Winter Barley

November 26, 2008

I’m horribly behind on my posting, sorry about that… it seems that the first months of fall/winter and I really do not get along. I have been sick since the beginning of October which really puts deep thoughts on the back burner. So, while we wait for my brain cells to recouperate… I have two fun photos for you!

On Samhain I was able to get my Winter Barley planted – just in time too! We had a torrential down pour for the next for days!! It was wonderful and great for the barley, but it kept all of us inside for the most part!

heres the barely about a week (maybe less – I’ve lost track) after it was planted.

barley-first-shoots-2

and a week or so later –

barleygrowing-2

The wire fence around the pot is to keep the cats and local night critters out.

The Barley has gotten even taller since and has started to fall over! I have no idea if I am doing any of this right, but I figure nature knows what to do, so the best thing I can do is stay out of the way! So we shall see if I actually manage to make space for really live, honest to goddess Barley to grow in my side yard!

Holiday Blessings,

Kate

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We’re having a sale!

October 30, 2008

If you ever wanted to buy a Silver Kitsune Necklace (my business partner’s stuff) or Sacred Seeds (my stuff)  Altar Doll now is the time!!  Mirth and Reverence (our joint company)  is having its first ever Etsy Shop Sale!!

Egyptian Rope, multi strand seed bead necklace by Jamie Morgan/Silver Kitsune

Its the Fabulous Samhain SALE!
Thursday October 30th thru Lunar Samhain/Election Day Tuesday November 4th! Everything in the Shop is 25% off! All the new prices are already listed and ready for your shopping pleasure!

And – just to entice you even further… Sir EJ the Flaming Fire Horse is now up on Etsy and even at the Sale Price!!

Come Visit the Mirth & Reverence shop on Etsy to see all the great deals!

Tell your friends! Tell your enemies! Tell everyone!!!

My last post “Living the Demetrian Wheel, Reality Strikes” was a first for me. Turns out it was the first time I have ever publicly written about having Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). After two years of living with this condition that seems a little odd, but its true. Up until now I have confined my writing and processing about life with MCS to my private journal, MCS email lists, and discussions with friends. Honestly I think it has taken that long for me to come to terms with this condition and make a certain level of peace within myself around the situation. But as an artist, ritualist and priestess, eventually what is in my heart and mind becomes a part of my work, and I guess my last post was the turning point.

All of that brought to mind that it was time for a little bit of truth in advertising for this blog. A little bit of “who is this crazy lady writing about MCS, ritual, art, gods and goddesses and the like?” And what is it that I am likely to write about on this electronic page of mine?

Five or Six years ago I would have answered that question by saying that I am writer and creator of ritual and ritual theater works, a mother and a priestess. At the time I was the founder and Artistic Director of Magical Acts Ritual Theater an experimental performance group in the Oakland, CA area that explored the boundaries between theater and ritual, between the sacred and the profane. We never made a living at it, but we did manage to pay the bills in the end, which if you know anything about nonprofit, volunteer theater is saying something! I resigned in the fall of 2002 to get some sleep, do some writing and rediscover my family. That worked for a while… but we Type A’s get bored soooo very quickly!

My Bio Photo from my days as AD of MART

Sadly, whatever I had planned for my post-MART days was eaten by the “Flue that would not go away” which started sometime around late 2004 / early 2005. Anyone familiar with MCS can see the plot begin to thicken right about now. Turns out that sometime in that period I was exposed to a very large dose of formaldehyde through a large remodel that was being done on the building that I worked in at the time. Lots of cheap industrial paint and cheap industrial carpet all over the place including right under my feet. Being “normal” at the time, it never occurred to me that this was a problem. Except that from that point on I had this flue and these sinus head aches that would not quit and would last for a week or two, go away, and then reappear – lather, rinse, repeat, over and over again.

In the summer of 2005 I was diagnosed with a massive dust mite allergy. WTF?? I had never had allergies in my life! That started the prescription medication and the allergy shots routine that I now live on. A little over year later I was on my second, or was it third?, sinus infection and a new round of antibiotics. Then in October of 2006 came the lovely adventure to the Emergency Room while at Disneyland that I wrote of in my last post. This was the triggering incident that brought the slumbering formaldehyde into full toxicity and me into the world of life with MCS.

My purple hair – dyed in celebration of my new life with MCS and suddenly jobless because of my health

– weird, but hey it was fun while I could still do it!

The first six to nine months of life with MCS I spent sleeping or watching DVD’s. There was just no energy – no spoons for anything else. So I missed most of 2007, which sucks when you have growing teenagers. Bless my house mates and husband! They stepped in and took over when I couldn’t be there and got the kids and me through the worst of those days! Slowly I learned to breathe again and think again. I discovered that there was a world out there… and of course… I got bored! Lol.

As luck would have it, around the time I got sick, a friend of mine had introduced me to the world of Robert Tonner dolls and Fashion Repaints and it occurred to me to try my hand at redo a doll for myself as an icon of Demeter. So I did and it was fun and other people liked what I was doing… so I tried a few other designs… and people liked those dolls… and started asking if I would do commission work! And now I have the seeds of a business doing Altar dolls! Getting sick lead me to my art – who knew? I have no idea if I will ever be able to make a living doing this, but for the moment it keeps me (mostly) out of trouble, and pays for itself, which in this economy is an absolute requirement!

The Demeter Altar Icon on my altar behind my desk

With my art has coming my writing – my ritual work specifically. I used to say that I was a Writer! Ok, I don’t *think* I was that bad, but I might have been. But this enforced downtime has helped me figure out that its not that I must *write* in the sense that a novelist or short story writer might use that word. When I need to *write* it is almost always to write ritual. I am a ritualist first and foremost, all the writing about ritual comes afterwards. But the requirements of MCS, staying away from all scents and chemical fumes, makes working and being in public damn near in possible – so for now, I am limited to writing ritual for my coven which is small and very MCS wise, and writing about ritual. Yes, its frustrating as hell! And actually its not the complete truth… I am writing rituals, just more complex and detailed ones; the kind that need time to brew and percolate to become their ideal selves.

And last, but never least, I am a priestess. Somehow this has always been true, and now, even with the MCS, or perhaps because of the MCS, it is even more so. I am a priestess of several powers. My work for the rest of 2008 and through June of 2009 at least will focus on my relationship to Demeter, hence the recent spat of work on the Demetrian Wheel of the Year.

So what is Sacred Seeds Weblog about? Art, ritual, life with a chronic condition… ways to celebrate life no matter what the universe throws at you!

I feel like I should title this post “bad priestess no biscuit”. October has been a wash, ritually speaking. Thankfully Demeter seems to understand and be rather tolerant of my efforts to get my life in order. Or at the very least she has not ripped open the ground at my feet or anything that dramatic.

My plan in drafting a Demetrian Wheel of the Year for my own working was to follow it for at least a year to see how it fit into my life and to learn from the experience. After all, if I claim to be Demeter’s Priestess shouldn’t I walk that talk in a very real sense by walking the path of her festivals? Well as with many well intentioned plans… life er… had other plans?

This is the complication of being a priestess and having a chronic illness, everything needs to be adjusted to the needs to the body. Oh. Goodie. So October has become “Flue” month rather than “ritual” month as I was planning. *sigh*. But then again, Demeter seems to understand what she has in me… so this all seems to be part of the process. Yeah, the process of teaching an Aries to mellow out and walk instead of run into everything! Riiiiiiight. Good luck!

All that being said… a few things have been accomplished, a little out of order… but I’ll take all the successes I can get.

I now have my out door altar to Demeter. This is a stand in for the Temple that is to come. The hubs and a cluster of other crazy friends have offered to assist in the creation of a larger exterior “temple” for her in the same spot. We are designing it along the lines of the Asian Spirit / Ancestor Houses which are built as mini houses in various designs for the spirits to live in. Since this is for Demeter, it will be Greek in style of course. And I have finally worked out what I want… hmm… what we want I guess is the better phrase. A four (Doric) column, single room temple with three steps leading up to the entrance. Nice and simple.We are going to rig an opening in the roof so that I can place the Demeter Altar Doll I made several years ago inside during the dry summer months and take her out in the winter. I’m pondering painting the image in Pediment rather than trying to create a set of mini sculptures for the whole thing! I found this very cool website that goes through the stages of development for the Greek temples complied by John Porter of the University of Saskatchewan. I’m hoping to have the temple built and put in place in time for Plynteria in April/May.

Over the weekend I ordered Barley seed so that I can plant a winter batch as soon as they arrive. I will need to work out a private honoring of Proerosia (about a month late, ah well) and include preparing the container and the location I am going to set the seeds out in – near the new altar.

I have a great idea planned for honoring the Stenia, but my schedule keeps getting messed up and timing with the group of ladies who are game to join me has been fubared – we all seemed to have gotten sick this month. My plan is very un-ritualistic and horribly contemporary but entirely within the spirit of the thing. A Girls Night in with videos, tasty things to eat, questionable drinks, and lots of bawdy girl talk. In particular we’ve been plotting a viewing of a lovely little musical called Naked Boys Singing. The Musical is much fun and the dvd was well done… and well… what can you say about lovely men with no clothes on who are enjoying themselves and singing about it? So again, the celebration will happen… just very out of sequence to the actual calendar.

I did manage to do an honoring of the Thesmophoria in a way… another very contemporary approach to ritual, but honoring the spirit of the festival if not the actual script. October 15th is the anniversary of the day I went into the Emergency Room at Disneyland in anaphylactic shock, which is a much longer story that does not need to be told here. That event triggered the toxins that had been stewing in my body from an exposure to Formaldehyde about 18 months earlier. The anaphylaxis pushed me over into full blown Multiple Chemical Sensitivity – the chronic illness I now live with. This year my business partner Jamie and I created a ritual to help me mourn some of what I had lost through that experience and celebrate some of what I have gained. We performed the ritual on Friday October 17th at the Berkeley Marina with a handful of other friends who shared in letting go some of their grief and celebrating some of their joys. It was a quiet and poignant evening.

Now the wheel turns and the Wiccan in me prepares for Samhain this weekend. More honoring of grief and joy at the end of the year. Somehow it all fits together. And just behind me, supporting and offering comfort and understanding, I can feel Demeter’s presence. Sister, Lover, Mother, Goddess, Cohort in Crime, and Friend.

I have more thoughts coming on the Demeter work… but of late I have been busy working on dolls, so I thought I would post this making of about my most recently completed project.

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I just finished working on the largest of my projects just in sheer size – JB the Rainbow horse is just over 20” tall, 6” wide at the chest and 21” from nose to tail. He started out as an experiment, but I sort of got the measurements wrong. I was trying to buy a horse that would work in scale for the Tonner dolls that I use most often in my art… but he’s a little bigger…. In point of fact, he’s scaled to fit the American Girl Dolls who stand 18” tall. Oops. (there is a reason I was a humanities major in school!)

All Ooopses aside, JB has been a lot of fun to work on. I started out by covering him in muslin attached with glue to his body and then from there attaching 1-2” wide squares of fabric in a rainbow of colors going from violet at his head to red at his rump and flowing down his legs. I pinned everything into place first, adjust colors and swatches as needed depending on which colors ended up next to each other.

Once I knew all the colors would work in their locations I started gluing and gluing and gluing and then there was more gluing. And did I mention the gluing? Oh yes, and the gluing J I probably should have taken a picture of my fingers at the end, if I could have found them under all that glue! Still it was rather cool to watch JB come to life with each layer of fabric that became a part of him.

After a night to dry, it was time to work on his mane! Six different colors of yarn went into the mane, and of course, way more than I needed at first, but that was okay, because all the over flow went to his tail. The mane is sewn and glued onto padding on the back of JB’s neck so it’s nice and strong to fly in the breeze and be twirled around fingers and braided. (he is Such a flirt!) His tail is anchored the same way on to his back end to allow for braiding and fluttering.

And last of all JB’s hooves got a luscious coating of gold paint so they would shine just as much as the rest of him… while I watched John Barrowman in “Dr. Who” of course!

He turned out to be a ham and a half when it came time to do his photo session… being insanely picky about where he wanted to be photographed and who with… who??? Since when does the doll pick the subject ?? Apparently he is a people person! He’s also a lot of fun to play with especially if you like playing with hair and different fabric textures.

Hekate’s Daughter Tara

October 7, 2008

Tonight brings word that an old friend, separated by the exigencies of life, health and the way the world works, is nearing death. She is a daughter of Hekate, so I know that her mother waits for her with open arms. From the sound of things, the last few years have not been easy, so this passing is likely to be a blessing.

My heart feels the ache, even knowing that this passing will be to a good place. But then isnt that what they say? that funerals at least, are for the living. We, who must stay behind and cope with the holes in our lives that are shaped like our loved ones and friends, we must find ways to grieve and go on. Even with so much time between us, I can remember my friend’s beautiful black hair and her elegant figure. Her wisdom and her strong opinions 🙂 I suspect thatI was too young to appreciate her presence in my life while our lives had time to intermingle, but I am glad for the time we had. As I am glad for the time and friendship I had with her husband who introduced us. (ah… so easy to get whistfull and maudline in posts like these, so I think I will stop there!)

May she rest well in her mothers arms when the gates finally open and the crossing is complete. And may she return to us when the time is right and her energy is renewed.

So after much digging and not a little bit of hair pulling, I have a schedule of festivals that makes sense to me. Whether this works for anyone else? That is not up to me… feel free to play with it and see what works for you. I will keep posting notes as the year progresses.

Demetrian Wheel of the Year – a Version by Catherine Pennington

Two notes:

a. please be aware that I have bolded the date line for the date I am going to use in my cycle but I have also included the other author’s info underneath even when the dates clash, so that I have a record of what both authors (Reif and Apollonius) think.

b. I have not included all the notes about each date or festival here… those are listed in the first two posts. this is just about the dates in the cycle and enough info to remind me/us what the frakk its all about.

The Calendar:

Proerosia — 5th October

This is a festival for Demeter’s blessings in preparation for the ploughing and sowing at the beginning of the agricultural season (proerosia = things before the time of tillage)

October 7 Rites of Proerosia Preplowing rites. Blessings and magic for to

prepare the sacred field

Stenia — 9th October

a nocturnal women’s festival for Demeter and Persephone in preparation for the Thesmophoria. The women engage in Aiskhrologia (foul language, abuse), hurling insults at one another to commemorate the way in which Iambe made the grieving Demeter laugh.

October 15 Stenia Festival

Bawdy humor, sacred sexuality. Barren

Thesmophoria — 11th-13th October

The Thesmophoria is a celebration of Sporetos (Seed-time), the autumn sowing, dedicated to Demeter and restricted to women.

1st Day: Anodos (Ascent) — 11th October

During the Thesmophoria proper the women camp for three days in the Thesmophorion, the hillside sanctuary of Demeter Thesmophoros.

October 22 Thesmophoria Proper

Celebration of Demeter’s sacred laws. Remembering our divinity.

2nd Day: Nesteia (Fast) — 12th October

On the second day the women sit on the ground and abstain from all solid food in humility and sympathy for Demeter’s mourning (when she also refused a chair), but also to transfer their strength to the soil.

3rd Day: Kalligeneia (Fair Offspring) — 13th October

Nightfall brings the official beginning of the third day, and there is a torch-light ceremony, for Demeter sought Persephone by torch light.

October 23Rites of Nestia & Kalligenia

N = The Sadness. Persephone leaves Plouton/Hades and the underworld.

K = The Rejoicing. Ascent of the Maiden. Reunion of Demeter & Kore. Planting.

Poseidea — 8th December

The month of Poseideon was dedicated to Poseidon and the eighth day was especially sacred to him.

Festival of Haloa – January 10

Celebration of new green growth in both cultivated field and wild nature.

Haloa — 26th December

Most likely the Haloa is a celebration of the pruning of the vines and the tasting of the wine after its first fermentation, or it may be to encourage the growth of corn from the seed. It is named after the halos (the circular threshing-floor) and is in honor of Demeter and Dionysos.

Lesser Mysteries of Eleusis January /February

Initiation in the Lesser Mysteries is a prerequisite to initiation in the Greater (Eleusinian) Mysteries; they accomplish the preliminary purification of the Mystos (Initiate). These secret rites belong to Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, and the oldest of the Rhea-Demeter-Kore triad, but no more can be said about them.

April 12 The Lesser Mysteries

Ceremony of the whole festival cycle. Purification. Consecration to Demeter.

March 1 Festival of Chloaia

Festival of flowers, of Verdant Demeter and Kore, and of the green earth.

Anthesteria — 11th-13th Jan / Feb

This is the “Festival of Flowers,” when the first shoots of blossom appear, and is one of the oldest Greek festivals, dating back to the second millennium BCE; it was also called the Older Dionysia. At this time the vines are pruned again and the second fermentation of the wine is complete; it is now ready for drinking, and so this festival complements the Oskhophoria, which celebrates the vintage.

Plynteria — 25th Thargelion April / May

This is the festival for washing (plynteria hiera) the ancient statue [of Athena]

Skirophoria — 12th May / June

The Skirophoria (also known as the Skira) occurs at the time of the cutting and threshing of the grain. The Skiron is where, according to tradition, the first sowing took place.

June 7 Kalamaia

the Threshing. Freeing the seed grain from the chaff, honoring Triptolemos.

June 28 Skira Festival

The Maiden’s descent. In love, Plouton and Persephone unite. The grain is stored. The fallow period begins and in the following months, Demeter becomes the Crone.

Great Mysteries of Eleusis — 15th-21 August / September

In origin the Great (Eleusinian) Mysteries were a festival for the autumn sowing. They are, of course, mysteries, so some things about them remain concealed, in particular, the contents of the Sacred Kistai (boxes) and the actual initiation of the Mystai (Initiates). Anyone can be initiated, regardless of age or sex.

The festival is conducted by the Arkhon Basileus and four assistants. Two of these, the Hierophantes and Dadoukhos (Torch Bearer), wear the ependytes (a long-sleeved tunic ornamented at the hem and shoulders), headband and Thrakian knee-boots; they carry one or two long torches. Further, there are Mystagogoi (Initiate Guides), who guide individual postulants, often their friends, through the initiation.

Thought Form One

An interesting tidbit from a website that goes over all the festivals we know of that the Greeks in and around Athens did – including Demeter’s of stuff….

“The heat of the summer is past its peak and the harvest is nearing completion. This is the month of Hekatombaion (nominally mid-July to mid-August), which began the Athenian year. (Although other parts of Greece began their year at different times – this calendar follows the Lakonian practice of beginning at approximately the Autumn Equinox with the month Boedromion.)”

Heat of summer is past huh? Not likely in Northern CA. We are only now heading into that concept, and in point of fact we will get a heat wave most years at the mid to end of October… but the harvest being over – yup… that’s now. So yes, I was right to move the calendar to fit the location.

Oh… and in a lovely little tidbitness… Jennifer Reif moved The Lesser Mysteries herself. All the references I have found place them in early Anthesterion which means January or February for us Georgian calendar folks, so the precedent has already been set to rearrange to make the material fit the needs. – ok, I did know that, but its always nice to have data that I can point to!

oh… source material – this site which gives this explanation about where all the data is coming from…

The following descriptions of the festivals are a slightly edited version of Seasonal Festivals of the Greeks and Romans, a series of articles by Apollonius Sophistes, reprinted here with his very kind permission. For the full text, which includes references and a large number of Roman festivals not included here, along with much other valuable information such as the article Neoclassical Celebratory Sacrifice, please visit The Omphalos.

and because I am like this… I went digging to learn more about the author of the website and information that I found so usuful…  Apollonius Sophistes is/was…

John “Apollonius” Opsopaus (1950-) Apollonius has practiced Magick and Divination since the 1960s, and his fiction (hymns, poetry, and prose) and nonfiction (rituals, translations, divination systems, essays) have been published in various Magickal and Neopagan magazines (over 30 publications). Also, based on years of research, he has designed the Pythagorean Tarot and has written the comprehensive Guide to the Pythagorean Tarot (Llewellyn, 2001). He frequently presents workshops on Hellenic Magick and Neopaganism, Pythagoreanism, Theurgy, Divination, etc. In the early 1990s Dr. Opsopaus founded the Omphalos (omphalos.org), a networking organization for Graeco-Roman Neopagans, and his Biblioteca Arcana website (omphalos.org/BA) has won numerous awards and is featured in several Internet guides. Opsopaus is a member of CAW (Coordinator, Scholars Guild), Hellenion, ADF, PEN, etc. He is listed under “Who’s Who in the Wiccan Community” in Gerina Dunwich’s Wicca Source Book (Citadel, 1996). As a faculty member of the Grey School of Wizardry, Apollonius is: Dean, Dept. of Ceremonial Magick; Dean, Dept. of Mathemagicks; and Professor of Ceremonial Magick, Lore, Mathemagicks, Divination, Alchemy, Dark Arts.

Thought Form Two:

Looking over the list of festivals, I realized that people have been picking and choosing what festivals in addition to the Lesser and Greater Mysteries they wanted to celebrate as the Demetrian Wheel of the year. Cool! Which means, I want to poke at other rituals/festivals to add or subtract for “my” wheel. Like oh… I dont know… how about the festival in honor of Poseidon – who gets honored as Demeter’s Lover/Partner/Husband and father of at least one of her children? yeah, soooo adding that one into the list. And there is a very important one to Athene where you clean the statue and make new robes for her… I think that might be important too – since there isn’t a specific date listed for Demeter’s statue to be cleaned and all that jazz.

Thought Form Three:

And the kicker to change my world and lock the pieces into place!

“Barley can be grown in spring or winter, and tends to create the best results when planted early in the season. For winter barley, October is the best time to plant. For spring barley, plant in January. Barley grows best in cool ground–ideal temperatures hover right around freezing. Arrange the seeds so you have about 20-25 barley plants per square foot of space.” http://www.ehow.com/how_2054140_grow-barley.html

duh. of course everything in her calendar cycles around frakkin October and January… its cycling around the damn Barley – not the veggies or the fruits… but her grain – her main symbol… Barley.

bugger me for an over thinking prat.

Spring planting for Barley in January would correspond to the Lesser Mysteries while October planting would correspond to the Greater Mysteries.

right. back to the way that they did it because it worked. feh.

yes ma’am.

This is the first of several posts that I made in a private journal exploring some aspects of my research work on the calendar used for festivals and rituals related to Demeter. After many wonderful comments in private, I made the decision to bring this work public and cross post the core material here. This is an on going process of discovery and exploration.

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I have begun a cycle of work with Demeter that will lead to interesting places. Among them, are a set of rituals I need to do, many will be just me, myself, and I, others will have invitations sent out to them on a small scale. These rituals follow what is called by some the Demetrian Wheel of the Year. As you might imagine the fall is rather busy for this harvest Goddess, which makes my life more than a little interesting right now, but I have plans and plots that will make this work without too much stress (I think). What’s bugging me is the fact that the year as laid out for Demeter’s festivals is not meshing with what I understand of growing cycles here in California. I’d sum up for you, but that really wouldn’t help – so here is the long version…

(dates are contemporary approximations of when the rituals happened in the past – the ancient Greek Calendar being rather different than our current one. The Description of what happens comes from Jennifer Reif’s “The Mysteries of Demeter” – a good book over all. )

October 7 Rites of Proerosia Preplowing rites. Blessings and magic for to

prepare the sacred field

October 15 Stenia Festival Bawdy humor, sacred sexuality. Barren

Demeter becomes Fertile Mother.

October 16 Arkichronia Festival Creation of fertility talismans. Combining

Earth and Underworld powers.

October 22 Thesmophoria Proper Celebration of Demeter’s sacred laws.

Remembering our divinity.

October 23 Rites of Nestia & Kalligenia N = The Sadness. Queen Persephone leaves

her beloved Plouton/Hades and the

Underworld. K = The Rejoicing. Ascent of the Maiden. Reunion of Demeter and Kore. Planting.

January 10 Festival of Haloa Celebration of new green growth in both

cultivated field and wild nature.

March 1 Festival of Chloaia Festival of flowers, of Verdant Demeter and

Kore, and of the green earth.

April 12 The Lesser Mysteries Ceremony of the whole festival cycle.

Purification. Consecration to Demeter.

May 15 Thargelia The Harvest. Demeter the Harvest Queen.

The seed and the Maiden are matured.

June 7 Kalamaia the Threshing. Freeing the seed grain from

the chaff, honoring Triptolemos.

June 28 Skira Festival The Maiden’s descent. In love, Plouton and

Persephone unite. The grain is stored. The fallow period begins and in the following months, Demeter becomes the Crone.

September 20 The Greater Mysteries aka The Eleusinian Mysteries Proper

The Sacred Drama. The reconciliation of

Demeter, Plouton, and Persephone. The Rite

of the Cista Mystica. The Thanatos Rite.

The Crowning.

Now… the cycle as stated here, starts in October and everything is geared toward the Greater Mysteries being the end of the cycle … so in a way, that helps me. I could do nothing now, i.e. skip the GM/EM… which just sounds wrong, or go ahead with a small thing, and then do something a bit bigger next year as a way to complete my year of processing.

The other odd thing to my poor wiccan brain is that the reason the cycle starts in October is that the planting apparently starts in October. Now maybe I am just to Temperate focused but that just sounds wrong to me. Eve in Greece, or it did back in olden days… I don’t know what its doing know… Mum… do you recall from your days in Greece? Meanwhile here, where we have a supposedly Mediterranean Climate the plants are completing a cycle of growth and harvest. We are not preparing the soil for planting. We are preparing for dark time, and a time for the land to lie fallow. Reif talks about the Proerosia as a rite of “pre plowing” – am I just not understanding? Is this something we do to prep the soil before winter so that it will be ready to take seeds and grow in the spring? … But she also has planting happening at the Rejoicing during the Kalligenia. So again with the confusion.

New growth in January I get. “The hills turn green with winter rain” is a powerful line in one of the songs from the Spiral Dance. And by March we have flowers so that I can see… but the rest is messing with my head.

So I am trying to sort out this planting cycle thing Part Two

… June through October is not a fallow time in California. Though honestly is there ever much of a fallow time in CA? I went looking for growing season information starting with Wheat:

Wheat ( Triticum aestivum L. ) can be classified as winter or spring growth habit based on flowering responses to cold temperatures. Winter wheat development is promoted by exposure of the seedlings to temperatures in the 38 degrees to 46 degrees F (3 degrees to 8 degrees C) range. Such types are usually planted in the fall which exposes the seedlings to cold temperatures during late fall and winter. Spring-types, however, do not require exposure to cold temperatures for normal development and can be planted in spring. Both winter- and spring-types, when properly grown in Minnesota, head in the late spring or early summer and mature by mid- to late-summer. this from: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC2547.html

grrr. Everything I am turning up in my web searching is showing me exactly the same thing as what I thought I knew from two years of working in the Produce industry and from actually paying attention to both what comes in at Whole Foods and to the Farmers Markets. While we might get classified by some as a Mediterranean climate, we have the growing cycle of the Temperate Zones only better. But overall the cycle is similar.

What all this means food wise is that the summer fruits are ending now. While you will see peaches and nectarines in the stores, they are past their peak. Ditto for all of the berries. I have been told that Pears are coming into season – the interesting ones, not the year round crap, so I need to try some of the good stuff and enjoy.

Oranges have become a year round crop, so I can’t actually tell what their natural cycle is. Same for Apples. I did find notes that January is the month to tend to Apple planting and apple trees. I know that fall is “apple season” in my head. Back east is was when we would get the organic apples in to the farmers market. And apples last through winter because they store well so that is why they are one of the common fruits used in the fall for feasts. Same with onions and potatoes. If you store them right, they will get you through a lot of tough times.

The vegetables I am less clear on. Artichokes are summer. Cucumbers are traditionally summer but are force grown now for year round use, same with all the lettuces, celery, carrots, and tomatoes. The heirlooms you get in the summer though. Corn is a late summer / early fall crop. Here’s a lovely blog by a Bay Area gardener who is growing corn: http://mybayareagarden.blogspot.com/ The squashes have specific seasons depending on their nature: Winter squash or Summer squash. The Zucchini have been over grown so most people don’t know that they are a squash let alone that they are supposed to have a season. *sigh* Pumpkins of course are a fall/winter veggi. I *might* get one from my attempt to grow them this year, which would be way cool.

So I am back to the fact that I am not convinced that the cycle as practiced in ancient Greece fits contemporary Northern California, or really any of North America for that matter. What to do about that is another matter. …

See it’s the May date that really starts my problems. The Thargelia – Harvest in May. For Temperate zones this is the beginning of summer. While we all call Summer Solstice The First Day of Summer, in Pagan/Wiccan terms Beltane is the first day of summer and Summer Solstice is the Height of Summer and the Height of the Gods power – hard to be the beginning and the height of something at the same time, how did you get to the top of the apex anyway? Here things are still reveling in life and growth and sex for Goddess sake. Who wants to be harvested now? Just after Beltane? Yuck! So now. That does not work for me. Ditto the Kalamaia on June 7th – Thressing and seed from the chaff? That’s John Barleycorn time. Nope, not working for me. Skira Festival June 28th – the Maiden’s descent. Excuse me? What is she doing going down in the bright sun? And then Demeter is supposed to be a Crone at the height of the growing season for this region. I don’t think so. Nope, also not working for me.

Ok… Wiccan wheel of the year – starting at harvest for a visual:

August 2 Lammas First harvest

Sept 21 Mabon Harvest festival threshing. Seed from the chaff

Nov 1 Samhain New years. The dead. Mourning and Celebrating.

Preparing for fallow period.

December 21 Yule Festival of Ligts during the dark. Land lies cold. No

growth. Dark nesting seeds.

February 2 Imbolg Milking of the lambs, celebrating new life in the

sheep. One last storm before spring.

March 21 Ostara flowers and green growth

May 1 Beltane Vibrant life growth all around

June 21 Litha Height of growth and sun.

But what if we pushed all of those back a few months? If the Thargelia is actually a cognate to the first harvest that the Celts and contemporary wiccan’s celebrate as Lughnassad / Lammas, and Kalamaia is what we celebrate at Mabon / Autumn Eqinox, then the Maiden descends into the underworld with her lover at oh I don’t know… Samhain? Heck, I’m easy… it could be any date about two weeks after Autumn equinox, so the 1st of October even. Which for contemporary pagans works out nicely since some of us end up doing the Greater Mystery anytime in the first two weeks of October, and really that makes much more sense to me (though why that would be I think is a separate diatribe) .

It also seems to me that the Rites of Proerosia happen out of order here in Northern climates. I suspect, though I need to do more digging because its not a rite I am familiar with yet, that it has more cognates with Imbolg magic and that level of preparation before spring than it does with Mabon’s harvest magic. If I am correct, I would vote to move this rite to early February between Haloa and Chloaia – honor the human work that needs to go into helping the land be ready to produce on an agricultural scale vs celebrating what nature does naturally when the rains come (Haloa) and after plowing and work has been put into the fields (Chloaia).

Hmmmm….

Alternatively move Proerosia to January when the land here is rich and wet and able to receive. Prepare it for the work ahead. Then push Haloa and Chloaia each back. That puts Haloa in February as the celebration of green growth as the rains begin to slow and trickle off. Chloaia at Beltane and the Festival of flowers. Move the Lesser Mysteries to June / Summer Solstice – the height of Demeter’s power with so much growth happening all over the place. Then we are in sequence with the other dates for the local harvest. That feels better, it doesn’t leave the whole summer without festivals to honor the Goddess who brings us the yummy stuff.

Haha! The damn cycle does map to the stuff in my head!! So this is what I think it should look like:

January Rites of Proerosia Preplowing rites. Blessings and magic for to

prepare the sacred field

February Festival of Haloa Celebration of new green growth in both

cultivated field and wild nature.

May Festival of Chloaia Festival of flowers, of Verdant Demeter and

Kore, and of the green earth.

June The Lesser Mysteries Ceremony of the whole festival cycle.

Purification. Consecration to Demeter.

August Thargelia The Harvest. Demeter the Harvest Queen.

The seed and the Maiden are matured.

Autumn Equinox Kalamaia the Threshing. Freeing the seed grain from

the chaff, honoring Triptolemos.

October 1 Skira Festival The Maiden’s descent. In love, Plouton and

Persephone unite. The grain is stored. The fallow period begins and in the following months, Demeter becomes the Crone.

Pre Thesmophoria

October Stenia Festival Bawdy humor, sacred sexuality. Barren

Demeter becomes Fertile Mother.

October Arkichronia Festival Creation of fertility talismans. Combining

Earth and Underworld powers.

Thesmophoria Main

October Thesmophoria Proper Celebration of Demeter’s sacred laws.

Remembering our divinity.

October Rites of Nestia & Kalligenia N = The Sadness. Queen Persephone leaves

her beloved Plouton/Hades and the

Underworld. K = The Rejoicing. Ascent of the Maiden. Reunion of Demeter and Kore. Planting.

October 10 – 25 ish The Greater Mysteries aka The Eleusinian Mysteries Proper

The Sacred Drama. The reconciliation of

Demeter, Plouton, and Persephone. The Rite

of the Cista Mystica. The Thanatos Rite.

The Crowning.

Now this still leaves me with what to do about all the damn rituals I need to celebrate… but if I can get Demeter to agree to this calendar, then I think I have something to work with. I see a meditation in my future.

==========================

A few days later… I learned more… that changed my world view again!

On Defining Ritual

November 19, 2007

Ritual is many things, easy to define is not one of them. I see ritual as celebration and transformation; a creation of the human heart and our need to make connections. It is a dialogue with spirit and with self that enables us to make deep and lasting change in ourselves and the world we share, and through that process learn about and explore elements of who we are and what we think. Ritual is that which transforms us with our active participation and intention. That transformation may be minute – the shifting of a mood, from a very bad day or a bad headache into a calmer space with a decrease in pain, or it may be enormous- the movement from uninitiated, blind practitioner of a religious system into an initiated, knowing member of a religious community. While there are a number of things that go into creating and performing ritual, without the shift of consciousness and reality that happens through some form of transformation, ritual is merely play and story telling. And it is this power to transform and make lasting change, that gives ritual its power and its magnetism. And yet, what is ritual in truth? How do we define it ways that are usable and less than a page long?

In “Deeply into the bone; reinventing rites of passage” Richard Grimes, a Ritual Studies scholar who has written several books on ritual and ritual studies, digs into the difficulty of how to define ritual. In discussing the thoughts of Robbie E. Davis-Floyd, he quotes Davis-Floyd as saying: “a ritual is a patterned, repetitive, and symbolic enactment of a cultural belief or value; its primary purpose is transformation.”   In his discussion Grimes focuses on the quality of generalization in this definition. Davis-Floyd is choosing to name the actions of doctors in hospitals as ‘ritual’ in contrast to the usual approach which is to see them as technology or science. Grimes points out that this generalization is rather broad, making it possible to define many more common activities such as going to work or school as ritual. “Even taking out the garbage is repetitive (Tuesday mornings before 8:00 am), patterned (from countertop to under the sink, to bins, behind the garage, to street curb – always in the same order), symbolic of primary Western values (cleanliness, orderliness), and transformative (of the landscape).”  Even Grimes admits that he is taking this to an extreme so as to point out how general this definition is and how it therefore allows anything to be defined as ritual, but this is something we see in a lot of definitions and discussions of ritual, mine included. Grimes eventually resolves his issues with the use of ‘ritual’ as a meta word, by suggesting that what happens in the hospital is not ritual specifically but a ritualization of actions. “I am willing to think of hospital birth as ritual provided we signal the metaphoric move we are making by the use of a special term such as ritualization rather than rite.”   Using the word ritual as a kind of umbrella word to encompass a spectrum of meanings, Grimes defines ritual at one end of the spectrum as ritualization or ritualized actions, and at the other end as “rites”

I think it is very important that we understand and be conscious of our choices when using the word “ritual’ to describe many different ways of working. We need to be clear that we are using ‘ritual’ in a broader and more generalized sense where ritualization and rite are ends of the spectrum. Where I once would have said that brushing my teeth is a ritual, I agree now that it is a ritualized action. Clearly the work I do most of the time, what I call ritual most often would fall into the end of the spectrum as a ‘rite’. Grimes defines rite as referring “to a set of actions intentionally practiced and widely recognized by members of a group. Rites are differentiated, even segregated, from ordinary behavior. Often they are classified as “other” than ordinary experience and assigned a place apart from such activities.”   I think it is important to see that Grimes is adding “intentionally practiced” which touches on one of the core elements of magic from the wiccan perspective: intention, and differentiating the actions of a rite as set apart from every day actions, which touches on Mircae Eliade’s distinctions between sacred and profane.

In searching for a definition of ritual it is easy to stumble over the issue of what to do with meditation and prayer. Meditation and prayer are both prescribed and repeated sets of actions which are created by an individual or group for the purpose of better understanding the self and/or the Divine. And generally meditation or prayer is a time set aside from the every day, profane, world. We even talk about having a time of meditation and quiet as sometime different from the rush and noise of daily life. It is also an intentional act and one sometimes associated with the sacred if not a specific manifestation of the divine. So does this make them both rites or ritualized actions? Grimes again proves useful here. Grimes explains that conventional ritual theory splits the work of humans into two categories: “ritualistic (nonutilitarian, expressive) action and nonritualistic (utilitarian, means-end oriented) behavior.”  It is this distinction between expressive and means-end orientation that I think is one of the final pieces to defining what is a rite and what is ritualized behavior. Meditation and prayer are both means-end oriented. They may have ritualistic elements in them, but their purpose is to achieve an end result, generally a particular state of mind. Rites are expressive in that they have as a goal the expressing of thoughts, opinions, ideas and even emotions. While there is usually an end goal to the magic at the heart of a ritual and that goal can be very utilitarian in nature (finding a job or sending healing energy) and so a means-end orientation in part, the primary purpose of the rite that the magic is a part of is expressive. So to the spectrum of types of ritual I would include a distinction about whether the purpose of the action, not just its component parts, is expressive or about an end result. As the dividing line between ritualization and rite is not always going to be easy to see, the distinction between expressive and means-end is not always going to be easy to see.

Understanding, and accepting that I am using ritual where Grimes uses rite, and that rite is part of the spectrum of ritual actions, I can finally define ritual for myself and my work as:
A set of expressive, sacred actions, intentionally done in one or more prescribed ways, outside the boundaries of profane life for the purpose of transforming the self and/or the community.”

Or to put it less academically and more practically:
ritual is a dance with the divine that stretches and changes us and the world around us.

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Davis-Floyd “Birth as an American Rite of Passage”
Grimes, Ronald “Deeply into the Bones”