CIRCLE OF NINE RESEARCH
My feet have borne me here
Out of the weary wheel, the circling years
To that still spokeless wheel: Persephone
– Robert Graves
The Kore was not one of the twelve Olympians, but she was the central figure in the Eleusinian Mysteries. She was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Great Zeus came to Demeter in the form of a bull.
One day Persephone was admiring a gorgeous Narcissus in the fields of Nysa. She was spotted by Hades (the third brother of Demeter) who desired her instantly, and abducted her to the Underworld. In this shadowy realm, Persephone was not regarded as a prisoner, but rather the Queen of the Underworld. Hades was wildly in love with her, and was only unfaithful to her twice (despite how I represented him!) One memorable affair was with the nymph Minthe. When Persephone discovered his dalliance, she was so enraged she trod Minthe mercilessly into the ground and the poor woman became the plant we now know as mint.
Demeter’s reaction to her much loved daughter’s abduction was terrible. The Homeric account records:
“She prepared for mankind a cruel and terrible year: the Earth refused to give any crops. Then would the entire human race have perished of cruel, biting hunger if Zeus had not been concerned.”
Zeus decided to interfere before the entire planet collapsed of famine. He sent Hermes to command Persephone to return to her mother. However, Hades was a wily fellow and he persuaded Persephone to eat a few pomegranate seeds, a symbol of indissoluble marriage.
A compromise was suggested by Zeus. Persephone should spend a third of each year with her husband in the Underworld, the remaining two-thirds with her mother on Earth. Luckily Demeter agreed to lift the curse of barrenness from the Earth with this compromise. Flowers, fruits and crops appeared again with the Spring return of Kore – “a wondrous sight for gods and men.” The willow is sacred to Persephone. Because she is an Underworld deity her attributes are the bat, the narcissus and the pomegranate.
In this wonderful myth Demeter represents the fertile Earth and the ripened grain of harvest. Persephone symbolizes the young vegetation of Spring and the Underworld in which the seed is buried during the barren winter months.
I love Persephone. She’s always been my favourite goddess and I had often reflected on what it must have felt like for this child-woman to be forever a stranger to both worlds and have to flit between the two. This is a sacred contract and for now I must lie still.
When I thought of the Kore over the years, the idea of the sacred contract began to haunt me. What if Persephone rebelled and didn’t want to honour the contract? What if she refused to rise? From this idle contemplation Circle of Nine was born.
WITCH HUNTERS AND PRICKERS – ENTER THE LIGHTCASTER
Witch Prickers were professional witch finders who were employed during the Burning Times to find witches. Their cruel tools of trade were long steel needles. These “professionals” were paid only when they could convince the local authorities they had captured a witch, and so to get their pay, they often resorted to trickery. They would often use two prickers, one normal and one with a retractable point that slid up into the handle. They could draw blood on various parts of the body with a regular pricker to establish its sharpness, then switch prickers to plunge the retractable pricker up to the hilt into the body of the accused. Feeling no pain was evidence of a witch. Of course there were other evidences…
If I was tried today, I would be found guilty of witchcraft. I am unmarried, I have dissimilar coloured eyes, I have moles, birthmarks, oh, and I also have freckles. The evidence that they based these trials on were laughable if they weren’t so bloody sadistic. If the accused muttered or looked at the ground she was a witch. If she was silent, she was a witch. Not to mention the sexual sado element involved! The women would often be pricked in front of curious onlookers, who wanted to see the woman nude. The women were usually naked to the waist, or totally naked. There are literally thousands of gruesome cases of witch hunts and it is fascinating to peruse them.
I’ll just repeat one here that occurred in Scotland in 1704 in a little fishing village called Fife. Sadly, it’s not a unique case, but it does show what can happen when Lightcaster energy gets out of hand…
It began when a Beatrix Laing asked a young boy, the son of a local blacksmith in the village of Pittenweem, to forge her some nails. The boy replied he was busy, but would get her nails when he was ready. Beatrix went away muttering under her breath, and the boy became convinced she was threatening him with the dark forces. The next day he witnessed her throwing some hot embers into a basin of water, and he became certain that she had indeed bewitched him. He lost his appetite, fell ill and was confined to bed. As the days passed, he had fits, his stomach swelled and he couldn’t breathe properly. He claimed to see Satan standing at his beside. The minister, Reverend Patrick Cowper, visited the sick boy and constantly talked witchcraft and spells to him. The boy then accused Beatrix of witchcraft. Not content with pointing the finger at one, he also accused several other villagers.
The good Reverend summoned his presbytery members and Beatrix was soon arrested along with her “accomplices.” They were thrown into the local gaol and the worst drunkards in the village were ordered to guard them. The worthy Reverend ordered the drunkards to submit the women to disgusting acts, which included torture. They kept Beatrix awake for five nights until she confessed to being a witch. When they stopped torturing Beatrix, she immediately retracted her confession, and the enraged Reverend had her placed in the village stocks. She spent the next five months of her life in solitary confinement in the gaol with no windows or lighting. The accused women were also tortured until they confessed. Other, more aware villagers argued Beatrix should be set free. Eventually it was agreed she should be fined five shillings and released. A mob chased Beatrix from the village, and she died a few months later as a result of her ill treatment.
Another accused woman, Janet Cornfoot, was tortured and flogged by the Reverend himself. She managed to escape and took refuge with a family in Pittenweem. The villagers searched every house until they found the terrified woman and she was dragged to the beach. They bound her hands and feet and a long rope was put around her waist. They attached one end of the rope to a ship off shore and a crowd of men held the other end. Urged on by (you guessed it, the Reverend) the villagers swung her forward and backwards until she nearly drowned.
The hysterical mob dragged her to the shore and the villagers beat her savagely. They then put a wooden door on f her and pressed boulders and stones on f the door until they pressed the poor soul to death. Unbelievably, they still were not finished with her body and a horse and sledge were ridden forwards and backwards over her body. Reverend Patrick Cowper refused to give the woman a Christian burial. Unbelievably, no action was ever taken against the villagers for this savage murder, EVEN after Reverend Pat confessed his accusations had been totally false. One story of many.
For all those who died – stripped naked, shaved, shorn
For all those who screamed in vain to the Great Goddess, only to have their tongues ripped out by the root.
For those who were pricked, racked, broken on the wheel for the sins of their Inquisitors
For all those whose beauty stirred their torturers to fury; and for those whose ugliness did the same
For all those who were neither ugly nor beautiful, but only women who would not submit
For all those quick fingers, broken in the vice
For all those soft arms, pulled from their sockets
For all those budding breasts, ripped with hot pincers
For all those midwifes, killed merely for the sin of delivering man to an imperfect world
For all those witch women, my sisters, who breathed freer as the flames took them,
knowing as they shed their female bodies, the seared flesh falling like fruit in the flames,
that death alone would cleanse them of the sin for which they died – the sin of being born a woman who is more than the sum of her parts.