FOI Online Liturgy
Dea, Rites and Mysteries of the Goddess
By: Olivia Robertson
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11. Mystery of Eros and Psyche
Invocation: Violet-crowned Cytherea, stately Aphrodite, Venus of the Morning and Evening Star, we invoke thy aid. Come to us, born by the moist breath of the Western Wind, that wind that once wafted thee over the loud-moaning sea in soft foam, where the gold-filleted Hours welcomed thee joyously. Come to us in the heavenly garments wherewith the Hours clothed thee: on thy head a fine, well-wrought crown of gold and in thy pierced ears ornaments of orichalc; and golden necklaces over thy soft neck and snow-white breasts, which the Hours wear when they join in the lovely dances of the Deities. Thou who givest kindly gifts to men, bestow on us Beauty, Joy and Love!
Oracle of the Goddess Venus given through Her Priestess
Barter not my easy gifts of present happiness and the sweetness that is in my wild roses, and the love in the eyes of laughing children, for fantasies of future power and possessions. The sparkle in the fire-filled granite is as beautiful as the brilliance of diamonds: and the natural loveliness in the trees and grasses around you is not tainted with bloodshed. For all power and all possessions that you gain through harsh strivings and self-inflicted pain, through greed and long sleepless nights, and the sacrifice of present calm, bring legacies of misery and disillusion. Bitterness and disillusion injure the soul. You petition me for Beauty, for Happiness and Love: yet you have all these in abundance all about you - even beneath your feet!
You lose yourself, your soul, your peace, in ceaseless hunger for one lover who neglects you: yet around you are many who long for your smile! You strain for inspiration for your art, and you struggle for recognition - when you ignore the charm of a wild corner of a garden with what you call 'weeds' gracing it. You dig up or poison the health-giving dandelions and vainly seek to grow foreign plants that die in an unfriendly climate. As for Happiness which you pursue. . . you are, deep within yourself, happy now. . . if you will only accept your hidden well of ecstasy.
The doorway to Eternity is through the present moment. There can be no other. You tread the steps of time in an unending treadmill. Step aside in a quiet moment: and you will find all time, past, present and future, is with you now, in all that you have appreciated as being attractive, cheerful and friendly.
So you will find my beauty in a face you ignored as plain: my joy in some unexpected friendship: my love in your tenderness for a hen protecting her eggs: and peace in the cooing of wood-pigeons and doves, as my star rises in the twilight.
The Mystery of Eros and Psyche
Let there be 3 altars. The altar of Juno has upon it two candles and a lamp on a white cloth. At its foot lies uncarded undyed wool. The altar of Ceres half-way down the temple has upon it a basket of bread, and grain on a green cloth. At the far end, the altar of Venus has on it a cup of red wine and a casket on a scarlet cloth. Before the altar is an earthenware vessel of water.
Student: Wise Priestess, pray resolve my dilemma. For long years have I studied the Ancient Knowledge until mine eyes are dim and my head aches. Yet, though devoted to my studies, when eventide falls and I light my lamp, I am sore distracted.
”Once in the hours of midnight,
When the Bear was wheeling
Alongside of Bootes,
And all the earthly nations
Lay locked in weary slumber;
To my bolted doorway
Eros came a-knocking.
I rose at once and lighted
A lamp, and let him in.
He bent his bow and arrow:
To the very heart he stung me!”
Now am I torn in two ways. This is my question. Which do I choose, Truth or Love?
Priestess: Know that the Lamp of Truth enlightens the soul: but it is in the Darkness that Love is to be found. Hear the story of Eros and Psyche, that your mind and heart be reconciled in Joy.
Priest: May the Three Goddesses Juno, Ceres and Venus inspire us in the telling of it. In a bye-gone age there lived three sisters, and the youngest was called Psyche. She it was whose soul was so beautiful that she shone with White Light. Her neighbours were dumbfounded by her Virtue, and they paid her homage due to the Goddess Venus alone. The earth, they declared had been impregnated by some heavenly emanation, and had brought forth a new Maiden Goddess, immaculately born.
Priestess: Her fame was spread far and wide. People made long pilgrimages by land and sea to witness - and then to worship this great wonder. Alas! No one now visited the Goddess Venus' shrines at Cyprian Paphos or Carian Cnidos or even the Isle of Cythera. Her festivals were neglected; her Rites discontinued, and her holy statues were defaced. The Goddess’ altars were desecrated and her temples allowed to fall into ruins. Soon the temples of Juno and Ceres met with a like dishonour.
Priest: This blasphemous transfer of divine honours to a mortal brought desolation to the earth. The three Goddesses turned away their faces from humankind. Joy, Grace and Wit departed from the earth, and all became ugly, dull and hard. Human love was in such discredit that it was considered evil to show even natural affection. Hear Psyche's lament.
Psyche: Deep is my sorrow. The Goddesses of Glory, Beauty and Creation have withdrawn from us. And I, poor mortal that I am, can only bestow on humans, orphaned of Nature, my abundant tears. I shall go to the Delphic Oracle for counsel.
Psyche approaches the altar of Juno.
Priestess: What wouldst thou of the Priestess of Pytho and Apollo?
Psyche: I would restore Glory, Joy and Beauty to the earth.
Priestess: Hast thou not been hailed Queen of Heaven, Juno's rank? And adored as Our Lady, Ceres' honoured title? Art thou not called Star of the Sea, the Holy Name of Venus? Surely, O Psyche, thou mayest accomplish all things.
Psyche: Mock me not, a humble mortal. Grant me the Oracle.
Priestess: “On some high mountain's craggy summit place
The Virgin, decked for deadly nuptial rites,
Awaits a Bridegroom not of mortal birth
But a dire Monster, viperous and fierce,
Who flies through aether and with fire and sword
Tires and debilitates all things that are,
Terrific to the Powers that reign on high.
Great Jupiter Himself fears this winged Fiend
And streams and Stygian shades his Power abhor."
Psyche: My mind is torn with panic terror. I am lost if I submit. Yet for the sake of the green earth and for all the creatures that dwell there, I shall wed this dreaded Bridegroom.
Priestess. Take Juno's Lamp, Psyche: it holds the Light of Truth. Never part with it nor allow the flame to die, through all thy trials.
Priestess gives Psyche the lighted lamp from Juno's altar. From the altar of Venus comes the stranger, hooded and robed in scarlet. He comes behind Psyche and places his hands on her shoulders.
Psyche: What is this consuming Fire that rises from unknown depths? Whence this sudden ecstasy that shakes my being? My will is turned to water and my strength to childhood. Protect me, Heaven!
Psyche swings round, facing the stranger and holds out the lamp.
Psyche: Whoe'er thou art, I challenge thee! Show me thy face.
Stranger: Take heed, Psyche. If thou dost see me in the light, I must leave thee and Love is lost.
Psyche: Then so be it! In the Name of Truth, show me thy face!
Stranger throws off his hood.
Stranger: In the Beginning were there three Primaeval Beings: Chaos, the Earth Mother and her Son Eros. Know that I am Eros, God of Love. Psyche, farewell. Thy cold mind has cast me forth.
Eros places his left hand on his right shoulder and returns to the Venus altar.
Priestess: Boiling oil from the lamp hast thou dropped upon the God's right shoulder, Psyche. His arm is wounded and may no more draw his Mother's Bow.
Psyche: Too late! Her last two arrows were shot by him into my right hand. (Holds up her lamp.) Twice they pricked my palm. Yet still I'll grasp the Lamp. How strangely burns my heart. Can this be Love? I long to see once more the face of Eros. How may this come to me?
Priestess: Hear the Command of the Three Goddesses. Restore our Temples, and Love will return to thee and to the earth.
Psyche: So shall I.
Psyche goes to Venus altar.
Venus: Wouldst thou restore my worship, and so be united with my fiery Son? Bring me water from the River Styx that is the girdle of my sovereignty.
Psyche: How may I draw that deadly water and still live?
Priest: Because of her tears shed for all earth's creatures, an eagle brought Psyche water of the Underworld.
Psyche gives Venus the vessel of water.
Venus: It is well. My altar is now replenished with the Water of Life. Take this casket which contains all visions and ecstasies of the soul. Henceforth thou shalt have the power of guiding souls throughout the spheres.
Venus gives Psyche the casket. Psyche receives it and leaves it on the altar. Psyche approaches Ceres’ altar.
Priest: Psyche found the Altar of Ceres in disarray and put it in order.
Ceres: Thou dost bring order to my altar, Psyche, and so find favour in my eyes. Discrimination is needed when thou dost use the Pandora's Box on my sister's altar; lest dire death and madness are released on the unwary. Behold, these grains of wheat, barley, millet, lentils, beans, poppy-seeds and vetch! Sort them one from the other, that health may be restored to the sick on earth.
Psyche: How may I accomplish this, when to me seeds all look alike?
Priest: Now the ants knew the pains that Psyche ever took not to tread upon them as they laboured carrying seeds: so they hurried on their six legs and did the task for her!
Ceres: The task is well done: my altar is restored to fertility.
Psyche approaches the altar of Juno.
Juno: So, Psyche, I see thou makest wise use of my lamp! Thy Virtue still shines bright. To restore the dignity of my Temple, it is needful that thou shalt procure for me the Golden Fleece of the Sun!
Psyche: How can any creature approach the flaming Sun and draw from Helios his shining rays, or take gold from the fleecy clouds?
Priest: A green reed that makes Pan's pipes knew of Psyche's care for plants: and so he whispered to her in the breeze: "Psyche, aim not to reach the Heights, for many fall from thence, as did Icarus and Phaeton. Rather pick wool left on briar hedges by flocks of sheep. Is not wool golden in the evening sunlight?"
Psyche picks up wool and gives it to Juno.
Juno: My altar is glorified with the Golden Fleece. Psyche, thou has found Beauty in the hedges. So thou dost live in Heaven, seen with the Lamp of Truth.
Ceres (to Psyche): Thou hast seen Immortality in a seed. Know that thou too art immortal.
Gives Psyche bread from her basket. Psyche eats it.
Ceres: Take thou Ambrosia, food of the Deities.
Venus: Love the Gods and Goddesses. Love thy two sisters and all beings. Love the humblest insect, the butterfly, and then thou shalt find my Son.
She gives Psyche drink from the cup of wine.
Venus: Drink this Nectar, Wine of Love, and feel everlasting Bliss.
Psyche: Now I fear no more. I restore the Lamp of Truth to the Giver of Truth.
She restores lamp to Juno's altar. Eros returns from the Venus altar unhooded.
Venus: Psyche, thou mayest fittingly wed my Son, knowing thou art a Goddess.
Eros and Psyche place their hands on each other’s shoulders until power is felt between them. They turn to participants and hold out the palms of their hands in blessing.
Priestess: May all beings be blessed in the Name of Juno, Ceres and of Venus.
Priestess and Priest hand round the bread and wine to participants and partake with them.
Priest: Let us contemplate the Mystery of Eros and Psyche.
Priestess (to Student): My friend, know that from their Union of Love and Truth came forth a child named Joy.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Goddesses Juno, Ceres and Venus.
End of Rite.
Sources: “Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.” “Divination” and “The Theogeny”, Hesiod: pub. Heinemann: Harvard. Poem, Anacreontea, “Greek Poetry”, pub. Everyman's. “The Golden Ass”, Apuleius, trans. Graves, pub: Penguin. “Until We Have Faces”, C. S. Lewis.
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