Ask Persephone: Borrowed books, discarded youths, and bonding rituals
Advice from the Majestic Queen of Shades
May 26, 2016 at 3:18 pm
Sometimes even crones need a (wrinkled, gnarled) guiding hand when walking through the long, dark hallway of (semi) mortal life. A few more brave souls have beseeched Persephone, Crone of Crones, Dread Queen of the Dead, BFF of Hekate, Goddess of Witchcraft and the Hearth for her guidance. Here are their pleas and her responses.
Greetings and salutations, mortals. It is customary for earthly creatures to offer sacrifices to my kind in order to seek aid from us — I usually don’t get out of bed for less than 12 fully-grown oxen roasting on my altar — but the price has already been paid and will be collected upon your departure from this corporeal realm.
A being that could once have been described as human kindly pointed out that mint leaf transfiguration is not necessarily an applicable solution to every problem. I have made a note of this, and also would like to offer any interested parties a very fresh mint julep.
Q. Dear Persephone,
What’s a mere mortal to do if I read a good friend’s favorite book and was, erm, underwhelmed?
My friend is very wise and has discerning taste, so I was excited to read her favorite novel. She adores this book. She has read it many times. She can’t say enough good things about it. What’s more, I know several other people who feel the same way about it. It couldn’t have come more highly recommended.
Suffice it to say my experience with the book was in high contrast. It’s not that I hated it; I did enjoy portions and characters, but overall, the story left no lasting impression on me. I found it…dare I say tedious? It’s true, and I feel awful about it. There seems to be nothing I could say to my friend that wouldn’t be horribly disappointing, or even hurtful, given how meaningful it is to her.
What should I say to her, if anything at all? In the event that she asks about it, what’s the best way to casually sprint out of the room?
— Fake Book Nerd
A. Dear Fake Book Nerd,
Your wise and discerning friend may as well have fastened you to a burning wheel for all of eternity. Entering an emotional geas after sharing a sister-witch’s sacred tome is an ancient but lethal curse.
Your friend has ripped out her still-beating heart and placed it in your hands for safekeeping. With no way to return it to her, you now struggle to wash your hands of this sanguine organ. You cannot rest a still-beating heart upon a shelf or lay it upon the ground. You did not seek this responsibility, but still you find it.
As surely as all mortals must perish, your friend will ask about your opinions on this tome. By opening its pages to begin with, you have acquired her True Name that must never be spoken aloud and can now peer more keenly into her soul. Any witch worth her weight in sea salt would want to assess the state of her vulnerability going forward.
Do not avoid your fate but do not rush to confront it, either. Wait for your friend to approach you. Place the customary sacred incense upon your hearth and greet your destiny with an open heart. Build a soft and downy nest to lay her heart within when you discuss your opinions on this book. Relay the parts that moved you or provoked your thoughts first. Then, gently unveil some of the aspects of this book that did not particularly stimulate you. Do not tell her that you hated it, or lie and say you enjoyed it. Do not tell her that a tome that resonates with the secret whispers of her heart struck you as trivial or banal. And remember that each sacred text strikes its readers differently, and the same curse may trouble a multitude of victims in unique ways and with varying severity. There are reasons, maybe hidden mysteries even she cannot describe, why your friend treasures this book so.
Bear in mind that most individuals given to this knotty hex never escape it to the point where they actually read the book. Think of the many unopened tomes that possibly grace your own bookshelves. If your friend truly is both a friend and a book lover, and if you are gentle and kind in your honesty, she will appreciate that you took the time and made the effort to better understand her through this window to her soul.
If all else fails, upon confrontation I give you my blessing to tell your friend that you’d love to share your opinions about this book, but the Goddess Persephone cursed you with silence on this topic and has threatened to rip out your tongue if you undermine her mighty will. Be forewarned that upon speaking these words aloud, you will not be wrong.
Q. Dearest Beautiful Dreadess,
I’m having trouble balancing my love lives, and I feel this might be an area of expertise for you! I’ve been using and abusing a shifting roster of younger men that I have no interest in committing to, but whenever I look for an older man to try to settle down with, they always end up a disappointment. I’m relatively independent, but also relatively unwilling to give up consistent sex with another human! However, I cannot abide any more 4 AM booty calls from youths. I’m starting to think that a committed relationship between respectful adults is the way to go. On the other hand, men are terrible. Just because they have a real job doesn’t mean they’re responsible or capable of NOT making every conversation about them.
What to do???
With loving tribute,
A. Dear Regretfully Hetero,
Thank you for the kind honorifics.
It seems obvious to me that a vengeful deity has cursed you with a pox of men. I would weep for you in your predicament, and yet I have no tears to shed. Construct a great temple and bind the best of these handsome youths to a worshipful life devoted to your service. Cast the rest into the sea or offer them as sacrifices to a certain Mighty and Venerable Queen of Shades (ahem) in exchange for a serum to maintain your vitality.
As you are learning, whether molded fully-formed from clay less than a fortnight ago or forged with the mountains at the dawn of time, many men still attempt seduction through animal transfiguration or a “u up? haha” text at 4 o’clock in the morning. You need not forgive these indignities.
If you lack the resources for temple construction or ritualistic sacrifice, all I can advise you to do is spend more time with people who spark your imagination, and less time suffering trivial peons. Those whose company you enjoy may bring higher-quality suitors into your life. And set your handsome youths free, for these poor lambs walk meekly into the path of their slaughter when you welcome them into your home. You may well find a male being that resonates with your secret heart, but churning through suitors that you know that you can’t stand won’t make that happen any faster. A trap laid for a lumbering cyclops is unlikely to catch a nimble griffin. And when a potential male partner causes you rage or boredom, set a swarm of stinging flies upon his newly bovine body and cast him from your lands.
Q. Dear Persephone,
My warlock and I have been dating for centuries (six, to be exact). We have a wonderful relationship together. He understands my need for space during the harvest moon, and I don’t mind helping him clean after a particularly messy hex. In a word, we are perfect.
However, there’s still just one tiny thing. In all our 600 years together, we have not performed the bonding ritual (AKA marriage, to your mortal, non-magical readers). He has said that he wants to perform this bonding ritual, but it has yet to be done! I don’t want to throw away the past six centuries, but at the same time, I want the security of a bonding ritual. We already own a haunted home together, we have a fur baby (our black cat Samhain), so why won’t he just take the plunge and bond with me? What should I do?
–Bonding Ritual Blues
A. Dear Bonding Ritual Blues,
Your first mistake was seeking out a warlock for companionship — everyone knows that those two-bit magicians couldn’t find their way out of a labyrinth with two swords strapped to each hand. I highly recommend that you wash your hands of this trumped up street mime in a cloak as soon as possible.
Warlocks. Gods almighty.
For reasons I simply cannot understand, you clearly love this warlock, so you probably will not heed these sagacious portents. I will dig a little deeper into this dilemma of yours.
You have clearly discussed your feelings about this bonding ritual and he has rebuffed you by cloaking his intentions in pleasing words. However, you continue growing together like the roots of two ancient oaks standing side-by-side. Your confusion is natural.
There are many reasons for your partner’s reluctance to participate in this ceremony. If he is a right and honorable being, he may simply not understand its importance to you, or it might recede as a priority in his mind as you embark on other challenges together. It’s hard to focus on the autumn harvest in the midst of a calamitous summer storm.
On the other hand, his intentions may be less noble. He may have lingering doubts about your relationship he lacks the courage to address. He may quietly disagree with your feelings about the importance of the ceremony, and may have decided for you that you need not embark on this journey as a couple. There are many reasons he might be keeping you sealed in the underworld on this decision.
There is nothing wrong with wanting, or not wanting, the ties of obligation and feelings of security that come with a bonding ritual. However, you must sit down with this warlock of yours once more. Many feel that an ultimatum is a dread curse that must be avoided at all costs, but there are situations where it must be used to some extent. If this bonding ritual is a breaking point for you in your relationship, you must ask him to help identify when it will take place, and hold him to it. You must also be prepared to walk away. Six hundred years is nothing, and you could be finding yourself waiting another six thousand years if you accept his half-hearted offerings on this subject. You deserve a love that respects and honors your values and feelings. Leaving to find that love is nothing to be ashamed of.
One more word of advice: do not, under any circumstances kidnap your beloved and force him into a betrothal. This will only result in resentment and a slow but successful plot on his part to overthrow you and reap the benefits of your hard-won kingdom.
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