Saturday, July 9, 2011

Demeter & Persephone, Hades & Dionysos: Pagan Survival & the Hermetic Tradition, Part 2

by guest blogger
Dianus del Bosco Sacro
Grand Conservator of the Pagan Faith and Tradition
of the Sacred Forest of Nemi
Translated and Introduced by Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin
Persephone & Hades
To gain a better grasp of initiation in the ancient world, we shall avail ourselves of certain of the myths recounted to initiates that survived up until our days. The first archaeological evidence is dated to the VIII century BC, whereas the destruction of the sanctuary in Eleusis by the hands of the Goths can be dated back to the end of the IV century AC (Note the Eleusinian mysteries had already been banned a few years earlier by emperor Theodosius). The Eleusinian mysteries were dedicated to the two goddesses, Demeter and Persephone.

The root of the name “Demeter” is best rendered as “Mother Barley”, which significantly links her to the cycle of aspics and of nature. The etymology of Persephone, on the other hand, is related to fero and foneuo, or to ferbo and foneuo, the former meaning “she who brings destruction”, the latter “she who nourishes everything and kills everything”. Demeter, known as Ceres in Latin, was not only the goddess of harvest and of the renewal of nature, as it is generally believed. The priests of Ceres in Rome were the edili, that is the constructors, who also administrated the law. Calvus says: “Demeter assigned to us the sacred laws, joined the bodies of lovers at night, the Great Rite, and founded the great cities”.

The myth of Persephone and Zeus describes how she was kidnapped by Hades, who took her to the underworld on his winged chariot, while she was picking daffodils (or poppies) in a field, where, in some versions, she lost a sandal. Not seeing her daughter return, Demeter began to search for her in despair. Helios (or Hecates or Eubuleus) warns her of the kidnapping. Thus she wanders the earth with a torch, searching for her lost daughter.

Disguised as an elderly woman and wearing a veil, Demeter reaches Eleusis, in the kingdom of king Celeus, where she becomes the wet-nurse of Demophon, the king’s son. Jambel, one of the servants, soothes her melancholy with obscene jokes and humorous wit (according to other versions the person making her laugh is paunchy Baubo and her husband, Dysalules. Baubo even shows her Iacchus, her baby son poking out his head from between her thighs as though born in that instant).

The queen offers her wine, but Demeter refuses and instead prepares a water, flour and barley bran beverage instead, the kikeon, which was later used by initiates of her Mysteries. Demeter is discovered while purifying Demophon with fire, to render him immortal, and thus reveals herself, imposing the construction of a temple in her honour.

Imprisoned in her sorrow, Demeter stops the earth from bearing fruit, until Hermes, sent by Zeus, convinces Hades to set Persephone free to return to her mother. But Ascalaphus, gardener of the underworld, convinces Persephone to eat seven pomegranate grains, so that the girl will have to come back to Hades during winter months.

According to other versions it is Triptolemus, the “triple warrior” brother of Eubuleus (both sons of Dysaules and Baubo), who brings Persephone back to earth. This, it is said, is the reason why Demeter establishes the Mysteries and reveals to men how to grow grains.

Triptolemus, in the underworld, is identified as Dionysus and there is talk of a subterranean wedding between Dionysus and Persephone, the Great Rite, and the sacred child Brimus, born from this union, is also identified with Dionysus. It is also said, in a fragment by Heraclitus: 
“In actuality, Dionysus and Hades are the same god.”

1 comment:

  1. All I can say is as far as the syncretization of Hades and Dionysos.. Yes. Yes and YES ! :) The mythos of Persephone and Hades is one I have identified with, and understood for years..even though I "work" pretty exclusively with the Neteru of the Egyptian pantheon now in my religion as a Kemetic Pagan , you can also see similarities between the mythos'- probably as a result of cultural evolution ! It is facinating for sure !

    H. Soror M.D.L.L.