This year I made a six-week pilgrimage to Greece, Malta, Italy, and Turkey, seeking Goddess in archaeological sites and museums. Over six weeks, I walked the streets of ancient cities, stood in caves and megalithic temples, and sat quietly with the Grandmothers . . .
Day One – Eleusis
“The Eleusinian Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone are the oldest of the Mysteries in Greece, sharing rituals and beliefs with Egypt, Crete, Anatolia, and Thrace, with roots deep in the Neolithic age and the agrarian revolution. The Mysteries at Eleusis, called ta Mysteria, lasted almost two thousand years, from approximately 1450 BCE to 392 CE. The Greater Mysteries were celebrated in the early fall at Athens and Eleusis, in the middle of the Greek month Boedromion (roughly equivalent to our September), near the time of the autumnal equinox.” The Ritual Path of Initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries (c) 2009, Mara Lynn Keller, Ph.D.
On my first day in Athens, I caught public bus A16 from Eleftherias Square for the 17-kilometre trip to Elefsina along the busy Iera Odos. The road is named after The Sacred Way, the ancient route of the procession celebrating the Eleusinian Mysteries.
As I climbed the marble steps at the entrance to the Sanctuary, I came to the Ploutonion, the shadowy cave of Hades.
The processional way continues up the hill to the temple of Demeter where the mysteries were enacted.
“The rites at Eleusis were considered essential to the survival of humanity, and it was said that ‘the life of the Greeks [would be] unlivable, if they were prevented from properly observing the most sacred Mysteries, which hold the whole human race together.’” The Ritual Path of Initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries (c) 2009, Mara Lynn Keller, Ph.D.
Six weeks later, on my last day in Athens, I walked the first part of The Sacred Way at Kerameikos (the ancient Athenian cemetery).
On the path I encountered a tortoise, a fertility symbol attributed to Aphrodite/ Venus. There is a statue of Aphrodite Ourania in the Louvre, with her foot resting on a tortoise. I was reminded of my visit last year to the Demeter Sanctuary at Locri, Calabria, where Aphrodite and Persephone were honoured together.
To read my essay about the Sanctuary at Locri:
Read Part 2 and Part 3.