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Here is the archived salon instructions page for October 2006, the eighth month:

Goddess Salon - October 2006: Mara Keller

October—the weather is changing. Here in northern California, where I (Starhawk) live, it’s a time of going into the dark—but also a time of renewal, when the rains return after the summer’s drought, the hills begin to turn green again, and the time for planting bulbs and perennials has arrived. It’s a moment in time that encompasses both death and rebirth, especially poignant this year as Donna recovers from the heart attack she suffered in early September. Thank the Goddess—and all of you who sent prayers and energy for her healing—she is doing well, managed to avoid bypass surgery, and is resting from the ordeal while adjusting to a larger supply of oxygen than she is used to!

Death and rebirth were the core of the Eleusinian Mysteries, the spiritual heart of ancient Greece, celebrated at this time of year. In Greece, like California, fall, not spring, was the time of renewal. And so we have asked Mara Keller to be our guest for this month.
Mara is director of the Women’s Spirituality Program at California Institute of Integral Studies, the institution where Marija’s work is carefully studied and her legacy preserved. She is a good friend and was a staunch supporter of all our efforts to bring this documentary to birth, helping in more ways than can be counted. And she has a special love for and knowledge of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Some of her beautiful writings can be found on the CIIS site at www.ciis.edu/faculty/keller.html, including her article on “The Eleusinian Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone: Fertility, Sexuality, and Rebirth” as well as an article about “The Interface of Archaeology and Mythology: A Philosophical Evaluation of the Gimbutas Paradigm.” And of course her full interview can be ordered as part of our Behind the Screen series at our Belili order page.

Mara is currently teaching a class on the Greater Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone at CIIS, where they are co-creating the nine days of the rites of initiation of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which focus on death and rebirth – from which she shares a few ritual ideas for this month. -- Starhawk

Mara writes:

I come to tell the story
of Demeter and Persephone
Mother and Daughter Goddesses
beloved in ancient Greece
Their story, more ancient than any remembers,
lives on in each woman, in one version or another
touching every child, the life of each man.
We carry Their heartbeats! May Their healing be ours!
Once Mother and Daughter were bonded by laughter,
a communion of souls in love beyond reason.
The Two became separated, sometimes by choosing,
sometimes by violence beyond Their control.
Overwhelmed by loss, in silence They suffered
alone, abandoned, forgotten, grief stricken.
After long seasons of despair and anguish,
restless agitation, weary adaptation,
the Daughter finds a way to return to Her Mother,
the Mother finds a way to return to Her Daughter
Demeter and Persephone
are reunited in joy!
(Mara Lynn Keller, The Greater Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone, manuscript)

The Eleusinian Mysteries in ancient Greece preserved the Mother-Daughter Goddess religion of the Neolithic Era, with ties to Anatolia, Egypt, and Crete. It celebrated the cycles of nature, of birth, growth, death, and rebirth, which human beings have honored ceremonially since Palaeolithic and Neolithic times. My gratitude goes to our ancestor Marija Gimbutas for bringing this knowledge of our deep past into clearer focus for us! And to Donna and Starhawk for the Gimbutas film which retells Marija’s story and our own story of early human evolution so beautifully!

The Neolithic Age of the Agrarian revolution focused on the abundance of Nature and Mother Earth, and the production of crops and herds of domesticated animals, and the procreation of the human community. Peace was understood as the precondition of successful farming, survival, prosperity, and a civilized way of life.

The Mysteries of the Goddess at Eleusis were connected to the woman-only rites of theThesmophoria, a rite for women only which took place around the end of October, before the planting of the new harvest. The Thesmophoria, as I understand it, celebrated the Triple Goddess, the Maiden, Mother, and Crone: the awakening sexuality of the Maiden, the fertility and nurturance of the Mother, and the powers of death and rebirth of the Crone.

The rites of the Eleusinian Mysteries focused on the separation and ultimate reunion of the Mother and Daughter. You probably know the myth. The daughter Kore-Persephone is playing in the meadows with her girlfriends, gathering wildflowers, when she is seized by Hades, Lord of the Underworld, and carried down into the gloom to be his bride. With the help of Hekate, Demeter searches over land and sea for her lost Daughter, and then collapses into grief. Her powers of fertility fade from the Earth, and no more new plants come forth to feed the humans, who are faced with famine. Because of this, Zeus and the other gods on Mount Olympos no longer receive gift-offerings, and lose the half of their power. Zeus then commands that the Daughter be returned to her Mother, and the two are reunited with great joy. All of life celebrates with them. Then Demeter gives her holy rites to the people of Eleusis, so that always after, they may be reconciled with her, and receive her blessings, and the gifts of new life.

One can honor the Mother-Daughter and Mother-Son relationship by coming to circle with photos and stories to share of one’s mother or grandmother, daughter or son, granddaughter or grandson. Sometimes we want to share not only the images and stories, but favorite music, dances, foods, or other gifts of the spirit that came to us from our motherline. You might want to call your mother or grandmother or an aunt, to ask them to tell you some stories from their lives; or to answer some questions that you have been holding for a while. A ritual circle where we place all these remembrances on the altar, and then share what we remember of our matrilineages, can be empowering and powerful, and sometimes has unexpected results. (Please let us hear about these if they come your way.)

Another possibility comes from Day 2, “To the Sea, Mystics!” This is where one goes to the sea and enters the womb-waters of Mother Earth, to wash away the stains or injuries of the past, in order to be reborn anew. Of course, it was a lot more comfortable in September or October bathing in the beautiful blue Aegean than in the cold Pacific Waters that flow down from the Bering Straits of Alaska. So, instead of playing and floating in the sea at this relatively cold time of year, your group might want to go to a hot-tub instead. Or, you might decide on a foot-washing ceremony, where you wash one another’s feet, and then apply fragrant oils with a gentle massage. As one washes away the past, we might imagine re-entering the womb of the Great Mother, to be recreated anew.
Another possibility for letting go of the past is to share a bonfire, or fireplace. You can plan to release the past by jumping over the bonfire, saying what it is you intend to banish or let go. And then, jump over the fire in the reverse direction, name what it is you wish to bring into your life that is new. To do this will take some courage and some determination. Or, you may simply write on a piece of paper what you want to release to the past, and throw it into the fire so that it vanishes. And then, write another intention on paper, of something you want to empower, to give new life, and then put that into the fire and imagine the heat and energy of the fire giving new life to your wishes.

I’m sure with all your magical skills, you can improvise some rituals which invoke for your circle the passages of death and rebirth, of letting go and bringing in, of releasing and procreating.

Especially I recommend attending the Spiral Dance in San Francisco, if you can, for Halloween. This experience, for me, feels close to what I image the ancient Greeks experienced when they celebrated the nine days of initiation at Athens and Eleusis in the Fall -- the experience of death/rebirth, and the celebration of new life, and the renewal of self and community.

May your magic work wonders in your life!

Blessed be! Mara

Discussion questions from Mara’s interview:

Do you think the academic establishment is hostile to the ideals of egalitarianism that Marija saw embodied in early cultures? If so, why?

What is the importance of myth and story? Where do the warrior myths play out? Are there mother-myths in our culture today? What do they tell us about mothers and daughters? Where do we find images of mothers as powerful in a beneficent way?

Mara says the attributes of the Goddess are more than fertility—they are above all, regeneration. Where have you experienced the power of regeneration?

Have you experienced ‘mysteries’—spiritual moments or teachings so deep they cannot be told? How would express some part of them?

Recipe for October: This month, honor Persephone by sharing fresh pomegranates at your gathering.


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