In Celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries — some thoughts on the Orphic Hymns to Demeter and Persephone

#40 — To Eleusinian Demeter

Incense — storax

Deo, divine mother of all, Goddess of many names,
revered Demeter, nurturer of youths, giver of prosperity and wealth, 
you nourish the ears of corn, O giver of all
you delight in peace and in toilsome labor.
Present at sowing, heaping and threshing, O spirit of the unripe fruit
you dwell in the sacred valley of Eleusis.
Charming and lovely, you give sustenance to all mortals; 
you were the first to yoke the ploughing ox, 
the first to send up from below a rich, a lovely harvest for mortals.
You are growth and booming, O illustrious companion of Bromios, 
torch-bearing and pure, you delight in the summer’s yield.
From beneath the earth you appear, gentle to all,
O holy and youth-nurturing lover of children and fair offspring.
You yoke your chariot to bridled dragons, 
round your throne you whirl and howl in ecstasy. 
You are an only daughter, but you have many children and many powers over mortals;
the variety of flowers reflect your myriad faces and your sacred blossoms.
Come, O blessed and pure one, come with the fruits of summer,
bring peace, bring the welcome rule of law,
bring riches, too, and prosperity, and bring health that governs all.

#29 — Hymn to Persephone

Persephone, blessed daughter of great Zeus, sole offspring
of Demeter, come and accept this gracious sacrifice,
Much-honored spouse of Plouton, discreet and life-giving
you command the gates of Hades in the bowels of the earth, 
lovely-tressed Praxidike, pure bloom of Deo, 
mother of the Erinyes, queen of the nether world, 
secretly sired by Zeus in clandestine union.
Mother of loud-roaring, many shaped Eubouleus,
radiant and luminous, playmate of the Seasons
revered and almighty, maiden rich in fruits,
brilliant and horned, only-beloved of mortals,
in spring you take your joy in the meadow of breezes,
you show your holy figure in branches teeming with grass-green fruits, 
in autumn you were made a kidnapper’s bride.
You alone are life and death to toiling mortals, 
O Persephone, you nourish all, always, and kill them , too.
Hearken, O blessed goddess, send forth the fruits of the earth
as you blossom in peace, and in gentle-handed health
bring a blessed life and a splendid old age to him who is sailing
to your realm, O queen, and to mighty Plouton’s kingdom.

Part of what these two hymns serve to remind us of is the high regard the “Two Ladies” were held in and just how important the Eleusinian Mysteries were in the Ancient world. The Roman emperor Theodosius I closed the sanctuaries by decree about 30 years later, in 392 AD. The last remnants of the Mysteries were wiped out in 396 AD, when Alaric, King of the Goths, invaded accompanied by Christians “in their dark garments”, bringing Arian Christianity and desecrating the old sacred sites.
It is because of this that we cannot truly reconstruct the Mysteries, but have to re-create Mysteries in the present day.

Part of these MODERN Mysteries must include contemplation on the Goddesses of Eleusis — including the hymns written to them during the time of the original mysteries. These things are not to be openly discussed, as they can only be experienced.  

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