Published September 20, 2007
I once joined a group of women celebrating the September ritual at a mountain retreat. At night, when all was dark, we lit a huge bonfire, read the myth of Ceres and Persephone, and then shared some painful moments of loss, separation, abuse, and denial. Then, carefully, we each took a lit branch or candle and wandered off alone for a short distance down darkened paths as we searched within ourselves, to grieve and to meditate upon our own personal losses.
Joy and Belief
Much as Easter confirms the resurrection of Christ for Christians and revolves around the sacred story of a divine Parent and Child, the September rituals to Ceres confirmed the cycle of life, death, and rebirth to ancient pagans. Yet, contrary to the Christian version of the divine Father and Son, the pagan story was based upon the Holy Mother and Daughter, the principle of the Divine Feminine.
The great Roman statesman Cicero, as an initiate into the September Eleusinian rites, had a very personal encounter with the goddess Ceres and her daughter. He confessed this profound and intimate moment of self-enlightenment in a letter to his friend Atticus: "We have come to truly understand the first principles of life, and we have accepted with joy not only a rationale for living, but even for dying with better hope". We all seek happiness on earth and blessedness after death. How powerful it must have been to hear the myth retold, to actually reenact it and participate in the cycle within a spiritual community, and to take partake in the mystery. September challenges us to face endings; it is a month of separation. September also conditions a belief in the sanctity of nature, the Divine Feminine, and the continuous natural cycle of all things. And it gives us hope for what will come as we do what we are compelled to do, "harvest life."
An Ancient Prayer for the Seeds
O grant unto the tender seedlings unbroken increase,
Let not the sprouting shoot be nipped by chilly snows. When we sow, let the sky be cloudless and winds blow fair;
But when the seed is buried then sprinkle it with water from the sky. Forbid the birds-pests of the tilled land-to devastate the fields of grain with their destructive flocks.
You too, ants, spare the sown grain; so shall you have a more abundant harvest. Meantime may no disease blight the growing crop nor foul weather turn it a sickly hue;
May it neither shrivel up nor swell unduly and be choked.
May the fields be free blight and no barren oats spring from the tilled soil. May the farm yield many times crops of wheat, barley and grain which can be baked.
May the Two Goddess grant our prayers.
Long time did wars engage mankind and the plow gave way to the sword.
The plow ox gave way to the war horse.
Hoes were idle; a helmet was made out of a heavy rake. Thanks be to the Goddesses and to my house.
Let War be laid in chains.
Yoke now the oxen and sow the seed in the ploughed earth.
Peace is the nurse of Ceres and Ceres is the Child of Peace!