Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wheel of the Year: Spring Equinox

Persephone Awakening

Turning The Wheel of the Year

We’ve come through the dark of the year and now emerge into the light as we celebrate Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere. Turning the Wheel of the Year again, we arrive to a moment of stillness & silence, when a balance is stuck between dark and light, before moving forward into the growing light of Spring and Summer as the Sun rises over the equator to continue its journey north for the year.
There are rhythms to life and nature that are more real and enduring than our modern insistence on continual progress. Ancient cultures knew this and created ceremonies to help people align with these changing energies. As we attune to Mother Earth’s rhythms, we learn to go with Her ebb and flow throughout the cycle. There’s a time for every purpose under heaven, as the Psalmist says. To live in Mother Earth’s cyclical time, we must step out of our habitual linear patriarchal time. Cyclical time gives us meaning and depth. Linear time leaves us racing to some unknown end that we fear is ‘the end’. The truth is there is no end in cyclical time because the end becomes the beginning. That’s why we began the year’s journey around the Wheel of the Year at the death aspect of the last cycle. 

At each gateway of the Wheel of the Year, we work with the different archetypal energies of life-death-rebirth. We’ve been working with the archetypal energies of the divine feminine aspects of this Wheel, although there are also divine masculine energies that operate throughout the year. This year we’re working on our feminine ‘being’ nature, our instinctual knowing and wisdom. In freeing our feminine nature from rigid patriarchal definitions and rules, both women and men can connect to our soul’s purpose and step away from the need to constantly achieve the ‘success’ that patriarchy demands.
So let’s look at where we’ve come from so we can see where we are now.
At Samhain, we journeyed to the ancient Crone goddess Hecate to stand at the crossroads and decide if we were willing to walk into the Unknown. What new road did we choose? What part of our lives were we willing to leave behind?
At Winter Solstice, we gave birth, along with the Great Mother, to the divine light of Life that is born in the darkness of Winter and of the Unconscious. During that season, we lived with the hope and joy that something new had been born.
At Imbolc, we searched for a vision of the new life growing in us since Winter Solstice. The Celtic goddess Brighid attuned us to our creative imagination. We were asked, how will we work with this new Light within us? What do we want to create this year? We clarify this new vision by engaging the imagination and intuition to see where this Light wants to go and what it has to tell us.
Now, at Spring Equinox, we begin to emerge from the mysterious dark to embody our vision. What has been growing within us is now ready to emerge into the world. Who we are – our character – determines our actions and our fate. “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” Hermes Trismegistus 

 Spring Equinox is a time for new life and resurrection—that’s why the Christian Easter (named after the ancient goddess Ostara) and Jewish Passover are celebrated at this time of year. The days grow longer, animals are more active, migrant birds return to make their nests and birth their young ones and wildflowers awaken from their winter sleep. Spring is a time of rebirth, growth and change, when we feel we’ve emerged from the dark and cold of Winter into new life. It’s a time to assert ourselves and take things to the next step in their creation. In Spring, the fire of Life grows strong again.
The feminine energies of Spring Equinox are manifested in a few goddesses – Ostara, goddess of fertility, Artemis the Huntress and Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld and Spring Maiden. When Persephone returns from the Underworld in the Spring, she has changed, just as we have changed from who we were when we embarked on our initiation at Samhain. Persephone is now a Queen, a woman of power who creates her own life because she knows her inner depths. When we embrace Persephone’s energy and make it our own, we can embody this new life we’ve birthed. Persephone knows what’s inside her – she has come through the dark Underworld of Death and faced herself. Now, like the Tarot card Strength, she can use her will, courage and determination to bring her creative vision to life.

Spring Equinox: Emergence

Spring is the season to rise up and blossom, not just in our personal lives but also in our collective life this year. Many Americans feel betrayed by what the President and his party are doing to our democracy. After the election, we were shocked into a dark, hopeless place, just as surely as Kore/Persephone was abducted by Hades into the Underworld. Like Persephone’s mother Demeter, we felt betrayed and overwhelmed by loss, fear and rage; over the Winter months (since Samhain) we’ve had time to mourn, so now it’s time to rise up with new creative ideas that will make our life fruitful and our democracy stronger in the long run. Like the goddess Persephone, we have lost our innocence but gained our power. It seems we are going through a collective initiation, a spiritual testing that will require all our courage, determination and vision. We have to consciously evolve now.
The Greek Goddess Persephone embodies the fiery, creative energy of Spring, bringing with her the fertility and wealth of the Underworld. Persephone’s underworld journey through death and rebirth unites different worlds – the upper and lower, the inner and outer – in a balance that gives us a unique perspective on life. The comfortably numb life we’ve been living is gone. It’s been raped away.
Persephone embodies the archetypal truth that we have to undergo a descent into the unknowns of our inner life through a betrayal or ‘death’ that initiates us into greater consciousness; then we return to the outer world with our own personal power to live a purposeful life. She embodies our ability to stay connected to the inner world so that its great riches can fertilize our outer world. She is the flower Maiden and powerful Queen as well as the medial woman who can see the unseen. As Queen of the Dead she helps us release what is no longer viable and as Spring Maiden, she brings us back to Life. 

Women of Eleusis ~ Jean Deville
Her mysteries where celebrated for over 2,000 years before Christ in the Eleusinian Mysteries, where her devotees’ initiation assured them of eternal life. The myth of Persephone and her mother Demeter was an important part of this initiation into a greater life. While the myth of Demeter and Persephone can be seen as the story of seasonal changes, there’s more here than meets the eye.

Before she was Persephone, Queen of the Dead, this young woman was called Kore, the Maiden. Her mother Demeter was the goddess of agriculture and the harvest, of growing grains and the fertility of Nature. Demeter was the sister of Zeus, the king of Heaven, Poseidon, the lord of the Oceans and Hades, the king of the Underworld. Hades asked Zeus for a bride and Zeus promised him his daughter by Demeter, Kore. Maybe the Aryan invaders had a habit of stealing their brides because the story is that Hades came up out of the Underworld in his chariot and ravished the young Maiden away. These gods didn’t believe in asking, but then again, life’s hardships also come upon us unexpectedly and we are forced to deal with a loss, an illness, a change.

The Rape of Proserpina 1 Bernini 1622

The story goes that nobody knew what happened to Kore except for Hecate, the Crone, who helped Demeter discover where her daughter was. This is the same Hecate who stood with us at her Crossroads at Samhain and asked us to walk a new path. Demeter then mourned her daughter by taking away the fertility of the land, of animals and of people. She was definitely pissed off. As the old ad from the 60s said “It’s not good to fool Mother Nature!” In the end, the gods weren’t getting the worship they felt they deserved and they made Zeus tell Hades to give her back. And he did. But only after she had eaten some pomegranate seeds in the Underworld, so she had to return there for the part of the year we call Winter.
There are deep archetypal and psychological truths in these ancient stories we call myths. What they reveal about humanity’s growth in consciousness is becoming clearer, as Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Karl Kerenyi and others have explained. So let’s look at some of the symbolism in this story and see what it has to tell us about the initiation into greater consciousness we are going through as a species.
This story of death and rebirth speaks to the truth that life is cyclical and that death is not the end but rather a transition into another state of being. The myth says the Kore was out in the fields, dancing and playing with other young women. There is an innocence about Kore, an innocence that doesn’t understand the part of life that entails pain and suffering. And so, while Hades is not an evil presence, he is most certainly an unknown presence or energy. When we’re young and innocent, we have no conception of pain, suffering and death. We are still bonded with the Mother who keeps us safe and secure. 

The old story says that Kore was looking at a narcissus flower. Our immediate association might be that it symbolized Narcissus, the youth who fell in love with his own image—that’s where we get the term narcissist from (we all know a modern example of this personality disorder!). The ancient narcissus flower was a type of lily or iris, both flowers associated with death. The modern narcissus, which is the daffodil, symbolizes rebirth and new beginnings, as we all experience in the Spring when daffodils are one of the first bulbs to bloom.
It seems young Kore was ready to die so she could have a larger life. It was time to break away from Mom. Just as it is time for all of us to leave humanity’s childhood behind us and grow into mature, responsible stewards of the Earth. This is the initiation Persephone went through. We need to go through it as well.
The story says Hades ravished Kore away. The word ravish comes from the Vulgar Latin *rapire, from Latin rapere "to seize and carry off, carry away suddenly, hurry away". So Hades, or Death, seizes her and poof, she’s gone.

Demeter & Persephone

Now it’s Demeter who feels betrayed when she finds out what has happened to her daughter. She is the part of us who is devastated by what is going on in the world now. Our hopeful, innocent belief that we are the change we’ve been waiting for didn’t take into account the need for a collective initiation before that change can manifest in the world. Demeter is also the part of us who mourns as our personal life goes through crisis.
So here we are, along with Demeter, mourning our lost hopes and future. But once again, all is not lost because in the Goddess’ cyclical time, while all things must pass, as George Harrison so sweetly sang to us, rebirth is just around the corner.
So while Demeter raged against the machine of her own time and held back life and warmth and love from humanity and the gods, things were going on below the surface. Hades, The Unseen One, is a mysterious god: while there’s a sense of danger and darkness about him, he was also the god of the riches of the Underworld – or the Unconscious. Hades took to himself the bright promise of Life and wed it to Death. It seems we have to accept that, just as don Juan told Carlos Castaneda to take death as your advisor.
In the Underworld, Hades offered Kore a pomegranate and she ate some of its seeds. Once she did, she became Persephone, Queen of the Dead. So what was it about those seeds that gave Kore her name and her identity?

Hades offers Persephone the Seeds

Pomegranates are basically a nursery for seeds, don’t you think? In ancient times they symbolized both immortality and fertility. Pomegranates are very juicy. Persephone eats the seeds – and she learns to look at the ‘seeds’, the beginnings, of things: complexes, habits, issues. When we know where things began, we can break habits and change things.
There was something waiting for Persephone in the Underworld that not only woke her up to her identity by giving her the wisdom of the seeds, but also gave her the fertility that used to belong to her mother. So if this myth holds true, which these archetypal patterns do, then what seeds have you eaten from your Unconscious this Winter? Can you see the patterns of your life?
If we are following this mythic journey, then we have to integrate the wisdom of the Underworld—that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, rather than just good little worker bees whose only purpose is to work, make money to pay taxes and then die. When we look at life from this deeper, spiritual perspective, we intuitively know ‘all will be well’ even when we still have lots of work to do. That’s what we have to remember to get us through the dark times: this life is an initiation into greater consciousness and we chose to incarnate at this time to help evolve humanity out of ‘us vs. them’ and into a ‘we at all one’ attitude. ‘What you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me’.
When Persephone emerges from the Underworld in the Spring, she comes back as a Queen, a woman of power and purpose. She comes back in men too, as their Anima. So with the return of the Light at Spring Equinox, we can let our own Persephone emerge and arise to bring back Life to a dark world. We bring with us a connection to the inner world, the inborn Wisdom of Life that is our heritage, so we can see the unseen and intuitively know what needs to be done.
Now more than ever, we have to remember who we are—not helpless victims of patriarchy, but luminous beings of Light and Life. Let Persephone’s power of renewal fill you with her own strength and purpose. That purpose is LIFE.

1. Principle of Mentalism: “All is Mind”
2. Principle of Correspondence: “As is above, so is below. As is below, so is above.”
3. Principle of Vibration: “Nothing rests; everything moves; everything vibrates.”
4. Principle of Polarity: “Everything is dual; everything has an opposite, and opposites are identical in nature but different in degree.”
5. Principle of Rhythm: “Everything flows, out and in; the pendulum-swing manifests in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left- rhythm compensates.”
6. Principle of Cause and Effect: “Every cause has its effect; every effect has its cause.”
7. Principle of Gender: “Everything has its masculine and feminine principles.”

Cathy Pagano