For the funeral of our ceremonial circle’s sister-friend Lyn on the 17th March 2006, three of us told this story in ceremonial style. It is based in Charlene Spretnak’s telling of the Demeter-Persephone story in her book Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, and directly quotes large parts of it.
GLENYS: This is a story that Lyn was familiar with and loved at this time of year – the Autumn Equinox, which her seasonal circle will celebrate on Sunday. The words that Demeter says to Persephone in the story are words that Lyn received each Autumn Equinox in the ritual celebration. We say it for her again.
This is the time of the Autumnal Equinox – the moment of balance of light and dark in the dark part of the cycle. Feel the balance in this moment – Earth as She is poised in relationship with the Sun. Feel for your own balance of light and dark within. In our part of Earth, the balance is about to tip into the dark. Feel the shift within you, see in your mind’s eye the descent ahead, the darkness growing, remember the coolness of it. This is the time when we give thanks for our harvests – the abundance we have reaped. Yet we remember too the losses. The story of Old tells us that Persephone, Beloved Daughter, is given the wheat – the Mystery, knowledge of life and death – for this she gives thanks. But she sets forth into the darkness – both Mother and Daughter grieve that it is so.
DEBRA: Persephone gathered three poppies and Her Mother Demeter led Her to a long, deep chasm and produced a torch for her to carry. Demeter said to Her:
“I give you the wheat – the Mystery – the knowledge of life and death. I let you go as Daughter – Child, most loved of Mine … you descend to Sovereignty, to Wisdom, you have become Queen. You will return as Mother, co-Creator with me. You are the Seed in the Fruit, becoming the Fruit in the Seed. Inner Wisdom guides your path.”
(PAUSE – Loret put wheat on the coffin)
Demeter stood and watched Her Daughter go down further and further into the cleft of the Earth. …
For months Persephone received and renewed the dead without ever resting or growing weary. All the while Her Mother remained disconsolate. … In Her sorrow She withdrew Her power from the crops, the trees, the plants. She forbade any new growth to blanket the Earth. The mortals planted their seed, but the fields remained barren. Demeter was consumed with loneliness and finally settled on a bare hillside to gaze out at nothing from sunken eyes. For days and nights, weeks and months She sat waiting.”
LORET: In the crook of Her arm Persephone held Her Mother’s wheat close to Her breast, while Her other arm held the torch aloft. She was startled by the chill as She descended, but She was not afraid. Deeper and deeper into the darkness She continued, picking her way along the rocky path. For many hours She was surrounded only by silence. Gradually She became aware of a low moaning sound. It grew in intensity until She rounded a corner and entered an enormous cavern, where thousands of the dead milled about aimlessly, hugging themselves, shaking their heads, and moaning in despair.
Persephone moved through the forms to a large, flat rock and ascended. She produced a stand for her torch, a vase for Her Mother’s grain, and a large shallow bowl piled with pomegranate seeds, the food of the dead. As She stood before them, Her aura increased in brightness and in warmth.
“I am Persephone and I have come to be your Queen. Each of you has left the body you knew, and resides in the realm of the manifesting – the realm of the dead. If you come to Me, I will initiate you into your new world.”
She beckoned those nearest to step up onto the rock close to Her. As each one came before Her Persephone embraced them and then stepped back and gazed into the eyes. She reached for a few pomegranate seeds, squeezing them between Her fingers. She painted the forehead with a broad swatch of the red juice and slowly pronounced:
“You have waxed into the fullness of life,
And waned into darkness;
May you be renewed in tranquility and wisdom.”
(PAUSE – Glenys take off red ribbon that she is wearing)
Lyn, for those close to you, before you left this form, you became Queen – Sovereign. We give you the purple of Sovereignty and Wisdom – She who shines in the Dark:
(PAUSE – Debbie put purple fabric on coffin)
the red Thread representing the continuity of life – that continues beneath what we see, and we are aware of it in our Hearts.
(PAUSE – Glenys put red ribbon on coffin)
It is the Balance of Grief and Joy we feel. If we listen to this Balance, and act, all will be well.
by Glenys Livingstone 2006 in collaboration with Debra Dunn and Loret Runagall, recomposed in 2017 on the eleventh anniversary of Lyn’s passing.
Spretnak, Charlene. Lost Goddesses of Early Greece. Boston: Beacon Press, 1992/1978.
 Charlene Spretnak, Lost Goddesses of Early Greece, p. 109-118.