Last weekend we held our first open Temple ritual to celebrate Samhain and honour the Ancestors and Beloved Dead. Part of this ritual involved us aspecting in Persephone and Hades to stand as sovereign protectors over the participants. After an experience like this, I need to get my impressions and reflections down quickly before they fade or are suppressed by the “logical” mind. As this was a public ritual, I want to share some of these reflections here.
Our ritual involved a trip to the Underworld, down the spiral path which is the gentlest access I know. Having taken some very brutal and less pleasant paths down, I was very sure when we planned this ritual that we needed some way to safeguard our participants. Our choice was to aspect in Hades and Persephone as Sovereign over the land of the dead, and seek Their protection.
This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with Persephone but it was the first time aspecting Her in so strongly in a ritual setting. Certainly the first time doing so with both Her and Hades. I was very curious how it would go, what She would do and want from the ritual.
Throughout all of our early preparation, Persephone was the face of these two. She was Their voice speaking to us while Hades remained distant. Yet for all of Her attention, She remained The Veiled One. There was a distance between Persephone and mortals. Between the Iron Queen and the living. That distance was important, protective but weighted with an intense sort of love. A love of a being who understands the fast passage of life but is not Herself constrained by it. It was Persephone who permitted Herself and Her altar to be shared before the ritual.
Welcoming Persephone in was like opening a window and feeling the cool breeze of the Underworld hit me square in the face. There was no hesitation in Her. She knew what She was about, why She was there and what was to be done.
I’d had a feeling there would need to be time given to allow Hades and Persephone to interact with one another but the depth of Their love for one another surprised me all the same. Persephone certainly adored Her husband who is Her partner and equal and other half. But it was Her love for the participants gathered that truly took my breath away.
She walked the Circle because She needed to see each person there. Each mortal who stood in that space asking protection from the Iron Queen and permission to enter Their realm. Persephone marked each face, She witnessed each person before the descent so She could know them, recognise them, and keep them safe. That role of protector was so vivid, but it wasn’t done from obligation. It was love, respect and admiration. She saw the bravery of those willing to descend to honour the dead and She approved it.
At certain points in the night, Persephone was drawn to specific people. It wasn’t something I’d expected but She was firm. Some people called to Her. It felt like they had a magnet pulling Her; there was something within them in that time and space that She saw and marked. With some people, I could feel it was their grief. Their mourning. The trueness of their reverence for those who had passed.
Persephone approved of this. It was rightful that the dead be mourned, but She saw the grief of those people with such phenomenal depths of compassion… and love. I didn’t expect the intensity of Her love for those who grieved.
One or two of those who drew Her eye seemed a bit different, as if She had noticed them for some future work. I’d be very interested to learn if anyone found Persephone knocking on their door in the future, suggesting they work together for a time!
Once the spiral had been walked and the living gone from it, Persephone again surprised me by bowing before Bone Mother. As Sovereign Queen, I found this interesting and yet Persephone knelt to pay Her respects to this deep cthonic energy. After all, neither Persephone nor Hades are death themselves, though They rule that land. Persephone knelt to Bone Mother in acknowledgement of that primordial energy that goes beyond name or form. The truths that await us at the centre of the labyrinth, the spiritual meat grinder that powers shadow work. It was recognition of something so raw and true that it went beyond deity.
In our ritual planning, we had expected that Persephone would remain at the centre of the labyrinth until Hades had passed through. She would be first in and last out, but Persephone wasn’t having any of it. Hades didn’t need Her help navigating the Underworld. She was all there for the mortals. I hope that term doesn’t offend anyone but mortals is very much how She viewed those who attended. Once the living had found their way out, Persephone followed them, leaving Hades to His own spiral walk.
While Hades chose to speak to those who entered His realm, Persephone did not. She was not there to speak. She was there to see. To watch those who walked the spiral and to witness their act of remembrance and mourning.
Unlike Hades who was done and gone immediately, Persephone stayed until the last heartbeat. She was filled with a desire to protect those who were there and She would not leave until She was certain of their safety.
Her love for them was a fierce and proud and sacred thing. She honoured their grief, and it was sacred and precious to Her.
Too many do not mourn as is rightful, She said.
It was Her place to witness.
I have worked with Persephone in many ways before and always felt a special bond there, as so much of my own practices relate to the Underworld. But on this night, I was truly awed by the beauty of Her grace, and by Her devotion to the mortals that entered Her realm with respect and reverence.
(There was a definite feeling that entering without those things would have generated a very different side of Her.)
For those who walked the spiral down with us, may the love of the Iron Queen sustain you in your times of grief. For it is a love that has no end.
Blessed Samhain. 🖤