090-095 Contemporary India sculpture of the Great Earth Goddess Prithvi, with "prithvi/earthly" hand mudra
Persephone as Peplos Kore (Κόρη),
Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE
Mother-Daughter Integrity — |
the Hymn & Tao
"There is a void felt these days by women — and men — who suspect that their feminine nature, like Persephone, has gone to hell.
Wherever there is such a void, such a gap or wound agape, healing must be sought in the blood of the wound itself. It is another of the old alchemical truths that 'no solution should be made except in its own blood.' (The cure of an emotional wound is in the wound itself.) So the female void cannot be cured by conjunction with the male, but rather by an internal conjunction, by the integration of its own parts, by a remembering or a putting back together of the mother-daughter body.
It helped me to visualize the symbol of the Tao, to adapt it this way; we're looking at the relationship between the parts on one side and not the conjunction of external opposites."
from "The Moon and the Virgin:
Reflections on the Archetypal Feminine," pp. 68, 69, by Nor Hall (1980)
Ancient Mycenae earring, Late Helladic, ca. 1550 BCE.
Jill Purce in THE MYSTIC SPIRAL (p. 10, 1980) presents the Taoist symbol as two endlessly interconnecting spirals.
___ ___ ___
Sanctuary at Eleusis
"Demeter and Persephone, mother and daughter, almost always appear together in Greek mythology, and they were worshipped together. Demeter, the Roman Ceres, was the goddess of corn and the fruits of the earth. Persephone, whose Latin name was Proserpina, a corruption, was called Kore, meaning "Maiden." The Homeric Hymn that follows contains the earliest appearance of the myth of Demeter and Persephone in extant literature. Eleusis, about twelve miles west of Athens, was the site of the Eleusinian Mysteries, religious rites celebrated in honor of Demeter and Persepone as late as the fourth century A.D. There was a sanctuary at Eleusis as early as the seventh century B.C. and the cult was extremely sacred to the Greeks. The two goddesses were worshipped in connection with the planting and harvesting of corn, the rotation of the seasons, and the mythological seasonal appearance of Persephone on earth and her return to the kingdom of Hades. The rites were secret and known only to the initiated, but what literary evidence we have points to their connection with immortality, life and death in nature and [humanity], and resurrection."
from "Classical Gods and Heroes: Myths as Told by the Ancient Authors," p. 42, by Rhoda A. Hendricks (1974)
___ ___ ___
The Great Sympathy
Tao, Mother of the World
"Referring to the Tao Teh Ching and other Taoist writings, [Shirley Nicholson] points out that the values held highest in Taoism are [those] feminine characteristics associated with the Mother of the World and the Great Sympathy in which ego-boundaries blur out into a Oneness. We are not surprised by Ellen Chen's conclusions that early Taoism was actually a remnant or derivation of the worship of the Great Mother in China. The underlying precepts are quite similar to Bruteau's insights about symbolism of unity inherent in the reverence for Demeter and Isis. [...] 'The Tao' literally means 'The Way,' and Nicholson reminds us that it is a way of peace and harmony. There may be so-called masculine traits that women can adopt, but only at the cost of an even more aggressive world. Now that we have such a vast catalog of traits to choose from, we need to think carefully about which we choose. And in defining the feminine principle, we also think of the Taoist reminder that each thing does best when allowed to act according to its own nature."
Introduction by Merlin Stone, in The Goddess re-awakening: the feminine principle today, p. 18, ed. by Shirley Nicholson (1989)
___ ___ ___
Gosper Curve fractal, similar to ancient Greek geometric motifs (compare with the Boeotian hydria motif illustrated right), as well as various
meander seal patterns (above, path begins upper left side, completes upper right). Wikipedia
___ ___ ___
Descent Among the Women
"Demeter adopts the disguise of a helpless old woman and lives in an entirely female environment while she is withdrawing from the gods and carrying out her secret designs against Zeus; she moves into a public and male sphere when she returns to her divine shape, commands the building of her temple, and exercises her powers over agriculture (powers intimately connected with fertility) by creating the famine. Those divine activities that are later imitated in the rites at Eleusis take place in the private sphere of women, whereas men are given a role in making participation in Demeter's secrets accessible to a wider world. (This is a role they actually played, with the help of priestesses in the Mysteries.)"
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter: Translation, Commentary, and Interpretive Essays," p.138, commentary by Helene P. Foley (1994)
___ ___ ___
Catharsis & Greek Tragedy
"Tragedy is, according to Aristotle, a purification (κἀθαρσις)
through terror and pity." This formula is concise and perfect, but it requires clarification. Why should terror and pity, which in real life are depressing sensations, become in the great Greek tragedies consoling and purifying forces? Because they present to the spectator the ordeals of the soul which render it fit to assimilate sublime and consolatory truths, by freeing it from veil after veil. Without a clear comprehension of these ordeals, the emotional waves of terror and pity remain impotent; but the purgation of the soul which follows the thrill of tragedy [in Greek art and ritual], produces in it a calmness lit up by the rays of truth and unknown bliss. The object of the Mysteries of Eleusis was to communicate this truth and bliss to the initiate through personal experience, by lucid conceptions and vivid imagery."
from "The Hellenic Miracle" in "Selected Occult Writings of Edouard Schure," p. 221, translated from the French by Eva Martin (1912/1928)
___ ___ ___
the Tao, Demeter
"The realization that there are many different types of universal synthesis, the static Oneness of Brahman, the dynamic Oneness of Demeter or of the Tao, is what in part led me to realize the transcendent nature of biblical God, creating it all. A different way of coming to this realization is through humility. [...] Brahman, Nirvana, the Tao, Demeter, we attain by our own mystical or psychical efforts, by our human works, as it were. The Holy Spirit is the gift of God to us, comes from beyond us, as we truly feel when the experience uplifts us, and is therefore the result of God's grace, not of anything we do directly. This is not to say we should neglect doing good works [...], since the Holy Spirit will not come to dwell where there is evil. We must become a suitable vessel for God to enter, before there can be grace [transcendence]."
from "A Guide to the Ancient Mysteries," pp. 434-5, by Tom Ficek (2009)
___ ___ ___
Beyond the Works of Aphrodite —
Goddess Celibacy & Productivity
"The Greeks, far more than we, concentrate on the moral consequences of passion, and even in the third century BC it was still associated with atê [Gk. ἄτη], the delusion that leads to destruction. [...] Celibate goddesses are not only more trustworthy because their judgment is unaffected by Aphrodite and the delusion of passion; like Demeter when she comes to Eleusis disquised as an old nurse, they are freed from all responsibilities connected with reproduction and so are able to look after the young and those who need them. Demeter, after Persephone has been taken from her, disguises herself as an old woman, past childbearing and the works of Aphrodite [L-101-102], so that she is able, both because of her experience with children, and her present lack of involvement with men, to serve as a nurse for the son of a king."
from "Women in Greek Myth," p. 179, by Mary R. Lefkowitz (2007)
___ ___ ___
Taoism, Feng Shui, Balance
& the Demeter Myth
"The Tao, which means way or process, is a path of Balance both for humans and for the universe. In Taoism, everything must be in balance. Things that are out of Balance are cured with sacred charms. Even today, large business developers and private home owners call upon the expertise of special designers to Balance with nature the elements of working or living environments. These feng shui designers Balance our extremes and excesses so that inhabitants will find harmony within themselves and every aspect of their lives. [...] The Greeks personified the Balance of the seasons in the myth of Demeter, the great earth mother and goddess of the harvest. [...] In all cultures, Nature teaches us the rhythm of Balance. Even a small garden contains the cycles of life, a time to plant, to grow, to harvest, to decay, and to regenerate."
from "Yoga for your spiritual muscles: a complete yoga program to strengthen body and spirit," pp. 73-74,
by Rachel Schaeffer, Adam Mastoon, David S. Waitz (1998)
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
DESCENT FROM OLYMPUS : 90-104
But grief, more terrible and ravaging,* came to Demeter's heart,
___ Τὴν δ' ἄχος αἰνότερον καὶ κύντερον ἵκετο θυμόν:
___ Tên d' akhos ainoteron kai kunteron hiketo thumon:
and thereafter, so angered* with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos,
___ χωσαμένη δὴ ἔπειτα κελαινεφέι Κρονίωνι
___ khôsamenê dê epeita kelainephei Kroniôni
that she avoided the gathering* of the gods and high Olympus
___ νοσφισθεῖσα θεῶν ἀγορὴν καὶ μακρὸν Ὄλυμπον
___ nosphistheisa theôn agorên kai makron Olumpon
and went down to the towns and fertile* fields of the people,
___ ᾤχετ' ἐπ' ἀνθρώπων πόλιας καὶ πίονα ἔργα
___ ôikhet' ep' anthrôpôn polias kai piona erga
disguising* her form* a long while. And no one of men
___ εἶδος ἀμαλδύνουσα πολὺν χρόνον: οὐδέ τις ἀνδρῶν
___ eidos amaldunousa polun khronon: oude tis andrôn
or deep-girted* womankind knew her when they saw her,
___ εἰσορόων γίγνωσκε βαθυζώνων τε γυναικῶν,
___ eisorown ginwske baquzwnwn te gunaikwn,
until she came to* the domain of wise Celeus
___ πρίν γ' ὅτε δὴ Κελεοῖο δαΐφρονος ἵκετο δῶμα,
___ prin g' hote dê Keleoio daïphronos hiketo dôma,
who then was lord of fragrant Eleusis.*
___ ὃς τότ' Ἐλευσῖνος θυοέσσης κοίρανος ἦεν.
___ hos tot' Eleusinos thuoessês koiranos êen.
She sat near the way[side],* in her dear heart,* sorrowful —
___ ἕζετο δ' ἐγγὺς ὁδοῖο φίλον τετιημένη ἦτορ,
___ hezeto d' engus hodoio philon tetiêmenê êtor,
by the Maiden Well,* where women were used to draw water,
___ Παρθενίῳ φρέατι, ὅθεν ὑδρεύοντο πολῖται,
___ Partheniôi phreati, hothen hudreuonto politai,
in a shady* place over which grew an olive tree* —
___ ἐν σκιῇ, αὐτὰρ ὕπερθε πεφύκει θάμνος ἐλαίης,
___ en skiêi, autar huperthe pephukei thamnos elaiês,
an old woman, ancient-born resembling, who, from childbearing,
___ γρηὶ παλαιγενέι ἐναλίγκιος, ἥτε τόκοιο
___ grêi palaigenei enalinkios, hête tokoio
is cut off and from the gifts of garland-loving* Aphrodite —
___ εἴργηται δώρων τε φιλοστεφάνου Ἀφροδίτης,
___ eirgêtai dôrôn te philostephanou Aphroditês
like (belonging to a righteous king) a caretaker for
___ οἷαί τε τροφοί εἰσι θεμιστοπόλων βασιλήων
___ hoiai te trophoi eisi themistopolôn basilêôn
the children, or like house-keepers* in their echoing halls.
___ παίδων καὶ ταμίαι κατὰ δώματα ἠχήεντα.
___ paidôn kai tamiai kata dômata êkhêenta.
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Ancient Greek Other Meanings|
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090 κύντερον / kunteron|
ravaging (leading to her disfigurement at L-94 and used again at L-306 of the famine) - more dog-like, i.e. shameless - more horrible
091 χωσαμένη / khôsamenê
angry - bereaved - recoiled - drawn back - be angry with (see L-330)
092 ἀγορὴν / agorên
gathering - assembly - place of assembly - the forum
093 πίονα / piona
abundant, wealthy, rich, fertile, plenteous
094 ἀμαλδύνουσα / amaldunousa
conceal - disguising, according to Allen & Sikes (1906), and "not as in Homer, destroying"
εἶδος / eidos
form, figure, appearance, physique, person, comeliness
095 βαθυζώνων / baquzwnwn
deep girted, that is, girted down from the waist, see illustration:
096 ἵκετο / hiketo
come to - come upon - reach - attain - arrive at
097 Ἐλευσῖνος / Eleusinos (ἔλευσις)
Eleusis = lit., Coming, Arrival, Advent
(the place name is referred to 7 times in the Hymn, here at L-097, L-105 , L-266 , L-318 , L-356 , L-490 , where twice it is referred to as "θῠόεις," literally, "incense-laden" and as Demeter's home (L-490)
ὁδοῖο / hodoio (ὁδός, ὁδόω)
way - wayside - road - way to truth - Tao - as verb = traveling, "waying" - move forward - lead by the right way - on the way to wisdom - Pass., to be on the right path
098 ἦτορ / êtor
heart - the seat of life - life - the seat of feeling, passion, desire
099 Παρθενίῳ φρέατι / Partheniôi phreati
Maiden Well / Virgin's Well- (an artificial well) likely identical with the "Flowery Well," at which, according to Pamphos, Demeter sat
100 σκιῇ / skiêi
cast in shadow - the shade (of trees) - to be in shadow -
a shady place - [in] the shadows -
100 ἐλαίης / elaiês
an olive - olive tree (fem. sg.)
102 φιλοστεφάνου / philostephanou
garland-loving - loving crowns - garlanded
103 τροφοί / trophoi
caretaker - that which nourishes - rearer - nurse
ταμίαι / tamiai
housekeeper - housewife - steward - priest
Above: detail from a Boeotian hydria motif, ca. 700 BC–675 BCE (Greek Geometric Period, Louvre Museum). Click graphic to view the original ceramic at Wikipedia. Compare with the Gosper Curve fractal illustrated left.
See mention of olive trees in the Hymn at line 23 and here at line 100.
Ancient gold signet ring, from the Acropolis Treasure, Mycenae, with sacred Minoan labrys in the center (indicating a religious scene). The Goddess is sitting on the roadside under an olive tree (?), holding poppy capsules, a Cretan symbol of Demeter, and with her votaries or priestesses, one possibly carrying small incense pots far left, and dressed in pantaloons. Notice also the symbolic flowering of Demeter's mind (see below the olive as a symbol of wisdom). Sun and moon above are separated by a rainbow or the Milky Way.
According to Helen Thomas (Annual of the British School of Athens, p. 80, Vol. 39, 1938-39), "the back of the bezel is grooved to fit the finger and the hoop set at right angles to its long axis, in Minoan custom." In "Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion," p. 347, Martin Persson Nilsson (1968) states that in "regard to the poppy, which is...closely connected with Demeter, it is to be noted that it grows in the fields together with the corn and that its seeds were used as condiments and sprinkled upon the bread." Illustration from the "Mycennaean Tree and Pillar Cult," p. 108, by Arthur J. Evans, published in "The Journal of Hellenic studies, Volume 21" (1901)
Down to Earth —
Demeter & the Ancient Tao
"[In Lao Tzu] one can attain the kingdom only if one remains free of busyness. The very busy are not destined to attain the kingdom' (Ch. 48). In this aversion to mechanical-abstract doing, Chthonic memory speaks unmistakably, belief in the earth-mother, giving and guarding; long-lost matriliny continues to have its effect in the maxim of not-doing as spontaneity in repose. And it is not without reason that Lao Tzu's life-Tao thus reproduces, sublimates images from the earlier, matrilineal period in China [...]. Thus not-doing achieves its contact with Demeter in the Tao: 'The spirit of the deep does not die, this is the eternally female. Endlessly it pushes forward and is yet as if persisting, in its working it remains effortless.' (Ch. 6)."
from "The Principle of Hope," Vol. 3, p. 1228,
by Ernst Bloch (1885-1977), trans. by Neville Plaice, et al (1959 / 1995)
Ancient Greek coin from Athens, ca 455-449 BCE,
with olive leaf wreathed Athena on the obverse,
and reverse, Athena's owl with an olive branch as a symbol of wisdom
Olive Trees Sacred to Demeter:|
"She sat near the wayside...in a shady place
over which grew an olive tree"
"Olives [...] are a typical feature of the Mediterranean landscape, and so represent the world of nature, the world of tree nymphs, intermediate between gods and men. [...] Wells in Greece have always been in the shade of trees, places in which to rest and take refreshment after the dust and heat of a journey. The olive tree presumably stood by [the spring of] Callichoran in later times and was also sacred to Demeter. See also line 22 .
[In early epic] the elements of nature are frequently evoked as witnesses."
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," pp. 154, 182, by N. J. Richardson (1974)
of the Maiden's Well
"Guilt is all-consuming and leaves little energy for channeling our anger in the appropriate direction, outward where it belongs. Instead, guilt forces us to channel our anger inward, against ourselves, causing us to feel helpless, powerless and immobile. Eventually Demeter does channel her anger in the appropriate direction. But for the time being, she limps away from Olympus, a broken-hearted mother racked with guilt and self-blame. At the Maiden's Well in Eleusis, Demeter meets the daughters of Metaneira. Since fetching water was typically a feminine task, presumably Demeter goes to the well intentionally in order to encounter females and solicit their help."
from "Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth," p. 18, by Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)
Demeter's Arrival Out of Anger
Not Searching on Earth for Persephone
"Demeter, in her grief and anger, leaves the gods and wanders over the Earth in disguise, until she comes to the palace of Celeus, king of Eleusis. In this version, the motive for Demeter's wanderings is her anger with Zeus. In later versions, she is normally looking for her daughter. At first sight, this has more point to it. But the theme of the withdrawal of a deity from heaven in anger is also a tradional one."
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," p. 176, ed. by N. J. Richardson (1977)
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Illustrations: (Left Panel) Peplos Kore (Κόρη), Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE, (TOP): Prithvi Earth Goddess, Photo: earlywomenmasters.net
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