Persephone as we call her today, was known to the ancient Greeks who worshipped her as Pherophata, Phersephata, or Pherephassa. Commonly referred to at Eleusis by the name of her youth, Kore, she was "The Ineffable Maiden", and her temple at Eleusis was the Pherephation. To be ineffible is to be “inexpressible”, and “unutterable”. She is so sacred that her name cannot be spoken. She is so sacred that she cannot be described in words.
The Eleusinian Mysteries were the most important, revered, and secret sacred rites of the ancient Greek world. Initiation into the cult of Demeter and Persephone was a celebration of the cycle of life and death, the descent into the underworld and pursuant rebirth. This is a primal theme of human spiritual development following the turning of the seasons, the awe and magic threading people and the planet together. Grain is at the center of the Eleusinian Mysteries (Demeter is loosely translated like grain mother), and depictions of such on vases and mentions in snips of text support this theme.
Few written accounts exist of the mysteries, and certainly nothing in entirety. From fragments of text and pottery, it is believed that the celebrations began by Cleansing in the sea, followed by the Procession to Eleusis from a cemetery in Athens. Upon gaining Eleusis, Fasting which was broken with a brew of barley and pennyroyal, kykeon. (There has of course been suggestions as to the psychedelic content of this drink, because sometimes scholars lack the spiritual understanding of attaining a mystical state of mind without it, or because modern day folks have a hard time appreciating the role said pharmacopeia has had in such rites, and accepting or honoring any authenticity of them. Take your pick of my opinions!) Initiates were shown the secret contents of the kiste (a box holding sacred objects), of which they meditated on, then placed in the kalathos (basket).
It is accepted that there were the Lesser Mysteries, and the Greater Mysteries, and that the rites consisted of 3 phases; things done (like a dramatization), things shown (like the sacred items), and things said (like vows). Together these things were the Unrepeatables, and the penalty for ignoring their name was death. Hence the lack of written materials on these mysteries.
The culmination of the rites is said to have been the attainment of the knowledge of the divinity within. The initiate understands the connection of life and death, and is elevated spiritually.
The Persephone myth has been transported through time, on the tips of many tongues and the nibs of many pens. It seems to me like it’s been carried far enough away from original intentions, as happens over the centuries when gods rise and goddesses fall. Perhaps further understanding of the Grotta Carusa cave at Locria, Italy, or further excavations of the Demeter and Persephone Sactuary at Wadi bel Gadir in Libya, will provide some stellar finds and interesting insight into the cult of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Kore was a child of Demeter and Zeus, destined to be the bride of Hades in a time when there was not so much fear and evil associated with the Underworld rulers. Not stolen away and raped, but honored and esteemed in the Sacred Marriage, the bright and beautiful side who balances above and below with love. She descended, and her Kore maiden self died, as is the course of puberty into adulthood, and to the marriage-bed. Certainly her mother wept for the loss of her little girl. But, Persephone’s queenly self was reborn as a Chthonic deity, and eventually she ascended, carrying seeds and blessings for the return of spring.
Did she not give the greatest gift, the offering of herself as sacrifice for the people, that they may understand the sacred circle which all must walk…live, die, and live again? It’s her darkening time again, once more she makes her descent, leaving the company of her mother Demeter for the embrace of the Chthonic King. The souls of the waiting dead have missed her, and all know She-Who-Comes-Again will walk the circle soon enough.
So break open a pomegranate and raise a glass. Hail Persephone!