Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Eleusis and the Equinox

Demeter of Knidos, c. 350 B.C.E.
I am reminded, as we ring out the Hebrew year 5775, that the fall equinox is also the time of the nine-day pilgrimage to Eleusis in Ancient Greek times, for the Eleusinian Mysteries—the Burning Man or Grateful Dead concert of its day that honored the grain goddess Demeter. 

In 440 BC the historian Herodotus observed Scythians (among them the Amazon Women) using cannabis ritualistically, around the time Greek playwrights Aristophanes and Orestes wrote about the Eleusinian mysteries in their plays.

"The Frogs by Aristophanes (405 B.C.E.) involves the sybaritic Dionysus as the new god of Eleusis. Some scholars think the play focuses on the exiled general Alcibiades, who stole the Eleusinian sacrament kykeon from the temple of the grain goddess Demeter, and started partying with it at orgies at his home....." (excerpted from Tokin' Women: A 4000-Year Herstory).

In Roman times, Demeter became known as Ceres or Pomona. Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman orator who gave us the enduring maxim, “Let the punishment fit the crime” wrote:

For it appears to me that among the many exceptional and divine things your Athens has produced and contributed to human life, nothing is better than those [Eleusinian] mysteries. For by means of them we have transformed from a rough and savage way of life to the state of humanity, and have been civilized.” 

Nonetheless, in 392 AD, the Romans outlawed the Mysteries.

According to legend, a king of Thessaly named Erysichthon ordered all trees in the sacred grove of Demeter to be cut down in order to build himself a feast hall. As punishment, Demeter inflicted him with insatiable hunger, driving him to exhaust all his wealth and finally, in abject poverty, devour his own flesh. It seems to me humanity is on that same path.

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