Persephone Rising, Part 2 by Sara Wright

Part 1, from last week, can be read here.

For those folks in the southern hemisphere who are entering fall as we the northern climates enter spring I offer this next personal narrative.

Every Autumn I buy a smooth skinned crimson pomegranate to celebrate the Fall Equinox. But until this fall I have never intentionally bought a pomegranate to acknowledge the Persephone in me although her cyclic journeys to the underworld have also been my own. I have resisted my alignment with Persephone because I have come to fear my own descents. In the last few years these periods of depression have become more severe.

The September I turned 70 on the last day of the ancient celebration of Persephone’s Eleusinian Mysteries. I spoke out loud as I set my birthday intention. I am aligning myself with Persephone. I held a pomegranate in the open palm of my hand, thinking of the fruit as a symbol of my willingness to take this step. I also saw the beautiful round fruit as the Earth, imagining the ruby –like seeds imbedded in the soft white flesh as Earth’s possibilities. As I surrendered and finally accepted my mythic identity/alignment with Persephone, I experienced a subtle energy shift. I thought about the maiden goddess who becomes Queen of the Dead, and the one who makes predictable cyclic descents into the Underworld. As I breathed through my body I experienced a palpable sense of relief… I recalled the recent dream that informed me that the “Way of the Goddess” was my way, and that I had to choose her again. Not surprisingly within a few days I once again entered a state of profound depression during which time I suddenly remembered my first encounter with a pomegranate…

Continue reading “Persephone Rising, Part 2 by Sara Wright”

Persephone Rises, Part 1 by Sara Wright

While researching Minoan Crete I learned that each autumn young girls once gathered blue violet saffron crocus to leave as an offering for the Wild Crocus Goddess as they prepared for adolescent female initiation rites. I was intrigued by the reference to autumn because I associate flowers more with spring than any other season. From other sources I discovered that in Minoan Crete young girls also gathered bright yellow crocus to celebrate the Great Goddess and the return of the growing season and that yellow was the color associated with the Great Goddess because of the golden color of the dye made from the precious saffron crocus. Later in Greece during the Lesser Mysteries, flowers, especially yellow crocus were also picked to celebrate Persephone’s return from the Underworld. I was particularly delighted by the reference to Persephone picking bright yellow crocus because my relationship with this goddess has been a somber one; I have always associated her with death. And yellow is a joyous color that I associate with early spring.

I felt a wild sense of hope as a volcanic fire erupted inside me when I first imagined Persephone picking spring flowers because of my uncomfortable relationship with this mythical figure and also because I love flowers.

Continue reading “Persephone Rises, Part 1 by Sara Wright”

We Are Not Alone: Embodying and Re-enacting Ancient Wisdom by Carol P. Christ

A few nights ago, on the way to dinner, two friends and I passed by a small church near the old fortress in Ierapetra, Crete. The liturgy was broadcast via microphone and a crowd of people gathered outside the church. “Must be some kind of name day,” one of my friends commented, but I could not think of a saint celebrated on August 1.

We decided to light candles and make our prayers. I asked one of the Greek women the reason for the ceremony. “This is the first night of our celebrations for the Panagia,” she responded, referring to the Assumption of Mary that would occur on August 15. I looked around and saw that indeed many of the women were wearing black. “Of course,” I thought to myself. Continue reading “We Are Not Alone: Embodying and Re-enacting Ancient Wisdom by Carol P. Christ”

Persephone’s Return and the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne QuarrieMany of us are quite familiar with the story of Persephone and Demeter, the Greek myth behind the changing of seasons each year.

“The story basically goes that Zeus arranges a marriage for Hades, the God of the Underworld and the Dead. Zeus gives Persephone to him. Persephone is gathering flowers in a field when she is tempted by the sight of a narcissus. The flower, however, is a trap set by Gaia, acting on the instructions of Zeus, and when Persephone picks the flower the earth opens and the god of the underworld, Hades, also known as Pluto, kidnaps her and rapes her. Only Hecate, a daughter of Rhea, and Helios, the sun god, hear Persephone’s cries.

For nine days, Demeter wanders throughout the world searching for her daughter, carrying blazing torches and neither eating, drinking or washing. No one, god or mortal, comes to aid her.

On the 10th day, Hecate and Helios finally tell her what has happened. Demeter flees Olympus in anger and wanders the earth unrecognized until She comes to Eleusis.” (excerpt from Eleusinian Mysteries, Charles River Editors) Continue reading “Persephone’s Return and the Lesser Eleusinian Mysteries by Deanne Quarrie”

Dance of Persephone: The Trata of Megara by Laura Shannon 

Laura Shannon square cropIn a previous post on FAR I explored Greek Easter customs which interweave Christian and pre-Christian beliefs.  Today I would like to take a closer look at one of these customs, the women’s ritual dance known as Tráta, ceremonially performed on ‘Bright Tuesday,’ the Tuesday after Easter. Versions of Tráta survive in the towns of Mégara and Elefsina just west of Athens, on the island of Salamína directly across from them, and in the surrounding area as far as Thebes.

Elefsina, of course, is Eleusis, where for over 2,000 years the Eleusinian Mysteries enacted the story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone’s descent to the Underworld. Choral dance was a central part of the ceremonies at Eleusis – as at other sacred sites including Delphi, Knossos, Athens, and Vravrona – and the ‘Well of the Beautiful Dances’ can still be seen at the archaeological site. It is a a visible reminder of the circle dancing which was a part of the initiatory experience, bringing cosmic order – symbolised by the circle – into the human world. This is still one of the functions of the Tráta as performed today.


Eleusis – ‘Well of the Beautiful Dances’
Eleusis – ‘Well of the Beautiful Dances’

Continue reading “Dance of Persephone: The Trata of Megara by Laura Shannon “

The Dog Days of Summer by Carol P. Christ

Sirius in the Sky


Sirius rises late in the dark, liquid sky
On summer nights, star of stars,
Orion’s Dog they call it, brightest
Of all, but an evil portent, bringing heat
And fevers to suffering humanity. –Homer, The Iliad


The dog days of summer are associated with the reappearance of the brightest star in the sky, the “dog star,” also known as Sirius, just before dawn from July 23 until August 23. This star heralds the days of the most intense summer heat. Though this is the time of the summer harvest in Mediterranean cultures, it a time of death. Energy wanes. The grasses have dried out on the hillsides, plants in gardens will die too unless they are watered. The healthy “sit out” the heat of the day with closed shutters, while those who are old or very ill often give up the ghost. They say that this is also a time when babies are conceived during long and languid afternoon naps.

The Greater Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone were celebrated at the end of this period, and the Greek Orthodox festival of the Dormition (Death) and Assumption (Rebirth) of the Panagia (the Virgin Mary) echoes an ancient rhythm.

This year I have spent most of the dog days in air-conditioned rooms, feeling little inclination to brave the heat of the day even for a refreshing swim in the sea. During this time, Judith Plaskow and I completed the final draft of the manuscript of Goddess and God in the World and submitted it to our publisher: a midsummer harvest!

To be truthful, I also spent many of the dog days days glued to my computer watching reruns of D.C. Banks and Blue Murder. These days of rest were good for the knee I had injured earlier in the summer, which now is almost healed. They must have been good for my spirit as well, for a friend who had not seen me since late spring told me that I looked refreshed and renewed.

In nature, the death days of late summer are followed by rebirth. At the very time when the sun is at its most intense, the days become shorter—first imperceptibly, and then quickly. While sun “stands still” for several months, setting at more or less the same time before and after the Summer Solstice, all of a sudden (or so it seems), the sun sets half an hour earlier. From then on, it sets several minutes earlier each day: a clear indication that fall is on its way. Before long, the rains come and the hillsides become green again.

beachttime in anaxos by Andrea Saris

For me, August 14, celebrated in Greece as the day of the Dormition of the Panagia, marks the beginning of the end of the intense heat of midsummer. Yesterday, on this day, with some trepidation, I packed my dogs into a hot car and headed for the sea. Our favorite tavern was empty and a light breeze coming from the sea tempered the heat. A friend arrived unexpectedly, and—joined by my intrepid miniature schnauzer—we enjoyed a swim so refreshing we didn’t come out of the water until our fingers became wrinkled. Just before sunset my friend and I met again to ascend the stairs to the shrine Church of the Panagia on the Rock to light candles for Rebirth and Renewal, ending our day with dinner by the sea.

As I write the next morning, I feel poised on the edge of rebirth and regeneration. I don’t yet have new ideas in my mind, nor do I have the fullness of energy I know will continue to return as the heat wanes. I look forward to the coming of fall and await new green shoots of inspiration in my life and my work.

carol mitzi sarah

Carol P. Christ leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter).  Carol’s books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess; with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and forthcoming in 2016 from Fortress Press, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing. Photo of Carol by Shanti Jones. Photos of beach at Anaxos by Andrea Sarris.

Demeter – Mother of Creative Potential

JassyThis short paper was part of a series of assessment pieces for university where we had to imagine ourselves as people living in a number of ancient cultures. It addresses a very direct question: “Imagine you are in Ancient Greece sometime during the 5th century BCE and a family member is preparing to be initiated into the Mystery Rites at Eleusis. You have come to support them and join in the festival. Briefly describe your experience?”

It is the month of Boedromion (Late September/Early October) and the sixth day of the Eleusinian festivities held annually in the great city of Athens. I travelled some distance to take part in the nine-day festival held in honour of the ‘Greater Mysteries’ for which my niece prepared as an initiate. The city is alive with women, men and children from near and far. Many have come to take part and fulfil the countless functionary roles associated with the festival, along with the great crowd of initiates who have spent the past three days fasting and ritually preparing. Continue reading “Demeter – Mother of Creative Potential”

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