“No one,” it was written, “may describe the essential gift of the ceremonies,” that is, the mystery of the Mysteries.
As Mara Lynn Keller writes in Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism: “The central experience of the initiation was never released … because the mystical insight itself was beyond naming, ineffable.”
It is known that the festival — which could be attended by anyone who had not taken a human life — was one of gratitude for the Mother for teaching humankind the art of cultivation and for decanting from her body the cornucopia of this time of year. The celebration to honor Demeter certainly included rites corresponding with her various names: Barley Mother, Corn Mother, Pig Mother, Green Demeter, Giver of Gifts, Fruit Bearer, Warmth, Healer, Lightbearer, Wrathful, Gentle. Besides the pig, Demeter’s animals included the horse, the dolphin, and the dove, around which rituals were also conducted.
Her sacred plants were wheat and barley, the staples. Pomegranate, the fruit signifying sex and death. Poppy, flowers of sleep. In September, this sleep is gradually embracing the Earth and our gardens. It is simultaneously the sleep of the maiden in her unawareness before she was taken from her mother and the sleep that overcomes the mother when her daughter departs.
When Persephone leaves her, year in, year out, Demeter no longer smites the world with winter out of vengeance. Nor does she wallow in sorrow. She withdraws out of generosity, giving a gift to the ground itself. Without this in-gatherig, plants, animals and soil can’t maintain their fertility.