The Barley Maiden (Persephone)

 Open Stars 4:10 (From Mystery Twin Massif by Triptolemus, inspired by the dream)

I had been working on a painting in my studio…

Painting in progress at the time of the dream

(Vidya – Painting in progress at the time of the dream)

…and inadvertently fell asleep on the floor.  There came the impression of trying to read a book.  After some time struggling to focus on reading while barely conscious, a narrator’s voice conveniently took over: “The ancients knew of a certain preparation of barley which has been lost.”  At that point, I was transported to Main street, right between Sorreli Jewelry and Computer Wizard.

It was several hours before dawn; no signs of life; small white piles still leaned against the curbs from the last snow.  I turned on North Whiteoak and walked in the middle of the street to take in how empty the town was.  The voice continued, “They spent much time with the preparation.  A short duration was acceptable for daily use, but the sacrament had to be stayed with.”  I took a left down West Walnut. The narrator took on the voice of my girlfriend: “You are about to meet someone very important.  She is a friend, and you can trust her.”

I took another left onto Foundry Alley.  It was my favorite little alley in Kutztown, for one of my dearest friends lived on Foundry Alley.  I had spent many days and nights at his house the summer before.  When a freak storm hit one night, I stood on the porch and saw the atmosphere light up green with electricity, and moments later a strong gust toppled half a tree into the alley.  The house was a playground for my imagination, and my friend was a comical guru of sorts, educating me about html, editing wave forms, and life in general.

I reached the corner of Foundry and Saucony Alley.  As the voice had informed me, there was a girl standing under the streetlamp.  I walked up to her and introduced myself.  She was wearing all black winter clothing; straight blond hair flowed out from under her knit winter cap and past her shoulders.  She was pretty, but not the kind of fantasy image I would have conjured by my own design.  There was an otherness to her.   She did not give me her name, but in my mind I labeled her as the barley maiden – oddly since I would never have thought to call someone a maiden.

“So, have you been preparing barley for long?”  I asked, assuming we were supposed to talk about that.  “Yes, very long.”  She smiled when she said that, and I felt glad to see her smile.  In my naiveté, I took her for a chef and formed my images around very mundane associations, a running theme of the dream.  I lost her words and imagined her bringing barley stew to people.  I saw her give the food out of goodwill.  It was a solitary practice that she performed as a life calling, rather than a profit option.  The clearest words she said were the last: “And then on Sundays I take what is left of the barley for my own.”  She brought up one of friends by name, telling me, “She asks me every Sunday if I am going to have my barley.“  We both laughed at the thought of it and then said nothing else.

I stared at her; neither of us spoke for a long time.  I took her image in for how grounded and real it remained.  The grey shed next to her, the drive through ATM and movie theater far in the distance, the crispness of the winter air; it all faded around her and was replaced by my studio.  I was waking up, but she was not disappearing!  This was too much for me, and my heart began to pound with fear. She had been so nice as a dream acquaintance, but coming through into the waking world was something I was not prepared for.  I laid there frozen with the thought of “what the fuck happens next?”

The days that proceeded were filled with reflection on the dream.  Her image had faded into the bookshelf behind her – her hair a shopping bag hanging off of a book end.  The vividness and underlying significance of it all was too much for me to count off as just another dream.  I began to eat and study barley voraciously.  The grain became a momentary obsession as I attempted to work out its meaning.  When I came across the Eleusinian Mysteries, which barley played an important role in, I felt a magnetic pull to investigate.  The talk of an ancient preparation of barley resembled “kykeon,” which was the sacrament of the mysteries.

Barley is the most sacred crop of Demeter, and her daughter, Persephone, who is often referred to as Kore (Greek for Maiden), fit so perfectly with the dark clad girl I met in the dream.  Her blond hair resembled the color of ripened grain.  When I relayed the dream to a friend, he asked me what was inside the golden tinged plastic bag which her hair turned into upon waking completely.  It was full of morning glory vine, which I had gathered from the very street lamp which I met her under.  This connection was profound, and as I cross analyzed morning glory with barley another connection was made.

In “The Road to Eleusis” and “Mixing the Kykeon” the theory is put forth that the visionary quality inherent to initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries was due to ergotized barley.  Ergot, from which LSD is derived, is a fungus which grows on many grains and grasses.  I had gathered the morning glory to obtain LSA, a mildly psychedelic compound contained in the seeds of the plant.  I learned that the LSA in morning glory is due to a symbiotic relationship it shares with a fungus in the genus claviceps, the same genus as ergot.

Given these connections, and the highly plausible theory of ergot being used in the preparation of kykeon, I could not help but wonder if there was a morphic resonance surrounding the very biological makeup of the claviceps genus.  From several millennia of human interaction, it seems that a dialogue had been opened between the plant and animal.

Albert Hofmann, inventor of LSD and co-author of “The Road to Eleusis,” said himself that he synthesized LSD after a premonition which came to him in a dream.  It had been thought to be an inactive compound until he re-synthesized it and accidentally absorbed it through his skin.  It seems, then, that the spirit of ergot chose him to discover LSD.  That he was compelled to research the Eleusinian Mysteries and model the ideal psychedelic therapy around it, indicates that this was another instance of some kind of spiritual force compelling an individual to revive the energy which was active in ancient Eleusis.

The more I learn of the mysteries, the more I resonate with it on the deepest level of my being.  I would not claim to have a definitive knowledge, but what I feel is convincing to me.  I am a skeptic and a mystic, two qualities which seldom resolve, but there is no conflict regarding my feelings toward the Eleusinian Mysteries, and a belief in a very substantial energy which surrounds those things.”

–Submitted by Eric Cowan

And here’s an excerpt from Out of the Depths, our original audio drama about the Mysteries…

 I’m Not Dead Anymore! 2:27

…and a link to the complete audio drama:

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