Autumn arrives slowly here on the Georgia coast. It is a couple of days before Mabon, and everything is still quite lush and green. Temperatures remain in the 80s, and it would be easy to pretend that summer is eternal…but I have always been infatuated with fall. I long for crisp mornings, thick fog, turning leaves, and all things pumpkin. I get ecstatic over corn mazes and bonfires and county fairs. I delight in a hearty soup on the stove and crusty bread in the oven. Most of all, though, I want the internal shift from action to contemplation, from outward to inward, from sowing seeds to taking stock.
This is the work of the Dark Goddess, as she stands ready in the field with her sharpened scythe. She cuts away what is no longer needed, what we’ve outgrown, and what doesn’t fit into our soul’s purpose in this lifetime. It can be difficult to view this process as love; yet, it is both loving and necessary. It allows us to focus on the good that we’ve manifested without getting tangled up in the weeds. It gives us clarity and vision, even if we don’t always like what is revealed.
The core teaching of Mabon is the balance of dark and light, not only in the natural world, but also within. As day and night become equal in length, we have the opportunity to look at our shadow side without judgment. There is a place for wrath, rebellion, grief, and destruction. Goddesses like Kali Ma, Lilith, Morgana, and Hecate remind us that cycles of creation and destruction are a natural part of living. If there were no darkness, how would we recognize the light? Do the moon and stars not shine even brighter when the sky is deepest black?
Because of her cyclic nature, Persephone is one of my favorite dark goddesses to work with at this time of year. Hades initiates her transformation from vulnerable maiden to empowered woman by taking her far away from her mother into his underworld realm. As D.J. Conway notes in Maiden, Mother, Crone, “Kore-Persephone made the terrifying journey downward by Herself; Demeter could not accompany Her daughter. Each of us must make the journey through the labyrinth of our minds alone” (31). So this, too, is a principal aspect of the autumnal equinox—the weighing and balancing of our positives and negatives is very much a personal and solitary undertaking.
There are various interpretations of this myth, but I believe Persephone willingly follows Hades and that the abduction/rape part of the story was a patriarchal revision. When the earth split open before her, Persephone had an opportunity to go deep into her own subconscious with Hades as her guide. She crosses a threshold with him and knows that it’s impossible to go back to her former self. By swallowing his pomegranate seed, she secures her place in the underworld, not as a victim, but as a queen who has integrated both dark and light in equal measure. Demeter also ceases to mourn the loss of her daughter at this stage of the tale. “As soon as she knows the seed has been eaten, there is no more said on the subject—all is joy. Persephone has eaten the food of Hades, has taken the seed of the dark into herself and can now give birth to her own new personality” (Luke, 195-196).
We, too, have the same ability to journey inward, to face our greatest fears, to own our darkness, and to be reborn. As the sun enters Libra on Monday, we can take an honest look at the scales again. Perhaps something needs to be added to make them equal. Maybe something needs to be taken away. Your heart always knows.
May you be abundantly blessed and balanced this Mabon.
Conway, D.J. Maiden, Mother, Crone Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn, 1994. Print.
Luke, Helen. “Mother and Daughter Mysteries.” The Long Journey Home: Re-visioning the Myth of Demeter and Persephone for Our Time. Ed. Christine Downing. Boston: Shambhala, 1994. 195-196. Print.