033-036 Starry heaven & mythology's spiral journey in a Didyma Moonshell (Sharkseye)
Persephone as Peplos Kore (Κόρη),
Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE
The Hymn as 'Interpreter'|
of the Holy Places
"The hymn relates the legend of certain holy places, to which various impressive religious rites had attached themselves—the holy well, the old fountain, the stone of sorrow, which it was the office of the 'interpreter' [or Hierophantes] of the holy places to show to the people. The sacred way which led from Athens to Eleusis was rich in such memorials. The nine days of the wanderings of Demeter in the Homeric hymn are the nine days of the duration of the greater or autumnal mysteries [ L-047-050 ]; the jesting of the old woman Iambe, who endeavours to make Demeter smile, are the customary mockeries with which the worshippers, as they rested on the bridge, on the seventh day of the feast, assailed those who passed by. The torches in the hands of Demeter are borrowed from the same source; and the shadow in which she is constantly represented, and which is the peculiar sign of her grief, is partly ritual, and a relic of the caves of the old Chthonian worship, partly poetical—expressive, half of the dark earth to which she escapes from Olympus, half of her mourning."
from "The Myth of Demeter and Persephone," in "Greek Studies: a Series of Essays, pg. 120, by Walter Pater (1875 / 1920)
___ ___ ___
with Flaming Torches
"In the cult of Eleusis, 'mystic dramas' were performed at night re-enacting Demeter's grief-stricken search for her daughter by torch-light. The rite apparently ended with the 'tossing' of these torches in thanksgiving when Persephone was found. Similarly, the Eleusinian ritual also included a period of fasting and, perhaps, a prohibition against bathing before the festival. The nine day period [novena] mentioned here may simply be conventional: this number is common in Homer and elsewhere (e.g. Apollo's plague, at Il 1.53, Leto's period of labor at the birth of Apollo in h. 91)."
from "The Homeric Hymns," p.37, commentary by Susan C. Shelmerdine (1995)
___ ___ ___
Persephone & Demeter
(from their own viewpoints)
Individual and groups within a certain society can disagree and argue openly about their gender system. Such disagreement is probably louder and more widespread today than it was in ancient times, but the Hymn to Demeter is clear proof that the ancient Greeks could imagine violent disagreement, with dramatic implications, about at least one aspect of their gender system, namely, the balance of power between father and mother in decisions about a daughter's marriage. As this example illustrates differences of opinion are not purely idiosyncratic but often correspond with social roles and involve power imbalances or power struggles. The Hymn is today considered a particularly precious document because it emphasizes the viewpoints of a mother and daughter rather than those of the male figures in the story."
from "Gender and the Interpretation of Classical Myth," p. 36, by Lillian E. Doherty (2001)
___ ___ ___
Demeter — A Celebration
of Female Consciousness
"At first thought, mythology seems an inhospitable terrain for a
woman writer. There we find the conquering gods and heroes, the deities of pure thought and spirituality so superior to Mother Nature;
there we find the sexually wicked Venus, Circe, Pandora, Helen, Medea,
Eve, and the virtuously passive Iphigenia, Alcestis, Mary, Cinderella. It is thanks to myth we believe that woman must be either 'angel' or 'monster.' Yet the need for myth of some sort may be ineradicable. Poets, at least, appear to think so. [...] A discussion of the usefulness of some myths for women writers is Susan Gubar's 'Mother, Maiden and the Marriage of Death: Women Writers and an Ancient Myth' : Gubar
argues that the figures of the Sphinx and the Mother-Goddess
represent 'secret wisdom,' which women identify with 'their
point of view;' and that they use the myth of Persephone and Demeter 'to
re-define, to re-affirm and to celebrate female consciousness itself.'"
from "The Thieves of Language: Women Poets and Revisionist Mythmaking," by Alicia Ostriker in Signs, Vol. 8, No. 1, 71 (Autumn, 1982),
Susan Gubar citation from Women's Studies 6, no. 3 (1979) (p. 302)
Mycenaean bowl with varying decorations, inside and out, bronze age, Greece, from "Journal of Hellenic Studies," Vol 23 (1903)
___ ___ ___
The Double Goddess —
"Many interpretations of the Hymn [to Demeter] have noted the close relationship between Demeter and Persephone — the close attachment between the two, the sense of oneness in the mother-daughter bond — which the Hymn exhibits in numerous ways. The oneness sometimes appears as a doubleness — for example, in the usual double invocations to both Demeter and Persephone at the beginning and the end. [...]
[In addition] when one turns from myth — especially an example so elaborated as the story of Demeter and Persephone in the Hymn — to cult, one loses the clarity of their well-defined personalities in a specific narrative context. Even though scholars' investigations of the Hymn have produced ambiguities in the personalities and relationships portrayed there, nonetheless in its narrative, the characters have clearly defined individual personalities, feelings, desires, abilities and relationships."
from "The Narcissus and the Pomegranate," pp. 49, 104, by Ann Suter (2002)
___ ___ ___
Double Journeys of
Demeter & Persephone
"The abduction after picking the narcissus is also, literally, Demeter's call to adventure, as the two heroine journeys (of mother and daughter) are intimately intertwined. [...] The symbolism of divestiture immediately emerges to signal the crisis: after a sharp pain grips Demeter's heart, she tears 'the headband round her divine hair,' casts the 'dark veil' from off her shoulders, and rushes over and land and sea 'like a bird,' searching for Persephone [L40-43, ...] Demeter wanders for nine days with bright torches in her hands before speaking to Hekate, and then to Helios."
from "The Hero Journey
in Literature: Parables of Poesis," p. 46-47, by Evans Lansing Smith (1997)
___ ___ ___
Liberty of Access
"In all of Greek mythology, no marriage precipitates a drama like that caused by the marriage of Hades and Persephone, none tears asunder a young bride and her mother to such a degree, because the normal marriages of the gods do not separate them permanently. In the upper world the gods are accessible to one another, no matter where they live, to the extent they desire. If Demeter and Persephone could cross the boundary to the lower world, the marriage of Hades would resemble other divine marriages and would not have produced the crisis recounted in the Eleusinian hymn."
from commentary on the Hymn to Demeter by Jean Rudhardt, Museum Helveticum 35, Fasc I, p.8, (1978).
___ ___ ___
Persephone's "Strong Mind"
"The successful journey into the depths is not for the faint-hearted. We are reminded that Persephone has a 'strong mind' [L-037, also L-370]. [...] Descent into the underworld can happen at different times of our lives, and the time spent in each descent can vary in duration. [...] When, how, why and for how long our abduction will last is a mystery. As humans, we act with partial knowledge. We experience the descent whenever we make a decision or pursue a course of action that backfires on us in a traumatic way. Sometimes our descent may be caused by unexpected circumstances or unforeseen turmoil such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of something we value."
from "Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth, p.118, 119, by Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)
Gentleness & Inner Strength
"If you can become yielding, all energy that is no longer wasted in defending yourself against events out there fortifies strength in here. Becoming yielding, you achieve progress.
"Strength is not measured in how you overcome others, but in how you overcome yourself. 'Those who master others have force; those who master themselves have strength.' Cultivating inner strength, the weak progresses to unprecedented heights in the image of outward expansion."
from the "Oracle-I-Ching, Wisdom from Nature," (online) , by Kari Hohne (2009), Buttefly illustration adapted from a traditional, Japanese family crest.
___ ___ ___
Homeric Hymn to Demeter
edited & adapted from the 1914 prose translation
Hugh G. Evelyn-White
Art & Photo Illustrations
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Homeric Hymn to Demeter |
English Ancient Greek Transliteration
• Greek-English Glossary
DEMETER'S NOVENA : 033-050
And so long as* she [Persephone], the earth and starry heaven
___ ὄφρα μὲν οὖν γαῖάν τε καὶ οὐρανὸν ἀστερόεντα
___ ophra men oun gaian te kai ouranon asteroenta,
the goddess yet beheld, the turbid sea where fishes shoal,*
___ λεῦσσε θεὰ καὶ πόντον ἀγάρροον ἰχθυόεντα
___ leusse thea kai ponton agarroon ikhthuoenta
and the rays* of the sun, and still hoped* her dear mother
___ αὐγάς τ' ἠελίου, ἔτι δ' ἤλπετο μητέρα κεδνὴν
___ augas t' êeliou, eti d' êlpeto mêtera kednên
to see, and the tribes* of the eternal gods,
___ ὄψεσθαι καὶ φῦλα θεῶν αἰειγενετάων,
___ opsesthai kai phula theôn aieigenetaôn,
so long did hope persuade* her strong mind* for all her trouble.
___ τόφρα οἱ ἐλπὶς ἔθελγε μέγαν νόον ἀχνυμένης περ:
___ tophra hoi elpis ethelge megan noon akhnumenês per:
[...] Then rang* the mountain heights and the depths of the sea
___ ἤχησαν δ' ὀρέων κορυφαὶ καὶ βένθεα πόντου
___ êkhêsan d' oreôn koruphai kai benthea pontou
with her immortal voice. And her queenly mother heard her.
___ φωνῇ ὑπ' ἀθανάτῃ: τῆς δ' ἔκλυε πότνια μήτηρ.
___ phônêi hup' athanatêi: tês d' eklue potnia mêtêr.
Bitter* pain* seized her [Demeter's] heart, and upon her hair,
___ ὀξὺ δέ μιν κραδίην ἄχος ἔλλαβεν, ἀμφὶ δὲ χαίταις
___ oxu de min kradiên akhos ellaben, amphi de khaitais
ambrosial, she rent the veil with her dear hands —
___ ἀμβροσίαις κρήδεμνα δαΐζετο χερσὶ φίλῃσι,
___ ambrosiais krêdemna daïzeto khersi philêisi,
Her dark* cloak* from both her shoulders she cast down
___ κυάνεον δὲ κάλυμμα κατ' ἀμφοτέρων βάλετ' ὤμων,
___ kuaneon de kalumma kat' amphoterôn balet' ômôn,
and sped, like a wild bird,* over the firm land and yielding sea
___ σεύατο δ' ὥστ' οἰωνός, ἐπὶ τραφερήν τε καὶ ὑγρὴν
___ seuato d' hôst' oiônos, epi trapherên te kai hugrên
seeking* [her child]. But no one would tell her the truth —
___ μαιομένη: τῇ δ' οὔτις ἐτήτυμα μυθήσασθαι
___ maiomenê: têi d' outis etêtuma muthêsasthai
none of them willing,* whether gods or mortals,
___ ἤθελεν οὔτε θεῶν οὔτε θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων,
___ êthelen oute theôn oute thnêtôn anthrôpôn,
or birds of omen — none for her as a true messenger* came.
___ οὔτ' οἰωνῶν τις τῇ ἐτήτυμος ἄγγελος ἦλθεν.
___ out' oiônôn tis têi etêtumos angelos êlthen
For nine days thereupon over the earth queenly Deo [Demeter]
___ ἐννῆμαρ μὲν ἔπειτα κατὰ χθόνα πότνια Δηὼ
___ ennêmar men epeita kata khthona potnia Dêô
wandered* with flaming torches held in her hands,
___ στρωφᾶτ' αἰθομένας δαΐδας μετὰ χερσὶν ἔχουσα,
___ strôphat' aithomenas daïdas meta khersin ekhousa,
never tasting ambrosia or the sweet draught* of nectar,
___ οὐδέ ποτ' ἀμβροσίης καὶ νέκταρος ἡδυπότοιο
___ oude pot' ambrosiês kai nektaros hêdupotoio
so grieved she was, nor sprinkling* her body* with water.
___ πάσσατ' ἀκηχεμένη, οὐδὲ χρόα βάλλετο λουτροῖς.
___ passat' akêkhemenê, oude khroa balleto loutrois.
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033 ὄφρα / ophra|
so long as - as far as - up to - while
ἰχθυόεντα / ikhthuoenta (ἰχθῠό-εις)
full of fish - where fishes shoal (shallows) - with schools of fish
αὐγάς / augas
bright light - rays - beams - light of the sun - dawn, day-break
035 ἤλπετο / êlpeto
expect anxiously - hope - hope with foreboding - cause to expect
036 φῦλα / phula
race - tribe - class - nation - clan
037 ἔθελγε / ethelge
persuade - charm - beguile
037 μέγαν νόον / megan noon
strong mind - great mind - strong heart - great resolve
038 ἤχησαν / êkhêsan
sound - ring - peal
040 ὀξὺ / oxu
sharp - keen - acute - piercing - shrill - high-pitched - urgent
040 ἄχος / akhos
pain - distress (rare in prose, in Homer always of mind)
042 κυάνεον / kuaneon
of the color of dark-blue - glossy - black
042 κάλυμμα / kalumma
head-covering - cloak - hood - veil
043 οἰωνός / oiônos
wild bird - a large bird - bird of prey -
a bird of omen or augury
044 μαιομένη / maiomenê
seek after - pursue - searching for (as in Sappho —
καὶ ποθήω καὶ μάομαι - I yearn and seek)
045 ἤθελεν / êthelen
willing - to be naturally disposed - to be wont or accustomed - care to
046 ἄγγελος / angelos
messenger - envoy - one who announces or tells
048 στρωφᾶτ' / strôphat'
wander - roam - spread out -
049 ἡδυπότοιο / hêdupotoio (ἡδύ-ποτο)
sweet to drink / sweet draught
050 βάλλετο / balleto
throw - dash oneself with water - sprinkling - bathe
050 χρόα / khroa
the body - skin - superficial appearance
Late Minoan I fringed scarf with "sacral knot," carved in ivory (right, illustration from Aegean Archaeology, by Harry Reginarld Hall, 1915) and shown tied at the back of the neck in a fresco of a Minoan priestess, nicknamed "La Parisienne," from the palace of Knossos, ca 1400 BCE (the scarf perhaps symbolizing the double goddess, their double journeys, and where death or loss is intimately tied to rebirth and return). It is similar to the Egyptian ankh, also symbolizing eternal life, but much more obviously a feminine (or feminist?) symbol, since it retains the energies of "the two," working together, rather than folded into one, and thus celebrating the gift of individuality within unity. Ironically uniqueness, or thusness, is what all things in nature share in common. In the nature religion of Taoism it is said, "there are ways but the Way is uncharted," because it always manifests uniquely.|
“Demeter’s Prayer to Hades”
by Rita Dove (American Poet & Author, b. 1952)
from "Gods and Mortals: Modern poems on Classical Myths,"
p. 27, ed. by Nina Kossman (2001)
"This alone is what I wish for you: knowledge.
To understand each desire has an edge,
to know we are responsible for the lives
we change. No faith comes without cost,
no one believes without dying.
Now for the first time
I see clearly the trail you planted,
what ground opened to waste,
though you dreamed a wealth
"There are no curses—only mirrors
held up to the souls of gods and mortals.
And so I give up this fate, too.
Believe in yourself,
go ahead—see where it gets you."
___ ___ ___
in the Hymn to Demeter
"The Hymn to Demeter is the story of Demeter's withdrawal, but it is also the story of the rape of Persephone. Rape, as we shall use the term, describes a violent abduction often carried out for sexual purposes. [...] The theme of Rape shows the influence of Greek heroic society in its violent nature, in its emphasis of the upholding of honor, and in the distribution of sexual roles. Rape, like Withdrawal, and the Journey, can embody the idea of Death and Resurrection, as it represents a departure from one's old life, from which one emerges a changed individual. It is an involuntary Journey, in which the element of sexual initiation is greatly emphasized. [...]
The second element of Rape, after the siezure, is the grief of the parent, which may develop into the Search of the abducted person." The element of the Search, becomes in the Hymn to Demeter, a full fledged Journey, and developed into one of the major themes of the poem."
from "Traditional Themes and the Homeric Hymns," p. 121, 124, by Cora Angier Sowa (1984)
Demeter, Anger & the Veil
"Bitter pain seized her heart, and she tore the head-binder on her immortal hair with her dear hands, and she cast a dark veil down from both her shoulders. [L40-42]
"It is not immediately obvious that [L40-42] involves Demeter's covering her head (though this in fact is what the donning of a kalumma = kaluptre would normally entail), but it is apparent from lines 180-3 that she does; and she remains enveloped in this dark garment until her wrath is appeased and her grief dispelled. This combination of grief and anger motivates her behaviour at 192-205, where, until amused by antics of lambe, the goddess rejects all forms of social interaction: at first she refuses a seat and avoids eye-contact; then (once seated) she holds her veil before her face and keeps silent, refusing food and drink. That this scene is an aition of Eleusinian ritual [...] does not alter the fact that all this behaviour is also motivated on an emotional level, where the refusal of society signifies both the separation prompted by grief and the disaffection and alienation of anger."
from "Anger and the Veil in Ancient Greek Culture," pp. 18-32 by D. L. Cairns, in Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 48, No. 1 (2001)
Details of Revelation
"Studying these mythological figures means attending to all the variations and also to the details in each telling that at first may seem trivial or accidental. We come to recognize how necessary each detail is or, rather, we learn to our surprise that a particular detail, hitherto unobserved, is essential to the whole; and we begin to believe that this is true of all the others we still do not understand or still may not consciously even notice."
from "The Goddess: Mythological Images of the Feminine," p. 25, by Christine Downing (1981)
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Illustrations: (Left Panel) Peplos Kore (Κόρη), Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE. Liberty of Access Quilt Design, and Didyma Moonshell (Sharkseye) Photo: earlywomenmasters.net
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