The Myth of the Year:

Returning to the Origin of the Druid Calendar

Chapter One

The Sequani Calendar and the Sacred Calendar of Eleusis

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The storage of the sacred grain inherited from the Neolithic peoples continued in the agrarian festivals of the Greek Thesmophoria. In the preparation festivals on the full moon of Pyanopsion, called the Proerosia and the Pyanopsia, mixed grains and beans in earthen jars were dedicated to the goddesses and to Apollo Pythios, a representative of the snake. The ceremonies were known as "sacrifices for the future crops before the annual plowing and its almost certain connection with the ritual pre-ploughing of the sacred Rharian field at Eleusis" (Dow and Healey 15). The priestesses for the ceremony were chosen from a special group of "chaste" women who lived in a sacred dwelling close to the sanctuary of Eleusis; they might have been both the representations of the Hyades, sisters of the heavenly tribe, and representatives of the Neolithic matriarchy on earth.

         In the second phase of the celebration, on the three days that precede the third quarter moon, the actual Thesmophoria took place. Here, the remains of piglets sacrificed to Demeter and Persephone in the lunar month of Boedromion, were removed from underground pits and placed on the altars in order to be mixed with seeds. The underground pits served as the symbol of the Underworld where Persephone resides during the winter. The seeds, like Persephone, were kept in this sacred place to ensure a fertile crop in the spring. The priestess of Plouton, representative of the forces of the Underworld, conducted the ceremonies and the women mentioned above assisted her; unlike other Greek ceremonies, this was a festival of women (Dow and Healey 36).

         In the "Hymn to Demeter," the ideology of the Thesmophoria is apparent. When Demeter discovers that her daughter has been abducted by the Lord of the Underworld, she wanders the earth disguised in the form of an old woman. She comes to the house of Metaneira in Eleusis and sits by "the Maiden Well" to grieve. Demeter, as crone, is approached by the daughters of Metaneira, maidens of the rarest beauty. Demeter is comforted by the maidens and is housed by their mother for a time. But when her stay is fruitless and the mortals can not help her in her quest, she reveals herself as the goddess and curses them with winter retreating to her temple until Hermes comes to her with Persephone. Soon, Demeter forgives the mortals and teaches the families of Eleusis the mysteries of her rituals.

         Demeter in the form of a crone plays a vital role in the mysteries. She is winter personified and the daughters who comfort her may very well be the symbols of the maidens who perform her ceremonies in the Thesmophoria. Again, their parallels in the sky are the Hyades. In a festival devoted to women on all levels, immortal, mortal and heavenly, the women are allowed to retain their Neolithic rights of the care and preservation of the grain. In "The Hymn to Demeter," Hecate, Demeter, and Persephone as the three aspects of the Pregnant Vegetation Goddess depict the feminine role in the grain mysteries. At the end of the myth, Demeter shares the mysteries of the grain with the families of Eleusis and the inherited Neolithic matriarchy is reinforced.

         Despite the fact that we do not have the details of the Celtic rituals, the days on The Sequani Calendar are clearly marked as Tiocobrextio and three crosses signify the days when the full moon passes the Hyades in the month of Edrinios. Furthermore, the Hyades are marked as the guides for the lunar cycle. The concepts of the grain mother as crone and the giving of the gifts to the tribes is most evident in Celtic mythology as is the establishment of the goddess as sovereign of the land. The most ancient of mothers, the caillech, is the Celtic expression of the crone. She is found in numerous cites in Britain and the Continent.

         In Ireland, she is known as the Caillech Beara and often referred to as the Old Woman or Hag of Beara. She originally appears as a tripartite goddess with the Caillech Bolus and the Caillech Corca Duibhne. In the book of Lecan, she is the mother of the tribes because she has seven periods to her youth, she marries seven husbands, and she has fifty foster children. The caillech who presides in many local Celtic tribal icons, is often portrayed as the keeper of the woodlands and associated with sacred wells or river boundaries as a territorial goddess. According to Anne Ross, the caillechs, like the topographical goddesses such as Macha and Grian, became guardians of the wells or hill where they once propitiated (293).

         The ancient goddesses of Celtic and Greek mythology retain the power of the mother goddess in her three roles as maiden, mother and crone. They are inherent in the belief systems of the ancient peoples because their stories are part of an agricultural cycle that is connected to the sun, the moon and the stars. In the lunar cycle of Edrinios, we have seen the last part of the agricultural myth re-lived in the heavens and on earth. The 55 night cycle is an event that marks the changing of the seasons. As a microcosm for the 55 year lunar cycle, it allows us to participate in a miracle of cosmic change. In this way, the cycle of the Fall Equinox becomes relevant on many planes of existence.

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Works Cited

Dow, Sterling and Robert F. Healey. A Sacred Calendar of Eleusis: Harvard Theological Studies XXI. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1965.

Gimbutas, Marija. The Living Goddesses. Edited and Supplemented by Miriam Robbins Dexter. Berkeley/ Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1999.

Kerenyi, Carl. Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991.

Mallory, J.P. and D.Q. Adams "Priest" Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. J.P. Mallory and D.Q. Adams, Eds. London: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997.

Mylonas, George E. Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1972.

Nilsson, Martin P. The Minoan-Mycenaean Religion and Its Survival in Greek Religion. New York: Biblo and Tannen, 1949.

Richardson, J.A. Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1974.

Ross, Anne. Pagan Celtic Britain. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 1967.

Ruck, C.P., Gordon Wasson, and Albert Hoffman. The Road to Eleusis. Los Angeles: Hermes Press, 1998.