Spring into a Fresh Start

IMG_0003 by Serena Jayne

The rebirth of the earth during spring signals the opportunity for new beginnings. Spring is the epitome of a juice cleanse after scarfing down an entire box of Girl Scout cookies. Spring cleaning allows people to shed their hoarder habits, and finally locate their lucky socks. There’s no better time than spring to take an inventory of one’s life, and use the fresh start to focus on what truly matters.

Charles Prendergast’s painting “Untitled (Rites of Spring),” which is a part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection, shows a number of maidens frolicking in celebration of the season. The gold and silver leaf makes the scene sparkle and shine. Even the birds look happy. Spring is not only in the air, but in the minds and hearts of every joyful creature depicted.

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The seasons progress much like the triple goddess expressed as maiden, mother, and crone. Spring is the fresh-faced maiden, unspoiled and full of opportunity. Summer becomes the mother, whose energy is shifted to her kiddies who keep her busy chasing rainbows and unicorn dreams under a sunny sky. Fall and winter symbolize the crone, who brings wisdom and sometimes icy regret, a far cry from the promise and hope of spring.

In Greek Mythology, Hades abducts a maiden named Persephone and takes her to his home in the Underworld. Her mother Demeter, the goddess of agriculture among other things, expresses her grief over the loss of her daughter by making the earth barren.LMG100045 Persephone’s return from the Underworld is arranged, but because of the pomegranate seeds she’d consumed there, Hades maintains a hold on her. A kind of shared custody agreement is struck, where she splits her time between Earth and the Underworld. When mother and daughter are reunited, Demeter’s icy exterior melts bringing spring. The Earth remains fertile until Persephone’s return to the Underworld come fall.

The myth of Persephone and Demeter demonstrates a new beginning. The mother-daughter relationship is ever changed by Persephone’s abduction and her seasonal return to Earth. Demeter is forced to see her daughter, not as a child, but as a woman. Absence may make the heart grow fonder. A reunion with what was once lost brings a new appreciation and gratitude. The requirement to share her daughter with Hades makes each moment with Persephone a little more special—a little more precious. Something perhaps previously taken for granted is now cherished.

In his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson encourages the reader to restrict her time and energy to the people and things that truly matter in life. Change generated by unsolicited self-evaluation beats regret, because as magical as spring may be, second chances aren’t a guarantee. Time trudges ever forward. If one fails to take advantage of the renewal spring offers, soon it’s time to pull out the boots, puffy coats, and snow shovels, and opportunities turn to might-have-beens.

800px-Christian_Bernhard_Rode_001Use spring to jump start positive change. Decide where best to channel time and energy. Make plans with friends and family. Dust off that To-Do list. Prioritize To-Be-Read lists and bucket lists or simply decide who and what matters most, and adjust time and energy accordingly. If things don’t go as expected, don’t worry. Persephone will be back for a return engagement bringing the gift of another opportunity for a fresh start and a bright future. Plan accordingly.

Demeter and Persephone

Due to slight technical difficulties this week, we are going to take this opportunity to cross-promote our friend @greekhistorypod and his podcast on “The Two Goddesses”–Demeter and Persephone, one the goddess of the harvest, the other the goddess of the seasons. One can’t exist without the other, right? Enjoy!

http://www.thehistoryofancientgreece.com/2017/11/061-two-goddesses.html

Let’s Get the Party Started: The Feast of the Thesmophoria and Laughter

By K.P. Kulski

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Ancient Greek representation of Iambê, the Goddess of Humor

Harvest is a time of celebration and plenty. It is a time when the wealth of a civilization pours forth, is stored, stacked, preserved and consumed. For many ancient civilizations, the crop itself was an embodiment of the death of the god, the sacrifice of a male deity in order to feed the masses. Leaving a mother goddess, who is represented by the earth to go through the winter months solitary. In the ancient Greek world, the mother goddess Demeter must relinquish her daughter Persephone to the underworld for the winter. The world transforms from fruitful to barren for the season.

As desolate as this sounds, there is more to it. According the Hymn to Demeter, a text imagesimportant to the Eleusinian Mystery cult, the goddess was indeed desolate without her daughter. She was in great mourning when Hades stole away her daughter Persephone. When Demeter later stayed at the hall of a great queen, she remained depressed and despondent, unable and unwilling to find joy in anything. “Unsmiling, not partaking of food or drink, she sat there, wasting away with yearning for her daughter…”[i] This story is horribly tragic. This is about a mother’s loss, one that she could do nothing to change.

You’re probably wondering when I’m going to start talking about partying. The feast of Thesmophoria was exactly that, a party that was meant to reenact the exchange between Iambê and Demeter. Oh, and this party had one very specific guest list – no one else but adult women.

Demeter Mourning PersephoneSeeing Demeter’s state, Iambê, true to her nature began to tease the mother goddess by telling jokes. Her use of humor brought a smile to Demeter, then eventually the mother goddess found herself laughing and enjoying herself. “Iambê, the one who knows what is dear and what is not, started making fun. Making many jokes, she turned the Holy Lady’s disposition in another direction, making her smile and laugh and have a merry thûmos.”[ii]

How does this fit together? How can a mother, stricken with sorrow over the loss of her daughter, find it alright to laugh, to find some measure of happiness?

The ancient Greek women who attended the Thesmophoria reenacted Iambê’s actions by telling jokes of their own. The feast was meant to be fun, a place to let go of social graces and to bring laughter, including raunchy jokes. It was a moment to let go of pain, responsibility and burden. Temporary release, but a release nonetheless.

'Thesmophoria'_by_Francis_Davis_Millet,_1894-1897

Without the presence of men and children, these ancient Greek women were free from labels that were defined women’s roles by men and family. She is a woman, among women. In the Hymn, Iambê demonstrates camaraderie with Demeter and dearly wishes to please the mother goddess. She wishes to give Demeter some joy, any joy in a difficult time. Today, there is plenty of scientific evidence of the healing effects of laughter, it is even used by counselors and psychologists as a technique to help patients. Modern humorist Erma Bombeck said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” Most comedy today hits on painful experiences, with witty observations that reveal how absurd the truth really can be.

So each year, women in the ancient Greek world got together, had a party and sought to make each other laugh. There is much more to the rituals and celebrations of the Eleusinian Mysteries and a great deal of it remains…well, a mystery to us. However, the Thesmophoria remains my favorite. Perhaps it’s because a part of me wishes we had something just like it today.

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[i] “Homeric Hymn to Demeter.” trans. Gregory Nagy, University of Houston, Accessed 08 Sep 2018, http://www.uh.edu/~cldue/texts/demeter.html.

[ii] Ibid.