The Garden of Proserpine

I am a child of Earth and Starry Heaven

Athena and Telemachus (and Me)

Yesterday my colleague shared these words with me, as part of a general critique:

You come off as so insecure, and I don’t know why. You just seem so afraid. You have such low self-esteem, and you don’t have to. You’re capable and smart, but you sabotage yourself. I worry about your future if you don’t find a way to get over this, to figure it out. You’ll have to find a way to be assertive and confident.

With that, the tears came. I had been fine during most of the critique (I’m my own worst critic anyway), but this was unexpected.

It hurt because it was true. It hurt because it was so painfully true, so precise. I was amazed at how well she was able to articulate the problem that had been eluding me, at how she recognized it and related it to me so clearly and truthfully. I know this is harsh, I admit it is, she said. But it’s honest. I just need to be honest with you. Instead of being sad, I felt incredibly grateful. I felt I had been given a gift.

It was something I really needed. A harsh, healing truth.

You used to debate? You need to get into that headspace – that place you go when you’re taking someone down with no mercy, when you’re tearing them apart. You need to find a way to become that person. You’ll be you, but you won’t be you.


Last week, as I prepared for this task being critiqued, I made an offering to the gods in general, to whoever would help me. If a god chose to help me, I requested that they give me some sign, so I would know who I should thank.


I’ve been reading The Odyssey. (Well, listening to the audiobook narrated by Ian McKellan, which is awesome.) As I began the book I was struck by how much I related to Telemachus, “heart obsessed with grief,” who tried and failed to be an adult, who moped around about how difficult things were until Athena took him to task and set him on his way. Because right now, he’s me. This is the point I’m at in my life.


I know now both who was speaking to me through my coworker, and who came to help me when I asked for help. I know now why I feel so inspired, so relieved, so ready to take on again some part of my old self – the warrior self that made competitors cry with my well-chosen words, that could turn my demeanor to ice, that could strike at a person’s core without regrets and without hesitation. The strong, crafty person Athena made me, and can make me again.

Yesterday I made some prayer beads for Her, that I can take with me wherever I go. My talent with crafts, after all, is her gift too, so it’s time I started giving back. Last night I prayed long prayers of thanks to her during my nightly devotion, and gave a libation, all in the sincerest utmost thanks for her words, and for taking me on as a student.


I must not cling to my childhood any longer – it’s time I were an adult.

“Take my words to heart,” She said.

I will find a way.

Aftermath (Dedicated to L, P, D and company)

I know someone watches me on my nightly wanderings, though I’m never sure who. I don’t know if I’ve attracted the attention of Nyx or Selene, Artemis or Hekate, or even Persephone who sends messages as I pass under the flowering cherry trees. In another sense, my wanderings (especially the music) belong to Dionysos as well. Tonight, though, challenged all conceptions and broke through all boundaries, and for that I thank whatever gods may be watching. Please bear with my disjointed, chaotic (hands still shaking) account of tonight’s events.

Tonight a message that I’d been waiting for from both a spirit and a god finally got through, and I experienced the first pure joy – that unbridled, primal feeling – that I’ve had in a very, very long time. A real smile, finally, ear to ear, unstoppable.

To set the scene: tonight I took a walk. At one point during my walk I thought about my friend L (who recently passed away) as I passed a church – her house of faith as a Catholic. The song I’ve associated with her ever since her death was playing at that moment.

When it’s all gone, something carries on. And it’s not morbid at all, just that nature’s had enough of you. When my blood stops, someone else’s will start. When my head rolls off, someone else’s will turn. But while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.

As I listened, I started to feel myself connecting, to feel the tears come as I was overwhelmed with sadness and loss. She was a teacher too. She was my age. We used to play together as kids, and then I left her, and never came back. We have unfinished business, you could say: my terrible guilt at losing her the first time. I had hated and loved her for having the things I didn’t, really – had hated and loved her for being self-assured, for having lenient parents, for getting the things she wanted (so I perceived). For being smart, and white, and reasonably well-off, and Catholic.

Yet, as adults, we wanted the same thing: to be there for kids like our teachers were (and weren’t) for us. To remember where we came from. To help others along their way. As I listened to the song, I remembered all this, and felt ashamed for forgetting. I remembered, this is why I work so hard. This is what I do it for. And now, I’m doing it for her too.

The next song, when I really listened, just about stopped me in my tracks, made me clench my fists tight, a lighting bolt strike.

You belong to the city, I’m wrong for the city. Switch on a sad song when I’m gone.

And I don’t know why it struck me so hard except that I was listening for something, was praying and wanted to hear an answer back, and did immediately. Skeptical me, always Doubting fucking Thomas – struck to my core by a song lyric that came at the right moment, when I asked for her words. And the feeling that came with the moment – overwhelmingly positive. You’re ok, it said. I forgive you, it said. It’s ok. I’m ok. Switch on a sad song when I’m gone.

In the past few weeks I’d been hearing a spirit voice, had tried a pendulum to communicate, and it said I would get a message, but not now. Wait, it said. It will come. Soon. Tonight I know I’ve received it.


A second (unrelated, I presume) message, through tarot, had come soon after – that Persephone had something to show me. Show, specifically. And that it would come soon.

When I got home, happy and thinking all was done, another song came on and I have no clue how it happened, but I just started just dancing, wildly, in a way I never have before. It was my first true ecstatic dance experience. In trance, somewhere else entirely. It’s almost impossible to describe because I’ve never experienced anything like it. My body moved in ways I never knew it could, quickly, in rhythm and in chaos, not stopping, on and on and on in a frenzy.

Now I’m overcome by the light of day. Your lips are near but my heart is far away. Tell me what to say. I’ll be your mouthpiece.

(You’re such a sensitive child! Oh, you’re such a sensitive child!)

In the end, after everything I saw and felt, I opened my eyes and was on the floor, with the world spinning, and my wife standing over me.

Now I’m overcome by the light of day.

For a few minutes, I was a fucking maenad.

Mad, euphoric, frenzied and lost.

Second message received.

All I can say, all I can think, is thank you – and that I have a lot of work to do from here. New questions which need exploration, new focuses, new responsibilities, new pathways opening. With new energy, with new purpose, with every bit of strength and time and commitment I have. In writing this down, I will not forget.

Becoming a polytheist.

Tonight it stormed, and I lit a candle for Zeus.

If asked about my religion (by an interested non-threatening person), I would say I am a devotee of Persephone. Not a Hellenic Polytheist, not a Hellenic Reconstructionist, not even a Pagan – a devotee of Persephone. Worship of her is and defines my religion. I’ve read books about her, performed rituals for her, spoken to her frequently and kept her in my mind daily. I know her epithets, her myths, could (if you catch me on an eloquent day) break down her symbolism and her history and tell you all about my contacts with her.

I can’t do that with other gods.

And yet…

They are there. Increasingly, I go past acknowledging their presence (I’ve always acknowledged they existed), and go a tiny bit, the smallest steps, into actively honoring their presence. 

Tonight it stormed, and I lit a candle for Zeus.

I always think – how hard it must be, to worship so many gods. How much work it must be to learn their mythology, to find out what they like, to experiment with how best to communicate with them. And I still believe that – building a devotee relationship like I’ve built with Lady Persephone is a ton of work. 

But the more I immerse myself in Her pantheon, the more I live my daily life and realize that there are gods (and daimones and spirits) everywhere – the more I realize I don’t need devotee relationships in order to acknowledge and honor a multitude of gods. And I don’t need to be “called.” The research part is important – but equally important is the doing, the simple spontaneous acts of worship. And if I only have time for one or the other? I’ll take my chances with the tiny acts of spontaneous devotion, hoping that the gods can see them to be sincere.

Tonight it stormed, and I lit a candle for Zeus.

Tomorrow is Noumenia, and I’ll light a candle for Selene.

Quite simply: I can feel myself becoming a polytheist.


Yesterday I worked with the mortar and pestle, which is a rare and significant occurrence for me. Working clockwise, I ground the herbs just enough to blend well without making a powder. It’s my own blend: chamomile, St, John’s wort, and passionflower, stored in a jar and left on Persephone’s shrine for a hoped-for blessing, a sign that I’m serious about this change.

Because finally, Spring is here, and Kore is saying enough. The winter has been long, but it’s over. Enough. There is no need anymore for the sickness, for the sadness, for the pushing-through and getting-by and surviving day to day. No need for the rotting, for the stagnating, for the stillness and stasis and cloud of miasma.

Last Saturday all the tears came out, the ones I had been keeping in as long as there was still snow and ice on the ground. Finally, enough.

I worked thoroughly today to clean my home and office and clear winter’s clutter away. No mercy for dust or useless things.

With blood and teeth and sheer force of persistence, Spring has come. And I have work to do.


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