Persephone’s Descent

Autumn is my favourite time of year. The slight chill in the air, the darker mornings and nights, mist dappled fields, the golden-green pallete of the plants and trees, the harvest, the quiet, the reflection, Halloween, the last blaze of summer sunshine. So many things that make me look forward to this particular time of change, but it all starts with a descent…

Persephone says farewell to her mother, Demeter, as Hekate prepares to guide her into the Underworld.

Heading into September, you can feel the changes starting. Winds pick up and the leaves change and before you know it you’re walking down the street, zipping up your coat, and kicking through piles of crisping leaves – it always brings back memories of childhood.

On a personal level, this time of year sees the descent of the goddess Persephone as she returns to the Underworld to be with her lover and husband, Haides. The changing season comes from her mother, Demeter’s, mourning at the loss of her daughter and we head into the darker, harder times of winter.

Hekate, good friend and guide to both Demeter and Persephone, accompanies Persephone on her journey to the Underworld; where the seed of the Grain Mother will be nurtured and strengthened by her time in the quiet, darker depths of Haides’ realm, to be reborn anew come the Spring when mother and daughter will be reunited and the world will burst with colour, fertility and life!

At the time of the Autumn Equinox this year I carried out a simple ritual that involved a slight “reennactment” of Persephone’s descent.

I decorate my main altar with red and gold cloth, vases of wheat and a “fake” fruit-filled urn. I placed my statues of Demeter and Persephone together and recited some verse to mark their farewells. Next, my statue of Hekate was placed between them and Hekate readied Persephone for her journey into the Underworld.

Once Persephone and Hekate had left for the Underworld (which I had set up under a small table across the room, my statue of Haides waiting by the flicker of a single tealight), Demeter doned her mourning shroud. This black piece of cloth remains on my Demeter statue from the time of the Autumn Equinox until her daughter returns at the Spring Equinox.

Once at the threshold of the Underworld, Hekate guides Persephone through the gates to be reunited with her husband, Haides. Hekate also remains with Persephone as a companion and guide during these times. And as the season changes we reflect on the quieter times of reflection ahead of us, we take stock, harvest what we have cultivated so far in the year and all attention turns inward; nurturung the seeds within ourselves until they can sprout and bloom in the Spring.

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