Welcome to the magical time where the veil between the worlds is thin, when those ancestors who have transitioned ask to be touched and remembered, when The Wheel turns to lift autumn’s golden cloak and instead reveals a ghost of a landscape. Thinned of life and leaves, the horizon shifts to a ghostly shell of its summer color and vigor.
We go within, go deep, go down into Shadow and self-reflection.
While Samhain/Halloween remains my favorite “holiday,” I find myself eschewing decorations, jack o’ lanterns, costumes, and spiderwebs this year. This Samhain, I’m celebrating not a holiday, but a Sabbath. My altar is set with images of my lost loved ones, my table features symbolic foods, my candles and incenses are most thoughtfully chosen. And I am simmering spiced pomegranate apple cider for Persephone.
The Myth of Persephone
Persephone, Greek goddess of the Spring, keeper of the dead, Queen of the Underworld, is daughter to Demeter, the goddess of the harvest and grain, and Zeus (who likely needs no introduction); she is the archetypal Maiden and the patron goddess of sprouts and new life from the soil.(You’ll find her a Proserpine in Roman mythology with her mother C
When Persephone found herself on the receiving end of unwanted advances from a host of Greek gods (yeah, #hertoo), her mother spirited her away to protect her. Both mother and daughter are thought to have lived in nature apart away from Mount Olympus so they could be spared the fickle whims of the rest of the pantheon.
The ruler of the Underworld, Hades, had seen Persephone and remained overcome with his desire for her.
Obsessed with possessing her, Hades abducted Persephone, pulling her deep into his Underworld kingdom while leaving her mother, Demeter, to wail and flail at the loss.
Perspehone’s mother had no earthly idea where her daughter had been taken. Joined by Hecate, Demeter searched the world with flaming torches for signs of her daughter, but found none.
Despairing and undone, Demeter withheld all of her abundant life energy from the world causing the ground to lay fallow and earthly crops to fail.
Rattled by the lack of harvest and Demeter’s enduring heartbreak, the sun eventually confessed who had taken Persephone–and where. Meanwhile, Zeus, eventually pitied the suffering of the mere mortals starving for food, and so insisted that Hades release Persephone from the Underworld and restore her to her mother’s company. Hermes was sent to fetch Persephone to restore balance once again.
Like many gods, though, Hades couldn’t resist a trick… as she alighted the steps from the Underworld with her rescuer, Hermes, to the earth above, Hades tempted Persephone with bright pomegranate seeds that sparkled like garnets.
By indulging a few bites of this delicious fruit from the Underworld, Persephone bound herself to a new fate: she would be forced to spend part of each year in the Underworld with Hades forever.
As with all myths, the story of Persephone varies according to who tells it… one may hear Persephone described as Hades’ willing wife whose fable suggests the heartbreak of separation from one’s mother; it’s sometimes suggested she volunteered herself to the journey to the Underworld willingly and that her time was split evenly between the two worlds to balance her love for her husband and her love for her mother. Across all iterations, three constants endure:
Demeter’s renewed grief as Persephone descends to join Hades for her time in the Underworld…
The world coming to autumn and winter as Demeter’s despair casts its spell on the world, and…
The renewed joy at spring when Persephone emerges again in the world.
At this year’s turn of the Wheel, I ask Persephone to bring my messages of love to those I cherish but have lost in this plane. I send her down into the deep with the best that I can offer: a simmering spiced pomegranate apple cider to warm her heart, celebrate earthly comforts, and reverently acknowledge her invitation into this shadow time. I offer:
- Pomegranate juice to recognize the fruit and the Underworld with which Persephone is associated. It symbolizes my awareness that my loved ones are with her there.
- Apple cider to signify the abundant harvest Persephone facilitates through her mother, Demeter.
- Fifty-two clove buds pressed in the peel of an orange or mandarin oranges to honor all of the weeks of the year Persephone walks–above and below, to honor Zeus’ compassion, to wish her luck on the journey, and to celebrate the fire of Hades to which Persephone surrenders herself.
- A handful of raisins to recognize the Maiden’s and Mother’s sacrifice alike.
- Thirteen cardamom pods to symbolize the Divine Feminine, celebrate Persephone’s association with Maiden, and acknowledge the thirteen full moons in a year.
- 3-6 cinnamon sticks to signify to protect and bless Persephone’s descent and recognize the transition undergone by those I love and miss.
- One star anise to honor Hermes so that he will “rescue” Persephone again next Spring.
Spiced Pomegranate Apple Cider
A delicious spiced cider to celebrate the goddess Persephone (or cherished guests)
- 96+ oz. organic, fresh-pressed pomegranate juice, divided
- 96+ oz. organic apple cider (we like Gravenstein apple cider), divided
- 52 whole organic clove buds
- One organic navel orange or six mandarin oranges
- Handful of organic raisins
- 13 organic cardamom pods
- 3-6 organic cinnamon sticks
- 1 whole organic star anise
- Fresh pomegranate seeds, if desired
- Step 1 I create this recipe to last for several days and many 12 oz mugs… To make it recipe work and make it last, I begin with HALF of the pomegranate juice and apple cider. As the cider mulls, I add more of the juice to the increasingly spicy cider already in the pot.
- Step 2 Pour 48 ounces each of the pomegranate juice and cider into a heavy-bottomed large capacity pot with a tight-sealing lid and begin to heat over medium flame.
- Step 3 As cider first warms, press the whole cloves into the peel of your orange(s). To increase your magic, shape them into a sigil or symbol. Place the orange(s) and raisins in the pot and cover.
- Step 4 In an herb bag or cheesecloth, place your cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and star anise
- Step 5 tie off and add to the pot.
- Step 6 Bring the whole mixture to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer covered for up to 45 minutes. Serve hot in large mugs
- Step 7 sprinkle with fresh pomegranate seeds if desired.
- Step 8 Cool and keep in the fridge, reheating as needed before serving. Steeped cider will grow in flavor intensity the longer it cooks/more it simmers
- Step 9 add more pomegranate juice and apple to the pot, bring a new boil, and simmer 15 minutes to refresh and refill your batch.
Bless and blessed be!