Kore-Persephone Musings

I've noticed over the past few years that the idea of Persephone being raped by Pluton/Hades is not readily accepted anymore. Beautiful retellings of their story involving a deep love and passion are emerging and being rediscovered around every corner.

It makes sense that Kore would be relunctant to leave the land of the living and the arms of her mother, Demeter. What doesn't make sense is that she would be held against her will or openly give up the opportunity to not only be Queen of the Underworld, but also the Shepherdess of Souls.

It's possible Kore might not have embaced her destiny wholeheartedly at first. Could she have been afraid to grow and to be transformed? Did she fear these things the way mortals naturally fear the transformation of death? Could she have fought these changes the way mortals fight to survive?

Eventually it is the love of Pluton that changes her; that makes her whole, and helps her to realize her true potential and destiny. I don't believe a divine being like that could be a rapist. So, why do you suppose this story became twisted? Is there some patriarchal reason as to why Kore would need to be forced into becoming Persephone?

In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter Persephone (Kore) is given away to Pluton/Hades by Zeus (sometimes her father and sometimes her uncle). This rings of patriarchal influences and hints that a woman couldn't possibly have the power to think for herself and make the decision to change her existence. In no way does this speak about what we know of Goddess societies and it can only be assumed that the myths including aspects of rape are a later retelling of a very ancient story.

I found the passage below at The Other Ivy's blog, Stone Circle. I immediately fell in love with it and it suddenly resonated inside me like something true. It wasn't the first time I had heard of an alternate, non-rape version of the story, but it was so inspiring that I had to post it here along with my musings.
...No one understands anymore
how beautiful he was. But Persephone remembers.

Also that he embraced her, right there,
with her uncle watching. She remembers
sunlight flashing on his bare arms.

This is the last moment she remembers clearly.
Then the dark god bore her away.

She also remembers, less clearly,
the chilling insight that from this moment
she couldn't live without him again.

The girl who disappears from the pool
will never return. A woman will return,
looking for the girl she was...


- Excerpt from"The Myth of Innocence"
from Averno by Louise Gl├╝ck.

The Laws of Demeter


I was reading the book Mysteries of Demeter: Rebirth of the Pagan Way by Jennifer Reif when I came across the Thesmoi (Laws) of Demeter.

After an extensive search on Google I found no other versions of this so I can only assume that it's at the very least an interpretation of an original Classical Pagan text and not just the author's own view. If anyone can identify the original text that these laws come from please point me to it.

For the sake of argument (and because I think it can make for interesting conversation) I am going to treat these laws as a legitimate text of the Goddess. You'll find my interpretations and comments below.
I. Give praises to the Holy Mother - all that is born rises from within her.

II. All that sustains thee flows from her body.

III. The wise and Holy Mother pleasures in peace and honest labor.

IV. Tend to your life with gentle wisdom, and to your days with love's compassion.

V. Honor the Goddess' rites and mysteries - to bring justice, peace, and the nation's fertility.

VI. Know the cycle of the blessed seed as the mystery of the soul, revealed.

VII. Honor the pure and Holy Maiden, whose power is joy ever-reborn.

VIII. Praises to Royal Persephone, who at thy death will welcome thee.

IX. Praises to the Holy Mother, whose song is the light of eternity.

X. May you know your immortal being and drink of her cup everlasting.
Items I. and II. seem to be saying the same thing, though I think the second one is a reminder that we are not only born of the Goddess, but that she also sustains us. It speaks in metaphor about the Earth personified as Goddess - as the food we eat and the water we drink all being her and of her body. This reminds me of the Eucharist in a way... of the neo-Pagan rite of cakes and ale, etc.

Line III. says the Goddess likes it when we are peaceful, honest, hardworking people. In one sentence we are told that we should not create strife, war, kill, etc. - not lie - and be prepared to work for everything in our lives. In short - be peaceful, be truthful, and nothing comes easily so earn your keep.

In Law IV. we are told to "tend to our lives with gentle wisdom". Maybe this is too vague for me. I mean, I get it I guess, but I'm not sure what to do with it. Is it saying be gentle and wise with oneself or be gentle and wise with others? Or maybe it's saying both of those things. I understand the bit about love's compassion well. I think it's a reference to "loving thine neighbor" and treating others with love as a healthy mother does her children.

Number V. is a little odd to me I think. There seems to be some nationalistic flair to it that I don't understand. Or perhaps it's simply about agriculture because in ancient times without the rites of the Goddess, that were connected with the planting and harvesting of plants, there would be no food. With enough food there is less chance of war and injustice. Right?

I like VI. because it's saying that in nature the mysteries of the soul are shown to us and that only through this realization does the soul find freedom and peace. At least that's my take on it. I think it could also say "know that the cycles of the moon are the mysteries of the soul revealed" or anything with a similar cycle. Nature in general can be used here as well. This line also makes nature sacred by referring to the seed as blessed.

VII. is not distinct enough for me either. I understand it but again what do I do with it? We are told that the Maiden is joy ever-reborn. Okay. So there is rebirth and the Maiden is the personification of this concept. But then again so is the seed spoken of in the line above. Maybe it's saying to simply honor the Maiden concept during worship? Or maybe I need to think on this one more.

I think stanza VIII. tells us simply that in death Persephone is there to welcome us into the Underworld and that there is life after death. I notice the distinction between the Maiden and Persephone here though and see a triplicity not usually spoken about in the myths of Demeter. A complete Triple Goddess figure is seen (the Maiden/Kore, the Mother/Demeter, the Crone/Persphone) as opposed to just the "Twin Goddesses" or the mother-daughter concept most often emphasized. I think that's interesting and deserves more thought.

Is IX. telling us that in singing the Mother's song, or worshipping her, that we find the light of eternity? Is it saying that the Mother is the truth and the light a la Jesus? I'm not saying that in a bad way, only picking up on the correlation between two myths. Hmm... that makes me want to think on this one more too.

Line X. closes the laws with a phrase reminiscent of the Charge of the Goddess; "and mine is the cup of wine of life that is the Cauldron of Cerridwyn, that is the grail of immortality". The cup itself is Goddess imagery that resembles the womb and also the well-spring of knowledge that is the source; the Goddess. This line in essence says you are immortal and life is everlasting. If this is an ancient text after all then it's possible it had a hand in inspiring the Charge as well - not that the concepts are not universal to say the least.

Lilac Lessons and Dirty Hands

After four years of careful care and impatient waiting my little lilac is finally going to bloom. Of course the blooms look nothing like the picture above, which I found here, but I am hoping it's just because it's a different variety.

I consider the buds themselves to be little miracles; deep purple facets of hope and a testament to life. Everything finds a way to grow, bloom, and finally become something shamelessly beautiful.

Tomorrow I am going to make the first walk out to my humble herb garden, nested beneathe the triple cottonwoods that stand proud in front of the back acre. I know I will have a lot of clearing out to do but I am looking forward to getting my hands dirty and feeling the spring sun on my skin.

I hope the delicate lavenders are doing well and the soapwort I put in last year should be clinging to the stepping stones that run up the middle of the bed. I will talk to all of my green friends as usual and hope they will forgive me for neglecting them last year.

Then it's off to the vegetable garden to til and plant. I can't wait for fresh tomatoes in the summer and maybe we can finally get those carrots to grow. For some reason they are the most difficult little things to harvest in this area. We tried corn last year as well with very little luck. There was nothing knee-high by the 4th in our garden. But, we are still learning and the process is a journey that simultaneously nourishes body and soul.

Witches on MTV

I found this article and the videos that go with it to be really positive. Raven makes great points and he is extremely articulate with his words. The things said are very general but also very true. Spells really are just prayers and not every Pagan is a goth. Cool stuff. Be sure to watch the videos below. The second one begins right after the first one ends.




Link to the full article

Kali: Goodbye Obstacles

In the post just before this one I mentioned a painful time I recently experienced in my life. While I was thinking about this time I remembered that it began right after I had been practicing a mantra to the Goddess Kali everyday.

Kali or Kali-Ma is an element of Shakti who is known as a remover of obstacles, and the mantra was specifically designed to do just that. I personally see Kali as a dark aspect of the Goddess who transforms everything she touches.

So my question is, did Kali have something to do with this event in my life? Was this an experience that might fall into the category of birthing pains... as in "there is always pain before birth"?

"Something" was certainly removed from my life but it came back. I guess when I look at that "something" very closely it did not come back in the same form it was in. So perhaps the obstacle was removed, changed, then put back into place. Maybe that "something" couldn't be transformed by Kali until it was taken from me. And in that way both myself and the "something" were forever changed into new things.

I don't know. This is one of those metaphorical, esoteric talks I usually have with myself. Since I am finally opening up a little around here, I thought maybe I would present it to all of you too.

I've been thinking of starting the chanting up again but I am a bit gun shy as you can imagine. I know I still have obstacles to remove, but I'm not sure I can handle Kali's handiwork again just yet. We'll see.

Just an Imperfect Girl

First, let me just say that I have no idea where this post is going to go. I guess this will sort of be an exercise in mental diarrhea for me, but that's not really unusual. If you’ve been around here long enough you will know that I am a babbler and a rambler and prone to rants at times. I know that it’s mistaken for being disorganized, confused, etc. But honestly I think it’s because I’m far too passionate for my own skin and I never stop trying to figure out the great puzzle of life even when I have lost all the end pieces and the one piece I have left doesn’t seem to fit.

I have gone through a lot of changes this year. My life isn't the same as it was. Well, the physical day in and day out is the same as it was a year ago, but something inside me has shifted; flipped over onto its back like a struggling turtle. I'm not sure how to turn it around - or even if I want to.

I was once a very stubborn girl - more so than at present. I was once so head strong that I pushed away everyone that loved me. I know now that I did this unconsciously because I was afraid they would push me away first. They all stuck around for the most part, bless them, but sometimes I don't know why they did. I made things and personal causes more important... I made my religion more important... more important than people and love itself.

I am suddenly confused about my direction yet as steadfast as ever in what I believe. I think now I can say that what I believe in is love, and yes even the romantic kind. I was born a hopeless romantic. This is a detail of my personality that I had given up on for years, throwing that part of myself away like old leftovers molding in the fridge. Fairytales, romance, love, etc. became a bunch of BS because my life hadn’t turned out the way I had expected it to. It was easier and less painful to simply say it was someone else’s fault or some grand trick played on young girls whose reading materials are full of princesses and prince charmings.

And then suddenly the only love I had ever known wasn’t mine anymore. Suddenly there was this huge hole in my heart that I was terrified would never be filled again. I was left to coast on alone like a bird floating on the winds made by speeding cars over a highway. I hated it. For countless years I had wanted freedom. When it finally came my entire soul screamed out for the loss of what I had known and I began to fight like a cornered animal, determined not to give up until I got that piece of myself back.

During this time of struggle I became an ungrateful little child, turning to my Mother and asking “Why? Why is this happening to me? Have you left me too?” I was so angry, so hurt, and feeling so alone that even the Goddess could not give me any comfort. Or maybe I didn’t let her. Yes, I abandoned her and focused only on myself. I can see now that she came to me through my physical mother... the woman who gave birth to me in this life and who has never faultered in her love for me. During this painful time I knew she was there with her arms open, waiting to give comfort and listen to me.

Now I am feeling a bit more whole and I know the love has returned - rather it never really left me in a way - but I don’t know how to stop the fight and the fear that comes along with it. I don’t know how to find that head-strong sureness again. Maybe that’s a good thing though. Maybe I needed a stiff shot of humility. I don’t know.

I’m not perfect. I’ve been told that I think I am but I really don’t. I guess I have this nasty habit of being too blunt and sometimes people think I’m being condescending. Problem is… I want to be perfect. I want to live up to the expectations and be the good girl. I want to do everything right and be that perfect shining apple in someone’s eye. When I can’t be those things I throw up my hands and throw in the towel. There must be a middle ground hiding inside all this crazy emotion. I know it’s there somewhere. How to find it is another story.

Temple of Demeter

 Earth Mother, Mistress of the Grain, Great Ceres-Demeter

Endow me with your gifts
And the strength of a Mother's love.
Place your hand upon mine
That I might walk the paths where you've stepped
And learn the hidden ways of Eleusis.


Connecting with the Goddess

M U S I N G S
For centuries in Ancient Greece the ultimate vision of a mother was seen through the face of Demeter (Roman Ceres). She is most commonly thought of as Grain Goddess; a solely agricultural deity and patroness of those who work the land. This is far too simple a role for such an important Goddess as Demeter. To followers of her mysteries she was the caregiver of the Earth and all who lived upon it. In many ways she was seen as the Earth itself.


Kore, Demeter's daughter, brought the Goddess much joy and while Demeter could hold her child in her arms all was right on Earth. Crops grew, animals multiplied, and flowers colored the land in splendor. But then Kore was taken into the Underworld by Pluton (Hades). Demeter's joy turned into terrible sorrow. Her heart broke without her little girl and the Earth began to wilt and die. As the Goddess mourned, so too did the Earth. Fruit rotted on the vine, flowers turned black with death, and nothing would grow. The land was barren and empty like Great Mother Demeter's heart.


Demeter called to me initially on her own, as part of an ancient, timeless myth surrounded by mysteries and traditions that have captured the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world for millennia. Her daughter Kore (in her guise as Persephone) soon began to take my focus however. It was Persephone whose voice rang out the loudest and it is through her that the understanding of her mother comes into light.


Step into this little temple and reach out your arms to Mother Demeter. Raise them up as if you were young Kore and embrace the Goddess who is Mother of all Life. Walk up to her shrine and light candles in her honor. Beckon her to enter your heart and gift you will the lessons you require. And, as with her daughter Persephone, may her light embrace you, taking you into the hallowed caves of Eleusis with all the wisdom of an initiate.




U N D E R S T A N D I N G


Demeter was once called Ge-Meter or Earth-Mother. As I spent time with this aspect of the Goddess I came to the revelation that the triad of Kore, Demeter, and Persephone are all aspects of the earlier Greek Earth Goddess Gaia. It's not much of a stretch really as Gaia is seen as somewhat of a primordial, early incarnation of the Great Goddess. Gaia is the Earth in ways that at times can seem very literal. As time went on Gaia took on a more complex face and her aspects were split into different deities, all with a specific set of spiritual lessons to teach. Demeter is perhaps the face that is closest to the Great All-Goddess Gaia, as seen in mythology as the Earth personified.


In myth there are times when Demeter may seem very distant, like a mother who finds it difficult to be affectionate, yet can't let go emotionally either. Perhaps this is because she is very dependent. As with any triplicate form of the Goddess, each part is at the same time connected with the other two yet also separate and dependent on the other faces to function. Demeter has her own power - the power to make the Earth thrive or die - yet that power is subject to her moods and emotions.


Without Kore Demeter cannot function. Without Demeter the Earth dies. Perhaps Demeter gives a feeling that she is somewhat controlling because she is not actually in control at all. This is not to say that her other two aspects are not also dependent on her, but for Demeter dependence is something she seems to resent. She is the Mother. She is the one who gives life. Yet she must resign herself to the fact that she can't do it all alone; that she needs the love of her daughter to go on.


It seems to be that Demeter is a perfect archetype for many modern women, especially those with children. We try so hard to do it all on our own; raising children, working, taking care of the home. Sometimes it's easy to forget that we need anyone else and sometimes it's easy to resent that dependence when we are so used to being in control of everything.


On a more spiritual level, Demeter is the balancing aspect of the Gaian Triad. While Kore brings about the function of birth (conception), it is Demeter's job to nourish it within her womb and give it life (creation); to care for it until it returns to Persephone and another sort of womb in death (transformation).

Demeter gives care, compassion, and love the way a healthy mother does to her children. She needs nothing in return. Even when Kore goes missing, all Demeter wants is another opportunity to love her child. She is not ready to "cut the apron strings" and for a mother it is never the right time to let go of her children. Just because a mother must let her child go off into the world and find their way, does not mean that mother wants to be without her child or not be given the opportunity to be in that child's life.

So the Goddess is telling us, as her children, that she will never let us go. That though she gave us life and must allow us to fall down, skin our knees, and make mistakes, she will never leave us. And though at times she may seem distant and out of our reach she is forever looking for us and never giving up hope that we might find each other again and again.

So, after a great amount of musing I have come to some conclusions on keywords for Demeter. love, independence, and balance. (See The Three Keys for more on this process.)

Love
- All beings are capable of love.
- Love is the strongest force in existence.
- Life can only be nourished by other life.

Independence
- Independence is good but we must know when to accept help.
- Dependence should not cause negative emotions or distance.
- It is good to be needed and need others.

Balance
- There is balance in all things.
- Love must be balanced, firmly rooted in reality, and unselfish.
- Dependence must be balanced by self sufficiency.



Meditation and Worship


A L T A R   I D E A S

An altar to Demeter could be covered in white, yellow, red, or green fabric. In fact, any color can work with this Goddess. Set natural items on your altar such as cut grain, fresh flowers (poppies), and seeds. Altar figures can be purchased, created, or printed from your computer. Light candles in Demeter's name, perhaps even creating the candle holders youself, and honor her as you see fit.


S I M P L E   R I T U A L

Set up your altar to Demeter and prepare yourself for ritual/meditation in your usual way. Make offerings of any type of grain on your altar and say the following:

Mother, I must make this journey of life alone
But I know always that you are with me.
Your hand with never leave my hand.
Your heart will never be far from mine.
We are always together; always one.

Though I must journey alone I ask
That you lend me your strength in times of need,
Your shoulder in times of sorrow,
Your smile in times of joy,
And your love always.

When the time comes
I shall return to you
As in all things there is a cycle
That has no end.

Spend time in meditation reflecting on Demeter and the relationships in your life then end the ritual in your own way. Take the grain outside to return it to the Earth - to Mother Demeter.


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