Friday, February 20, 2009

Persephone's Garden

Persephone’s Garden: A Tale of the Spring

Long ago, in the time when they believed the Earth was flat, in the far reaches of the Greek world, there lived a small and humble farming family. The two girl children, Athanasia and Zenobia knew there was nothing but fields of wheat as far as the eye could see in most every direction—save one. Off to the west grew a stand of trees near a stream, and tucked away in these trees was a very special place, a place the girls called their Secret Garden.

During the hottest days of the year, when all growth ceased and the days were lazy and long, the girls would dream of the seasons when the garden was in bloom. This garden was the very first place where the flowers would return as well as the last from which they would depart every year.

One such day, after months of heavy heat, the girls’ mother said to them, “Young ones, your chores are done. Go out now and play. There is naught to do in here but sit around and be food for the bugs. Find yourselves a shady spot and dream of the rains.”

Athanasia, the elder of the two at eleven, smiled freely at the suggestion. She beckoned to her sister with a wink, “Come, Zenobia. Let us see if we can find a suitable place to play.”

So off the girls went, following a winding path of their own creation to their most Sacred place, Their Secret Garden. Though there had been no flowers for three months now, the girls were careful always to check for weeds and keep everything in order. They took great pride in their work, but they also guarded their secret fiercely. Their Father, though he meant well, could be a little over protective, and the girls were fearful that he would disallow their trips to the Garden if he ever found out.

Because they were so careful with their treasured knowledge, the girls were very surprised not only to find their Garden blooming, but also to see a woman standing among the dripping rose bushes with a bloom in her hand. Frozen in their tracks, they barely flinched when the woman locked eyes with them and smiled warmly.

“Excuse me,” Athanasia finally spoke. “We did not mean to disturb you.”

“Nonsense,” the woman replied. “You must be the ones who have been caring for my garden in my absence.”

Zenobia frowned in confusion. “Your Garden?” she asked. “How come I have never seen you here before?”

The woman laughed. “I live very far away, but this is one of my most favorite places in all of Hellenismos.”

“Mine, too!” exclaimed Zenobia.

“What are your names, if I may ask?” inquired the lady.

“I’m Zenobia, and I’m five and a half,” Zenobia declared. “And that’s Athanasia. She’s eleven and thinks she’s a grown up.”

The Lady bowed her head slightly and said, “Please to make your acquaintance. My name is Persephone.”

Both girls gaped at her in astonishment. They were simple country children, but not completely unawares of the religion of the Great City, infused as it was in everything they did. But the girls knew the story of Persephone and Hades. Persephone was the Dark Queen of the Underworld, not a beautiful woman in a garden.

“Judging by your stunned silence, I would wager you have at least heard my name before?” Persephone asked.

“But, Persephone is a dark and scary lady who spends her time bossing dead people around. She doesn’t like flowers!” Zenobia blurted out. Athanasia stayed her sister and waited.

Persephone regarded this for a moment before she answered her. “Child, in your many years here with us, have you not lost one whom you loved?” Persephone asked.

Athanasia answered for them both, for not long ago they lost their grandmother, the dearest in their hearts. “Our Grandmother now resides in your world.”

“I see,” said Persephone. “And she was good to you, wasn’t she?”

“O, yes!” Zenobia smiled at her memory. “She made the best cakes and told us stories. She is the one who told us about you.”

“I am glad to hear of it.” Persephone replied walking closer to the children. “Little one, do you think your grandmother, who was wise and kind, would be someplace bad and scary for the rest of eternity?”

“Well, I…” For the first time, Zenobia was unsure what to say.

Athanasia waited, regarding the Goddess carefully as she stood before them. She found her unnerving. More than a little too quickly she said, “Please, we meant no harm. Let us be on our way, and we will not bother your garden again.”

“Athanasia, the point I am making is this:” Persephone began. “I may be Queen of the Underworld for a portion of the year, but I am still the Maiden of the Spring when the rains come and wake the Earth. My mother, Demeter, cries freely tears of joy each year when I am given to her again. But while I am away, and she is lost in her longing, the world turns dry and hot and no flowers will grow. It is during this time that I am down below, not in a dark and scary place, as you describe it, but in a warm and comfortable place where your grandmother has come to make her eternal home. And, where ever I go, the flowers follow…” Persephone pointed to the path she walked to reach the children’s side, and lo, the way was marked with blooms of every color, as the flowers bloomed at her feet.

Amazement covered the girls’ faces. Zenobia’s mouth gaped in awe, and Athanasius’ eyes were wide with wonder. Persephone continued, “This garden is the last place I see before I go to Hades side, and the first place to which I come when I return. This is why the flowers here are the last as well as the first.

“Now, since you have admitted freely it was you who has been tending my garden, I must give you your due,” said Persephone with a wink. “I know a great deal more than you may think about what goes on in my absence.

“I will be going north soon, but there is magic here that you may use to aid your family. Take you these flowers and make wreaths out of them. Then, take them to your Father’s shed. Whatever tools you hang them on will be fruitful in their work upon the Earth. Gaia knows they are my flowers and will bless the tools they have touched. Your father’s garden will grow and grow, and your faithfulness will be rewarded to your entire village.”

Just then, a chariot drawn by two magnificent horses landed from the sky. They paused long enough for Persephone to gracefully climb into the back, and then off they went, up and away, to carry her to her mother’s waiting arms.

Several minutes passed before the girls were able to tear their eyes away from the place where the horses had disappeared into the skyline. Finally, Athanasia returned to herself and regarded Zenobia. “Come, little one, and I will show you how to weave a wreath.”

Together, the girls made a dozen wreaths, growing more anxious and excited as they worked. On their way home, they decided still to keep the gift from the Goddess to themselves, lest it didn’t work, for they did not wish to lose their garden visits for naught.

They continued to tend the garden whenever they could steal away, and over time, they noticed something very peculiar. All of the seeds their father planted had sprung forth, and much sooner than the neighboring fields. As the season waxed, their father’s fields continued to be larger and fuller than all those surrounding them. The neighbors were all in awe over his newly found luck in farming.

Once the harvest arrived, the girls decided to tell their father of what they had done. As the girls spoke, a single tear ran down his face. When the girls were done telling their tale, he quietly asked them to take him to their garden. Once there, he fell to his knees and began to thank the Goddess for her kindness. After some time spent in this manner, he walked slowly around the garden and with an eye more keen to the keeping of growing things, tending the areas in need of further work.

The next year, and every year after that, the family spent much time caring for the gardens and following Persephone’s instructions. And every year the family farm grew larger and larger. Poverty was no longer a familiar word in their neighborhood, and the children grew up healthy and happy.

Persephone was not seen again, but the evidence of her time in the garden was always there for anyone with the eyes to see the path she walked through the garden, for it was always laced with the largest blooms.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Anthesteria Recap

Today, I performed my Anthesteria rite.

It. was. awesome.

Anthesteria this year was in honor of the Ancestors. I made peace with relationships that were toxic in my past, recognized the necessity of the situations and people in my past, and let go of all the hurt and anger that I have been holding on to. I have the Ancestors box since I am DIC for the next rite, and having the Ancestors of my Grove around me and supporting me as I made peace with the not-so-great relationships was very empowering.

I made an offering to the Outdwellers, which is not something I routinely do. I did the rite in my living room, and since this is not an area I usually hallow, I thought it would be wise. It left me feeling very peaceful, and I really needed that feeling going into this!I honored Hestia and the Earth Mother, called to Apollo for inspiration, and Eos opened the gates for me. During the key offerings portion of the rite, I honored the Ancestors with some impromptu words, and then I recognized the Christian gods I worked with and thanked them for the foundation of faith that they helped me to build. I honored them and told them I was moving on.

Omens? Gebo, Othala and Dagaz.

For the return flow, I used a small portion of watered down wine. It definitely made the water feel like more than water (which it was), and I think I may start doing this on a regular basis--especially since I drink water on a regular basis as my beverage of choice.Overall, it was an excellent rite. I didn't leave anything out, and there are no negative feelings or regrets. I do believe I finally have a handle on all this ADF stuff. ;)

Today is a good day. Esto!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Imbolc with the Cranes

Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us… 02/01/2009 Blacklick Woods Metropark The experience of an Imbolc rite with Three Cranes was highly anticipated. Rich in Grove tradition, it has the most attendee participation due to the candle-lighting ceremony. We are blessed to have a Flame Keeper among us, and so the light of Brighid, kindled at Kildare and traveled across the Nine waves, was present at our rite. But the day did not start here. This day was also the Druid moon known as the “Stay at home” moon. Our Grove priest began at our Flame Keeper's home and lit a candle from the Kildare Flame. He then proceeded to visit the homes of all the Grove members who requested it and brought the light of Brighid into our homes. I do believe the grand total of members visited this morning was twenty. Mike had never been to my house, so it was nice for him to get a look at my personal space. There is something special about inviting someone into your home and it helps when they come bearing a gift like, say, the light of a goddess. I spent the morning singing and putting things in order. I had the communal rooms of my home blessed with the light of Brighid, but left my personal shrine space for Hestia. After Mike left, I did a small devotional in which I honored both Goddesses of the Hearth, noting the importance of recognizing the inherent value of the hearth as the sacred center of the family as well as the community at large, and using the belief that all fires are sacred as a means of tying them together. It was a good devotional. I really felt the fire kindle in my chest, and it continued to burn for most of the day. I think they like each other, and I also believe that Hestia was pleased with the way I handled this. The rite itself had a few easily camouflaged “hiccups,” but overall, our offerings were accepted. I did the grove attunement, the traditional Grove Crocus Meditation written by Jenni. Mike did a very powerful Waters of Life (Note to self: write a song to replace “Pour the Waters.”). I also performed “Blessing for Flame Keepers” during the working portion of the rite in which we collected and blessed the cloth to be used in the healing blanket (which is a story for another time). It went well! Overall, it was a very good rite. Liturgically speaking, it was not perfect, but there was an underlying theme of closeness among the grove members. There was a lot of bonding before, during, and after this rite, and I did note that the people drawn to one another were also the ones whose homes were blessed that morning. There are forces at work of which we are not always aware, and the Lady of the Lambs has drawn her children together during this Imbolc season. Omens for this rite include: Have our offerings been accepted? Fern/ The Alder "oracular vision and shielding"... yes! (the interpretation was due in large part to the shielding aspect of this few) What blessings do the kindred have for us in return? Uillend/The Honeysuckle "the core values found at the center of the labyrinth" What further uses do the kindred have of us? Ruis/The Elder "the queen under the mound remind us to let go of that which has outlived its usefulness in order to make room for the new" Taken together these might suggest:"Shielded and with the guidance of the kindred, we stand strong with our core values intact and treasured. We must be ready to surrender that which has outlived its usefulness and be ready for new growth." I find it interesting that since I am DIC-ing the next rite, I brought the Ancestors box home with me. Being a Hellene, my next personal high day rite (Wednesday) is Anthesteria. It is a time for recognizing the forces (kheres) and the dead whom you feel the need to placate for a day. I had already planned on a very Ancestor-oriented rite in which I make amends and peace with the Ancestors of my family with whom my relationships were not the best. In a rite where I confront the Ancestors of Blood, I will be surrounded by the Ancestors of the Grove, my chosen family. The significance of this cannot be put into words. It's just ironic that I, of all people and of all times, have the Ancestors of the Grove with me. The Kindred will provide for you the things that you need to help you along your path. This is just one more way that they are supporting me and solidifying that I have made the right choices thus far on my path.