Autumn has officially begun to unfold here in the Emerald Isles, awash in high winds, temperatures dropping, and much needed rain. Over the last few days I’ve been sitting with the last remaining wild poppy in my backyard, decompressing between client calls.
Despite having silken paper-like blooms, poppies are incredibly resilient. Pummeled by heavy raindrops and yanked about by wild winds, this poppy has remained as intact as the day it first opened.
It’s fascinating to think about the connection between poppies and the Demeter-Persephone myths–how myth has always been connected to our animated more-than-human world, encoding indigenous knowledge for a time and specific place. The majority of poppy cultivars tend to bloom in May-June in the Mediterranean.
To put this in context, we need to look at the agricultural cycle of the Mediterranean at the time of this myth’s emergence, which will differ from the experience you have in other parts of the world.
Summer and the Underworld Trek of Persephone
In 1200 to the 3rd century BCE, Summer would have been the fallow season in Greece, as it’s the hottest time of year, laying the earth barren and scorched. Crops were actually grown in the Autumn and Winter, and harvested in Spring.
In fact, wheat was stored underground in the Summer to keep it from spoiling in the heat. And who was the mythologized grain? Persephone. Which means it’s most likely that Persephone was actually taken into the Underworld at the end of Spring, and reappears in Autumn.
Poppies were connected to Demeter, as the Gods gifted them to her to aid her sleep and her grief. It was said that poppies sprouted from her footsteps as Demeter walked. And when would she have walked? In the early Autumn as crops were being planted (when it is the best time to sow poppy seeds), and again in the Spring when they were harvested (when poppies typically bloom in the Mediterranean).
The poppies would have needed to be at the end of blooming and beginning to make seed, in order to be a sleep agent for Demeter… Which would be the beginning of Summer (July-August).
The constellation of Virgo is correlated with the Goddess Demeter by Manilius. When these myths originated, the constellation of Virgo would have been rising right at the end of Summer. As she begins to walk the land again, poppy seeds would have been sown along with the other crops being planted in early Autumn.
Spica is said to be the grain of wheat that Demeter is carrying–aka Persephone rising from the underworld. Clearly, this is connected to the grain being taken out of underground preservation, and kernels being planted to grow until harvest the following Spring, in the ancient Mediterranean agricultural timeline.
This is a prime example of what I’ve spoken about recently regarding cultivating and experiencing stellar curiosity.
Myths were more than just religious parables–they encoded the indigenous knowledge of that time and place.
Bardic-animistic knowledge keeping and verbal dissemination were the ways of most ancient cultures, our ancestors. Which is why I call myself a folk-witch. The superstitions were rooted in cultural knowledge of place and the more-than-human beings that inhabited that place.
Myths are fully embodied by the land and the various peoples, both human and more-than-human, who inhabited that land. For this reason, myths are not universal. The full understanding of their coded knowledge requires us to have knowledge of the place and time in which they originated.
Does this mean we should stop paying attention to myths? No! In fact, it helps us to move into the future by understanding the way in which to encode vital knowledge into stories–the greatest teachers of all time.
By allowing ourselves stellar curiosity, we not only learn about the peoples who came before us, but also about the land, the weather, and the other more-than-human peoples. Understanding these myths at a deep level teaches us real occulted knowledge: the knowledge of living symbiotically, ritually, and relationally with the world around us.
We can become students who learn the genius and unique ways in which our ancestors were sharing their wisdom from generation to generation–and adapt this same method to our time and place.
Myths are the language of where the Earth meets the Sky, and how we exist in-between as the making of culture. There has never been a more urgent time for us to deep-dive into the myths of our age and understand the hidden-in-plain-sight knowledge that they can help us embody as wisdom.
Join me in Deepening into the Myths of Our Present Time
Over the darkening months I’ll be focusing more on exploring past myths and stellar-lunar-agricultural cycles, as well as track the newly emerging cycles of the Anthropocene.
As I’ve been writing the outstanding Algol workshop guide (which is now over 100 pages), I felt a deep sense of home–as if I had been called to do this deep work to honor our most primordial stellar ancestors, and help others learn how to have relationships in the here and now.
This drove home once again that I am best suited to deep long-term relationships with a handful of retainer clients. At the beckoning of my stellar guides, I am opening applications for my retainer program once again.
Edit: The retainer program has been filled at this time, and I thank everyone who applied!