I’ve never been much a fan of holidays, but as I delve deeper into practicing religion, I find it becoming an exciting venture.
Last week was the Autumn Equinox, the day I associate with the beginning of Persephone’s Descent. As the leaves begin to change, the days grown shorter and the nights grow cooler, this is the time that Kore fades and Khthonia once again dons her bone and laurel crown.
The Sunday before the Equinox, I lay the bones of the altar. A third table was erected in my office and temple room, beneath the wall of shrines. A black cloth was laid over it and I began the process of honoring Persephone by adding to its beauty.
Aesthetics are something that I have struggled with for some time when it comes to the practice side of my religion. When I build an altar or a shrine, I typically keep it simplistic. But in the last year, I have tried to branch out and incorporate beauty as well as function to my altar.
The Tuesday of the Equinox, I set out the offerings: pomegranate soda for Persephone; grapes for Dionysus; homemade garlic pizza for Hekate; chocolate coins for Persephone and Charon; lavender incense for the lot. Each of these items hold different symbols and I wanted to honor different aspects of Persephone’s myths, as well as include those who I have begun to associate with her and this time of year: Hekate as her companion to Hades, Charon as the ferryman, and Dionysus…for my own reasons.
I lay my Tarot deck on the altar with the intent of doing a reading, but I have yet to do it. It has not seemed the right time just yet, so it continues to lay on the dark cloth and wait.
Standing before the altar, I realized that I had little idea what I wanted to do. Such is often the case with these rites, at least in my personal practice. And, as I have before, I just began to talk aloud to Persephone and offer my words along with my gifts of food and drink. I thanked her for the presence and power she has had in my life, and for the patience she has shown me these last 18 months. It has been a wild ride, to say the least. As I spoke, I talked about my experiences living apart from my boyfriend while at college and that I knew how hard long-distance could be. (Obviously not on the same level, but being away from your lover in any capacity and for any extended length of time is difficult.)
As I was writing the tags for the tumblr photo post, I began thinking of a name for this day in my practice. The temporary names have been Feast days with the various epithets of my gods for those events, but that did not seem to fit for me anymore. I wanted to emphasize the Queen aspect of Persephone at this time of the year, but I wasn’t sure how. Eventually, I remembered a repeated phrase in the book I had been reading at the time, The Witch With No Name. In this book is the Goddess, a deity in the elven religion who spends most of her time on the page rejecting the possibility of “becoming.” This phrasing had stuck with me, repeating itself in my mind over and over again until I finally connected it with Persephone’s Descent. It fit, as each year, Persephone lays down her mantle of maiden and once again dons the royal cloak to stand beside her husband, as equal and powerful. It is something she has chosen, something she does willingly. She does not fight against the progression of the year nor her role in the Dance of Life and Death. She becomes as she wills, and this was a celebration of that.