When we took up Persephony in 2004 we thought the war in Iraq was sure to lead to a reinstitution of the draft.  We were naive. This war culture prefers a professional army. A Democracy fields a people’s army, even if they are drafted. But the people’s army only makes trouble for these war lords. For them hired gunmen are safer and more certain, plus they see the advantage to spending the extra money.

  We see now that the blood ritual, the slaughter of the innocents the massacre of the other has the same effect anyway, that is, most of the young people who go to the war are drafted, drafted economically, there are very few opportunities for them. They are seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old, just like Demeter’s virgin daughter Koré.

They are dragged into the underworld, our current world of war, Iraq and Baghdad. Their task there is to commit a blood crime, to kill another human being, represented ritualistically in the myth of Persephony by the eating of the pomegranate. When they have chosen to, “bite the pomegranate”, they are empowered in the underworld, they wield death, they become the Queen of the Underworld. In due course they are released and return to the blue green world of Demeter, to their mother, mother earth and agriculture. But when they hear the drums of war they feel compelled to return. It was this last aspect that we especially wondered at, why haven’t we as a culture grown out of this violence toward other human beings.

  The theatre produced a version on Hunger Mountain in Vermont in 2004, then a larger version in France in 2006, during both of these productions I drew images of the scenes we were going to create or images of the scenes we had created. We imagined and dramatized each of the steps, either the scenes were a reflection of the images or we made images to mirror the scenes, and slowly we collected the entire series and slowly we cut them into linoleum. When we had the full series we moved up to Presse Papier in Trois-Rivières where Katah’s skills came into play. Together we printed the entire series and then Katah calligraphed the texts onto the pages, I organized the signatures and then she bound the books.

 

  We have carried out our ritual to Demeter, in graphic images on paper.  We sing an Ode to Demeter combining Homer, Ovid and Ubu Roi.  Ours is a modern restatement of the Greek myth, an inquiry into the relevance of the old agricultural ritual. Agriculture, after all, is a peaceful endeavour; Triptolemus wins the prize of agriculture, from the goddesses so he can live in peace. To paraphrase Homers’ closing remarks in his, Ode to Demeter, now that we have told your story Demeter, now that we have celebrated your ritual, grant us: those who sing your song and all those who hear our song, peace and prosperity.

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Ode to Demeter

Persephone entre deux mondes

an artist book by Sam Kerson

photo by Michel Massicotte
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