Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Eleusinian Mysteries

As the hours of daylight are slowly getting less as the sun pulls itself away from the earth, I am reminded of the Greek myth of the descent of Kore (maiden) into the Underworld and the wandering of Demeter, her mother, which caused the land to go barren.  This myth was enacted in what was referred to as the Eleusinian Mysteries, that took place in a town of a similar name about 24 kms from Athens, in what was believed to be in the heart of the wheat and barley growing region.  It is little wonder therefore that Demeter was the Goddess associated with grain and fertility, as well as her name meaning "spelt mother" (spelt is a hardy variety of wheat).

Each year, when it was time for the crops to be sown, in the month of Boedromion (September in Greek), this was the time of year for the Mysteries to be held. It all stems from the myth of Demeter and Persephone, when Hades, took Persephone (Kore "maiden") down into the underworld. Demeter searched the world looking for her daughter, and while she searched Demeter neglected her duties and let the earth go barren. The gods were worried and Zeus, who had witnessed the abduction, intervened. Before she went back to the world of the living, Hades gave Persephone a pomegranate to eat, thus she would always be connected to his realm and had to stay there one-third of the year. This symbolic death and rebirth is the time the seed lies in the earth and then comes to life, reborn, as was Persephone. This was the basis of the cult, a fulfilling and happy afterlife.
The ceremony began in Athens, and all those participating purified themselves by bathing in the sea, they also sacrificed a piglet. All sacred and secret objects that were to be used in the ceremonies, were kept in the Eleusinion (a temple located at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens). These objects had been brought from Eleusis some days prior to the start of the celebration. It was from the Kerameikos (the ancient cemetery of Athens) that the great procession of initiates started.
The "Mysteries" were given this name (in Greek musteriai, from mustes, ("an initiate"). As the procession proceeded on route to Eleusis the participants would, at a certain place, shout obscenities. This was a re-enactment of an old mythical woman called "Iambe" who was said to have made Demeter smile, at a time when she was full of sorrow for the loss of her daughter Persephone.
Also during the procession their would be shouts of Iakch' o Iakche, which was related to an equivocal deity, referring to "Iacchus" who was identified with Dionysys, but in some versions said to be the son of Persephone or Demeter.
When the procession reached Eleusis they would rest and make ready for the next day, which was a day of fasting (Demeter did this when in mourning for Persephone). Once this part of the ceremony was over, the initiates drank a special brew of barley water mixed with penny-royal called, kykeon (a creeping mint cultivated for its supposed medicinal properties). The climax of the ceremony took place in the "Telesterion" (initiation hall).

During the 5th century BCE, "Ictinos" designed a huge hall which would hold several thousand people. In this hall, the secret and sacred objects were shown to the initiated, and also the priestesses would reveal the vision of the holy night, which is thought to have been a fire symbolizing life after death. These rituals were kept secret, shown only to the initiated, and it was totally forbidden to speak of them publicly.

The Eleusinian Mysteries

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"Dancing the Sacred Wheel" now available again

"Dancing the Sacred Wheel" now available again
The second edition of "Dancing the Sacred Wheel: A Journey through the Southern Sabbats" is now available through or direct from the author (Australian customers only) for an autographed copy.

Great Goddess Isis

Great Goddess Isis

Exhortation of Isis

You are She in the dust of whose feet is the hosts of Heaven,
Whose body encircles the Universe,
Who turns the Earth in its orb,
Who gives light to the Sun,
Who rules the World.

You tread death underfoot.
To Thee, the stars are responsive,
To Thee the seasons turn and the Gods rejoice
And the elements are in subjugation.

You are She that is the natural Mother of all things,
Mistress and governor of all elements,
The initial progeny of worlds,
Chief of Divine powers,
Queen of Heaven,
Principle of all the Gods celestial and the light of Goddesses.

At Your will are disposed the planets of the air,
The wholesome winds of the seas
And the silences of the unseen world.