Ritual is powerful, sacred work. Creating and holding space for people to drop their barriers and be their true selves is a powerful thing. Embodying Deity is an intense ride, which I’ve been honoured to do now for our two public Temple rituals.
At Samhain, I embodied Persephone the Iron Queen and Hers was a cool, somber, protective energy. She was silent as the grave and very clear that while She was there to protect the mortals, She could not touch them. At Samhain, Persephone acknowledged Her attendant but wouldn’t speak to him.
The returning Persephone-Kore was such a different energy. I am so grateful I was able to stand as Priestess for both these aspects of Her, to go deep into Her multifaceted nature and gain a better understanding of this fascinating Lady.
From the instant I began, the playfulness of Persephone-Kore was apparent. The difference from The Iron Queen is almost indescribable. At Spring, She was joyous, rambunctious, mischievous. This was not the mature and tested sovereign. This was the flower Maiden, the child of perpetual Summer who was overflowing with love.
Love for the world, love for Her attendants, love for the Mortals, love for Her Mother, love love love!
In preparation for this ritual, the attendants and I had spent some time connecting, drawing deep into the storylines of Persephone and the three aspects of the Wild, Mortal and Divine that they would be representing. I was so humbled and awestruck by the authenticity and vulnerability showed by our attendants in this work. We cannot embody this energy as an external archetype. Deity does not sit outside of ourselves, it has hooks deep into our own personal story and it is by leaning in hard to those hooks that we can bring it into this world for ritual purposes. Each of our Attendants came to us with a different background, a different history and story, a different path or experience level with this work. What they shared was dedication to our purpose, commitment to being open to the experience and supporting Persephone on Her return.
And oh, how She loved them for it. For their beautiful flawed Mortal selves. For their incandescent spark of inspiration. She connected with each in such different ways.
Her Wild attendant was Her honour guard and protector, hovering with glowering menace at Her back. She needed him most early on, drawing heavily on his reassuring connection to the Underworld. He was the link back to Her Lord, and that deep abiding love of the Iron Queen for the Silent One was a river of certainty running through Her bones.
Her Mortal attendant was beloved as a sister or a playmate might be. Adored. This was the attendant who held our space for the evening, who built our spiral with her sacred geomancy and who cared for Persephone’s embodied form throughout the ritual. I have memories of Her imperiously thrusting flowers at Her mortal attendant and demanding they be added to Her crown. Which her patient and tolerant Mortal attendant did most graciously!
Her Divine attendant was the watchful one. Meeting Persephone with play and joy but weighed by the knowledge that it all must end. That when the music stopped and the party ended, he would be the one to escort Her into Upperworld. There came a time when Persephone resisted Her departure, drawing out Her connection with those who stood in ritual space with us, and it was the Divine attendant who gently drew Her back on the path.
At Samhain, the Iron Queen would not speak or touch anyone. There was too much danger, She said. Hers was the touch of the Underworld. But Persephone-Kore was bristling with life and delighted to connect with the mortals who stood in sacred space with us. She spoke often and freely, although it felt like trying to compress a mountain into a single word when She did speak. Often Her desire to communicate came out with gestures and sharp exhalations of breath rather than clear words.
She was fascinated by Mortal things.
The plate of honeycomb offered to participants by the Mortal attendant obsessed Her, delighted Her and amused Her as much as it confused Her. The Mortal altar was as fascinating, radiating with echoes of human tools and ingenuity. The work of those who stood at the Mortal altar drew Her like a beacon.
The notebook, light and watch of the Ritual Lead was of great interest. Words, light and time.
Illusions, She insisted but held within that certainty was a respect and pride in human ingenuity and the mortal state that requires such linear limitations as time.
We were fortunate to have a local Priestess of Demeter stand as altar tender for the Divine Altar. Persephone felt very strongly this connection to Her Mother and was often drawn back to them at various points in the ritual.
My experiences with embodying Deity have shown that it is a state which deepens over time. Persephone-Kore grew stronger and more present in the Temple space as the ritual continued and She was fully present at the culmination of the work when our participants connected their three selves. She witnessed but did not intrude on their work. There are some things Deity must be involved with but this soul-work was not one of them. It needed Her only to witness it.
At the conclusion of the ritual, as She was sung into Upperworld and with Her attendants escorting her, Persephone grew stubborn on one point.
Before She left, She turned to the circle of beloved mortals and bowed to them. Within Her was a great respect and admiration for their work of the evening, and gratitude that She was remembered. That She was honoured.
And love. Such powerful, overflowing, bone-deep love for the world and its precious mortals. This was the connecting point to Persephone the Iron Queen of the Underworld. Both aspects of the Goddess found the spark of mortals something worthy of the deepest respect and admiration and love.
Farewelling Persephone into the arms of Her Mother was a joyful thing. The entire evening was a joyous experience, full of play and delight. But within everything, every moment and all the childlike glee of dancing and spinning wildly within the spiral, the weight of the Iron Queen remained.
For one thing was evident more than any other: Persephone-Kore is not simply the other side of the Iron Queen. She isn’t the innocent victim, she isn’t the virginal child before Hades kidnapped her. She doesn’t cease to be the Iron Queen when she becomes Kore again.
She is both at all times. Within the madly spinning dancing child, there is the memory of the Land of the Dead. Within the grave and silent sovereign of the Underworld, there sits the child overflowing with love for the world.
They are both truths simultaneously, sovereign and maiden, welded together into a beautiful complexity of divine intent.
Hail Persephone-Kore, the returning flower maiden.
Hail Persephone-Kthonia, the Iron Queen.