Tarot of Delphi: A Fine Art Tarot Deck & Booklet

Eight of Wands: The Return of Persephone

The Tarot of Delphi will be released to Kickstarter backers by the end of May 2014 and to the public in June. The Eight of Wands is an apt card as we get closer to the release.

Here is an excerpt from the upcoming LWB (little white booklet) to be released with the Tarot of Delphi. Please note that names are in Greek and, when Roman equivalents exist, the Latin names are in parentheses.

web-Wa08newReturn of Persephone, c.1891, Lord Frederic Leighton

This myth tells of searching, wandering, disclosures, and finally, a flurry of messages and quick developments toward resolution. After the abduction of Persephone (Roman Proserpina), her mother Demeter (Ceres), goddess of harvest, grieved intensely. Plants ceased growing. Concerned, the other gods petitioned Zeus (Jupiter), who sent the messenger Iris to bribe Demeter. She refused to barter her child, and Zeus relented, sending Hermes (Mercury) as emissary to secure Persephone’s return.

Messages. Movement. Activity. Rapid developments. Sudden progress. Nearing the goal. Coordinated action.

The Art

The story and the composition make this image wonderful for the Eight of Wands. The myth of Demeter and Persephone is rich with messages and sudden breakthroughs.

WS w08The Victorian tarot author and creator Arthur Edward Waite also suggests “arrows of love.” The painting by Leighton alludes to the love of mother and daughter as well as the love/lust of Hades (Pluto), the abductor.

In the composition, the lines and structure of the painting echo the Waite-Smith Tarot card. Arrows fly, nearing their target. Deities soar, nearing the goal, nearing resolution.

The Myth

Most cards in the Tarot of Delphi do not include quite so much name-dropping! And the full tale of Demeter and Persephone includes an even larger cast.

Many gods wooed Persephone, but her mother Demeter prevented their advances. Secretly, Zeus blessed Hades’ request to wed Persephone. When the girl was picking flowers with the Oceanids (sea nymphs), Artemis (Roman Diana), and Athena (Minerva), Hades burst through a cleft in the earth, grabbed the youthful goddess, and took her to his Underworld realm.

Demeter searched for her daughter, but no one saw the kidnapping. Then, chthonic goddess Hecate (Trivia) told Demeter she heard Persephone’s screams. Together, they ask the sun god Helios (Sol). He did see, and tells Demeter what happened.

The next part of the story is about Demeter’s adventures, wanderings, and the revelation of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Only after this, and the appearance of more characters, is Demeter able to force Hades and Zeus to return her daughter. By then Persephone has eaten the fruit of the Underworld, an act that has consequences. Persephone must divide her time between the world of the living above and the world of the dead below.

Eleusinian Mysteries

The myth of Demeter and Persephone was central to the Eleusinian Mysteries, one of the Mystery Religions of Ancient Greece. The rituals and teachings were revealed only to initiates. As a result, only clues and pieces of these sacred rites have come down to us.

Some scholars posit that the Eleusinian Mysteries, based on the agrarian cycles, drew parallels between reincarnation or life after death and the seasonal death and renewal of plant life.

Other modern scholars further suggest the story is a parable about the onset of womanhood, sexual awakening, and perhaps marriage.