While most modern Pagans are in the afterglow of the Fall Equinox/Mabon and gearing up for Samhain, my mind is glossing on the Eleusinian mysteries, celebrated for at least 1000 years on the outskirts of Athens, Greece, in the month Boedromion (late September–early October).
Allusions to Persephone arose for me during the group Arbatel Working that I have discussed previously in this blog. In retrospect while reviewing my notes, I wondered whether the Eleusinian and Orphic mysteries of Persephone and Dionysos Zagreus, lost to time but no doubt reverberating in archetypal consciousness, could be elicited through working with the Arbatel.
I was not alone in receiving cryptic content about Persephone. The other woman in the Arbatel Working group, who I will refer to as SI, also received hints. I learned that she had long drawn great inspiration from the Persephone myth in her work as a professional artist and occultist.
My own major exposure to the Persephone myth came the year previously—2009—when I had become immersed in a project that consisted of the development of a ritual play about the myth of the abduction of Persephone. My initial vision was simple and more of an oratory, keeping in mind that ritual plays are ancient forms of devotion. The material was inspired by Orphic hymns and the work of Alfred Lord Tennyson. The project, however, was taken over by another person whose vision was a more elaborate theatrical performance based on the exoteric Homeric hymn of Demeter. The ritual play was supposed to be presented at a large, annual fall event by members of a Wiccan coven, but by the time the event rolled around, I as well as virtually all of the coven members had been shut out of the project. The play was performed as theater by amateur-actor contacts of the coven leader.
The disenfranchised coven members and I ultimately regrouped, forming what is now more of a magical study group: New Aeon Lodge—small but strong and approaching a year’s resilience.
I have flown out of the Circle of Heavy Grief and stepped swift-footed onto the Circle of Joy. I have made straight for the Breast of the Mistress, the Queen of the Underworld.
And now I come as a supplicant to Holy Persephone, that by Her Grace, She sends me to the Seats of the Hallowed. [Saying,] “Happy and Blessed One, you shall be god instead of mortal.” –Bacchic/Orphic gold tablets, Thurii, Southern Italy, 4th century BCE
In late April 2010, I was invited to collaborate with three other persons, two men and another woman, on a project related to decoding and integrating the mysteries of the Arbatel. The first phase of this group Working took place in May 2010. The others in the Cohort, who were more experienced in Hermetic ceremonial magic and grimoire-focused work than me, concentrated on a part of the Arbatel that I had summarily overlooked in my first pass with the text: The Seal of Secrets described in Aphorism 27.
Because the lead facilitator of the Cohort had long been dedicated to dreamwork, we decided to contact the Olympic Spirits through this method. Before retiring, we would acknowledge the moon mansion of the day and its corresponding ruling planet/Olympic Spirit and perform whatever preparatory ritual we each saw fit to do. Then, as we were drifting into sleep, we were to visualize the sigil of the appropriate Olympic Spirit in a certain way. We then kept a group dream log on a secure, on-line site and also kept a lively discussion going through a Wave application.
The most pertinent information I received did not come during dream sequences but while falling asleep or in periods of contemplation during the day. Deciphering number codes within the Arbatel and the geometric shapes I had been envisioning the month before (April 2010) occupied my days. As for dream content, a recurrent theme had to do with properly sorting items that represented the Olympic Spirits and visualizing parts of the Seal. I often dreamed that I was talking to people about the Seal. SI had similar recurring dreams related to handling and deconstructing gadgets that represented the Seal or the Olympic Spirits and of receiving discussion-format teachings about the Seal from entities. Messages related to Pythagorean and Orphic mysticism also were prominent for us. The following notes concern Persephone.
On the night of Wednesday May 12, 2010 (4th mansion of the moon EST, Aldebaran, “The Follower,” Ophiel [Mercury]). I recorded that, although I didn’t experience a narrative dream, I kept envisioning a sphere-like shape made of 8 orange radials—a shape and color that I associated with Ophiel. Images of the ibis, the zoomorphic form of Egyptian Thoth (quasi cognate of Mercury/Hermes), also recurred. The relevancy here is that during my previous solo Arbatel Working in April, I made contact with an entity during my first Ophiel evocation who introduced himself as Thoth and sometimes appeared thereafter as an ibis.
But also that night, in the period in which I get to the brink of sleep, I was startled back into full consciousness by this message:
“How do we mold ourselves into spiritual powers?” (And the answer:) “For this reason, ask Persephone.”
On the very night that I received this message, SI had a dream, recorded the following morning in our group dream diary, in which two old men were sadly reminiscing and gazing in anxiety at a large brown satchel that had belonged to a woman they once knew. As SI explained it, the two men were both in love with the woman who distanced herself from both of them so as not to ruin their friendship. The men were trying to trick each other into opening the satchel. Finally, one of the men addressed the other, saying, “Why are we torturing ourselves like this. Why don’t we make her open it. She has the key.” At which, he pointed directly to SI.
This got me thinking about material I came across months previously while researching an article that included discussion about the pentagram. I stumbled upon information about the doctrine of the Pentemychos, a philosophy told as creation mythology and attributed to the 6th century BC pre-Socratic philosopher Pherecydes of Syros, the legendary teacher of Pythagoras. (See the brief Pherecydes of Syros. http://pediaview.com/openpedia/Pherecydes_of_Syros#Creation_of_the_world and the chapter on the Heptamychos in the book Ancilla to the Pre-Socratics by Kathleen Freeman here http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/app/app09.htm .)
In the Pentemychos, the interplay between pre-cosmic Time (Chronos), Being/Eros (Zas), and “That Which Underlies the Earth” (Chthonie) results in the creation of the Cosmos. Chronos as pre-Cosmic Time (i.e., Time and Timelessness) is related to Kronos (ordered Time). Zas is thought to be synonymous with Zeus as the Life Principle. Chthonie is the prima materia who becomes Gaia (Earth) through marital union with Zas. Note that Gaia and Demeter (Earth Mother), among other goddesses such as Rhea and Hekate—and also Isis and the Phrygian Cybele (Magna Mater), were regarded as cognates and that an epithet of Demeter is Chthonia.
In brief, a structure made of five recesses (a pente-mychos), which may be or be in Chthonie, is inseminated by Chronos, who provides the semen/seed, and by Zas, who represents the activity and potency of insemination, giving rise to the “offspring of the gods”; that is, Creation. This event, however, occurs in the midst of an archetypal drama that pits light and dark and order and chaos against each other. The agents of chaos are ultimately overcome and cast down into Tartarus, the lowest and most dismal plane of existence, a Hell lower than Hades.
Although most of the doctrine of the Pentemychos is lost, it is thought that within it were wisdoms about the nature of life, enlightenment, reincarnation, and the afterlife.
When I read SI’s dream record for the night of May 12, I imagined that the two men were Kronos and Zeus sadly and anxiously pondering what had become of the world fashioned from their liaison with their beloved but lost Chthonie (a large brown leather satchel, being a mychos—a recess or receptacle—and indicative of earth).
Where is the solution/resolution—or key—to the anxiety of these entities—in the mortal soul—product of Earth and Spirit—aspiring toward enlightenment, as SI has been doing. Also note that Hekate, the crone form of Persephone, bears the key that unlocks the mysteries in her iconography.
I will add that this was one of many cryptic dream interludes in which the Olympic Spirits seemed to be trying to “reach us”; as if they were just as frustrated about the most efficient way to connect with us as we with them. I recall a dream on the night of May 15 (\in which we were in the 7th mansion of the moon, ruled by Aratron (Saturn). In the dream, I was walking in a woodland park with Aratron and a woman. Aratron was a tall, thin, aged, and grey, but attractive fellow. He did not acknowledge me. The woman was earthy, dowdy, pudgy, with short straight brown hair and thick, feral bucked teeth. She turned to me while he continued walking and said, “We have to go figure something out. Bye.” The sense was that she and Aratron were parting company with me because they needed to walk ahead to discuss how better to “reach” us Cohort members because we were not quite “getting” what the Olympic Spirits were trying to impart.
Interestingly, when I awoke that next morning, the sigil of Aratron was very present to me. Its image lingered in my mind for hours that day along with an intense feeling of being in love or loved—loved by Saturn—as if he were vying for my affection with Jupiter.
The Persephone theme also leaked into the nocturnal communications on one of the intervening nights, May 13th (5th mansion of the moon, ruled by Bethor [Jupiter]).
The falling-to-sleep message was the number 169, which resolves to 7—the number of the classical planets. The number may also be an allusion to the central pillar of the Cabalist Tree of Life: Kether (1)-Tiphareth (6)-Yeshod (9).
Shortly after this, an image of bright, vivid flames and the words (a man’s voice speaking), “She is my sister!” startled me awake. The brother of Persephone would be Plutus (son of Demeter and the mortal Iason) or Dionysos Zagreus (son of Demeter and Zeus), both or either possibly related to Iachos/Brimos—the divine son born during the mysteries of Eleusis.
In revisiting this in my editing of the raw notes, I am thinking that the message refers to the Secret Fire/Kundalini and transformational processes described through metaphor.
In Cabala, the name of God: Yod Heh Vau Heh, we are told, signifies Father-Mother-Son-Daughter and the sefiroh Chokmah (2), Binah (3), Tiphareth (6), and Malkuth (10). Chokmah and Binah (Wisdom and Understanding) are Father-Mother through whose emanation duality and the manifest universe emerge. Tiphareth and Malkuth (Beauty and Kingdom) are Son and Daughter, the reflection of the Macrocosm in the Microcosm, with the Son being the intermediary in the path of return. The placement of these sefiroh forms a Tau cross.
Aleister Crowley equates the Son with the Holy Guardian Angel (HGA, a construct discussed in the 14th century grimoire The Book of Abramelin and earlier defined and called the Augoeides by the Neoplatonist Porphyry [3rd century] ). According to Crowley, the Father refers to the highest spiritual attainment (union with the divine principle, equated with the sphere of Kether in the Cabalist Tree of Life); the Son—also called the Younger Brother—refers to the HGA, which is the ideal Self. The union of the HGA with the natural soul—the Daughter—self-actualizes the soul so that it realizes its divine nature, becoming the Mother that joins with the Father. (See Crowley et al’s Book 4 and Book 418 [Liber CDXVIII]). The idea is that the natural soul is transformed through a spiritual spark or intercessor—sometimes also called the secret fire or serpent power—so that it overcomes its animal nature and realizes its spiritual nature and all its benefits.
Jump to the night of July 11th (9th mansion of the moon, Algebha, ruled by Phul [Luna]), during a second phase of the group Working. (The Cohort had taken a month hiatus and then decided to do a second round of dreamwork for the month of July 2010.) During this period, I had been having dreams about comparing and correcting lists and documents about the Olympic Spirits and also about pairing the Olympic Spirits or dividing them into pairs.
On this night, I first dreamed that I was reviewing a list of Greco-Roman and Greco-Egyptian God-names that included the planets. The list was supposed to be studied or reworked for accuracy. The second round of this dream (as if I was dreaming it on and off) had to do with the Prince and Nobles of the quarters of the Seal of Secrets. The prince and each of the 6 flanking nobles were to be divided in halves, making “12” parts (not 14). This information was to be studied with another person(s) to confirm or expand the information.
I recorded this dream sometime around 5 AM and fell back into a light sleep. I heard this message:
“In some more common traditions, the Prince is as it is in the Arbatel, but She is the personification of death and anger, which must be thrown off.” The sense was that when death and anger are thrown off, “Her” real nature (which is our real nature) is known. My immediate thought was to go back to the subject of Persephone, who represents Death (Persephone means She Who Destroys [perse] the Light [phone]) and whose mother Demeter represents anger under the epithet Erynis [“furious”], described in the Persephone-Demeter myth as wrecking havoc in enraged response to what Zeus, Hades, and the other gods did regarding the abduction of her daughter).
I am also thinking about the parallels between Demeter and the Hindu goddess Durga, who is called Chandi –Ferocious, Angry—because she ferociously slays demons, which are, in actuality, one’s faults, vices, and neurotic conditioning. A dark form of Durga is Kali, who is called “She Who Turns All Forms to Ashes.” In this way, Kali perhaps bears some similarity to Persephone in that both goddesses have an edge and their contemplation holds the key to understanding and transcending the brutality of life and the wheel of fate.
-- Soror ZSD23