Last Sunday night I caught up on some overdue devotional work. The first ritual I ever wrote and led for other people was an Autumn Equinox rite for my local Womyn’s Spirituality Circle sometime in the late 1990’s. I dedicated the rite to Demeter and Persephone, and during the seasonal working we each put out a candle and spoke aloud what we were leaving behind in the light as we embraced the dark. I always had a hard time as the days became shorter (I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder a few years ago), and doing the work of honoring Demeter and Persephone and embracing the dark in one form or another at the Autumn Equinox has helped me cope with the dark time of the year.
I didn’t do it this year. I was running my Grove’s Autumn Equinox ritual to Dionysos and was absorbed with that when the Equinox rolled around. The Dionysos rite had a similar theme as my Demeter and Persephone work, and I figured I’d just make some offerings to Demeter and Persephone at home and move my Persephone doll to our Ancestor box to reunite with my Hades doll as I do every year and call it a season. But I never did that either. I just didn’t think about it, or when I did think of doing it, it just didn’t feel right.
Meanwhile, October came and October went. According to the Hellenion libation calendar which I try to follow even though I’m not a member, one should make a libation to Poseidon during the month of October. I had made a deal with him when I was at Lake Erie this past summer, and I owed him a bottle of Sailor Jerry rum and a bottle of Red Stripe beer. I told him that I would offer this during my October libation to him, but again, for one reason or another, that never happened.
Finally last Sunday night I made the time to make these offerings. I spent the daylight hours raking leaves and harvesting my herbs. While in my yard I realized that I had not done ritual in my outdoor ritual space since last year, so I decided to perform my devotional work there. I packed up my offerings, lit a sterno from my gas stove, pulled my cloak about me, and processed back to my ritual space.
I decided to offer to Poseidon first. I reminded him of my promise and told him that I would offer the Red Stripe once I could get it in a reasonable amount (I live in Pennsylvania, and my financial situation does not allow me to buy a whole case of beer just to get the one I needed, especially after I bought him the bottle of Sailor Jerry). I thanked him for coming through for me, and I read the Orphic Hymn to Poseidon. I had been really nervous about doing this libation since I really have almost no relationship with Poseidon, and quite frankly, he scares me. I began to pour the bottle over my altar stone, and after a while I felt him tell me to stop, and the rest of the rum was mine. It wasn’t more than a shot or two, but I drank it down in his honor. I then nervously took an omen with the Olympian Oracle. I grabbed the sea shell I keep in my oracle bag for some forgotten reason along with Iota and Zeta. I read the omen as, “Work hard and use wisdom, and you will be safe.” I still need to be cautious around Poseidon and his domain, but he has given me an opening to at least feel less afraid of him, so I took that as a good omen.
At that point I felt someone watching me, and I looked up and saw one of my next door neighbors looking at me from an upstairs window. I started to worry that my relatively new neighbors, who have seemed absolutely lovely so far, would start to “wonder” about me. But seeing as I had shared my herb harvest with them that day, I certainly hope they will give me the benefit of the doubt. All thoughts of neighborly harmony aside, I definitely did not want an audience while I performed my important work with Demeter and Persephone. I had poured a libation to Hermes over his herm at my ritual space’s entrance when I entered, and I called upon him as I cast a shield about me and my ritual space. I had a quick burst of a vision of Hermes laughingly leading the neighbor away from the window. Feeling more secure, I began the second part of my night’s work.
I decided to just perform the seasonal enactment portion of my ADF full Core Order Autumn Equinox ritual to Demeter and Persephone (included below for the curious). As I was looking through the script I saw that it said to make an offering of pork. “Crap,” I thought, “I had completely forgotten about that.” In past years I have made pork chops for dinner and then offered one to Demeter and Persephone, pork being a traditional offering during the Eleusinian Mysteries. The only pork I had on hand were some hot dogs in the freezer, and that just did not seem to me like something appropriate to offer these magnificent goddesses. I wracked my brain and scanned the contents of my refrigerator, but no worthy substitute presented itself. Suddenly the idea of offering a lock of my hair came to my mind, and it felt “right.” I still scrounged around for something else because honestly I worried about messing up my very new hair cut, but my reluctance only verified to me that it was the right thing to do. As I cut it and laid it on the altar stone, I knew in my heart it had been the correct thing to do. My omens from Persephone and Demeter were very favorable and meaningful. Persephone gave me Alpha, which I interpreted as “I will make it through the dark just fine and will be productive during that time.” Demeter gave me Xi which literally means, “there is no fruit to be taken from a withered shoot.” I interpreted this as, “know when something is over, and let it go.” As I honored Demeter as “Queen of the Harvest,” and as I had just spent the afternoon harvesting and hanging up the herbs from my garden, I specifically took this to mean, “The harvest is over.”
In that moment I knew why I did not do my work with Demeter and Persephone earlier. It felt completely and perfectly right to do it on the day I had raced to beat the early sunset to finish my actual harvest. These synchronicities rarely surprise me anymore, but they always feel really good.
Part of my 2014 herb harvest.
As I processed back to the house I saw that my neighbor’s blind was drawn. I finished up the evening’s work by reuniting plush Persephone with plush Hades. They are now laying together inside our Ancestor box.
Seasonal Enactment with Demeter and Persephone
Declaration of Initiation
Glorious goddesses, I come before you as your priestess.
I have been twice initiated into your mysteries such as we can know them today.
I have stood before others as you touched with my hands and spoke with my lips.
I have drunk the kykeon.
I have used the sacred objects, have seen the sacred images, and have heard the sacred texts.
I make this offering in remembrance and in thanks for all you have taught me.
Make offering of pork.
Cut the pomegranate in half.
Sing Persephone chant and raise energy.
Farewell dear Persephone as you return below
I’ll think of the splendid summer as sunshine turns to snow
Days are growing ever shorter, winter’s drawing near
I’ll embrace the triumphant darkness ‘til you reappear.
Eat six of the seeds. Offer the rest of the pomegranate to Persephone.
Dear Persephone, even as you go below, life shines within you. You must go into the dark for the flowers to bloom in the spring. So is it with me. I have eaten the seeds, and I too accept that I must face the dark. I mourn the loss of the light as you, beloved Demeter, mourn the loss of your daughter. But as I go within, my inner light shall guide me, the inner light that is fed by all I have harvested during the past six months. I embrace the dark half of the year knowing I am prepared to face what may come..
Hail Persephone, Queen of the Underworld! Pour libation of pomegranate wine.
Hail Demeter, Queen of the Harvest! Pour libation of beer.