Descent And Ascent: Persephone Claiming Her Throne At Samhain

Descent And Ascent: Persephone Claiming Her Throne At Samhain October 13, 2018
Image from Pixabay

 

For those of us who honor the Greek gods and syncretically link the pagan wheel of the year with our traditions, Persephone’s descent into her underworld is rightfully crowned by her ascending to her throne at Samhain.

During this time of year, we honor the dead and our ancestors, especially taking the time to consider those who have passed away recently. Libations and offerings are made, to Persephone, Hades, Demeter, our ancestors of both blood and spirit, and the dead in general. For some of us, particularly those who have connections to underworld deities and/or communicate with the dead, this is an intense time of year. Sleep can be disrupted, more psychic dreams may be had, and overall our awareness is heightened. Self care during this time is highly recommended.

In ancient Greece, the descent of Persephone into the underworld was celebrated around autumn as part of the rites of the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries. These mysteries promised life after death and were open to absolutely anyone provided they could both speak Greek and pay the initiation fee. The Lesser Mysteries were performed in the spring, but initiates had to wait until the following autumn to be initiated into the Greater Mysteries.

In the modern day, there are a lot of different interpretations and practices surrounding both Persephone and Samhain during this time of year. In my own traditions, the Autumn Equinox marks the time of her descent and Samhain is when she is crowned as queen and ascends to her throne in the underworld. Persephone is a goddess of both life and death, but also of life existing in the realm of the dead.

Her marriage to Hades is hinted at having been an arranged one, but one that her mother did not approve of. However, unlike some modern interpretations it was a happy marriage. My favorite take on both her marriage to Hades and on Persephone is the “hold my flower” essay on Tumblr. It wasn’t Hades the ancient feared, but her. Even saying her name was not typically done lightly. She is the Iron Queen, Our Lady Underground, and she does not suffer fools lightly. She is also, in my experience, extremely warm, down to earth, and approachable with a heavy, heavy understanding of humanity, its mortality, and what goes into it. She is not without compassion by any means.

Typical offerings for Persephone include wine, pomegranates, fruits of the harvest season–especially for your local area, and flowers.

Orphic Hymn to Persephone

Persephone, blessed daughter
of great Zeus, sole offspring
of Demeter, come and accept
this gracious sacrifice.
Much honoured spouse of Plouton,
discreet and life-giving,
you command the gates of Hades
in the bowels of the earth,
lovely-tressed Praxidike,
pure bloom of Deo,
mother of the Erinyes,
queen of the nether world, secretly sired by Zeus
in clandestine union.
Mother of loud-roaring,
many-shaped Eubouleus,
radiant and luminous,
playmate of the Seasons,
revered and almighty,
maiden rich in fruits,
brilliant and horned,
only beloved of mortals,
in spring you take your joy
in the meadow of breezes,
you show your holy figure
in grasses teeming with grass-green fruits,
in autumn you were made

a kidnapper’s bride.
You alone are life and death
To toiling mortals,
O Persephone, you nourish all,
Always, and kill them, too.
Hearken, O blessed goddess,
send forth the fruits of the earth
as you blossom in peace
and in gentle-handed health
bring a blessed life
and a splendid old age to him who is sailing
to your realm, O queen, and to mighty Plouton’s kingdom

Apostolos N. Athanasskis and Benjamin M. Wolkow The Orphic Hymns: Translation, Introduction and Notes Baltimore: MD: The John Hopkins Press, 2013.

 

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