Boedromion 17 and Songs from “The Wedding Guests”

Boedromion 17: A sow is officially sacrificed to the Two Goddesses in their temple in Athens.  Each initiate sacrifices a sheep, whose fleece is needed for the initiation, as well as the purified piglet. (On all this see Aelian, Animals, 10,16; and Aristophanes, Peace, 373-5).


“The Wedding Guests” was the musical comedy that I wrote as my Ph.D. dissertation at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, finishing up in 1980. It incorporated some songs from the script for the Eleusinian commemoration that the NROOGD performed, and sometimes still performs, as the Mabon Sabbat. All the songs here have their own music, ranging from simple tunes to full scores.

 I.                    Venus’ Song

 Here I sit upon my hill,

Maiden of every young man’s dream,

But I am living proof, my love,

That women are rarely what they seem.


For here I am the Queen of Death

And yet the Queen of Love:

My right hand holds the pomegranate

And my left, the dove.


I dance in many masks for men,

Sing many songs, play many parts,

And by my hands tell who I am,

Just before I break your heart.


I am the White Lady of your dreams

Whom you both long and fear to seize.

I lead you on through silver lands

Of singing stones and melting trees.


Wherever you look, you see me there:

Aphrodite in her shell,

Luna sailing through the leaves,

Persephone in Hell.


And now, my love, a tale we’ll tell

Of lovely wars and witty strife:

As poets always have foretold,

Death will be overcome by life.


This mountain is an organ pipe:

Beneath it Typhon groans and shakes

Where Zeus has trapped him for his crimes,

Breathing fire and belching quakes.


Hades, Lord of all unseen,

Rides around the island’s coasts,

Fearing the quakes will let in light

To terrify his subject ghosts.


So, love, go pierce his gloomy heart

And let him chase me by the shore

Until I turn and capture him

And win the last third of my war.


II. Hymn to Kore

 Kore, my child, so gentle and wild,

Dance while flowers sing praises for you.

Soon you must pass into woman’s knowledge.

Dance in your innocence, soon to be lost.


The gods have their plans, despite those of man,

For all of nature depends on changing.

You have been chosen to turn the seasons:

Soon will the Lord of the Night share his throne.


So you must wed the Lord of the Dead

With his brilliant white hair and laughter.

He who rules death is the perfect lover.

He brings you flowers though snow’s on the ground.


Persephone, what do you see

From your throne in the land of secrets?

The flowers of summer have long since faded,

Yet even in winter there’s fire in the ground.

III. The Duet of Kore and Hades

 [Kore] Uncle, I’m as bearded as the wheat,

             And my breasts are as ripe

             As apples in harvest.

             Calling me a little girl — oh, no.

             Have you ever seen a pomegranate seed

             In the snow?

 [Hades] Kore — I’m as bashful as a kid.

             I have fallen in love

             Like some beardless young bumpkin!

             I want to make you Queen of all my reign—

             Could you learn to love me? Or should I

             Just go die?

 [Kore] Uncle, lover, let me fill you in.

             We girls look men over

             And dream of our lovers.

             And if you were a younger man . . .

 oh, well, I could do worse.

 And could I learn to love you?

             Guess I do.

 [Hades] Kore, I have hardly dared to hope

             That you’d care enough

             To call me your lover!

             Here I a, a greybeard, and in love!

             It’s hard to wait until the day we’re wed

             And in bed.

 [Both] Lover, lover, hold me, hold me close.

             Our love is as frail

             As blossoms in autumn.

             Everything conspires against us now.

             We must hold our love alive in open hands

             While we can.

IV. Iambe’s Song to Demeter

 Oh, come now, lidy, don’t look that way.

I’d think your daughter had run away.

Oh, what a look! What did I say?

Why, I was right, I’ll bet.


(Chorus) Oh, some lidy’s daughter has up and run

             Away wiv some other lidy’s son

            Every day since the world begun,

            And the world ain’t ended yet.

 Wiv a boom and a boom and a boom chuck chuck,

And a boom chuck chuck, and a boom chuck chuck,

And a boom and a boom and a boom chuck chuck,

And a boom chuck boom chuck boom.


Oh, ask my opinion and I would say

Romance is ‘appening every day,

And never was no other way:

Don’t take it as a threat.           (Chorus)


Well, there you sit, with such a frown.

You won’t cheer up, just pull us down

To sit in the muck like a drunken clown:

Know what? you’re all wet!     (Chorus)


The world don’t look so bad to us;

Think you’ve the right to make such a fuss

You spoil things for the rest of us?

Oh, no, you don’t, my pet.       (Chorus)


V. Hymn to Victorious Persephone

 Chaire, Persephone Nike!

Who is great in the sheaves

Of the last of the wheat

When the mowers cut it all down!


She is the Lady of Power!

Who will dance on the skulls

Of the last of the great

As they turn to honey and wine!


She holds the branch of renewal!

For the sword cuts the branch

To the ground in the fall,

But the branch will blossom in spring!


Hail to the dance of the Black One!

She has opened the path

Through the land of the dead

That will bring us each to rebirth!


VI. Blessings of the Initiates[1]

 [Kore] There are three immortalities,

            Of the body, of the spirit, of the mind,

            And all three immortalities

            Are my gift to mankind.

            There is always more: there is no end.

            Rejoice! For death cannot win!

 [Hades] Whenever the serpent begets the bull

            The bull will father the serpent.

 [Chorus] Blessed be they

            Who have seen beneath the surface of the world.

            They have seen the end of life,

            And its Goddess-sent beginning.

            Thrice blessed are they

            Who have seen these mysteries,

            For when they go to the house

            Of the Unseen Lord,

            They alone shall live, in happiness.

            But those who have never shared

            In such holy rites

            Will suffer every sorrow in that house

            Until they fade away into the darkness.


[1] This song could be festooned with footnotes. Please note that the text is largely my translations of Greek passages concerning the Eleusinian mysteries.

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