Pagan and the Pit(bulls)

The political musings of a Pagan and her dogs.


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Hail to Persephone and Demeter, goddesses of agency

Personally, I don’t hold onto myths if they don’t serve me or the world I live in. Yesterday was the offering to Demeter and Persephone, and I decided to share the Persephone myth I believe in.

Demeter, as an earth goddess, spent much time in the beginning underground encouraging the roots to grow; and beloved Persephone often came with her. But since you can only wat your mother work for so long, Persephone began to explore the world underground and the underworld beneath it. On her explorations, she came upon Hades, overworked and overtaxed by the demands of the dead.  Persephone offered help, and Hades gladly took it. The work of bringing justice and order to the dead gave Persephone purpose and in the light of the silent flames, she blossomed. Eventually, she fell in love with Hades, the underworld, and the dead; refusing to leave. Demeter, as mothers do, refused to believe that Persephone (her bright spring child Persephone) would rather stay in the dark underworld and flew into a rage that destroyed the gree growing plants of the earth. Demeter refused to go underground to tend to the roots. The dead flocked to the underworld in droves and told Persephone of the famine and her mother’s cruelties. Kind-hearted Persephone went to the border of the underworld and underground, where the seeds sleep and the roots grow. Slowly, because she had little of her mothers powers, Persephone pulled the roots from the seeds directing them to water and rich patches of soil before pushing tentative shoots up to the sun. During this time of famine, Demeter grieved on Hecate’s shoulder. Demeter mourned her daughter and all the dreams she had for her. With time and Hecates care came acceptance, so when the first brave shoot came through the earth Demeter was ready to begin again. But grief is something we live with, not something we conquer; and on the anniversary of Persephone’s absence,  Demeter falls into deep grief again.

Some men I know, have an issue with this version of the myth. They say I don’t know my gods appropriately, or that I have never bothered reading about them. When I show them my collection of classic writers: Apollodorus, Diodorus Siculus, Hesiod, Pausanias, the Papyrii, Strabo, Oppian, Ovid, Pseudo-Hyginus, Virgil, Cicero, Propertius, Seneca, Valerius Flaccus, Statius, Apuleius, Claudian, and both the Homeric and Orphic hymns; I’m accused of keeping them on my shelf to make myself look smarter. Even though some of them aren’t in neatly bound books, but rather were pdfs I printed and put into beat-up binders.

Those men do exactly what the classic myth does: they take away the agency of the women around them and diminish them to something smaller. That’s why I love my myth so much. It’s pure women’s culture, and you’ll have to pry it from my cold dead hands before I let it go.

Women’s culture is the art and stories women make around their identity as women. Here at the Pagan and the Pitbulls, this culture is intersectional. In the middle of that intersection of gender, sex, sexuality, race, age, ability, and nationality is our agency.

Our agency to live in our bodies, to modify and dress them as we see fit.

Our agency to not only decide if and when we want children; but also to raise those children in a place with good housing, clean water and air, healthcare, and education.

Our agency to choose the careers and jobs we want, to follow our purpose and desires. Without others putting arbitrary barriers to accessibility.

Our agency to choose as many or as few partners we desire, and to form bonds with them in ways that fit our lives.

Our agency to grieve our beloveds fully.

Our agency to call for justice for harm done to us and our communities, and to have those calls be heard.

Our agency to choose our religion, philosophy, or beliefs without them being questioned.

Our agency to simply exist.

Demeter and Persephone are goddesses of agency and to them, I give an offering.

XXVIII. TO PERSEPHONE

Daughter of Zeus, almighty and divine, come, blessed queen, and to these rites incline:

Only-begotten, Plouton’s honored wife, O venerable Goddess, source of life:

‘Tis thine in earth’s profundities to dwell, fast by the wide and dismal gates of hell:

Zeus’ holy offspring, of a beauteous mien, Praxidike, with lovely locks, infernal queen:

Source of the Eumenides, whose blest frame proceeds from Zeus’ ineffable and secret seeds:

Mother of Eubouleos, Sonorous, divine, and many-form’d, the parent of the vine:

The dancing Horai attend thee, essence bright, all-ruling virgin, bearing heav’nly light:

Illustrious, horned, of a bounteous mind, alone desir’d by those of mortal kind.

O, vernal queen, whom grassy plains delight, sweet to the smell, and pleasing to the sight:

Whose holy form in budding fruits we view, Earth’s vigorous offspring of a various hue:

Espous’d in Autumn: life and death alone to wretched mortals from thy power is known:

For thine the task according to thy will, life to produce, and all that lives to kill.

Hear, blessed Goddess, send a rich increase of various fruits from earth, with lovely Peace;

Send Health with gentle hand, and crown my life with blest abundance, free from noisy strife;

Last, in extreme old age the prey of Death, dismiss we willing to the realms beneath,

To thy fair palace, and the blissful plains where happy spirits dwell, and Pluto [Plouton] reigns.

XXXIX. TO DEMETER ELEUSINIA

O Universal mother Deo fam’d august, the source of wealth, and various named:

Great nurse, all-bounteous, blessed and divine, who joy’st in peace, to nourish corn is thine:

Goddess of seed, of fruits abundant, fair, harvest and threshing, are thy constant care;

Who dwell’st in Eleusina’s seats retir’d, lovely, delightful queen, by all desired.

Nurse of all mortals, whose benignant mind, first ploughing oxen to the yoke confin’d;

And gave to men, what nature’s wants require, with plenteous means of bliss which all desire.

In verdure flourishing in honor bright, assessor of great Bacchus [Bromios], bearing light:

Rejoicing in the reapers sickles, kind, whose nature lucid, earthly, pure, we find.

Prolific, venerable, Nurse divine, thy daughter loving, holy Proserpine [Koure]:

A car with dragons yok’d, ’tis thine to guide, and orgies singing round thy throne to ride:

Only-begotten, much-producing queen, all flowers are thine and fruits of lovely green.

Bright Goddess, come, with Summer’s rich increase swelling and pregnant, leading smiling Peace;

Come, with fair Concord and imperial Health, and join with these a needful store of wealth.

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Happy New Year, Queen of Heaven

queen of heavenHera starts off the New Year in terms of devotionals, and I will be the first to say I think Hera gets a bad rap and that isn’t fair to her. Hera is the best example of the oversimplification of the gods to fit a cultural narrative. Let’s lay down some truth here: Hera is pretty bad ass. She has a pretty strong realm of dominion; Hera is the Queen of Heaven, the goddess of kings and empires, goddess of marriage, of women’s fertility, one of the three goddess of child birth (she is the protector of the mother, Artemis is the protector of the child being birthed, and Eileithyia the patron of the act itself), and the goddess of dynasties. Quite literally, she rules. Hera fights in the War of the Titans, and the War of the Giants, Dionysus Indian War, and she sponsors Sparta in the Trojan War. If the idea of Hera as a warrior queen seems counterintuitive, consider that Pausanias describes a strong cult to Hera Aigophagos (Hera the Goat-Eater) in Lakedaimonia and its capital of Sparta. Hera takes no prisoners.

But wait, her detractors say, Hera treats Zeus bastard sons and other consorts pretty shittily. My response to this is yes, she does. But look at those actions in light of her realms of dominion: she is Queen of Heaven, goddess of empires and dynasties and women’s roles in them. She isn’t going to let others come in and take what is rightfully the jurisdiction of her and her children. After all, even though Hera is considered the last consort of Zeus and tricked into marriage, she was Queen of Heaven in her own right before he got there. No upstarts allowed. It’s even debatable whether all of her divine children have Zeus as a father. Of her children, Typhaon and the Charities don’t have a mentioned father in myth; Hebe, Ares, Hephaistos, Eris, and Eileithyia have disputed paternity.

And through it all the ups and downs of enforcing her dynastic claim on Olympus, Hera does some very kind and loving things. Philostratus the Elder describes Hera welcoming Athene into the company of the Olympians. Hera fills the rivers with rain water of Argos for the devotion Inakhos after Poseidon dries up the island in rage. When the daughters of Pandareos are left orphaned she blesses them with wisdom to lead. And she sponsors Jason on his search for the Golden Fleece and his journey to bring prosperity to Argos.

Despite of all of this Queen Militant badassery, and kindness and support to her devotees, Hera is remembered as “that bitch who gets in the way of Zeus fun”. Hera is reduced from mighty queen of heaven on a cerulean throne to…shrew.

I’ve always thought that the Wiccanate Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, Crone to be heinously limiting. And that we need to reclaim the goddesses who embody more than the young nymphet, the voluptuous mother, the disfigured old woman. Women deserve goddesses who represent womanhood in all of its forms, not just the forms that are palatable to the public or described and defined by the older and sexist Pagan writers. Hera is the goddess of leaning in and while she may not be the goddess every woman needs, she is one of the goddesses that everyone deserves. So this month, I’m raising a glass and starting to bring her back.

O Royal Hera of majestic mien, aerial-form’d, divine, Zeus’blessed queen,
Thron’d in the bosom of cærulean air, the race of mortals is thy constant care.
The cooling gales thy pow’r alone inspires, which nourish life, which ev’ry life desires.
Mother of clouds and winds, from thee alone producing all things, mortal life is known:
All natures share thy temp’rament divine, and universal sway alone is thine.
With founding blasts of wind, the swelling sea and rolling rivers roar, when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess, fam’d almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.