Apr 252012
 

I begin to sing of Demeter, the holy goddess with the beautiful hair.

And her daughter [Persephone] too. The one with the delicate ankles, whom Hadês seized.

She was given away by Zeus, the loud-thunderer, the one who sees far and wide.

Demeter did not take part in this, she of the golden double-axe, she who glories in the harvest.

She [Persephone] was having a good time, along with the daughters of Okeanos, who wear their girdles slung low.

She was picking flowers: roses, crocus, and beautiful violets.

Up and down the soft meadow. Iris blossoms too she picked, and hyacinth.

And the narcissus, which was grown as a lure for the flower-faced girl by Gaia [Earth]. All according to the plans of Zeus. She [Gaia] was doing a favour for the one who receives many guests [Hadês].

It [the narcissus] was a wondrous thing in its splendor. To look at it gives a sense of holy awe to the immortal gods as well as mortal humans.

It has a hundred heads growing from the root up.

Its sweet fragrance spread over the wide skies up above.

And the earth below smiled back in all its radiance. So too the churning mass of the salty sea.

She [Persephone] was filled with a sense of wonder, and she reached out with both hands to take hold of the pretty plaything. And the earth, full of roads leading every which way, opened up under her.

It happened on the Plain of Nysa. There it was that the Lord who receives many guests made his lunge.

He was riding on a chariot drawn by immortal horses. The son of Kronos. The one known by many names.

He seized her against her will, put her on his golden chariot, And drove away as she wept.

She cried with a piercing voice, calling upon her father [Zeus], the son of Kronos, the highest and the best.

But not one of the immortal ones, or of human mortals, heard her voice.

Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Oct 182010
 

“Tell me, Circe, who is to guide me on the way? No one has ever sailed a black ship into Hell.”

“Odysseus,” the goddess answered me, “don’t think of lingering on shore for lack of a pilot. Set up your mast, spread the white sail and sit down in the ship.

The North Wind will blow her on her way; and when she has brought you across the River of Ocean, you will come to a wild coast and to Persephone’s Grove, where the tall poplars grow and the willows that so quickly shed their seeds.

Beach your boat there by Ocean’s swirling stream and march on into Hades’ Kingdom of Decay. There the River of Flaming Fire and the River of Lamentation, which is a branch of the Waters of the Styx, unite round a pinnacle of rock to pour their thundering streams into Acheron.

This is the spot, my lord, that I bid you to seek out. Once there, dig a trench about a cubit long and a cubit in breadth. Around this trench pour offerings to all the dead, first with honey mixed with milk, then with sweet wine, and last of all with water. Over all this sprinkle white barley and then begin your prayers to the helpless ghosts of the dead. Promise them that once you are in Ithaca you will sacrifice in your place a barre heifer, the best that you have, and will heap the pyre with treasures and make Teiresias a separate offering of the finest jet black sheep to be found in your flock.

When you have finished your invocations to the glorious fellowship of the dead, sacrifice a young ram and a black ewe, holding their heads down towards Erebus while you turn your own aside, as though about to recross the River of Ocean. Then the souls of the dead and departed will come up in their multitudes and you must bid your men make haste to flay the sheep that that are lying slaughtered by your blade, and burn them up while they pray to the gods, to mighty Hades and august Persephone.

Sit still yourself, meanwhile, with your drawn sword in your hand, and do not let any of the helpless ghosts come near the blood till you have had speech with Teiresias. Presently the prophet himself will come to you, my lord king. And he will lay down for you your journey and the distances to be covered, and direct you home across the fish-delighting seas.”

Circe finished, and soon after the Dawn enthroned herself in gold.

Homer, The Odyssey