Persephone’s Journey in the Underworld (Mabon, autumn equinox)

About the autumn equinox

The sabbat

Despite its many treasures, Mabon remains for many a not so well-known festival. With this spread, my wish is to draw attention to an aspect of this sabbat that is most of the time left aside though it is one of the most interesting of this festival. Mabon is the autumn equinox and marks the beginning of the dark half of the year, which endures until Ostara. At the equinox, day and night are equal and nature is getting ready to face the domination of darkness over light since from this day on nights get longer than days.

This time of the year is thus favorable to meditation and introspection: as we explore our hidden aspects, we honor the darkness. We thus choose to go deep within and become fully aware of the part of darkness we all have inside. This can be frightening for some, because the idea of being face to face with our darkest part is never easy. However, this is a very enlightening exercise which leads to a better understanding of who we are.


Persephone in Greek mythology

This tradition is used in different kinds of mythologies. The probably most famous legend about this belongs to Greek mythology and tells the tale of Persephone, daughter of earth goddess Demeter, who is abducted by Hades and taken to his realm underground to become his queen. Being a very beautiful young maid, Persephone is coveted by Hades, king of hell.

While she is picking up daffodils, he takes the opportunity and abducts her, taking her by force to his realm underground, planning to make her his wife. Devastated by sorrow, Demeter refuses to make the earth fertile again, which leads to a lack of fruit.

Worried about the harvests to come, Zeus decides to send Hermes to Hades to propose a bargain aiming at freeing Persephone. However, since the young maid has eaten pomegranate seeds during her stay, she now belongs in the underworld. Hades nonetheless accepts the bargain but allows his wife to go back to the surface (and thus to the light) only for six months. At the end of this period, she has to go down to him again. The bargain agreed, Persephone accepts her role as queen of Hades.

Each year at the autumn equinox she goes underground to be with her husband and comes back to the surface again at each spring equinox. That is how the main two seasons of the year are created: from the spring equinox to the autumn equinox, days are longer than nights (summer), while from the autumn equinox to the spring equinox the nights are longer than the days (winter).


This special spread is inspired from Persephone’s journey underground and aims at helping the querent to deal with his own darkness and to accept it as a full part of himself. The main events of the legend are represented and their symbolic meaning corresponds to the positions of the cards in the layout.

How to proceed

After shuffling and cutting your deck, take thirteen cards and lay them out as follows:

Le Chaudron de Morrigann: Le Séjour Souterrain de Perséphone (tirage spécial Mabon)


Persephone and the daffodils

Cards 1, 2 and 3 represent Persephone and the narcissuses she is innocently picking up, unaware of the fact that she is on the verge of being abducted by Hades. They show what the querent refuses to see and what makes him carefree.

Card 1 shows the querent as they are when they decide to use this spread, with everything they are, including every part of himself they do not want to be confronted with, consciously or not. On the left, card 2 indicates why they are afraid to look at this aspect of their own personality. On the right, card 3 reveals the kind of difficulties they are confronted with when trying to deal with the obscurity they hold inside.


Going down

Cards 4 and 5 refer to Persephone’s descent in Hades’ subterranean realm. They reflect what triggers the querent’s introspection and what draws them to their own darkness.

Card 4 is the reason why they decide to go deep in their deeper dark self and card 5 is what they expect to find during this journey. This card can express what they worry about in this process, what motivates them or what they would like to find.


In the Underworld

Cards 6 and 7 depict Persephone’s stay in the underworld. They are the heart of the querent’s introspection and show what they will find deep within themselves. These two cards are to be read together for they show the most prominent aspect of their dark side and the energies in presence at the time of the reading.

Card 6 thus reveals what the querent find at the heart of their own darkness and card 7 opens their eyes on the consequences of not learning to deal with it and refusing to accept it as a full part of themselves.


Going up

Cards 8 and 9 show Persephone’s ascension as she is on her way to the surface. They depict the solutions that can be found by the querent and the possibilities offered to them to help them deal with their darkness and restore peace and confidence in their relationship with this aspect of themselves. Each card presents the querent with precious advice and shows them the way.


Back to the surface

Cards 10, 11 and 12 represent Persephone, who is now queen of darkness, reaching the surface of the earth. They put into light what the querent have “gained” thanks to their introspection as well as how they will assimilate their dark side by following the advice provided throughout the spread.

These three cards show how the light comes back again at the end of the winter, that is to say at the spring equinox also known as Ostara. While cards 1, 2 and 3 depicted the querent at Mabon, these present them the way they will be at Ostara when winter ends. They are a summary of what the dark season will bring for the querent.

Card 10 is thus the querent as they will be at the end of his journey within themselves. On the left, card 11 reveals what the querent will have gained, the way they will have managed to “tame” the dark aspects of themselves put into light during the analysis of the spread. On the right, card 12 is an opening on something the querent will still have to be working on in order to find the right balance between their bright and dark sides. It can also be a warning which they will have to keep in mind if they want to achieve their goal.


The pomegranate seeds

Card 13 symbolizes the pomegranate seeds eaten by Persephone during her stay in Hades’ realm. It thus shows what the querent take and keep with them from their inner journey. It shows in what way the querent’s dark side is necessarily connected with their identity and is a full part of it that cannot be ignored.

This card reflects how they are continually connected with their own darkness. It shows the way to follow and is a conclusion to the spread.

Further remarks

What is the best moment to use this spread?

This spread has been designed especially for Mabon and is to be used at this time of the year. However, those who want to remain faithful to the legend of Persephone can do it at the full moon that is the closest to the autumn equinox, for it is at this time that Demeter’s daughter is said to have been abducted by Hades.


About the design of this spread

The way the cards are spread pictures Persephone’s descent and her stay in the underworld. Cards 1, 2 and 3, as well as cards 10, 11 and 12 stand on the surface and show the querent respectively before and after their journey within themselves. Cards 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 are the evolution of the querent in their own darkness. They reflect their introspection. Card 13 stands in between. Being at the same time part of the world of light and part of the world of darkness, it belongs to both worlds and connects them. It is thus a synthesis showing how the querent finally find their own balance by managing to handle both their bright and their dark sides.


What time period does this spread cover?

Considering the duration of Persephone’s stay in Hades’ realm, this layout spreads over a period of six months, from one equinox to the other. It enables the querent to see their own journey throughout the dark half of the year and to get a hint of how the domination of night over day will help them accept their own darkness.

Which decks for this spread?

Any tarot or oracle deck can be used with this spread. While the “classics” will of course do a great job here, one may want to use a deck especially designed for self-exploration and introspection for it will bring a very interesting point of view, which will be particularly accurate for Mabon. For instance, Madame Endora’s Fortune Cards (Christine Filipak, Joseph Vargo), Chrysalis Tarot (Toney Brooks, Holly Sierra), Oracle of the Shapeshifters (Lucy Cavendish, Jasmine Becket-Griffith), Oracle of Shadows and Light (Lucy Cavendish, Jasmine Becket-Griffith), The Fairy Tale Tarot (Lisa Hunt), Psycards (Nick Hobson, Maggie Kneen) and many more will be perfect!

(© Morrigann Moonshadow, September 20th, 2014; trans. September 23rd, 2014. Further reproduction prohibited.)

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