Dea, Rites and Mysteries of the Goddess
Fellowship of Isis Liturgy by Olivia Robertson
The Mystery of Demeter and Persephone
Ritual no. 10
ORACLE OF THE GODDESS DEMETER
ORACLE OF THE GODDESS PERSEPHONE
Invocation: Queenly Demeter, Lady of the Golden Sword and glorious fruits, Bringer of seasons and Giver of good gifts, bestow on us from Your basket of corn the seeds of wisdom.
A grain of wheat is reaped in silence. The Teacher gives knowledge: the student through meditation receives that which is given, and by inner understanding transmutes knowledge into wisdom. This is the perennial teaching of Eleusis. That which was true is forever the truth, but knowledge manifests in different ways in the course of cycles. Look into the past and you will know the future: for the future lies buried in the past; and the past through action in the present brings about the future.
Invocation: Come to us, Persephone, Maiden of Spring: Olympian Goddess. Queen of the souls in Hades. Bestow on us the Blessings of the Deities above: be with us when we face the Mysteries of the Depths.
Harken to My words with your inner ear: and see with the Eye of Vision. The seed falls from the plant into the depths, there to draw within itself the element of growth. When spring comes the plant grows through the earth into the bright air. The great trees and the small wild flowers alike give their gifts of colour and scent and good food. The birds make their nests in branches and the bees and butterflies are enchanted by the many coloured flowers. But when the autumn comes what then of the plants and flowers? Their seeds fall into the dark earth, as I did: and they are reborn on earth, as I was. But their true Selves enjoy eternal beauty with Demeter and all Deities: as I do, now and forever more.
Mystery of Demeter and Persephone
Two altars are placed at either end of the temple. Green, South and Black, North. On the green altar let there be a basket of ears of corn and grain and a bowl of a brew of mint and oatmeal or barley. Before the altar flowers are scattered. On the black altar let there be pomegranates and apples, and many-coloured stones. If out-of-doors, a fire may be lighted between the altars for Hecate, and another by the black altar. These fires may be represented by burning charcoal. Hecate has a brand, if out-of-doors, or a white candle, if inside. A dog may represent Cerberus.
Neophyte: Revered Priest and Priestess, hear the plea of Demophoon: "When I was an infant the Earth Mother Gaia refused me the initiation of Olympian Demeter. She did this through the person of my mother, Queen Metaneira. Now that I am of age I ask that I be granted the Initiation of both Goddesses of Heaven and Earth."
Priestess: The soul awakens when the chrysalis breaks. - None may know that hour. Yet witness the Mystery of the Mother and Daughter that your mind may understand and your soul be nourished.
Priest: Let us with the Eye of Vision find ourselves upon the Plain of Enna in Sicily. Behold the mighty mountain Etna, with tree-clad slopes, before the Earth Mother shook it asunder with Her inner Flames.
Persephone with her friends perform a dance.
Priest: The Kore, Persephone, picks flowers and plays with the Daughters of Oceanus. Leucippe, Phaeno, Electra and Ianthe circle in a maze with Rhodes and Melita of the fragrant islands. Lache, Callirhoe and Melobosis pick flowers with Tyche, Ocyrhoe and fair Cryseis. Ianeira, Acaste and Admete clasp hands with blushing Rhodope of the lost sandal. Pluto, Calypso and Styx dance with Galaxaura; while Pallas who rouses battles tries the arrows of Artemis.
Persephone: Fair is this lovely meadow on the green slope of the beautiful mountain! Soft crocuses mingle with irises and hyacinths, with rose-blooms and lilies marvelous to see, and the narcissus which the wide earth causes to grow yellow as a crocus. But what is this radiant flower, a thing of awe for deathless Gods or mortal men to see? From its root grow a hundred blooms, and it smells most sweetly, so that all wide heaven above and the whole earth and the sea's salt swell laugh for joy! Persephone picks flower.
Priest: And the girl reaches out with both hands to take the lovely toy. But the wide-pathed earth yawned there in the plain, and the God Hades, Host of Many, with His immortal horses, sprang out upon Her. He caught Her up on His golden car, and bore Her away to His dark realm of Hades, that borders on the dread Fires of the Mother.
Hades steps forward and draws her to the black altar.
Priest: Behold Persephone has been rapt away by the deep plan of Her father Olympian Zeus, the Son of Cronos. She is hidden by Hades in the Underworld. The Goddess of the Golden Corn, rich-crowned Demeter, knows nothing of the deed, and with deep grief searches for Her Maiden Daughter.
Demeter: For nine days have I searched for Persephone, and all in vain. I will seek for Her in the Sphere of the Sun. "Bright-rayed Helios, hast thou seen My daughter, trim-ankled Persephone among Thy golden fleeced flocks in the blue sky?"
Helios: Noble Demeter, not in My Sphere is the Kore to be found. With My Golden Eye I saw Thy daughter carried away by dark Hades, Lord of Many, Brother to Olympian Zeus.
Demeter: Alas! Then She is lost to bright day and to My flowery realm. I will ask aid of Bright-Coiffed Hecate in the Sphere of the Moon. (Demeter moves away from green altar to Hecate.) Hecate of the Cross-Ways, hast Thou seen where the Host of the Shades has carried My Daughter, flowery Persephone?
Hecate: Sad tidings have I for Thee, golden-crowned Demeter. From My Sphere of the Triple Moon have I seen the Kore carried downwards, where I know not.
Demeter: Shining white-robed Goddess, give Me a burning brand from Thy Light and I shall seek My Daughter in the gloomy underworld.
Demeter draws a veil over her head and face. Hecate gives her burning brand or candle. Demeter approaches the black altar.
Charon: Who seeks admittance to the Underworld?
Demeter: I am the mourning Demeter. Let Me cross the Styx. May the hound Hades, Cerberus, let Me by.
Charon: Cross the Styx, by virtue of Thy bitter tears. Pass Cerberus through deep grief.
Demeter passes Charon and faces black altar. Hades confronts her.
Hades: Welcome to My dark realm, O My Sister Demeter. What woulds't Thee, the Goddess of fruit, trees and corn in this plane that borders the Fires of the Earth Mother.
Demeter: I come for My Daughter the Kore. Brother to Zeus, release Her.
Hades: So shall She will come with Thee.
Persephone appears with head and face veiled, and wearing an adder as a crown.
Demeter: My Daughter, leave this gloomy place and its black-browed King. Return with Thy Mother to the plain of Enna and to the Daughters of Oceanus.
Persephone: Here am I crowned Queen. I rule this realm with its buried treasures of knowledge and its many-hued jewels of power. Here will I remain.
Demeter: Persephone, give ear to My lament. Since Thou didst fall through the crack in the yawning earth, dark desolation covers the plain of Enna. The Fires of the Mother pour forth from the mountain and the bitter smoke of the Underworld covers the air; and it spreads to the wide-pathed earth. Silent is the Spring. Without Thy presence, birds fall in flight.
Grasses wither and the white grain cannot grow. Bitter are the wells and the streams, and flowers no longer bloom. Ships plough their way through poisoned fishes. Cows and bulls and sheep starve along with humankind. No creature will live without thee. None may live without a soul.
Persephone: I abandon My crown. I will return to the desolate plains.
Hades: Have pity, Persephone, my Queen. The sorrowing Shades here may not live without Thee. What are all the buried riches of knowledge and the shining jewels of Power without a soul? Stay with us O Daughter of Elysium.
Persephone: I shall stay with the Shades and bring them joy.
Hades: In token thereof eat Thou of these seeds. In the depths is the seed of wisdom grown.
Persephone eats a seed from a fruit offered her by Hades.
Demeter: Persephone has eaten the fateful seed. Now is She lost to Heaven. I will invoke the Olympian Gods for aid.
Demeter with Her brand makes the sign of the winged disc. Hermes comes to Her from the green altar, bearing his winged wand.
Hermes: Hear ye the wise counsel of Olympian Zeus and Queenly Hera. Through Balance is Harmony maintained. Let Persephone spend one third of the circling year with Hades in the Underworld. There She will rule in the Name of the Mother. For one third let Her dwell as Psyche upon the green earth. For one third may She dwell in the Olympian Heaven, a celestial Butterfly from Her chrysalis awakened.
Demeter: So may it be. She removes her veil.
Hades: Go now, Persephone, to Thy dark-robed Mother; go and feel kindly in Thy heart towards Me: for I shall be no unfitting husband for You among the deathless Gods, Who am Aidoneus, own brother to Zeus and Poseidon. And when Thou returnest here, Thou shall rule all that dwell in the Depths and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless Gods.
Persephone gives Him Her crown and removes Her veil. Demeter embraces Her and they return to the green altar.
Priest: And Demeter rushes forth as does a Maenad down some thick-wooded mountain, and Persephone ran to Her and falling upon Her neck, embraced Her. And when Mother and Daughter returned to the plains, spring came to all the wide earth. Enna, Rharus and Nysa, rich, fertile corn-lands once, lay idle and utterly leafless. But as springtime waxed, they were soon weaving with long ears of corn and their rich furrows were loaded with grain. And rich-crowned Demeter called forth the song of the birds: and the animals and Humankind were restored to health: and fruit sprang up from the Waste Lands. Poisons departed from the wells and seas. And lo, the acrid smoke came not to the blue sky, nor choked the golden fleeced flocks of Helios.
Demeter gives Priestess the basket.
Priestess: Demophoon, Your eyes have beheld the Two Goddesses. (She gives him grain from the basket.) Take this grain from the Basket of Demeter. An ear of corn is reaped in silence. (She gives him the brew.) Take this Holy Food of Mint and Corn from the Goddess Demeter and may it awaken thy soul to eternal life. (She scatters grain on the ground.) May all beings be blessed by Demeter and the bountiful Earth Mother Gaia.
Priest: Let us meditate on the Mystery of Demeter and Persephone.
Priest: Blessed are they whom the awe inspiring and revered Goddesses freely love. They do send Plutus as guest, Plutus, who gives hidden treasure of the Depths to all who seek. Lady, Giver of good gifts, Bringer of seasons, Queenly Deo, be gracious, You and Your Daughter, all beauteous Persephone, and give us heart-cheering Bliss now and ever.
Sources: “Hesiod, Homeric Hymns, Fragments of the Epic Cycle, Homerica”, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, Loeb Classical Library no. 57, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, and William Heinemann, London, 1959. "Eleusis, Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter", Carl Kerenyi, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1967.