is the archived salon instructions page for October 2006, the
Goddess Salon - October 2006: Mara Keller
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
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
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
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.
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,
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
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
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.
BACK to the Goddess Salons Page
BACK to the Salon Monthly