For Her

Peach wine touched with fire
Poured with pious purpose
For She who dwells in the dark hollow place within the earth
For She who brought forth nine strange children, born and tried in flame
For She whose heart is an ember and whose eyes are tear-tossed and bloody.
Accept my offering of sustenance and solace.

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Thesmophoria: A Guided Journey to Demeter’s Depths

Last weekend I attended the Gaea Goddess Gathering, an annual women’s festival that takes place at Gaea Retreat Center in Kansas. On Friday, September 15th, the second day of the festival, I led a guided meditation that centered the Thesmophoria, a major Greek holy day honoring Demeter and Kore. I’ve decided to share the script here for those who may be interested. The script should be read slowly but fluently, allowing for both short and long pauses where appropriate.
'Thesmophoria'_by_Francis_Davis_Millet,_1894-1897
I invite you to find comfort in this moment, comfort in the position of your body, comfort in your gaze and how it softly settles on a focal point here in the garden, or on the backs of your eyelids. I invite you to breathe in that comfort and to exhale any tension that you may be carrying. Breathe deeply sisters, belly rise and fall. Allowing each breathe in to bring peace and each breathe out to carry away tension. When you are ready I invite you to ground and center in your usual way. You may feel the earth firm and steady beneath you. As you feel called, you may allow your own energy to descend along your spine reaching into the earth, connecting with the earth, and drawing that stabilizing energy up into your own energy field. When you feel deeply rooted, you may decide to feel your energy coursing upward along your spine, up through the crown of your head and into the sky realm. I invite you to allow that bright energy to help you orient yourself to the here and now. Breathe deeply sisters. Belly rise, belly fall. Allowing the energy of earth and sky to dance along your spine, meeting at the center of your being. As these energy currents mingle within you, know that you are now grounded, oriented, and centered.
 
I invite you to continue breathing comfortably, allowing your breath to be what it is, allowing yourself to be who and how you are. Your breath is a life-line joining you to your body and mind, to here and now. At your own will, no matter where you are in today’s guided meditation, you may return your awareness to your breath and to the here and now. Breathe deeply sisters. Belly rise, belly fall.
In your mind’s eye you become aware of a gathering of women. You see that the women have gathered together at the foot of a great hill to seek blessings of fertility from the Thesmophoros – the Two Goddesses, Demeter and Kore. I invite you to attune with your deep self. How do you feel in this moment as you prepare to ascend the hill? Are you willing? Are you ready?
 
Remembering to breathe, what do you notice about the hill? What sights enter your gaze? What smells fill the air? What sounds do you hear as the women assemble?
 
As you deepen your awareness of yourself and the women around you, perhaps you notice that the women are holding various items. You know that what they carry, they intend to sacrifice to Demeter in order to ensure their fertility. Turning your gaze to your own hands, your own shoulders, your own back: what do you carry to Demeter for sacrifice in the great pit deep within the earth?
 
Remembering to breathe, you recall that the ancient Greek women who took this pilgrimage centuries before carried traditional offerings of piglets as well as serpents and phalluses made of dough – sympathetic, agrarian magic as old as the human race. Perhaps you carry the same offerings as your foresisters, or perhaps your sacrifice for fertility is different. What do you carry to Demeter for sacrifice in the great pit deep within the earth?
In this moment, as you prepare to ascend the hill, you know that you will cast it into the Megara – Demeter’s pit within the deep earth – the chasm located inside the temple at the top of the hill. This is your fruit and your sacrifice. It is what death will take and transform in order to fertilize the next crop in your life, ensuring the cycle of fertile growth for years to come. Holding your fruit, your sacrifice close to you, you know that what you carry now will be laid down in the deep earth, transformed, and returned by Demeter’s might to nourish new life.
 
Breathe deeply and remember your purpose here. You hear the women around you stirring. The procession to the temple begins. The women ascend the hill, placing one foot in front of the other, casting their eyes to the temple at the top of the hill as they gain ground. You may choose to ascend with your sisters, placing one foot in front of the other, gaining ground. What do you observe about the feel of the path under your feet? What do you notice about the sights and sounds around you? With each step taken and every new foot of elevation gained as you move up the hill with your sisters, what do you notice about the fruit, the sacrifice that you carry? Perhaps you take note of how the sacrifice makes you feel. You may view your chosen sacrifice positively and look forward to offering it to Demeter, or perhaps you feel a growing sense of another feeling as you ascend in thoughtful procession with your sisters.
 
Breathing, at last you reach the sanctuary at the top of the hill and you glance back at the path you ascended. You remember that this path was called Anodos or The Way Up by the ancient Greeks. Holding your fruit, your sacrifice, you recall that this was also the name given to Kore’s path up from the underworld, back to the world of the living, bringing fertility and growth back to the world by her mother’s grace. As you cross the threshold to the temple at the top of the hill, you remember that the annual Thesmophoria festival honors Kore’s loss and the promise of her return, praying for the end of Demeter’s wrath and the beginning of her favor. 
 
Inside the temple, priestesses of Demeter approach two great slabs of ornate wood that appear to cover a vast and deep well. As the priestesses remove the slabs you realize that the wood covers not a well but the Megara of Demeter, the seething pit containing the composting remains of previous fruits, previous sacrifices. With a deep breath you stand before the Megara and cast your own sacrifice into the pit. What fruit did you sacrifice in order to draw up fertility from the earth of your being? Breathing deeply, you may choose to take note of sensations you are experiencing.
 
As you contemplate the sacrifice that you’ve thrown into the pit, you see additional priestesses approach the Megara: the bailers. You notice that they are simply but purposefully dressed, perhaps for a sacred but very physical task. With focus and intent, each bailer comes to the edge of the Megara and with the help of her fellow priestesses lowers herself down deep into the pit. These holy women bail up the remains of previous animal and plant offerings, sacred fertilizer for the community’s fields and gardens. 
How will Demeter transform your sacrifice? You may continue to ponder this question as the bailers carry several containers to the altar for blessing. In your own way, you join the priestesses and your sisters in praying for fertility – the fertility of the land, the fertility of the animals, and your own fertility in whatever way is meaningful for you.
 
As you observe the fertilizer from the Megara on the altar, you understand that the cycles of fertility are complex, requiring life and love, sacrifice and decay, transformation and renewal to ensure that life and love reign again in their season. How will you use Demeter and Kore’s fertile gift? What will you allow it to cultivate and nourish within you and your life?
 
As you continue to breathe deeply and comfortably, you hear a priestess of the Thesmophoros announce that the holy work of the day is done. The women gathered in the temple begin to stir and move toward the temple door. You join your sisters. Before you cross the threshold of the temple you thank Demeter and Kore for their blessings. 
Step by step you descend the hill, leaving the temple behind you, but remembering the work that you’ve done there, the sacrifice you made, and the fertile gift you received. As you descend the hill, you steadily grow more aware of yourself and your sisters in the here and now. As you allow your weight to sink more and more deeply into the earth and you feel her rise to meet you, you understand that here and now is Gaea Retreat Center. You remember that your breath can guide you home. You recall that each breath in and out is a call to feel your feet and legs, your thighs and hips, your arms and hands, your torso and head. Breathing yourself more fully into your body, you feel your eyes flutter open and those gathered here in Flora’s garden come into view.

The Nine Worlds Series: Niflheim

In Norse lore, Niflheim is one of the first of the Nine Worlds to emerge into being. Mist-Home is filled with icy mountains and glaciers. The entire realm seemed perilously high but that may be because of where I landed upon entering the world. Obviously, Niflheim is also frigidly cold. The whole world is bombarded with snow and wind, and heavy grey clouds hang in the sky. These were my observations on my first travel excursion to Niflheim nearly a year ago.

I’ve visited Nifl-World a few times since then. One foggy night nearly six months after my very first trip, I visited by astral home and from there made my way to Niflheim. I eventually found the road that I had been shown so many times before and I struggled to move at all. The snow was deep and frigid cold. The wind was howling and a storm was gathering. I made a tiny bit of progress along the way. As the storm gathered, I thought about seeking shelter and in an instant I ended up in a small cave that I think belonged to an ice giant or some other denizen of the realm. The owner of the home, such as it was, was nowhere in sight. The walls of the space were pale and a small window faced the gathering storm in the southwest. The room was warmer than the outdoors but I did not linger. I gathered myself and all of my accompanying parts and left post-haste. I desperately needed the warmth and took ease where I shouldn’t have.

When I returned to the road I paused to ask my guide why I was having so much trouble. I was incredibly frustrated with the lack of progress on this journey so I had to ask. My guide spoke of the sluggish nature of Isa and of the toilsome work embodied by Nauthiz. My journey through Niflheim having been supported by these two runic forces was mired in their might, for better or worse. My guide added that various parts of my soul are energetically compatible with Niflheim and other parts are less so which adds to my challenges with navigating this world.

After sharing these tidbits with me he showed me flashes of the Nifl-Giants, most slow moving and the oldest ones appearing completely unmoving to the naked eye, but all of them present and aware and active in their own way. I understood that they figure time, energy, and awareness differently than I do. What had felt like a literally glacial pace to me was just another hectic day to them.

In a previous divination session and another meditation I was told that my time in Niflheim would be lengthy. My guide’s comments about the flow of Nifl life helped me to see that basically I need to slow down and focus in order to get anywhere or do anything in Niflheim. Again time, energy, and everything are figured differently here. His call was not for the slow ease of a Caribbean vacation but for the careful, meditative engagement that comes through a wise mind sharply focused on a task – which is pretty slow if not “easy”.

After I received my guide’s rede I collected myself and returned to the middle world. I opened my eyes and gasped at the time because what had felt to me like a 30-minute astral journey had in fact been two hours.

When considering the runes that rule this world, a few came to mind. Mist-Home has strong Isa might of course, and Hagalaz factors prominently as well in the form of the cosmic seed. For humans, Nauthiz is a part of Niflheim too because it provides the needed spark of warmth, light, and life to deliver us from the Bone Chill of Mist-Home. I say Nauthiz instead of Kenaz because Nauthiz is is the red blinking emergency light to Kenaz’s warm white hall light. Nauthiz is the last light, the only light, the one standing between us and the teeming hordes of the yawning dark. Nauthiz is the warding force at the edge of the camp fire keeping the predators at bay.

When facing the challenges of Niflhiem, at the human scale of power, the Hrimthursar can’t be bested by overpowering (too much energy) or erosion (too much time). The Rime Thursar can’t be trampled over. They must be worked around or worked with, like mighty glaciers. Glaciers move extremely slowly and yet are powerful beyond compare. They are destructive and also creative – sculpting the continents and nourishing life on Earth for eons. Never forget, the first Well – Hverglmir – emanates from Niflheim.

After having been to Niflheim a few times, here’s some travel advice gained from a giantess I met on my first visit and from experience there after:

  1. Do not travel in human form. The mountains have eyes and humans are generally unwelcome in this realm.
  2. Do not use fire often. It may act as a beacon for woe.
  3. Do not wander in this world. One should be here with a purpose so stay on the road presented to you.
  4. Keep moving! Slow and steady.
  5. If challenged on the way, speak the name of the Power who protects you and under whose auspices you travels. If you are allied with no such being, reconsider your travel plans.
  6. Navigate the storms (and all of this world) with great care. It lives. I’ve found this to be just as true of the Eight Worlds as of our One World.

Blessed Travels!