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The Two Goddesses

D
emeter and Persephone, Mother & Daughter
 
 
 


Guided by Hermes Psychopomp 
(Guide of Souls), Persephone returns from the Underworld, to be reunited with Her faithful Mother Demeter.

To purchase a poster or print of the painting above, email
the Editor
.



Once I was young, 
innocent and simple, 
until the abyss opened,  
and took me away 
from all I knew.

I found myself 
enclosed in darkness, 
in the land of death.
I thought myself forsaken.

But Mother, 
you never forgot your daughter, 
but faithfully 
resisted evil in high places.

Hermes, guide of souls,
dancer through the worlds, 
teach me 
to tame fear and despair 
with the rod of your wisdom. 

As I move 
through the darkness, 
lead me into the light,
to reunion, initiation, 
and what shall come.
 


©2003 Christa Landon
 

Just as they are called Initiations, 
so in actual fact 
we have learned from them
the fundamentals of life
and have grasped the basis 
not only for living with joy
but also dying with a better hope.

-----Cicero
 

See also:

The Eleusinian Mysteries,
an essay by Christa Landon

Initiation at Eleusis

To purchase a signed poster or print of the painting above, email the Editor.

From
Persephone's Underworld Journey: Reclaiming a Resurrection Narrative for Women,  
by Victoria Weinstein:

"In the figure of Persephone, women have a suffering and resurrected goddess who parallels the Christ, another innocent divine child who endures the Underworld before a resurrection miracle. And just as Christ's death on the cross is believed by Christians to redeem the human family, so does Persephone in her story function as savior-- for while Persephone dwells in the land of Death, mortals starve. Only when Persephone emerges does Mother-Goddess Demeter bless the fields again. On the spiritual level, Persephone symbolizes woman's internal resources and strength and speaks to the redemptive power of women's solidarity."

The complete essay is at:
http://www.w7.com/infovill/crone/

Ancient Primary Source Material

The "Homeric Hymn to Demeter" carries the earliest surviving account of Demeter and Persephone. Several editions are available; I recommend Charles Boer's translation, Homeric Hymns.

The Loeb Classical Library edition with handy linked names and terms is at

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/ptext?doc=Perseus%3Aabo%3Atlg%2C0013%2C002&query=1

 

Additional primary material can be found in

Ovid, Metamorphoses.
(See "Ceres" and "Proserpina")


After an Orphic Hymn to Proserpine 



Daughter of Jove, unto mystes incline,
Come unto these, our rites, O blessed queen divine.

Cere's sweet daughter, Pluto's royal wife,
Venerable Goddess, source of endless life,
Receiving the dead, in the depths you dwell,
Releasing the mystes from their fear of hell.

Ceres daughter, of a beauteous mien,
Fatal, with lovely locks, underworld queen.
Ruler of Furies, whose wisdom proceeds
From Jove's ineffable and secret seeds.

Mother of Bacchus, giver of the vine,
Sonorous and many-formed, maddener, divine.
The dancing Hours attend thee, limiter of night,
Torch-bearing virgin, shining ever bright:
Illustrious, horned, of a generous mind,
Desired and feared by mortal kind.
Sweet Queen of Spring, the greening fields delight,
Sweetly scented, and pleasing to the sight.
It is your lovely form which we truly view
In all the fruits and folk of a various hue.

Espoused in Autumn: that none may die alone
Uniting life above, below,  that mysteries be  known:
Two Queenly tasks -- according to thy will --
Life to produce, and all that lives to kill.

Hear, noble Goddess, bless me with increase,
that all my works may prosper; bid lovely Peace
and Health with gentle hand, and bless my life
With blest contentment, free from noisy strife;
When in extreme old age I am prey of Death,
Bring me gently to your realm beneath,
To thy fair temple, and the blissful plains
Where happy spirits dwell, and Pluto reigns.


Adapted  from the ancient text
©Christa Landon 2004
 


The Garden of Proserpine

Algernon Charles Swinburne

Collected in The Golden Treasury of English Songs and Lyrics, Francis Turner Palgrave, ed.

Hymn To Proserpine
Algernon Charles Swinburne

(AFTER THE PROCLAMATION IN ROME OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH)
Vicisti, Galilaee (thou hast conquered, O Galilean)*

I have lived long enough, having seen one thing, that love hath an end;
Goddess and maiden and queen, be near me now and befriend.
Thou art more than day or the morrow, the seasons that laugh or that weep;
For these give joy and sorrow; but thou, Proserpina, sleep.
Sweet is the treading of wine, and sweet the feet of the dove;
But a goodlier gift is thine than foam of the grapes or love.
Yea, is not even Apollo, with hair and harpstring of gold,
A bitter God to follow, a beautiful God to behold?
I am sick of singing: the bays burn deep and chafe: I am fain
To rest a little from praise and grievous pleasure and pain.
For the Gods we know not of, who give us our daily breath,
We know they are cruel as love or life, and as lovely as death.
O Gods dethroned and deceased, cast forth, wiped out in a day!
From your wrath is the world released, redeemed from your chains, men say.
New Gods are crowned in the city; their flowers have broken your rods;
They are merciful, clothed with pity, the young compassionate Gods.
But for me their new device is barren, the days are bare;
Things long past over suffice, and men forgotten that were.
Time and the Gods are at strife; ye dwell in the midst thereof,
Draining a little life from the barren breasts of love.
I say to you, cease, take rest; yea, I say to you all, be at peace,
Till the bitter milk of her breast and the barren bosom shall cease.
Wilt thou yet take all, Galilean? But these thou shalt not take,
The laurel, the palms and the paean, the breasts of the nymphs in the brake;
Breasts more soft than dove’s, that tremble with tenderer breath;
And all the wings of the Loves, and all the joy before death;
All the feet of the hours that sound as a single lyre,
Dropped and deep in the flowers, with strings that flicker like fire.
More than these wilt thou give, things fairer than all these things?
Nay, for a little we live, and life hath mutable wings.
A little while and we die; shall life not thrive as it may?
For no man under the sky lives twice, outliving his day.
And grief is a grievous thing, and a man hath enough of his tears:
Why should he labour, and bring fresh grief to blacken his years?
Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath;
We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.
Laurel is green for a season, and love is sweet for a day;
But love grows bitter with treason, and laurel outlives not May.
Sleep, shall we sleep after all? For the world is not sweet in the end;
For the old faiths loosen and fall, the new years ruin and rend.
Fate is a sea without shore, and the soul is a rock that abides;
But her ears are vexed with the roar and her face with the foam of the tides.
O lips that the live blood faints in, the leavings of racks and rods!
O ghastly glories of saints, dead limbs of gibbeted Gods!
Though all men abase them before you in spirit, and all knees bend,
I kneel not neither adore you, but standing, look to the end.
All delicate days and pleasant, all spirits and sorrows are cast
Far out with the foam of the present that sweeps to the surf of the past:
Where beyond the extreme sea-wall, and between the remote sea-gates,
Waste water washes, and tall ships founder, and deep death waits:
Where, mighty with deepening sides, clad about with the seas as with wings,
And impelled of invisible tides, and fulfilled of unspeakable things,
White-eyed and poisonous-finned, shark-toothed and serpentine-curled,
Rolls, under the whitening wind of the future, the wave of the world.
The depths stand naked in sunder behind it, the storms flee away;
In the hollow before it the thunder is taken and snared as a prey;
In its sides is the north-wind bound; as its salt is of all men’s tears;
With light of ruin, and sound of changes, the pulse of the years:
With travail of day after day, and with trouble of hour upon hour;
And bitter as blood is the spray; and the crests are as fangs that devour:
And its vapour and storm of its steam as the sighing of spirits to be;
And its noise as the noise in a dream; and its depth as the roots of the sea:
And the height of its heads as the height of the utmost stars of the air:
And the ends of the earth at the might thereof tremble, and time is made bare.
Will ye brindle the deep sea with reins, will ye chasten the high sea with rods?
Will ye take her to chain her with chains, who is older than all ye Gods?
All ye as a wind shall go by, as a fire shall ye pass and be past;
Ye are Gods, and beyond, ye shall die, and the waves be upon you at last.
In the darkness of time, in the deeps of the years, in the changes of things,
Ye shall sleep as a slain man sleeps, and the world shall forget you for kings.
Though the feet of thin high priests tread where thy lords and our forefathers trod,
Though these that were Gods are dead, and thou being dead art a God,
Though before thee the throned Cytherean be fallen, and hidden her head,
Yet thy kingdom shall pass, Galilean, thy dead shall go down to thee dead.
Of the maiden thy mother men sing as a goddess with grace clad around;
Thou art throned where another was king; where another was queen she is crowned.
Yea, once we had sight of another: but now she is a queen, say these.
Not as thine, not as thine was our mother, a blossom of flowering seas,
Clothed round with the world’s desire as with rainment, and fair as the foam,
And fleeter than kindled fire, and a goddess, and mother of Rome.
For thine came pale and a maiden, and sister to sorrow; but ours,
Her deep hair heavily laden with odour and colour of flowers,
White rose of the rose-white water, a silver splendour, a flame,
Bent down unto us that besought her, and the earth grew sweet with her name.
For thine came weeping, a slave among slaves, and rejected; but she
Came flushed from the full-flushed wave, and imperial, her foot on the sea.
And the wonderful waters knew her, the winds and the viewless ways,
And the roses grew rosier, and the bluer the sky-blue stream of the bays.
Ye are fallen, our lords, by what token? We wist that ye should not fall.
Ye were all so fair that are broken; and one more fair than ye all.
But I turn to her still, having seen she shall surely abide in the end;
Goddess and maiden and queen, be near me now and befriend.
O daughter of earth, of my mother, her crown and blossom of birth,
I am also, I also, thy brother; I go as I came unto earth.
In the night where thine eyes are as moons are in heaven, in night where thou art,
Where the silence is more than all tunes, where sleep overflows from the heart,
Where the poppies are sweet as the rose in our world, and the red rose is white,
And the wind falls faint as it blows with the fume of the flowers of night,
And the murmur of spirits that sleep in the shadow of Gods from afar
Grows dim in thine ears and deep as the deep dim soul of a star,
In the sweet low light of thy face, under heavens untrod by the sun,
Let my soul with their souls find place, and forget what is done and undone.
Thou art more than the Gods who number the days of our temporal breath;
For these give labour and slumber; but thou, Proserpina, death.
Therefore now at thy feet I abide for a season in silence, I know
I shall die as my fathers died, and sleep as they sleep; even so.
For the glass of the years is brittle wherein we gaze for a span;
A little soul for a little bears up this corpse which is man.
So long I endure, no longer; and laugh not again, neither weep.
For there is no God found stronger than death; and death is a sleep.


* After the Emperor Julian, last Pagan emperor of Rome died under suspicious circumstances, Christian propagandists said that his dying words were, "Thou hast conquered, Galilean (his customary term for Jesus). That Julian, (a Greek speaker all his life who barely mastered spoken Latin) would utter his last words in his second language seems a peculiar claim.)

 

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updated March 31, 2007