After she’d done the deal with Hades and ensured her daughter Persephone could return to the land of the living every spring, Demeter was at a loose end. What was she to do next?
The quest to rescue her daughter had been archetypal. She knew it would be told and retold down through the ages. Many would see Persephone as the heroine and look to her yearly return as a kind of salvation.
All that was as it should be. Of course the beautiful young woman clothed in the glory of her own fertility was the star of the story. Demeter’s role as the mother was to be applauded and her journey to the underworld was laudable yet Demeter knew there was more to the story than that. After all she’d lived and breathed the quest. It had occupied her entire consciousness for so long she couldn’t just shrug it off and say that’s it, job done, end of story. There had to a sequel.
For ages she wandered about the countryside mulling over what she’d been through. The overwhelming grief and deep depression she felt when she realised her daughter was lost – that terrible rage when she cursed life itself and caused the crops to wither in the ground then the long and perilous journey into the darkness of hell, that place of shadows and haunted, plaintive wailings had changed her forever. She couldn’t just go home and sit by the fireside.
Restless, she wandered on and on. After a time she came to a gracious city.
The people there were curious about her. ‘We can see you have travelled far and suffered much,’ they said. ‘Please tell us of your journey.’
Flattered by their interest, Demeter told her story. In the retelling she came to understanding the deeper meaning of what she had experienced and was able to devise a method whereby others could journey into their own darkness. Within the protected of the city walls she initiated people into processes that enabled them to explore the unconscious aspects of the self. As they confronted the shadows within their own psyche the potential trapped there was released. After such journeys initiates returned to the bright light of day restored and renewed.
As more and more people experienced her teachings, Demeter’s path became known as The Mystery Religion for embedded within personal journeys towards individual regeneration lay a deeper mystery. Somehow personal resurrection contained within it the seeds for the regeneration of the Earth itself.
Even as she taught the people Demeter knew there would come a time when the Mystery Religion would be forgotten. People would grow afraid of their own shadows and seek to live only in the light. They would exploit the Earth in their pursuit of pleasure and the gratification of their every desire. Crops would wither in the ground and vast tracts of the planet would become a wasteland.
For many, life would then become a kind of hell on Earth. Demeter knew that the desecration of the Earth would sear the hearts and minds of humanity. Many would feel such pain over the destruction of the planet they would cry out for salvation. It would be then that the old archetypal stories would once again reveal their deepest truth – the way to the light lies in embracing the darkness.