I’ve been kicking this around in my head for a while. What is a simple addition we can make to a Greek ritual to respect the principle of consent?
It cuts both ways. We should not call upon the power of deities without their consent, and they should not bowl us over with their presence before asking. Yet, how are deities to contact us to obtain consent, if the act of contacting us requires consent? How do we overcome this boot-strapping problem?
Here, I have written an expanded intention for the traditional Greek barley offering, referencing Demeter in her aspect of Law-bringer, turner of seasons, and goddess who has the power to make planted seeds sprout or not.
Barley is sacred to Demeter, and the seed is symbolic of the cycle of life, planting as well as harvest.
This insertion is to be added before the main invocations and libation (or incense) offerings.
- A fire (incense burner, bbq grill, fire pit, cauldron with 90% rubbing alcohol and epsom salt)
- A dish of sand (if indoors)
The clergy person running the service (if it is a group ritual) should hand offer handfuls of barley while saying:
That living grains of barley are scattered does not mean that crops will grow. When Persephone was taken, Demeter brought a year most terrible to men. The Horai are Demeter’s, and even as Demeter must secure consent from the Earth for the crops to grow, so too must humans secure consent from Demeter, or the planting will never lead to a harvest.
So, too, it is with our souls. The gods are ever-present. Yet without our consent, their presence will never take root in us. Let this offering be an emblem of our consent, and whoever is not willing should not offer it.
Let the other offerings of those who do not consent to gnostic contact be received in peace.
The willing: toss it into the flames
The unwilling: let it be scattered upon the Earth.
Barley is tossed into the fire by the willing for each deity, or onto the ground (or into a dish of sand, if indoors) by those who are not willing.
Barley could also be offered to appropriate deities as a way of indicating their other preferences to, relating to touch, naming, or whatever seems appropriate to the ritual at hand.
I think this is interesting in various ways…
Though, given you have talked a good deal about Demophoön in other places on your blog, I think it is important to remember that the famine that Demeter brought to the earth was not because Persephone was taken, but because her plans for immortalizing Demophoön were thwarted…and it was only because the Deities weren’t receiving offerings that they then intervened to help fix the situation with Persephone, etc.
I also wonder: is the way you phrased the “scattered in vain” bit somewhat shaming of those who may–for a variety of legitimate reasons–not wish for direct divine contact on a given occasion? It could be read that way…It can’t be true and good consent if there are negative consequences for saying “no” or “not now,” I don’t think, if we’re really going to attempt to cultivate good consent culture practices.
Good points, I certainly wasn’t thinking to shame anyone. I’ll re-read the Hymn to Demeter, but I’m not sure I agree with your interpretation. It really read to me as though Zeus relented because returning Persephone was the only way to assuage Demeter’s wrath.
Nevertheless, makes just as much sense to say “has the power to make seeds sprout or not” and it holds up just as well. Best not to base things on controversial interpretations if it can be avoided. Thanks for pointing it out.
Although your interpretation does make sense on the Demophon-related interlude.
My interpretation comes from here:
“But golden-haired Demeter sat there apart from all the blessed gods and stayed, wasting with yearning for her deep-bosomed daughter. Then she caused a most dreadful and cruel year for mankind over the all-nourishing earth: the ground would not make the seed sprout, for rich-crowned Demeter kept it hid. In the fields the oxen drew many a curved plough in vain, and much white barley was cast upon the land without avail” (starting line 302).
While this does occur after the interlude with Demophon, her punishment on the Earth is directly linked to Persephone, not Demophon. Though I suppose you could interpret that Demophon was an attempt to console herself, and that when it failed, she turned more desperate.
This interpretation is based on one that Sarah Iles Johnston gave, which itself is based on a few other hints that a few (female) classicists have given in the last 20 years or so. When Persephone is first taken, Demeter is certainly sad, looks into it, dishevels herself, and goes wandering; it’s only after the Demophoön episode and its failure that she seems to throw in the towel altogether and threatens the further existence of humans (and Deities?) with the famine, etc.
Anyway, it’s a more complex topic than I have time to go into at present, but I wrote a bit about it in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina anthology Potnia, in any case…I have to go pack for Many Gods West now, as I’m leaving in ninety minutes!
I have been following Hermes’ instructions to me from three years ago – if approached by a deity I work with for service as writing or speaking a message from Them He told me to say clearly “I invite you in”.
This has worked for me….