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Hades and Persephone

Hades was the brother of Zeus and the god of the Underworld. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of nature. The myth of Persephone is one of the oldest of all Greek myths. Her story is a personification of some of the most universal concepts about life and death. In her youth, Persephone represents the powerful bond between a mother and a daughter and the often difficult transition from maidenhood to marriage. As the goddess of Springtime and Rebirth, she is eternally connected to the cycles of the earth, which lies barren in her absence and bloom again each spring with her return. Her initiatory experience in the realm of the dead is such a powerful experience that it changes her life forever. It is after this transformation that we remember her most for her role as the Greek goddess of the Underworld.

The myth tells the story of Hades who fell in love with Persephone and decided to kidnap her. The myth says that in one of the rare times he left the Underworld, he traveled above ground to pursue her, while she was gathering flowers in a field.

shutterstock_196517768One day, Hades saw Persephone and instantly fell in love with her.

Hades confided his secret to his brother Zeus, asking for his help, so the two of them concocted a plan to trap her. As Persephone played with her companions, they caused the ground to split underneath her. Persephone slipped beneath the earth, and Hades stole her to the Underworld where he made her his wife.

The myth says that Persephone was very unhappy, but after much time, she came to love the cold-blooded Hades and lived happily with him.

The myth of Hades and Persephone is associated with the coming of spring and winter. When Persephone comes to Earth, it’s springtime. When she descends back to Hades, it is winter.

The disappearance and the return of Persephone were the occasions of great festivals in ancient Greece, among them the Eleusinian rites, whose secrets were so closely guarded that little is known about them today.

Some experts believe the rites or mysteries fostered the idea of a more perfect life after death, and thus helped to lay the groundwork for the coming of Christianity, which upholds the idea of everlasting life.

A Brief Guide to the Greek Gods and Goddesses

shutterstock_58305883Hermes

Hermes was the god of business, travel, weights, sports and measures. He was also the messenger of the gods and guided the souls of the dead to the underworld. He was also the patron of thieves, graves, messengers and herdsmen. His staff could cause men to fall asleep instantly.

Zeus

Zeus was the king of the gods. He could control the weather. The ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, called him the ‘cloud-gatherer’ and the ‘thunderer.’ His most powerful weapon was his ability to generate thunderbolts. The Greeks believed that when lightning struck Earth, it was a sign of Zeus being present.

Zeus was also concerned with hospitality. If you treated a guest or stranger badly, you would run the risk of outraging Zeus.

Apollo

Apollo was the god of the sun, truth, music, poetry, dance and healing. Poets and bards put themselves under his protection.

Artemis

Artemis was the goddess of hunting, archery and childbirth. She was also the goddess of wild animals and was normally portrayed as living in the countryside. Ancient Greeks believed that she could send plagues or sudden death to mortals, but, on the flipside, could also heal them. She also happened to be the twin sister of the god Apollo.

Athena

Athena was the goddess of war and wisdom. She is also the goddess of wool-working and pot-making. She is mostly associated with the city, and almost every town in Greece had a sanctuary dedicated only to Athena.

She also invented the chariot, the bridle and built the first ship. The olive tree is sacred to her.

Hephaistos

Hephaistos was the god of fire, volcanoes, blacksmiths and craftworkers. He was lame, and this led to him being thrown out of Mount Olympus. He was married to the goddess Aphrodite. He was the father of Erechtheus, the legendary king of Athens.

shutterstock_149937578Poseidon

Poseidon was the god of the sea and horses. He was the brother of Zeus. He was known for his extremely bad temper and was greatly feared because of his ability to cause huge earthquakes. He was believed to be able to make fresh water pour forth from the bowels of the earth.

Ares

Ares was the god of war. However, unlike Athena, he was not very cunning, or wise, in battle. He was not a popular god at all. In ‘The Iliad,’ Zeus complained that Ares was the most hated of all his children.

Hera

Hera was the wife of Zeus and the queen of all the gods. She is the goddess of weddings and marriage. She was extremely jealous of the many affairs undertaken by Zeus. She took terrible revenge on the girlfriends and illegitimate children of her husband.

The Magic of the Moon

The moon has always played an important part the world and has long been considered the counterpart of the sun. Long ago, ancient people believed that the moon chased the sun; and each night, the sun descended into the Underworld as the moon reigned high in the night sky.

Moon mythology includes many lunar deities such as Roman gods like Luna, Diana, the Thracian Bendis, Greek Selene and even Thoth from African mythology.

But for many Pagans, the cycles of the moon were more important to magical workings than to pleasing the dieties. It was believed in many traditions that the waxing moon, the full moon, the waning moon and the new moon all had special, magical properties. The full moon has long held an aura of mystery and magic. It is tied to the ebbs and flows of the tide, and was linked to the ever-changing cycle of women’s bodies. Moon was considered to be connected to our wisdom and intuition, and many pagans chose to celebrate the full moon with a monthly ritual.

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The period during and immediately following a new moon was often considered a time of new beginnings and re-evaluation.

During the waxing moon, as the moon is working its way towards the full stage, many people liked to do magic that involving bringing things towards them.

The full moon is typically seen as a period of intuition and wisdom. In many magical traditions, the three days before or after the full moon are still considered “full.” Some people believed that any reading done during a full moon was going to have a lot more intuitive power added to it, simply because the moon is full and our intuitive abilities are peaking during this time.

Finally, during the waning moon, this is the period – as with many magical activities – for getting rid of stuff through magic.

Pagan Solstice

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. The sun is at its lowest and weakest. This usually happens around the 21st of December.

In early pagan Scandinavia, this was the time of “Yule”—their winter festival. They celebrated by burning the hearth fires of the magically significant Yule log. In Celtic druid culture, the Winter Solstice was celebrated by hanging sacred mistletoe over a doorway or in a room to offer goodwill to all those who visited. Germanic tribes decorated a fir tree with candles and tokens. The Inca, however, held midwinter ceremonies at temples that served as astronomical observatories like Machu Picchu.

Many of these traditions have continued for thousands of years despite efforts to eliminate them. Our modern Christmas is a mix of all of these—and the Roman festivals, too.

Spring Equinox

Now known as St. Patrick’s Day, but known as Spring or Vernal Equinox to the ancients—this holiday occurred in the middle of March and marks the very beginning of Spring. This is a time when days and nights are of equal length on Earth.

Ancient influences from the worship of the goddess Eostre have persisted in the form of what we would now call Easter eggs. To the ancients, these were fertility symbols. The rabbit, or hare, is also a leftover from early celebrations. The egg and rabbit, or hare, stand for rebirth, spring and fertility.

shutterstock_98892308Summer Solstice

To mark Midsummer and the longest day of the year, the ancients would hold a celebration around June 21st. The only full moon in June is called the Honey Moon. Tradition stated that this would be the best time to harvest honey from hives, and this happened to be a popular time for marriage to take place—because of the events association with fertility gods and goddesses. Slav and Celt tribes would celebrate this time with massive bonfires and people would jump over the embers for luck. In Scandinavia, women would bathe in rivers.

The ancients believed that celebrating Summer Solstice would recognize and strengthen the connection of humans and nature.

Fall Equinox

The Autumnal Equinox takes place around September 23rd or 24th. This time has also been known as Mabon, Harvest Home and Michaelmas.

The Romans celebrated the fall by worshipping Pomona, the goddess of fruits and growing things. They would hold a feast with a large goose which had been fed on the fields after the harvest.

In ancient England, the last sheaf of corn harvested was made into a doll that would represent the “spirit of the field.” This doll would then be covered with water and burned to represent the importance of “rain” and to represent the death of the grain spirit. The Polish would celebrate this time by bringing food for blessing by a priest. They would then use that blessed fruit as medicine or keep it until the following year’s harvest.

The Ferryman Trailer

Hi all,

The Ferryman trailer is now available for viewing – hope you like it!

Don’t forget that The Ferryman, book two in the first Guardians Series, is available to pre-order from amazon and due for release early next year.

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The Holiday of Saturnalia

Do you celebrate the holiday of Saturnalia? You don’t know what that is? It’s a weeklong period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17th and 24th. It originated in Roman times and holds a lot of similarity with our present day Christmas.

All over the Roman Empire, courts were closed, and the law dictated that no punishment could be brought against those who damaged property, injured others or stole from others during the weeklong celebration. The festivities would include choosing an “enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “lord of misrule.” Each Roman community would select a victim who they then forced to indulge in endless food and pleasures throughout the week. Then, once the celebration came to an end, they would brutally kill the supposed “Lord of Misrule.”

A contemporary source described the festival as “as a time of widespread intoxication with many Romans going from house to house—singing naked. Rape was widespread, and Romans would eat human shaped biscuits… these are known today as gingerbread men.
As the Roman empire embraced Christianity, the Saturnalia festival was turned into Christmas. However, there was nothing particularly Christian about Saturnalia, so Christian leaders named the day after Saturnalia to be Jesus’ birthday.

shutterstock_89230576Christians had little—or no—success when it came to refining the long held practice of Saturnalia. The earliest Christmas holidays still contained drinking, sexual conquest, singing naked in the streets and all manner of hedonism.

Even as late as 1466, there were still those who celebrated the customs of the Saturnalia carnival. Pope Paul II, for the amusement of Rome’s citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. Before the race, they were fed as much as possible so their run was more difficult, and thus more amusing. This continued through the 18th and 19th centuries. Rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and to march through the city streets to the jeers of a crowd who took joy in pelting the poor rabbis with any missiles they could find.

This continued almost to the modern day. What started as a pagan festival in Rome may now have become a gentle holiday—but it took many, many centuries.