Today, I fulfilled my vow, and returned to the Sacred Sanctuary of the Goddesses at Eleusis. It was amazing. I feel as though, in August, I went down under the earth, and today I came back up again. Ever since my parents' death, I have felt rootless, depressed, anxious. At first, I told myself, it was just grief. And yet, it slowly evolved into more than that. I am changed, and I do not think I will ever be the same. The winter after they died, I embarked on a month-long winter-solstice working, that culminated in my acceptance of Ereshkigal, the Babylonian Queen of the Dead, as a new ally.
When I was long, my very favorite book in the world was The Tombs of Atuan, by Urusula LeGuin. If you haven't read it, you really should, but there's a (spoilery) summary here. More, perhaps, than anything else, it was this book that settled in me my kinship with the cthonic gods. I do my fair share of celestial magic, I don't mean to say that the super-lunary is entirely foreign to me, but in my heart, I am a child of the depths of the earth and the crashing night-time sea.
My friend Eleni, with whom I toured, told me that, according to local legend, Spring comes to Eleusis before anywhere else, and spreads over all the land from there. I could certainly believe it. Now, in the middle of February, the temple site was fully vernal; windflowers everywhere. Yellow cowslip, nodding echinacea, white and purple anemone, and in clumps, brilliant red poppies, the sign of Demeter as the Great Goddess of Mysteries.
Before entering into the main temple, I took some time at the temple space of Artemis Propylaia (Artemis of the Gateways) and Pater Poseidon (Father Poseidon). Unique to her worship at Eleusis, the sign informed me, was the idea that Artemis was the daughter of Posiedon. This is astonishing, as Artemis's parentage and her birth by Leto are central to her myth! I, however, have a theory that Artemis Propylaia is actually a face of Hekate. It is Hekate, the beloved companion of Persephone, who heard her cry out when she was abducted, and who lit a torch, and bore the news to Demeter. It was Hekate who searched with Demeter for her lost daughter, and Hekate who, bearing her torch, guides Persephone yearly on her travels to and from the World Below. I know that many think Hekate's father was the titan Perseus, and some think her a daughter of Zeus. I, however, have always understood her to be a child of Okeanos, the great dark sea at the ends of the earth. And so, I believe that the Roman temple of Artemis Propylaia, daughter of Poseidon, is a Roman gloss on a much older Hekate the Torchbearer, the companion and guide of Persephone. Tomorrow, I will visit the Temple of Poseidon at Sunion, which is on the sea coast. After that, I will hopefully understand more about the role Poseidon plays in all this.
After this, I made my way slowly to the Plutonion, the sacred cave at the heart of Eleusis. I've written before about how I believe this rock overhang was the most original prehistoric sacred site in this location, the wellspring from which all the Temple arose. This place is very holy to me; it figures in my dreams and journeys often. I spent some time here, being with the stones, feeling my way back up from the underworld. Persephone, like Ereshkigal, was carried into the underworld by force, but became its ruler. The radiant Queen of the Underworld, throned and glorious, shining like flint, is one of the very oldest of goddesses, who teaches the sacred cycle of life and death, the flowering spring and the bitterest winter. While I have been here, in unseasonably summery Athens, it has been unusually cold back home. So cold that the pipes in our apartment building have frozen through several times. That contrast, more than anything else, has been on my mind during this trip. One of the locals I have met, an amazing woman named Agape, told me that, in Greece, wherever there is a theater temple to Dionysus, you will find at that site also a Temple of Asclepion, the healer, because theater is healing for the soul, and soul and body must be kept in balance.
I have felt so out of balance these past few years. I feel homeless and alone most of the time; orphaned figuratively as well as literally. I do not often say this to anyone, and it is only sleep deprivation that is making me publish it, but there are many times when I want nothing so much as to roll the dark earth over me like a blanket to sleep forever. At my first trip to Eleusis, I lost my fear of death, but not my craving for it. It comes over me in waves, the deep grief, as deep as it was at the beginning. It hasn't lessened in power, but it comes less often now.
My magic has been colored by this, because all of my life has. I am tired, always and endlessly tired. Tired when I wake up in the morning, and tired all the time. An aching weariness of spirit, but also of body. Everything seems very difficult all the time.
My roommate thinks my work with Ereshkigal has gone on too long, that I am becoming a thrall of the underworld. He thinks I am become too much a creature of the crossroads, always hovering between one thing and the next, unable to make any real decisions, unable to make any real movement. Perhaps he is right. This time, maybe, I will be able to leave that behind as well.