ate 6 pomegranate seeds in the Underworld, and that is why she must spend six months with her husband and six months with her mother. We have winter when Persephone is with her husband because Demeter mourns. When the daughter returns to the mother, she is happy and the world blooms and grows once again.

Besides the pomegranate, though, I wondered what some of her other symbols might be. I mean, she has a lot of epithets – among the most well known are Kore (maiden), Cthonia (of the earth, especially deities who lived in the Underworld), Daeira (knowing one), Praxidike (exacter of justice), Iron Queen (for a longer list of Greek epithets, click here) – and I wanted to know what other symbols are sacred to her.

poppies in wheat fieldFlowers are an obvious one. Persephone is the Maiden of Flowers. She was abducted while picking flowers in a meadow. The narcissus is the flower that captured her attention and allowed her to be taken. Early on in my journey with her, she told me to walk on lavender flowers –

Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It also has antispasmodic, analgesic, detoxifying, hypotensive and sedative effects.   https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/lavender-oil.aspx 

Meditating with Persephone, and the poppy came to mind. I remember from when I was working with Demeter that the poppy was often associated with Demeter, because you often find poppies in wheat fields. I found some references online to a myth that the poppy was created to help Demeter sleep when she was in her deepest mourning searching for her daughter, though I couldn’t find an actual myth reference to that. I did find this very brief reference on Theoi:

MEKON (Mecon) A man loved by the goddess Demeter who was metamorphosed into a poppy flower.    http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/DemeterFamily.html

And this interesting tidbit:

Virgil, Georgics 1. 208 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.):
“When the Balance [Libra] makes the hours of daytime and sleep equal [in autumn], and now parts the world in twain . . . then is the time to hide in the ground your crop of flax and the poppy of Ceres [Demeter].” [N.B. Poppies and flax were apparently planted to revitalise the soil in the crop rotations.]    http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/DemeterTreasures.html#Plants 

So, the poppies were sown in the autumn… when Persephone left for the Underworld… They revitalized the soil for the next growing season. They literally transformed the Earth so that it would be fertile in the spring.

Another fascinating connection between poppies and wheat is as a cure for ergot poisoning.

Poppy leaves when bruised and mixed with vinegar, barley meal, and hog’s grease, will cool all inflammations and the disease called St. Anthony’s fire [ergot poisoning]  https://nutritionalgeography.faculty.ucdavis.edu/poppy/

Ergot is a fungus that grows on grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Some scholars suggest that psychotropic substances, like ergot or amanita, were a part of the rites at Eleusis. If this theory is correct, then the poppy mixture would have been a key medicine to have on hand in case of adverse reaction.

The more I search, the more I feel that poppies in the wheat fields are a visual and herbal representation of the Holy Daughter and the Great Mother, Persephone and Demeter.

What if the poppy was a gift from Persephone to Demeter so she could rest and revitalize through the winter, and also be reminded of her daughter with the bright red flower? As well as make the fields ready for the spring planting of the wheat? And to heal from the poison of her anger and depression?

Blessings,

Mary

Persephone Speaks

I was meditating with Persephone this morning, and my mind wandered. I kept thinking about the things I had to do for work, or how I was going to do a sewing project, or… any tedious thing.

So I apologized to Persephone, for not being able to stay focused.

The Blood of a Pomegranate by Stephen Mackey

The Blood of a Pomegranate by Stephen Mackey

“It’s all right,” she told me. “I understand. You have a lot of burdens and responsibilities. So many of them. I know you dream of getting away. It would be nice to crawl underground and rest. However, I have even more responsibilities in the Underworld. Here I am Queen. Even when I do go back, while it seems like a break to be the Maiden of Spring, my responsibilities are still here in my kingdom. They don’t go away.

“There was a time where I wanted more – more responsibility, more respect, more adventure, a greater feeling of contribution. Be careful what you wish for! Though I would not trade my story for anything.

“Remember that my power came through adversity. Your strength and your power also comes through your challenges and adversity. Use it. Hone it. Own it. Transform it. Allow it to transform you. You have no idea how strong you really are, how much you can accomplish. Keep pushing.”

This message was meant for me. Hopefully you find it meaningful too.

Blessings,

Mary

Book Review: Persephone

One of the things I do when I am preparing for Spring Mysteries is read as much as I can. I read scholarly research, websites, devotional anthologies, and fiction. Yes, I enjoy reading modern fiction about the Gods.

Persephone by Kaitlin BevisI don’t often expect a lot out of the fiction, especially because much of it is Young Adult. (I’m not knocking Young Adult Fiction – there’s some pretty amazing stuff out there in the YA genre. There’s also some pretty amazing drivel.) For example, a few years ago, I read a YA novel about the Furies being modern day teenage girls. It was a nice distraction, but I didn’t give much weight to it’s interpretation of the Furies.

So I wasn’t expecting a lot when I came across a book in the library’s e-book section called Persephone by Kaitlin Bevis. Especially because the description read:

The “talk” was bad enough, but how many teens get told that they’re a goddess? When her mom tells her, Persephone is sure her mother has lost her mind. It isn’t until Boreas, the god of winter, tries to abduct her that she realizes her mother was telling the truth. Hades rescues her, and in order to safely bring Persephone to the Underworld he marks her as his bride. But Boreas will stop at nothing to get Persephone. Despite her growing feelings for Hades, Persephone wants to return to the living realm. Persephone must find a way to defeat Boreas and reclaim her life.

Boreas? Trying to abduct Persephone? And THAT’S why she ends up in the Underworld? I really wasn’t expecting much. Boy, was I surprised! Well, once I got past the Boreas bit.

I truly enjoyed Ms. Bevis’s dialogue, especially between Hades and the crew in the Underworld. She writes a human-ness into the Gods, even while setting them apart from the rest of the humans. She creates a very logical world, with interesting rules such as, the Gods cannot lie; the Gods require worship to survive; worship is a broad term that includes people believing in them, as well as arguing about them, for example, whether or not Helios and Apollo are the same.

Kaitlin Bevis has definitely done her mythology homework, even if she does bend a bit here or there (even Rick Riordan does that). And for the record, Boreas did kidnap Oreitheiya in classical Greek mythology. I’m not convinced that is how winter began, but the rest of the story is engaging enough that I can suspend my disbelief.

In fact, I so thoroughly enjoyed the first book, that I went out and purchased the Kindle version of all of the books in her Daughters of Zeus series. There are three Persephone books (Persephone, Daughter of Earth and Sky, and The Iron Queen), and three Aphrodite books (Aphrodite, Love and War, and Venus Rising). It’s been just over a week, and I only have the last one left to read.

If you like mythological fiction, I highly recommend Kaitlin Bevis’s books.

Blessings,

Mary

PS. Full disclosure: if you buy any of the books I recommend, I receive NO commission. Enjoy!

 

Breakdown, No Breakdown

I don’t know if you noticed. I didn’t blog last week. That’s because instead of making it home after rehearsal for Spring Mysteries, we were stuck in Washington.

As we were on our way to rehearsal, the battery light came on. There didn’t seem to be any other effects, and it didn’t come back on after we made a stop, so we hoped it was just a fluke.

It wasn’t. The battery light came back on as we were on the way home. When we were about 40 miles from the border, the engine began revving high, and then other indicators started lighting up the dashboard. We pulled off at the next exit, which thankfully wasn’t far, and also had a gas station. Also, thankfully, we switched our cell plans a while ago so that we don’t have extra charges when in the US.

The first phone call I made was home to my eldest, who thankfully was home, and has his drivers license. I asked him to drive his brothers to school the next morning. My husband went into the gas station and got the phone number for a local auto shop. Next I called friends in Washington, Bella and Dusty. They agreed to come pick us up so we could stay with them for the night, and help us get back the next morning.

Then I sent a text message to the manager at work, letting him know I wouldn’t be in on Monday. He was awesome about it, asking if there was anything he could do to help. (There wasn’t, and it was nice to be asked.)

While we were waiting, I was patient and read. There was no panic. No freak out.

I had one moment of stress a couple of hours later. Our friends had over an hour drive to get us, and we had not eaten. We stopped for food, and it wasn’t quite what I had been looking forward to having (before the van stopped working). I was hungry, and the reality that I wasn’t going to see my boys or sleep in my own bed hit me pretty hard. With a couple of hugs, and a dose of Rescue Remedy, the moment passed quickly.

The next day, our friend Dusty took amazing care of us. He drove us to our van, and followed us to the auto shop to make sure we made it safely. Then he took us to lunch and to hang out with another friend while we waited for the repairs to be completed. The shop was able to replace the alternator (which was the problem) within a few hours. And the repairs didn’t cost more than we were able to cover.

For something that wasn’t a fun situation, it really had the best outcome possible. I am so grateful that it all went so smoothly and easily. And even more, I’m grateful that I was able to handle it without breaking down or getting upset with anyone.

The Universe threw me one more curve – Friday morning, the van had the exact same symptoms, as I was driving my boys to school. I got them safely to school, and the van to the shop. By sheer dumb luck, the part that was replaced was faulty. Our local shop was able to repair our van, again, and in time for us to make the trip to rehearsal. They are checking on the warranty on the part for us. Once again – so full of gratitude!

Blessings,

Mary

 

The Journey Begins Once More

This weekend was the first read through for Spring Mysteries. I’m in for a busy spring!

SMF Poster 2018We only finished revising the script Thursday evening. We had tried to complete it the week before, and the internet went out at the Tab…for the better part of a week. However, we got it done at the 11th hour!

I took Friday off work, since the boys were still out of school, and we did some shopping in Vancouver and Washington. It was a VERY long day – getting up for one of the first ferries, to make sure we had enough time to do all the errands we had planned.

The nice part of that was we got to spend Saturday with our spiritual family, and connecting with the people who have held our roles in previous years. However, that meant that Saturday was another LONG day of rituals!

Sunday was the read through. We actually got to read through the entire script! There are still a few tweaks to be made, and it was wonderful to hear the interactions between cast members. I’m really looking forward to what this year, especially the next few months, has to bring.

It was still a rush to make the not-last ferry to get home. We made it right about midnight. I’m tired. And I’m looking forward to next weekend already!

Are you registered for Spring Mysteries Festival? It is well worth the pilgrimage…

Blessings,

Mary

Coming of Age

The last few weeks I’ve focused on Hades’ abduction of Persephone, and whether or not it was rape, or rather, sexual assault.

While that’s a big part of the story, it’s not really the main theme. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter is really about Persephone coming of age, and separating from her mother; becoming an adult, if you will.

Demeter and Persephone by Sandra M Stanton

Demeter and Persephone by Sandra M Stanton

At the beginning of the Hymn, Persephone is out picking flowers with “the full-bosomed daughters of Okeanos”. Among the many flowers she plucks, she sees the narcissus, “wondrous and radiant, and a marvel to be seen by immortal gods and mortal men”.  This plant, a lure set by Gaia (supposedly at the will of Zeus, though that is open to some debate), represents Persephone’s desire for change.

She is the Kore, the eternal Maiden, forever the Mother’s daughter. She is her mother’s whole world, and Demeter is definitely not ready for her to stop being a little girl. And this is really why Hades goes to Zeus to ask permission – because Demeter would never give it.

Yet what young woman would want to stay a girl forever? At some point, every adolescent wants to become an adult, to become a person independent of their parent(s). Persephone picks the narcissus, the flower that represents self-love, to signify that she is ready for the next stage.

Is she really, though? What adolescent is truly ready to be an adult? Which of us has clarity about what will happen when we strike out on our own? Which of us, when faced with the harsh reality of our choices doesn’t long for the simpler days of our childhood? (OK, not everyone’s childhood was simple. And often, even challenging childhoods were simpler than those first forays into adulthood when we think we know more than we do.)

Faced with the sudden change from the bright, nurturing world of her mother, to the dark, lonely world of her husband, Persephone missed the former. The change she asked for was not what she expected. However, that doesn’t mean she truly wants to go back to her old life. She wants the reassurance that she can go back, that her mother still loves her. And she wants confirmation that she made the right choice.

Before Persephone returns to her mother, Hades “gave her to eat a honey-sweet pomegranate seed, contriving secretly about her, so that she might not spend all her days again with dark-robed, revered Demeter”. Again, a choice. She could go back to her mother and stay there, returning to the earth and the life she knew, never having to return to her abductor. She has a perfect out – Zeus ordered it.

That’s not what she wants, though. A mind once expanded can never go back to the size it was before. She has had a taste of freedom, of independence, at least as much as a woman in ancient Greece might be afforded. Hades promises, “When you are here you shall be mistress of everything which lives and moves; your honors among the immortals shall be the greatest.”

She tells her mother, “Aidoneus (Hades) slyly placed in my hands a pomegranate seed, sweet as honey to eat. Against my will and by force he made me taste of it.” She’s afraid of her mother’s wrath; she is still a young woman seeking her mother’s approval. So she bends her story to the tale she thinks her mother wants to hear, and is most likely to tolerate. Her story is accepted, and she avoids conflict with Demeter, while asserting her will over her future.

The Hymn to Demeter is as much a story of Persephone’s coming of age as it is about a mother’s grief at her daughter growing up. It shows Persephone gaining agency over her life. She may not yet be ready to entirely face the consequences of her choices, and that is part of her learning process. She is testing out that agency, and finding out what others around her are willing to accept.

Blessings,

Mary

 

The Rape of Persephone, Part 3

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve established that the “Rape of Persephone” refers to abduction rather than sexual assault. However, Persephone’s myth often speaks to those who have experienced sexual assault. So it makes sense that some see it as assault.

Rape by modern definition or ancient definition aside, Hades still abducted her and held her in the Underworld. How long was she there before Zeus sent Hermes to retrieve her?

It must have been quite some time, at least by human standards. Zeus only made his decision because he was no longer receiving offerings at his altars and temples because so many of the humans had died due to the blight Demeter had caused. It would probably take a few years for enough people to starve to death that no one was honoring the Gods. Or the equivalent of years, because supposedly there were not seasons before this myth.

And what are years to an immortal being? How long does it take for an immortal to grow from an infant to an adolescent to an adult? We don’t hear much about the childhood of the different Gods. Zeus was raised in secret, with no indication of how long it took. Athena sprang fully formed from Zeus’s forehead; Artemis helped deliver her twin brother after she was born; Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle when he was just an infant.

What may take years for mortals, may seem like mere minutes to a God or Goddess. We really don’t know. Would it have been enough time for Persephone to develop an attachment to her captor? Would it even have been enough time to realize that she was a captive? Probably, actually.

Demeter goes through quite a lot in between Persephone’s disappearance and her return. She grieves. She blights the earth. She wanders for nine days before learning what happened to her daughter. Once told, Homer merely says she wandered “a long time” before settling in Eleusis, where she became nursemaid to Queen Metaneira’s son Demophoon.

Persephone therefore spend at least a few weeks in Erebos, if not closer to a couple of years. There definitely would have been time to realize that she was not free to leave, whether because of Hades himself or the rules of the Underworld. Or perhaps simply because she didn’t have a guide to get out. (“One does not simply walk out of Erebos…”)

Homer doesn’t tell us what happens, other than through what Persephone tells Demeter upon her return, which still isn’t much. She tells of Hermes arrival, and Hades giving her the pomegranate seed, and then of her abduction. No romance, and no tales of torture. No horror stories of how badly she was treated, and no protesting of how wonderful or kind or misunderstood her captor might be.

Generally speaking, Stockholm syndrome consists of “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”

Mackenzie, Ian K. “The Stockholm Syndrome Revisited: Hostages, Relationships, Prediction, Control, and Psychological Science”. Journal For Police Crisis Negotiations. 4: 5–21 – via Wikipedia.

There is no textual evidence that Hades harassed, beat, threatened, or abused Persephone. Intimidated? Maybe. I’d be pretty intimidated if the Dark Lord abducted me! If he were an abusive partner, though, I doubt he would encourage her to go back to her mother, and promise her great honor by ruling at his side.

To me, Hades seems like a very lonely God, who only wanted someone with whom to share his rule. His actions were misguided by our modern standards, but not out of line for the laws of the time.

Next week I’ll talk more about Persephone’s coming of age, and how that plays into the myth.

Blessings,

Mary

The Rape of Persephone, Part 2

I have long comforted myself by saying the definition of rape was different for the ancients. As we found last week, it simply meant abduction, or kidnapping.

The Rape of Persephone (Enlèvement de Proserpine d'après) by Creator: Alessandro Allori [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Rape of Persephone (Enlèvement de Proserpine d’après) by Creator: Alessandro Allori [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Now, Greek mythology is no stranger to our modern definition of rape. You could say that Zeus’s exploits are the antithesis of consent. There is no shortage of jokes about Zeus not being able to “keep it in his pants”, or chiton, if you will. Pan, Poseidon and Apollo might also be accused similarly. However, there aren’t many myths about Hades forcing himself on whatever female he happens to find attractive in that moment. (Though one could say he just doesn’t get out much, and you wouldn’t be wrong.)

I believe that an important part of understanding myth is understanding the culture and circumstances at the time. Essentially, we cannot judge myths from our place of modern morality. Baring the Aegis has a fantastic article breaking down the understanding of rape in ancient Greek culture:

We tend to equate ‘rape’ with the absence of love and mutual consent, but in ancient Hellas, marriage itself was an agreement between men about a woman. Rape in ancient Hellas was therefor not tied to the approval of the woman–any sexual act on her part was performed without love and consent anyway–but to the approval of the men surrounding her.

…Ancient sources also tell us that men were only punishable for sexual assault or rape if they raped a woman–or possibly a man–above their own rank. No one was punished for raping a slave, for example, and the practice was common.

So then, what of Gods? It stands to reason that hierarchical rules also apply here, as myths are formed by the men who tell them. Who is higher in rank than a God? And, above all, who is higher in rank than Zeus? If Zeus desires a woman, He is free to take her under ancient Hellenic law. It also stands to reason that a God lower in standing, say Apollon, would be punished severely for raping a Goddess above his standing. If Zeus had not claimed Hera, and He [Apollon] had laid claim to Her, I am sure He would have been unsuccessful, and perhaps would even have been punished.

~Elani Temperance, “Rape in ancient Hellas and Hellenic mythology”, Baring the Aegis

Looking at the myth in this context, there was definitely no rape involved. Hades and Zeus made a contract. Persephone was exchanged from Father to Husband as part of that contract. Hades was definitely above Persephone in the hierarchy, so he wouldn’t even have needed to ask for Zeus’s permission to marry her. And yet he did ask permission.

Asking permission for marriage isn’t something we often associate with rape. Granted, there are cases of domestic violence that start out innocent enough. Yet, when Hermes comes to Hades relaying Zeus’s order that Persephone be returned to her mother, Hades states:

“Persephone, go to your dark-robed mother,
with a gentle spirit and temper in your breast,
and in no way be more dispirited than the other gods.
I shall not be an unfitting husband among the immortals,
as I am father Zeus’ own brother. When you are here
you shall be mistress of everything which lives and moves;
your honors among the immortals shall be the greatest,
and those who wrong you shall always be punished,
if they do not propitiate your spirit with sacrifices,
performing sacred rites and making due offerings.”

~Apostolos N. Athanassakis, The Homeric Hymns, 1976 The John Hopkins University Press

“I shall not be an unfitting husband…” implies that he has not yet consummated the marriage. A few lines earlier, “He [Hermes] found the lord inside his dwelling, sitting on his bed with his revered spouse; she was in many ways reluctant and missed her mother, who far from the works of the blessed gods was devising a plan.” Again, nothing here says Hades has forced himself on Persephone.

Next week I’ll look at the argument of Stockholm Syndrome. Until then,

Blessings,

Mary