The Aquarian Tabernacle Church: A World-Wide Wiccan Ministry

The Aquarian Tabernacle Church has been promoting Pagan rights and protecting our people's choice to worship since 1979. Here we share about our ministries, temples, the resources we share and what we do to help develop the future of today's Witches.

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The Rites of Eleusis - A Continuation


“You should come see what we do.” this Archpriest “Pete” guy said to me.  “We work with Demeter and Persephone.  I think you’ll like it.”  So, here I stood on this beautiful, warm sunny Friday morning, wide-eyed and excited, waiting to see, to experience, what promised to be nothing less that a trip to Eleusis itself.


Long have I walked these mysteries as a priestess myself, discovering the hidden secrets, creating the rites. But within the first few minutes of “Parade to the Sea,” which was a purification ritual, readying us for the rites to come, I was awestruck.  The Archpriestess transformed the park into Eleusis, and suddenly the magic began.  The Royal family welcomed us, it was almost like a ride at Disney world.  As we headed down to the sea I was happily full of optimism and absolutely giddy about the experience.  


We were ushered into a concrete bunker, the remains of an old fort, which made a perfect stage.  There she stood, in all Her amazing glory, Demeter and her daughter, the Kore.  Light-hearted banter began, and suddenly, one by one, appearing as if from nowhere, the Gods of Olympus blessed us with their appearance.   My eyes began pouring tears.


I am an Oracle.  My eyes can’t help but leak in the presence of deity.  It’s one of those things that is a validation for me.  Once the Gods had appeared, I couldn’t stop my eyes from leaking the rest of the day, so overwhelmingly powerful was their presence.  I was home.


Eleven years later, I still remember the people who were holding the Godforms that day.  I still regard those physical bodies with a certain amount of awe and reverence.  That day changed my life.  I watched the rest of the mysteries that weekend with the same heart-touched awareness.  The Gods kept saying I would be forever changed.  I didn’t take them seriously.  I should have.  My first attendance to Spring Mysteries Festival was a watershed moment that changed everything for me.


The Aquarian Tabernacle Church is a world-wide organization.  More than 30 years ago, the Mother Church was called to bring the mysteries of Eleusis back from the ancient past, to the Great Mother’s children of the present.  Each year, the priests and priestesses of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church are called to recreate these mysteries on Easter weekend. We renew our commitment to the Olympian and Chthonic deities within the cradle of the Olympic Mountains on the beautiful coast of the Northwestern tip of the United States.  We do this through scholarship, as well as shared personal revelation.  


The Eleusinian Mysteries portrayed at Spring Mysteries Festival shares of the “eyes only” secrets of the Cult of Demeter.  These rites of passage speak to the heart of many of the modern-day Wiccans.  The Greek mysteries revolve around the transformation of (hu)man-kind through the luscious Maiden Aphrodite, the fecund Mother Demeter, the changing-woman Kore/Persephone, and the Crone Hekate.  The faces of these Goddesses are mirrors for us within the different phases of our lives, speaking to each of us in our own language, touching those that witness the mysteries in ways that cannot be put into words.  It is nothing less than the original passion play, showing us the ancient road to understanding immortality and a life free from the fear of death.


These mysteries were one of the wonders of the ancient world.  Before the rise of Christianity, the mysteries of Eleusis ran for 3000 years.  The ancient people saved up for lifetimes and traveled for many months to experience these rites. So important were the revelations held within, that to speak of their exact nature and rite with the uninitiated was met with extreme prejudice by those that had attended.


I have long been called to walk these mysteries.  Aphrodite is a patron deity of my family. My Mormon mother taught me an appreciation for beauty, the importance of love, the art of makeup and a love for fashion that was started early on. Persephone came to me when I was a confused and angry teenager, ready to break away from the constraints of my Mormon upbringing.  Demeter sang to my children with my own voice, and guided me in the ways of raising my family.  Hecate was always there, overseeing, guiding, validating, whispering in my ear, and redirecting me when necessary.  I became their priestess through their subtle tutoring, and through my own intense need to understand God.


Today, I get the rare privilege of producing the modern day version of what I consider the most holy spiritual event known to man,  The many layers of symbolism within the Eleusinian mysteries timelessly speak across the ages to the mind of the modern Pagan. The mysteries reveal what they will to each person, speaking on a deep level and continuing to transform one’s life for years after the experience. Many people have attended for 15 or more years, as each year a new layer blocking their understanding of the universe is peeled away. Each year they find themselves drawn to commune with the Gods of Olympus.


At Spring Mysteries Festivals these Gods walk the Earth.


Today, traveling to the sacred hidden city is different.  We no longer pass the obvious temples, and pay the expected fees.  We pay different fares to modern day temples, that nonetheless facilitate our spiritual journey with their magic.  We sacrifice gasoline and leave offerings at ferry terminals, or airline ticket gates.  We document our adventures on facebook, and twitter.  This has become part of the sacred experience. We ask our participants, if it so pleases them, to begin their journey by considering the modern shrines of the Old Gods and to make their journey in mindful reverence. This connects us to the energy of giving, as well as allows people to get into the mindset of receiving the spiritual experience that is Eleusis.


Spring Mysteries Festival is an immersive experience.  Festival goers are considered pilgrims to Eleusis, and receive initiations into the rites.  Unlike other festivals, where there are many things to choose to, or not to, attend, all are expected to attend the holy rites. The festival is cast within sacred space, which is held throughout the weekend.  True to ancient tradition, participants are sworn not to reveal any of the things witnessed there.  


There are three degrees of Initiation into the mysteries of Eleusis.  The Lesser Mysteries take the first-time pilgrims through an ancient initiatory rite with a theme common to Wicca, but unique in the ways of Eleusis, which frees the initiate from the fear of death.  The second degree rite happens on ones second journey to Eleusis, and takes part during the Greater Mysteries.  This rite is transformational and takes one’s understanding deep into the meaning of the afterlife.  The third degree initiation is one’s entrance into the Eleusinian Priesthood, which has its own set of degrees.  


Being chosen for cast is as much the Gods’ choice as anyone’s.  I felt Aphrodite calling me to serve Her right after Mysteries closed the year I held her.  I struggled with the choice, as I have so many other things to do, there are so many others who could benefit from the experience.  But, I couldn’t walk past a flower stand without buying a beautiful blossom, and when others started noticing Her energy on me I knew She was calling me to serve her.  It happens that way.  I’ve heard many stories of dream messages, showers that are intruded, daily rituals that are suddenly invaded by an insistent Greek God, demanding attention.   


I have formally invoked Aphrodite probably 15 or 20 times in the lifetime of being a priestess.  None of this prepared me for the intensity of my meeting Her at Her temple in Eleusis.  At our first ritual practice, the Spiritual Director called each of us to our temples.  Aphrodite was represented by a statue so large that I could have easily sat in the palm of Her hand.  The walls of her temple were lined with shelves containing thousands of smaller statues.  I walked in confidently, ready to greet my well known, much loved, patroness.  She smiled at me, and bent toward me, suddenly I could see myself standing below the statue, from a behind her arm.  I watched myself honor Her and walk out of the temple, as the director brought our attention back to rehearsal space.  It wasn’t until several weeks and rehearsals later that I realized Aphrodite had put me into one of the many statues attending Her in Her temple.  She allowed me to be aware of Her, but She never really fully left me, or released me from my place on Her shelf, until Spring Mysteries was over.


This work is a sacred calling. The lessons learned, and the blessings received from holding a Godform, or cooking a meal, at Spring Mysteries Festival, is unparallelled in its deeper meaning.  The Priests and Priestesses called to this work find it comes from deep within each of us. We pour over the texts of Ovid and Homer.  We review and decipher the works of respected scholars, and then we listen to the loud and insistent voices of the Gods themselves.  They are here.  They want their messages told and they are all too insistent to be ignored.  


Why us?  Because we are listening?  Because we are lucky?  I don’t know.  I am just grateful to be called, and happier that I can ‘do’.  It is obvious to those who are initiates that someone in the early days of the ATC was guided by Goddess to bring something really special and sacred back to the Her children, and we are oathbound to continue the work.  The mysteries sing to my soul.  They answer my questions and guide my choices.  This is the path as it unfolds beneath me.  I am honored to walk it.  


Those who have the spark of the Eleusinian Priesthood in their souls see the sacred psychodrama one time, and are ignited to move Heaven and Earth to be the voice of the Gods. People move, people rearrange their lives, people sacrifice their time, treasure and talents to produce Her sacred works. We of the Priesthood recognize this within each other, and know the mystery: That it is an honor to carry the spark of the Gods of Eleusis, and it is an honor to serve as their voice, every year, in whatever capacity we are called to serve. Blessed are we to be in Her service.


Belladonna Laveau is the Archpriestess of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, and Dean of WiccanSeminary.EDU, author of Awakening Spirit and a High Priestess of the Eleusinian Priesthood.

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Rt. Rev. Belladonna LaVeau is the ArchPriestess of Aquarian Tabernacle Church and Dean at Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary. A Navy Veteran, Mother of three, and Spiritual Counselor; Bella is a 10 year veteran of full-time Wiccan ministry. Her current passion is to create a benefits package for Wiccan Clergy to help provide the resources for groups and leaders to be successful in their ministry.      


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