Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mabon and the Eleusian Mysteries

Happy Mabon! Welcome to the Autumnal Equinox, when Nature once again comes into balance. My hope is that the globe does finally come again into balance, and we can be free of catastrophic occurrences for the rest of the year. (In the meantime, please refer back to my last two blogs for spells to dispel our current hurricane, and give support to the victims of recent devastation.)

In Arizona, Mabon is the start of a whirlwind of activities. The rest of the world is slowing down, turning over crops, and preparing to nest through the cold winter months. But we’re the Northern Hemisphere misfits. After hibernating in our air-conditioned home caves through the 115-degree summer, around Mabon, everyone goes outside to catch up on yardwork and have outdoor BBQ's with neighbors. There is a long list of community activities: concerts, hay rides, farmers markets, sports activities, pumpkin fests and corn mazes. Everyone wants to play
outside after being cooped up indoors for so long.

In this frenzy of activity, Mabon always seems to catch me off-guard. So soon? Really?

I’ve done better this year. Because I’ve spent a lot of this fall at our forest cabin, I’ve been able to witness the seasonal changes from summer to fall. It’s cooler, of course. The hummingbirds have migrated from our feeders down to Mexico. And the light is different. When the dogs and I take our daily walk in the forest, the trail is more dappled, and the sun slants through the trees at an acute angle. Best of all, the elk are back. We hear them bugling at bedtime almost every night now.  

Nature is aware of the equinoxes, even if we sometimes are not. The September astrological sign is Libra, the scales, signifying balance. Mother Nature establishes, once again equality between the forces of light and darkness. From now on, the days will shorten and the nights get longer. The Goddess descends into the Underworld, the world of darkness, where she tends to her dead souls. This act of going down into the underworld and defeating death is celebrated by the many rituals and processions of the Eleusian mysteries.

The Eleusian rites were the most famous goddess festival in all of Europe. People came from all over the continent to participate, because they believed those who went through the mysteries gained good luck and insights, and they became sanctified by the goddesses.
From the Autumn Equinox until the end of September, a different ritual, a different theme, was observed each day. The festival started with processions from Athens to Eleusis. Participants deposited sacred objects at the feel of the Goddess Demeter, then went to bathe in the sea. Then people gathered for Torch Day, going through the temples and the town in search for Persephone, or Kore.

The following day was a grand purification ritual, and initiates washed away ignorance and assumed new grace. Then on September 27, people marched day and night, carrying lit torches. This marked the true start of the mysteries. It began with Holy Night on September 28, when people thronged to a great bonfire. The hierophant invoked Kore, and her true presence was felt. Painted in dark colors, she was enthroned as the Queen of Hell.

Holy Night was the most important time because people confronted the idea of death as they watched Kore, the Divine Maiden, turn into the Crone and then turn back into the Young Queen of the Underworld. The presence of the Goddess gave people a chance to see their own death as part of their lives, and to remove fears about the afterlife.

I’ve always thought that this is a teaching that should have been continued. In our modern times, because of our denial of death and the aging of the body, we have rejected the wisdom of the aged, and in doing so have robbed old age of its meaning and youth of its direction.

It’s time for our cultural bias against age to end. The number of people reaching the mythic retirement age of 65 has zoomed from about seven and a half million in the 1930s (when Social Security legislation decreed 65 as the age of obsolescence) to 34 million today. By the turn of the century, that figure will be 61.4 million.

The Autumn Equinox reminds us that life has a beginning, a middle, ad also an ending. It’s us to us to convert our society to more “conscious aging” and a new way of looking at and experiencing aging that moves beyond our cultural obsession with youth, and toward a respect and need for the wisdom of age. 


CJ Burright said...

Washing away ignorance and assuming new grace sounds like a tradition people should also keep up! Loved learning about the Elusian rites - thanks for sharing!

Diane Burton said...

Sandy, you always share such interesting rites and customs. Balance is so important in our lives as well as in the world itself. I wonder when the extreme weather will ever balance itself out, though. Thanks for sharing about Mabon and the Elusian rites.