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Ancient stone female figurines - lifting the skirt, exposing the vulva as a healing reminder of the 'source'
Baubo : THE LARGER CONTEXT
To begin, the basic plot elements and relationships in the Greek Myth that were our jumping off point. Details often vary but that is the nature of myth.
The goddess Demeter has tangled and long-traveled Proto-Indo-European roots, some finding their origins (almost definitely) in Asia Minor and (possibly) in Crete, that identify her as both a household deity and overall provider of sustenance.
Mother Demeter and daughter Persephone are very close (Robert Graves would have us interpret them as two phases of the triple goddess but that is another story). Persephone goes off with some friends to pick flowers (what type of flowers may add a grace note). A hole opens in the earth and Hades snatches her down into it (an archetypal example of the submergence/burial of the feminine). He’s made up his mind she’d make a great wife/queen of the Underworld.
Demeter demands her daughter’s return but Zeus and Poseidon aren’t picking up the phone (the backstory sometimes offers some lame excuse for this). Naturally Demeter is enraged and stops food production. The gods, showing substantial short sightedness, laugh this off - what do they care if humans go without food? Before long they find that traditional human offerings to them are in short supply and realize they can ignore Demeter no longer. But she does not want to be found. Living incognito, in the guise of a servant, she is taking care of someone else’s daughter (yet another story). Baubo sees beneath the disguise and dares a gesture. She succeeds in making the goddess laugh by lifting her skirts (anasyrma) and telling off colour jokes (aischrologia), trying to elicit a little sympathy for - not the gods - but humankind. This moment precipitates a rapprochement. Unfortunately, Persephone has gone and nibbled on some pomegranate seeds in the land of the dead and is forced to remain in the underworld. Demeter, however, now has leverage and manages shared custody: Persephone will divide her time between Hades and Demeter (and here begins the slide into patriarchy, rape being a crime that cannot be undone).
Does the myth speak to the transition between matriarchy and patriarchy in ancient Greece and Asia Minor? Is the abduction that is its inciting event an articulation of a real threat, an historical event? Were the Eleusinian Mysteries a celebration in hope of a return to values and a way of life still remembered?