The earth dies a little each day, and we must embrace this slow descent into dark before we can truly appreciate the light that will return in a few months.
This ritual welcomes the archetype of the Dark Mother, and celebrates that aspect of the Goddess which we may not always find comforting or appealing, but which we must always be willing to acknowledge. Decorate your altar with symbols of Demeter and her daughter -- flowers in red and yellow for Demeter, purple or black for Persephone, stalks of wheat, Indian corn, sickles, baskets. Have a candle on hand to represent each of them -- harvest colors for Demeter, black for Persephone. You'll also need a chalice of wine, or grape juice if you prefer, and a pomegranate.
If you normally cast a circle, or call the quarters, do so now. Turn to the altar, and light the Persephone candle. Say:
The land is beginning to die, and the soil grows cold.
The fertile womb of the earth has gone barren.
As Persephone descended into the Underworld,
So the earth continues its descent into night.
As Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter,
So we mourn the days drawing shorter.
The winter will soon be here.
Light the Demeter candle, and say:
In her anger and sorrow, Demeter roamed the earth,
And the crops died, and life withered and the soil went dormant.
In grief, she traveled looking for her lost child,
Leaving darkness behind in her wake.
We feel the mother's pain, and our hearts break for her,
As she searches for the child she gave birth to.
We welcome the darkness, in her honor.
Break open the pomegranate (it's a good idea to have a bowl to catch the drippings), and take out six seeds. Place them on the altar. Say:
Six months of light, and six months of dark.
The earth goes to sleep, and later wakes again.
O dark mother, we honor you this night,
And dance in your shadows.
We embrace that which is the darkness,
And celebrate the life of the Crone. Blessings to the dark goddess on this night, and every other.
As the wine is replaced upon the altar, hold your arms out in the Goddess position, and take a moment to reflect on the darker aspects of the human experience. Think of all the goddesses who evoke the night, and call out:
Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hecate, Nemesis, Morrighan.
Bringers of destruction and darkness,
I embrace you tonight.
Without rage, we cannot feel love,
Without pain, we cannot feel happiness,
Without the night, there is no day,
Without death, there is no life.
Great goddesses of the night, I thank you.
Take a few moments to meditate on the darker aspects of your own soul. Is there a pain you've been longing to get rid of? Is there anger and frustration that you've been unable to move past? Is there someone who's hurt you, but you haven't told them how you feel? Now is the time to take this energy and turn it to your own purposes. Take any pain inside you, and reverse it so that it becomes a positive experience. If you're not suffering from anything hurtful, count your blessings, and reflect on a time in your life when you weren't so fortunate.
When you are ready, end the ritual.
Celebrate the darker aspects of the Goddess at the autumn equinox.Image by paul kline/Vetta/Getty Images