Mythological OTPs → Hades and Persephone
…a chasm opened in the earth and out of it coal-black horses sprang, drawing a chariot and driven by one who had a look of dark splendor, majestic and beautiful and terrible. He caught her to him and held her close. The next moment she was being borne away from the radiance of earth in springtime to the world of the dead by the king who rules it.
Okay, here’s the setup:
My Squishy, another friend (a more experienced ritual worker), and I did a smallish protection ritual earlier this evening. Pretty standard stuff. But when our friend invoked water, instead of the standard, y’know, wight-type spirits, all three of us felt this sudden immense presence in the circle—she and Squishy tasted salt water, while I just felt wet, soaked through and dripping. Very bizarre sensation. None of us could figure out who it was, so friend ended up just referring to the presence as “Lady”.
Got really intense for a second; I had to be grounded in the middle of it, I felt like a damn lightning rod.
While they’re outside burning the paper, Squishy did some quick wind divination and discovered who our mystery visitor was.
Turns out it was Sigyn. She wanted to talk to me.
(when I say I’m godbothered I really mean it guys)
Why would someone consider a pomegranate a good offering to Persephone?
I mean, this guy named Hades raped/kidnapped her and when she was about to go home to her mom it was this fruit that made her have to spend four months every year with the rapist/kidnapper.
I would be pissed if someone gave me pomegranate after this, it is like you mocking her or something.
It doesn’t make sense to me.
Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 29 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
“Plouton [Haides] fell in love with Persephone, and with Zeus’ help secretly kidnapped her. Demeter roamed the earth over in search of her, by day and by night with torches. When she learned from the Hermionians that Plouton [Haides] had kidnapped her, enraged at the gods she left the sky, and in the likeness of a woman made her way to Eleusis …
When Zeus commanded Plouton to send Kore [Persephone] back up, Plouton gave her a pomegranate seed to eat, as assurance that she would not remain long with her mother. With no foreknowledge of the outcome of her act, she consumed it. Askalaphos, the son of Akheron and Gorgyra, bore witness against her, in punishment for which Demeter pinned him down with a heavy rock in Haides’ realm. But Persephone was obliged to spend a third of each year with Plouton, and the remainder of the year among the gods.”Source: theoi.com
This is a really tough myth to tackle for a large number of reasons, but here’s what I’ve been able to cobble together on it:
1) This myth is very easy to mansplain away—to make it sound like “oh, rape lol, no big deal.” So here are a couple caveats. A) The older definition of ‘rape’ is essentially kidnapping. The sexual connation to the word is a more recent addition. B) While this sounds weird to us, here’s your culture shock moment of the day: at least one Greek city-state had a traditional element of any wedding ceremony in which the husband pretended to kidnap his betrothed. Source for this—thank you soloontherocks—is Plutarch’s On Sparta:
The custom was to capture women for marriage(…) The so-called ‘bridesmaid’ took charge of the captured girl. She first shaved her head to the scalp, then dressed her in a man’s cloak and sandals, and laid her down alone on a mattress in the dark. The bridegroom – who was not drunk and thus not impotent, but was sober as always – first had dinner in the messes, then would slip in, undo her belt, lift her and carry her to the bed.
While still definitely a sign of a patriarchal society, the kidnap-wedding was a part of ancient Hellenic culture, and their myths will reflect that culture. Which brings me to my next point.
2) The myths do not have to be taken literally—the ancient Greeks sure didn’t take them literally. Two examples spring to mind readily. In the first, Homer describes Ares as a coward; in actual cultus, He was respected as an enforcer of justice and inspirer of courage. (Warning: that’s not all Ares was seen as, that’s just a simplified version.) In the second, Hera is depicted by several authors (Hesiod, Homer, Vergil) as a jealous shrew or conniving meanie with an inferiority complex. In cultus in Olympia, the two were honored side by side as equals. That’s a pretty spectacular bit of equality in a patriarchal society. There is some evidence to show that elsewhere, the two cults were not terribly connected; Zeus was a pan-Hellenic god, whereas Hera was worshipped more sporadically according to the location of Her shrines and the number of married women in any given area (my source for this being Karl Kerenyi, Athene: Virgin and Mother in Greek Religion, I think in the first chapter). So there’s evidence that myths were, well, just stories! Sometimes they had morals, sometimes they explained bits of nature, but sometimes they existed just because some Muse sent a writer a bee in his/her/zir bonnet.
3) That brings us to another aspect of actual Hellenic religion. The Eleusinian Mysteries heavily involved Demeter, Persephone, and the latter’s journey to the Underworld…we’re pretty sure. The problem is that everyone was sworn to secrecy on the matter, and nobody blabbed. (At least, not that we have extant.) Think like Freemasonry but with fewer funny handshakes and conspiracy theories. Who knows what parts of the myth(s) may have been elucidated in the rituals at Eleusis? Nobody, that’s who. Yet.
4) You’ll notice I said “myth(s)” in part 3. That’s because there’s also some evidence that Persephone’s kidnapping by Haides was only ONE version of Persephone’s story. It was clearly the most popular—let me get that out of the way—but if I recall correctly, there were some city-states in which Persephone was the sole deity presiding over the dead, or at least more important than Her male counterpart. WARNING: I need to trace my source on this, so feel free to call me out if I’m wrong, or find my source for me; don’t take the previous statement at face value until you get some proof. There were many iterations of Persephone, and if you’re at Theoi.com already, I encourage you to read more of Pausanias’ stuff on Her various shrines—it’s really neat to see how the different city-states viewed Her.
5) Speaking of different views, here’s my personal take on the pomegranate. Taking the myth as-is, prior to her rape/kidnap, Persephone is a nobody. From a modern perspective, that’s HORRIBLE. Why would nobody care about her until something bad happens? (Ask the fucking news media imho.) At the same time, the pomegranate becomes Her symbol. It’s the symbol of everything She went through, it’s the symbol of everything She became—from faceless, formless Kore to the merciful, compassionate (or, depending on where you were, steel-hearted and merciless) Queen of the Dead. If you don’t offer a pomegranate to Her, what else is a suitable offering? If you don’t offer a pomegranate to Her, isn’t that just erasing all the shit She went through? It’s like saying it never happened just because we’d prefer it if everything about our Theoi were sunshine and roses. It doesn’t work that way, even for Gods of sunshine and roses. Offer the pomegranate. Acknowledge that even when we remove kidnapping and (modern connotations of) rape from the story, we still have a kickass Queen who underwent death itself and SURVIVED. And continues to do so in a yearly cycle, allegorical as it may be. Without pain, loss, and grief, there is no Persephone. Let Her own that.
Offer Her a pomegranate in memory of the souls that we lose, their number seemingly infinite like the number of seeds when you split a pomegranate open.
Offer Her a pomegranate for those who go through hell and survive, like She does.
Offer Her a pomegranate for those who are victims, because even though they survive, they are never the same. Part of them will always be beholden to that metaphorical Underworld, just as Persephone herself is never free from it.
Like She does, make it a symbol of survival, rebirth, and dealing with grief on one’s own terms. Otherwise, you leave it a symbol of the crime that was its origin.
Bolding is mine. I was going to tackle this question but then I saw this. Eupheme, that was fucking beautiful. You NAILED it. Persephone is the Great Survivor, She Who Is Reborn, Life Amid Death. Hers is a story of transformation and transcendence, and because of that the pomegranate is her sacred symbol. The two cannot be separated.
OP, I get where you’re coming from. I have written about this issue before (please see my “noteworthy posts” on my page if you like). But really I think I’m done talking. There is no way I can make myself any clearer than what was said above!
I need this on my blog, please and thank you.
how to make an offering to loki on new year’s
- get drunk
- wander outside with half a glass of pink moscato
- sway in place for a bit
- inhale deeply of the chill air
- yell, “THIS ONE’S FOR YOU, JACKASS”
- fling contents of glass
Homg. The fact that three separate people have talked about seeing this thing even thought the original story is allegedly fake…*whimper*
YOU’RE THE BIG BAD DEVIL LU, IF YOU CAN’T CHASE OFF THESE THINGS THEN WHAT’RE YOU GOOD FOR?
You know, now that I think on it, I may have had an encounter with something like this too.
About…eh, five or six years ago, I was having serious problems with major depressive disorder and anxiety so bad it bordered on agoraphobia. I’d have these occasional “episodes” where I would be paranoid as shit for no obvious reason, and terrified of the dark.
I remember one night I was up late online as usual, and when I got up to head to bed it was something like three in the morning. When I turned out the office light and was faced with the pitch-black hallway to my room, my adrenal glands abruptly became convinced that there was Something lurking in the hallway right in front of me, and any second it was going to leap at my face. There was this horrible tingling itch between my shoulder blades, like that feeling you get when you think somebody’s watching you but a thousand times worse. I didn’t actually see anything, but I was imagining the fucking thing so clearly and its face looked a lot like the one on that last picture on the right there. Smaller, with long spindly fingers.
I ended up racing down the hall to my bedroom, almost slamming the door and putting my back to a corner with all the lights turned on.
Not to mention this was back when there was a lot of bad shit going on in my life AND I was going through the Asshole Materialist phase. Probably a lot of gross energy hanging around me.
How To Read A Fucking Book / I Can’t Teach You How To Think
So, this started out as an audio post, but I’m going to (more or less) transcribe it into a text post, ‘cause I want to.
I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and lately the topic of what books to read when you first start out and book suggestions have been coming across my dash more, and while my thought process here isn’t really finished cooking yet, I’m gonna go ahead and throw it out there.
I have a really hard time with suggesting books for people starting out. Starting out in what? I don’t know what you’re into! I don’t know how you think! There is no one book I can just suggest to everyone.
But, there is a general book. I’m gonna go ahead and give you my single book suggestion at the beginning, if that’s all you care about. That book is The Study of Witchcraft by Deborah Lipp. That being said, I really feel like even this book that I’m suggesting to you is going to require you to use the things I’ll talk about in the second half of the post.
Now, there is no one perfect book that’s going make everyone happy, but I’m usually pretty happy suggesting this book to people.
I should say that it was written by a Wiccan (Deborah Lipp is a Gardnerian) and there is a heavy focus on Wicca, especially at the beginning. But you can basically just ignore those chapters. I would also say that I wouldn’t necessarily read the books in the order she’s presented the chapters.
Also, it’s “A Guide to Advanced Wicca”, but only advanced in that it’s “beyond 101 books” and the very basic topics of Wicca like Sabbats, circle casting, et cetera. For many people, these “advanced” topics are the kinds of things they’re expected to tackle from the beginning.
The book evolved out of a forum post on Mystic Wicks called “Topics of Study for a Wiccan”, about the things she and other Wiccans were expected to know and study. The book itself, however, includes many book suggestions for each of these topics, including Deborah’s own commentary on the books (including warnings about them and why she’s suggesting you read them). I usually refer to the book as a “glorified reading list”, but in a good way.
The idea behind the book though is that, in order to “advance” you have to read beyond “Witchcraft” books, and that’s why I recommend it. You need to read mythology and history, you need to read more than one book on any given subject, and you need to be willing to question what you read.
Ah, now we come to the point of this post. Yep, all the way down here. It really only recent occurred to me that not everyone else is reading books the way that I read them. That kind of blew my mind…sometimes I forget that not everyone else does things the way I do!
This is especially important when it comes to reading books about Witchcraft. It’s important in general though, so I don’t understand why you’re not already doing. There’s this thing called Critical Thinking!
Okay, pause to recover.
There are a lot of ways to describe critical thinking, and I’m going to quote Wikipedia for the purpose of this post — the Simple English wikipedia, just to make it clear and easy to understand — ”Critical thinking is “thinking about thinking”. It is a way of deciding if a claim is true, false, or sometimes true and sometimes false, or partly true and partly false.”
Now I’m not going to go into critical thinking here, and how to do it. You can go ahead and google “critical thinking” and learn more about the process and more about what it means and such.
Question what you read. Question what you think. Begin a process of validating — or invalidating, if that’s what happens — what information you’ve taken in. You don’t just read a book and absorb it. That’s especially not how you read witchcraft books.
Now, my own personal bias: I do book reviews, and I’m a writer. Maybe this comes a little bit easier to me than it does to other people, who aren’t used to having to question what they’re looking at, because I’m always analyzing, evaluating and breaking down what I read. (It’s very hard to read for pleasure these days.)
If you want to read books about witchcraft, you have to do those things. And I hesitate to say “have” to, I never want to tell people what to do. But you can’t just read a book and assume everything in it is true! Well you can…and apparently that’s what people have been doing…so no wonder there are so many problems…I really had no idea this was happening!
For me, it’s gotten to the point where I can’t even tell you how I read a book. That’s one reason why I don’t like to do book suggestions. I’ve read a lot and I know a lot (though not nearly everything. I know a lot compared to what most people know, not compared to the vast amount of knowledge in the universe) and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m pretty good at spotting bullshit when I see it.
The downside of this is that after I’m done going through a book, discarding all of the incorrect information and sweeping generalizations (“Haha, nope!” ”No.” ”Uh uh.” ”HOLD ON LET ME ARGUE WITH YOU BACK AND FORTH IN MY HEAD ABOUT THIS FOR HALF A DAY. Alright, I won! See ya later, falsehoods!”), I tend to only remember the parts of the book I actually liked.
I’ll get confused about why people don’t enjoy a certain book, and then I’ll remember, “Oh, right…” but usually only after I remembered all the things I enjoyed first. (This does not always happen, and sometimes it happens in reverse, if I spent too much of the book yelling at them. Looking at you, Conway.)
That’s why you should take book recs from me with a grain of salt. And I can’t tell you how to think.
And, also? There’s a reason I brought up “critical thinking” and not “critical witchcraft thinking.” (Although, actually, here’s a post about the critical reading of pagan books, which…actually kind of says everything I wanted to say in a much better way, I think.)
But it’s really no different than how you evaluate any other information you run across. Whether it’s witchcraft, history, cooking or how to knit, you have to process what you’re taking in. And if you’re reading a history book, a lot of that information might be bullshit. If you’re following a knitting pattern, you may get to row 8 and it’s asking you to knit five stitches you don’t have, and there’s no instruction on if, when, or how you should have gotten these five extra stitches. Once you know a little bit more about knitting, you’ll be able to read the pattern ahead of time and see, “Oh, hey…nope, that’s not gonna work, I won’t even bother.” (Or, if you’re like me, and you don’t read the pattern ahead very deeply, you’ll figure it out when you get there, haha.)
It’s kind of like that.
So, now you know how to read a book with a critical eye, you know how to evaluate the things you’re reading, you know not to believe everything you read…now it’s safe for me to tell you that reading a bad book won’t kill you.
I’m not saying you should go out and read bad books (UNLESS YOU PLAN ON TALKING ABOUT THEM. Normally I’d be all wishy-washy, like, “~I don’t want to tell you what to do~” but really. Maybe it’s the book reviewer in me. But read a book if you plan on talking about it), but don’t be so fucking afraid that you’re going to be contaminated by bad information.
It’s not going to infect you and rot your brain. Unless you have no control whatsoever in what you believe that you don’t ever question anything…and in that case, you may want to stay away from books in general…
I have had to read some pretty fucking awful books when doing book reviews (I review science fiction and fantasy books) and reading a horrible SF book did not ruin my ability to recognize or enjoy a good one. That’s not how it works!
And also, I do support the reading of academic books, but as mrsoddly said the other day:
“magic is certainly not the child of academia”
There’s certainly nothing wrong with reading academic books, and I enjoy them as much as anyone, but if you want to read a book that’s not one, that’s okay! If there’s an emotion behind something you read, and you connect with it and it makes you feel something then that’s okay! That’s good!
But again, you don’t throw your critical thinking out of the window. If you like it and it makes you feel good, you still need to question it! I question everything (also, for the record, whenever I say those words, I end up breaking out into this song from the Digimon soundtrack), especially myself.
You really have to be willing to question yourself. It’s not enough that it makes you feel good, and when that happens to me, I look at two things. I look at the thing that’s making me go, “Oh, yes, I love this!” and I find out is it true, is it right? Is it real? Can I validate and substantiate this? Can I prove it wrong?
Then I look at why I like it. It’s not enough for me to like it. What about it makes me like it? Even if it’s not true, me reacting to it tells me something about me and what I like, what to look for. It tells me about my weaknesses and what I might be susceptible to.
So, that’s my thought process when it comes to how I read books and what’s going through my brain when I suggest books to people… maybe I had a point. I don’t know anymore!
I guess I’m done
Always always always ask “why”.
Ranty. Feel free to scroll past.
But honestly, if people out there think you’re giving paganism and witchcraft a bad name by not being all white light and love, then count me in on those giving things a bad name. I’ll own up to it and take the rap for it too.
I would rather face the reality of life, to call a duck a duck and to get my hands and my aura dirty to do what’s right than to flutter about with glitter wings and expect everything to be bright and white and perfect and then blame everything but myself when shit goes wrong.
And every time I see people all OMG WHEN DID THE PAGAN COMMUNITY CHANGE, YOU’RE ALL MEAN NOW maybe what you should consider is that maybe the bone and spirit workers, the blood workers and heathens and all the rest that don’t fit the love and light glitter paradigm got tired of being swept under the carpet and ignored like the black sheep of paganism. You know, like some try and sweep everything under the rug that isn’t the “ideal” of unicorn farts and rainbow puke.
If a person’s idea of paganism is don’t kill the black widow over your baby’s crib, or not to work with what you have even if it’s your own blood, sweat and tears, so be it. Embrace whatever your path is, but stop telling us in the down and dirty worlds that we’re mean for being honest, or wrong for doing what has to be done.
Whether people like it or not, we’re pagan too. Suck it the hell up.
While I personally am not pagan, this post deserves to be blessed by Tom Hiddles and Jesus.
While I personally am not pagan, this post deserves to be blessed by Tom Hiddles and Jesus.
Bless this post a million fuckin’ times.
The dark is just as important as the light. Cycles, people. Opposite equals. All that jazz.
Okay, I’m a week behind in posting about this, but here we go.
My girlfriend and I ended up spending last Thursday night building a small fire in the middle of the cul-de-sac. (I live in a rather rural area, and the cul-de-sac in question is a grassy patch at the end of a gravel road loop, with three largeish rocks that were placed there after they were blasted out of the ground when my house was being built.) So we went out about 1 AM after baking some delicious honey cake with some pieces of the cake and a bottle of sparkling White Zin.
There is no shortage of fallen and cut branches around my house, as I live at the edge of the woods, and there are still dry branches around the edge down behind my house where my dad cut down a crabapple tree a few years back. We dragged some out into the cul-de-sac and built ourselves a fire, refuelling it with the crabapple branches and a couple of sizeable oak branches we found. Despite a few oddities with it, the fire stayed very neatly contained.
We invited Thor and Loki to join us. I’m not sure Thor ever did—my experience with him has been that he prefers one-on-ones rather than social gatherings, though I suspect he was hanging around in the wings, as it were, to make sure we didn’t cause too much trouble. Fire and Loki are not always a safe combination, after all.
Loki, however, was enthusiastically present.
Tyro tried to start the fire. I handed her the grill lighter, the better to start a fire without burning herself. She could not get it to light, despite the fact that I’d just tested it and it was working fine. Alright, well, the grill lighters are finicky, that’s fine. I handed her my Zippo, which I’d just refilled a few nights prior. She couldn’t get it to light, either, so I put a little more fuel in it. Still nothing.
I took it from her, clicked it once, and produced a flame.
Of course. Very funny.
Once we got the fire going, Tyro reported smelling marshmallows, despite the fact that we had none. I experienced the same thing a few minutes later. I can’t say I’m surprised; Loki does have something of a sweet tooth. (A bit later, we both caught a whiff of black coffee. Apparently the wine was not to Loki’s tastes.)
We talked, watched the stars, ate some honey cake and burned some in sacrifice, and managed to kill the entire bottle of wine in the three and a half hours we were out there.
At one point, the flames started sparking green. Very, undeniably green.
Around 3, we started suggesting going in, with the fire burned down to embers. The fire chose that moment to flare back up and burn for long enough to get us talking again, wanting to wait until it burned down on its own before we put it out.
Half an hour later, with the fire again in embers, we suggested going in again. The fire flared back up again.
Same thing another half an hour later.
Seems Loki was enjoying the company and didn’t want us going in just yet.
At 4:30, the fire finally died down and stayed down, so we doused it and headed back inside to shower.
All in all, it was the most happy and relaxing evening we’d both had in a few weeks, and I felt it was a pretty productive evening too. It was nice getting a little more acquainted with Loki—Tyro works with him more than I do, and I always feel more comfortable around him knowing Thor’s got my back, but I figure if Tyro and I are going to be living together eventually, we might as well be well-acquainted with one another’s gods, too.
Actually it was pink zin, if I remember right.
And yeah, Loki was pretty much fucking with me that entire night. I could practically hear him snickering over my shoulder as I swore at the Zippo. Had no trouble at all keeping it going, though. (Wilderness therapy taught me something, at least.)
Thanks to my Paxil, I also have, quite literally, no tolerance for alcohol whatsoever, so I got completely blasted on a quarter of the bottle. Somehow, despite all my playing with the fire in ways that would have gotten me in serious trouble back at OpenSky, I never burned myself. Go figure.
(The words “Stand back, I’m gonna do a stupid thing” were uttered at some point.)
It was actually really nice, though. Wanna do it again.
BRB SETTING STUFF ON FIRE
The S.O. is making honey cakes
We also have pink zinfandel and whiskey.
Gonna party with Thor and Loki tonight. Aw yeah.
The dappled paths we walk
The majority of stories in our society revolve around the binaries of light vs. dark, good vs. evil. People “choose” to be “good” or “bad.” And while these might work for children, who might have problems grasping the gray areas in between, I see it in the adult world as well. “Make good choices,” “don’t be a bad person,” even the pagan community’s “love and light.” We have equated good with light, bad with dark.
Others have argued the case for the dark more eloquently than I can. But that’s not what I am talking about. What I’m saying, what I’m screaming out into the aether with the vague hope someone will take something away from it, is that nothing, nothing in this world is purely light or purely dark. We all walk dappled paths. Choices can lead more toward the light/good or more toward the dark/bad, but there will always be both. Always.
And that’s okay. Just know, if you’re striving to be wholly good or wholly bad, that you aren’t going to get there. We live liminal lives. We are the gray area, the space between, the dappled path.
So don’t wish me light and don’t wish me dark. Don’t warn me away from either. Instead, wish me luck on my journey as I struggle to reconcile my relationship with both. Give me support as I choose which parts of my life to bathe in light, which parts to shroud in shadow. Watch me grow as I integrate both into my whole being.
I’ve never danced with a god before.
I haven’t been talking with Persephone much lately (seems Persephone Kore and I don’t have that much in common. It’s almost painful, being in her presence. She has the innocence I’ll never get back. I’ll probably rededicate myself to her when the autumn equinox rolls around and she descends again), but Loki’s been poking at me a lot.
I’ve been thinking a lot about writing this post, and I’m not really sure exactly what direction to take it, because I have a handful of things I want to talk about. I think first, I want to talk about labelling and names being slightly more formal labels, and second, I want to talk about the power of names and about True Names (the way I understand them). I’ll try and keep it to those two subjects.
This may not make a whole lot of sense to anyone but me. But if you’re curious about my views, read on.
You are such a damn Scorpio.
(I kid because I loev.)
It’s actually nice that you put this down, because I was starting to wonder what the hell you wanted to be called. I guess it doesn’t matter too much, then?
Names are odd things. They seem to change the self, or at least the expression of the self, depending on what they are. The way my online name is different from my offline name, my online self is different from my offline self. They’re both me—just different versions of me.
Lots of interesting thoughts, though.
…I NEED THIS.