Celebrate the Cycle of Life,
The Fall Equinox is the second of the three major harvest festivals. The Celtic name for it is Mabon: the season of storing food and preserving nature’s bounty for the coming winter months. This year it will be on September 22nd at 6:04 pm PDT just as the sun enters Libra, the sign of the balancing scales. The term Equinox refers to this balance of day and night. Fall is the time of plants shedding their seeds, going underground until new plants rise up in the Spring
In ancient Greek and Roman traditions, during the Fall Equinox the Grain Goddess Demeter was honored. Originally, she was a triad: the Maiden (Kore or Persephone), Mother (Demeter), and Crone (Hecate) in the Pantheon that predated the Olympian myths. During the Bronze Age, the domestication of grain led to agricultural settlements and the beginning of towns and cities. Grain was so important that laws were established to protect its proper care so that the people could sustain themselves through the Winter. Demeter represented the abundance of Mother Earth and the Grain Goddess, and she was also credited as the giver of laws for this reason.
What I find truly fascinating is the spiritual practices that grew out of the wisdom derived from horticulture: the Eleusinian mysteries. They lasted for centuries until these rites were violently eliminated in the 4th century CE by the Church. The initiations into these mysteries were so guarded that little is known of the exact rites but scholars have gleaned enough to establish that they centered around the story of Persephone and Demeter. The experiences included: a Descent representing loss, a Search representing Demeter’s search for her daughter Persephone, and a final Ascent with a celebration of rebirth. During the night initiates imbibed a drink, called Kykeon, the contents of which has led to much speculation. Quite a few have suggested that the drink was made up of several sacred plants naturally occurring in Greece and Crete (where there were similar rites) that were most likely psychoactive, thus altering ordinary perception. So popular and enduring were the Eleusinian mysteries that those who undertook the initiations (Emperors and commoners alike) were forever changed. There is evidence that they lost their fear of death. This effect has been documented with current research into the use of psilocybin to help those with terminal illnesses
The celebration of the cycle of life as evidenced by plants: growth (birth) seeds falling and going underground (death) only to grow again in spring (rebirth) has been revered for at least 30,000 years; probably for as long as humans have gathered herbs and plants in familiar places during harvest seasons. Every indigenous group that has been studied had their version of Shamanism and they all had something that special members imbibed or chewed that created psychedelic states that taught them important truths. What was remarkable about the Eleusinian mysteries is that the rites were open to everyone.
Ancient cultures have many stories that tell of humans descending into darkness and returning to the light and just hearing the stories helped them cope with grief and other trauma in their own lives. Many ancient rituals enacted this experience of going through the dark and returning to the light. Those who chose to participate in them, such as the Eleusinian Mysteries, felt a powerful wholeness after their experience.
Perhaps you will feel called to create your own ritual of this birth, death, rebirth that allows you to feel connected to the truth that nature teaches us.
Much Love, Linda
Post courtesy of Linda E Savage PhD