Demeter’s Sorrow ~ Autumn Equinox ~ September 22nd, 2020

Love, love is a verb

Love is a doing word

Fearless on my breath

The wheel of the year has turned, marked by the equinox on Tuesday September 22nd where night and day become equal. In the northern hemisphere, the Sun’s light begins to fall, heralding the return of Autumn.

In the zodiac, the September equinox brings the seasonal shift from Virgo into Libra, where the Sun finds its place of fall. Under the weakening sunlight, the first subtle omens of winter begin to appear in the ever deepening indigo haze of twilight.

The golden light of the September Sun illuminates the jeweled beauty of glowing leaves and ripening fruits. The figs are purple as the dusk, bursting with juice and seeds. And the pomegranates have deepened into that seductive red, recalling the tragic story of how Persephone, Virgin goddess of fertility, became bound to the underworld. 

Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire

In this moment of perfect balance between dark and light, your conscious and unconscious mind will be equally intelligent, offering you a natural sense of equanimity. In this brief repose, seek to find renewed peace of mind regarding the cycle of life and death.

Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire

The sadness in the air slows things down, asking you to ponder and appreciate each golden moment a little bit more. Savor all the beauty you are blessed with. The world is still blushing with warmth and fragrance, but you may begin to perceive the first signs of winter appearing upon the edge of twilight.

Water is my eye

Most faithful mirror

Time feels so precious now, every pleasure becoming fleeting. In transitory moments such as these, life’s ephemerality reveals itself once again. And with the wisdom inherent in such revelations, you will once again be able to think of your time as being very precious. 

In the mystery schools of ancient Greece, the decay of the earth’s resplendent beauty began at the fall equinox, which was associated with the goddess Persephone’s melancholic return to the underworld. The myth of Persephone was in fact the basis for the famed Eleusinian Mysteries.

And the rituals surrounding the September equinox, when the darkness began to usurp the light, were by far the most sacred time of year. 

According to Manley P. Hall in The Secret Teachings of All Ages: 

“The Greeks believed that Persephone was a manifestation of the solar energy, which in the winter months lived under the earth… but in the summer returned again…the flowers loved Persephone and that every year when she left for the dark realms…the plants and shrubs would die of grief…”

The ancient story describes that the earth goddess Demeter had a beloved daughter, Persephone, whose footsteps blessed the earth with flowering beauty. One day, while wandering alone in a meadow, Persephone was abducted by Hades: god of the underworld. Swallowed by darkness, the radiance of Persephone vanished from the earth. Her mother Demeter fell into a deep sorrow, vowing that she would let the earth wither and freeze unless her daughter was returned. 

The myth concludes with a compromise. During spring and summer, Persephone ascended back to the surface of the earth to live with her mother in warmth and bliss.

And during the fall and winter, Persephone descended back into the Underworld to rule with Hades.

Teardrop on the fire

Every fall equinox brings the loss of Persephone’s light, a new encounter with Demeter’s sorrow.

Fearless on my breath

Teardrop on the fire

Of a confession

In the Eleusinian Mysteries, the cycle of Persephone’s descent and ascent illustrated that though the mortal body will surely decay, the immortal soul will rise again.

Most of the great thinkers of ancient Greece and Rome were initiates in these Mysteries, including the philosopher and historian Plutarch who once wrote:

“because of those sacred and faithful promises given in the mysteries…we hold it firmly for an undoubted truth that our soul is incorruptible and immortal. Let us behave ourselves accordingly.”

Much about these ancient rites remains shrouded in mystery, but some of its important elements have been recovered. In Eleusis, a great temple to Demeter stood. On the fifth day of the September rituals, the initiates took a long walk to the temple, reenacting Demeter’s fruitless search for her daughter. Feeling the depth of Demeter’s sorrow was the very path to wisdom. 

Demeter’s sorrow symbolizes the sadness which penetrates your spirit at the sight of all dying things. To celebrate the mythic meaning of this time of year find a graceful lament, something that heals your darkened mood like Teardrop by Massive Attack. This exquisite song perfectly captures the haunting mystery of Demeter’s sorrow. The lyrics are spare and impressionistic, an elegy for a lost dream.

Black flowers blossom.

In melancholic delirium, you are pulled into its mystery with the primordial rhythm of a heartbeat, that first sound you heard in your mother’s womb.

Absorbed into the darkness by the pulse, you descend into inner space,  where time seems to stand still. You can feel Demeter’s pain in the glistening voice of Elisabeth Fraser: how the tenderness of her love has been met with cruelty.

Like all great music, Teardrop breaks your heart with beauty, summoning the light of your soul to emerge from the darkness.

Teardrop on the fire

To know the earth is to know the Mysteries of sorrow and death.

It’s tumbling down (as in love falling apart)

As the light begins to fall and the darkness begins to rise, you may feel Demeter’s sorrow, her mourning for the Virgin’s golden warmth. But do not despairLight and life are in an eternal flux of rise and fall.

The mysteries of the ancient world surrounded the September equinox with extraordinary veneration. To them, the death of summer opened the gateway to eternity.

Happy equinox!