Monday, June 28, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Kore is the cult name of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld in Greek myth, in Her aspect as the Goddess of springtime and daughter of Demeter, the Goddess of the Earth and agriculture. She last came up in the early spring, which I thought at the time a fairly literal sign of the changing seasons; this time, as it's just after Midsummer's, I'm more inclined to interpret it a little more abstractly.

Kore, Whose name simply means 'Maiden,' was just a girl when She was abducted and raped by Haides, the King of the Underworld. Demeter, in Her grief, rage, and worry for Her daughter, dropped all Her usual duties to find Kore, which meant that while She searched, the Earth and its crops, and the people dependent on them, suffered. As did the Gods, in time, when humans could no longer manage to make sacrifices to Them (what with the starving and all). This, incidentally, was the reason Zeus eventually relented and ordered Haides to return Kore—not so much that the humans of the Earth were suffering greatly, but because He wasn't getting his special snowflake honors. Dick.

When Kore was finally returned it would not be wholly, for She had eaten several pomegranate seeds while in the Underworld, and Divine Law decreed that whoever had eaten there was compelled to remain. But Demeter would not hear of it, and threatened the Earth with permanent barrenness, so a compromise was reached: Kore would spent part of every year in the Underworld, and the rest on the Earth.

This was given as the explanation for why the different seasons exist—for while Kore is in the Underworld, Demeter, still outraged by Her daughter's abduction (as well as, one suspects, the subsequent 'compromise') withholds Her gifts and it is winter; but When Kore is released back to the upper world, Demeter welcomes Her with the luxuriant growth of spring.

Of course, Persephone was most likely the Queen of the Underworld first, not second; but myths can be like that and get things inside-out. Her tale of abduction and release of course also formed the thealogical basis for the Eleusinian Mysteries, which promised its initiates a life after death, based on (probably) the idea that Persephone, Goddess of the Dead, goes on to give birth in the Underworld. There is Life even within Death.

At the final point in the Mysteries, initiates were shown a cut ear of wheat as epiphany. The symbolism of the cut grain is very complex, of course; part of it in this story is that it represents the point in the cycle that is both beginning and end, where the grain is ripe, cut, harvested, and can now serve as food; but at the same time it is a seed, the beginning of the next generation and the key to continuity though it is now dead and cut. Which is why Mother and Daughter in this tale are so close, and depicted in art both as adults, the Mother and Her grown Daughter; They are in many ways the same figure, just at different points in the eternal cycle.

There are so many layers to this, so many spiraling cycles, of course; another one is that even while Persephone is underground, buried, She represents the Seed biding its time, that little thing, that germ, which contains within it the entire pattern of the full living thing, and which though it may appear to be inert or dead, is quite definitely alive.

Sometimes I think that all religion boils down to that one little idea, the Seed.

This card this week means a corner has been turned. Though it is (officially) modern summer up here in the north, the theme is yet that of springtime, of emerging from a dark place into the light to a place of growth and thriving. Especially, I think, as far as health and the body are concerned, our own little personal pieces of Earth. Things are improving, and healing, and getting better all the time. If this does not feel true for you, nevertheless know that it is, and that after a space you will almost certainly be able to look back on this time and trace back to the one little thing that changed it all, though it may seem insignificant now. Trust, I think, is a large part of this.

As ever, I ask, What does the Goddess have to say?

Put your feet on the earth, get your feet good and grounded; you must be grounded first for growth to occur. Preferably at the proper planting depth for you. Work on this, this grounding. Connect. Feel the Earth, your home, my home, our home. You need a strong foundation to simply stand up straight, which you must do before you can expect to build upon it. Feel it; it is yours, your birthright. You belong here.

Once you can do that, then you can unfurl into the light, the rain, and the air. So many get the order incorrectly, then wonder why things collapse around them. You must start with the basics; they form the base, after all. Air, Light, Water, Food: seek these and the balance of them now.

What do you think?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Goddess of the Week

Well now that makes sense. The faeries are legendarily quite active around Midsummer, especially on the Eve. The veil between the worlds is said to be quite thin now, as well. I've always thought that it's because in the northern lands (and even here in New England, which isn't all that far north really) at Midsummer the sky never quite gets entirely dark, and keeps a bit of that luminous twilight glow to it even in the wee hours. And if there's one thing the faeries love it's the twilight and the in-between places.

I'm not sure there's much more to add to that. Get out this week into nature, and find that twilight liminal realm for yourself. Spend some time with the magical, the wild, the overgrown and the in-between, whether in the outer world in its green tangle, or the inner world of dreams and visions. Seek the memories of magical times, or the luminous dreams you once had; it will be restorative to the soul.

What do They, for They are always plural, say?

Leave some garden for the groundhogs.

Well I suppose we can't expect 'serious' of the faeries, can we? Still, that's in line with leaving the last apple on the tree for the apple-tree man, isn't it?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Goddess of the Week

This is the first time Vesta, the Roman Goddess of fire and the hearth, has come up. She held a central place in Roman religion: Her round tholos temple was set in the heart of the Roman Forum, and a perpetual flame was kept burning there. She has Her equivalent in the Greek Hestia, and unlike many of the other Roman Deities Who were equated to Greek ones, the two do seem to stem from the same root, and have some similarities in worship as well as name. As the hearth is the primeval altar, both Vesta and Hestia held places of honor in rituals involving more than one Deity, if at opposite ends of the rite: for while the Greeks invoked Her first in ritual, the Romans invoked Her last.

As Goddess of the hearth and the hearth-fire Vesta represents the heart and the center of the community, whether the home and family or the state. She also symbolizes the communal meal, as the hearth is where bread was baked; and in time She became somewhat of a patroness of bakers. On Her holiday on June 9th (just last week!) millstones were decorated with garlands, and loaves were hung about necks of the asses responsible for turning them.

She was one of the few Roman Deities to have no image; the naked flame was taken to represent Her.

I think this week is about being grounded in fire, though that may sound an odd thing to say. Vesta is about the center and the hearth and the flame that burns there. One normally grounds in relation to the earth; but remember that at the center of this planet deep fire burns. Tap into your own fire this week; it will be more centering and more stabilizing than you might think.

Vesta's rites were overseen by women: the famous college of Vestal Virgins. It was women's work to hold the center of Rome sacred and true. Remember that also this week.

What does She say?

Burn hot, burn warm, burn fierce, burn gently. All of these things are Me. I hold to the center; it all turns around Me. I am first and I am last if you are to do anything well and truly. Honor Me by honoring the sacred fire at your own center, your heart, the fire in your belly, that infinitesimal yet infinite Star at the center of the Soul. I live in each of you. Honor Me by honoring yourself.


Dumézil, Archaic Roman Religion

Monday, June 7, 2010

Goddess of the Week

The Greek Goddess Hera comes up here for the first time. In myth Hera is the sister and wife of Zeus, the great Olympian king of the Gods, and so Queen Herself. But Zeus has a wandering eye, and Hera takes the role of the scorned, jealous wife Who savagely punishes Her husband's paramours; She has the reputation of a shrewish, jealous woman. A passive-aggressive conniving bitch driven to behind-the-scenes power plays, actually.

Well, that's the classical version of it anyway. But I think we know better by now, don't we?

The truth is that Hera pre-dates Zeus. She was the principal Deity of either sex of the area around Argos, Her Archaic temple at Olympia is earlier than the one Zeus had there, and Zeus is called posis Hêrês, or 'spouse of Hera' in Homer. The likely explanation for the structure of the later myths is that when Zeus came along, Hera, as the main Deity of the region, was joined to Him as His wife, an obvious Queen to His King. The same process may account for many of Zeus's 'lovers' (in quotes since some of Them were clearly raped): the local Goddess was joined to the new King, as expression of Her status, or by way of absorbing the indigenous religion. That the other local Goddesses kept some of Their original importance is played out in myth as the conflict between Hera as the 'official' wife and the rest as mistresses. Though Hera and Zeus are associated from fairly early times, Zeus's earliest wife may well have been the prophetic Titaness Dione.

We don't really know what Her name means, though an early form, Era is mentioned on Mycenaean Linear B tablets. It may be connected to springtime, or to a word for 'Protectress'; She is very much associated with heroes, which word is related to Her name.

She was probably originally a fertility Goddess, as much as that term is a vague one. She is associated from earliest times with cows (one of Her epithets is Boôpis, 'Cow-eyed') the seasons, especially springtime and its flowers, and to trees: She had several xoana, rough wooden statues, planks, or pillars, either aniconic or barely iconic, generally considered (by the Greeks of the time) as indicative of ancient worship.

Her story is one of uncomfortable adaptation into a new system, with Her fighting it the whole way. I am not sure what to make of it, as far as interpretation for card for the week goes; and I am inclined, as ever, to make more of origins than later interpretation. Especially since Her story is not a happy one, and She becomes locked into a losing battle through circumstance and the brutality of the culture and Her husband, Who was plainly abusive at times. So I'm not sure. Survival, perhaps, and doing what it takes to live in a gamed system may be the theme this week. But remember, if you can, that the system is unjust, even if you have to play along to survive. And that if the rules are immoral, there is no moral reason to follow them.

On the other hand, there is great value in uncovering that which is lost, or buried. Dig down to those origins if you can; what you find promises to be surprising, and healing. Find those roots, whether of the problem you are trying to work through or out, or of your own innocence or authentic self. Remember who you were, and who you are, and find the thread that connects the two.

What does She say?

I am wronged, very wronged. We, I, are all wronged, We this Earth, We the Goddess, I the Goddess, I all of Woman; We are wronged. And though it is not the responsibility of the wronged to make it right, that is the only way it will happen. Those wronging us are not about to stop of their own accord. They have made that quite clear.

So we must take what is ours. Earth will right Herself, at whatever cost; though She uses a broad brush, and will take the innocent with the guilty. It cannot be helped. Survival, after all, is first. And She may not be judged.


The Transformation of Hera: A Study of Ritual, Hero, and the Goddess in the Iliad,
by Joan O'Brien, through Google Books. Oddly enough I can't find a copy for sale through the usual places. Which is really weird as it's neither too old nor too new, being published in 1993. Really, not one used copy available anywhere?

And Theoi, as usual.