It may be that in this time of Plague, tonight, on this Eve of Spring—whether in wisdom or in fear, who shall say?—the Rites of Spring will go uncelebrated.

Or will they?

Hear now my story.


September 27, 480 BCE: Mystery Night, the night on which, since time immemorial, people have gathered in Eleusis in Attica to celebrate the Mysteries of the Barley Mother and her daughter, the Nameless Bride.

But this year Eleusis and its sanctuary lie empty. The plains of Attica have been devastated by the invading Persians, and the people of Attica have evacuated to mountain refuges.

It so happens that on that day, two Greek turncoats in pay of the Persian king—Dikaios, son of Theokydes, and Demaratos of Sparta—see a great cloud of dust on the Attic plain, as if raised by the feet of 30,000, and hear massed voices shouting the holy cry: Iakkhos! Iakkhos!

But in the midst of the cloud they see nothing and no one.

What is this? asks Demaratos, who had not been initiated into the Mother's Mysteries.

Alas! said Dikaios, son of Theokydes. This is the day on which the Sacred Procession comes from Athens to Eleusis, and what we hear, though we see no one, is their holy cry. For our side, this is a terrible omen: for your head's sake, do not tell the king.

And so it befell. Next day, Xerxes and his Persians were utterly defeated at the famed Battle of Salamis.

We have this story from Herodotus, who had it from Dikaios himself.


The Rites of Nature will never go uncelebrated, even if not by us.