It is mid November and shiny crimson Pomegranates catch the discerning eye in food markets; even Walmart carries them!
Why do these beautiful and very ancient fruits appear during this dark time of the year?
One answer to this question is that in the northern hemisphere the fruit of this deciduous shrub ripens anywhere from September to February. The reverse is true in the southern hemisphere when the fruits ripen during March, April and May. It is important to remember that in the southern hemisphere the seasons are reversed, so in both northern and southern parts of the globe these fruits appear in the fall, during the darkest months of the year.
Pomegranates are native from Iran to northern India and have been cultivated throughout the Middle East, Asia and the Mediterranean region for millennia. (Today they are also grown in California and Arizona, so they no longer need to be imported). The shrub was domesticated as early as the 5th millennium BC. Pomegranates were the first trees to be domesticated in the Mediterranean.
Because I have a background in mythology I am very familiar with the myth of the Greek Persephone who was abducted/raped by Hades and swallowed up by the Underworld in the autumn for a number of winter months. The myth varies but in most renditions while living in the darkness Persephone was seduced by Hades to eat the seeds of the Pomegranate; she ate a few without the foreknowledge that partaking of this forbidden fruit would insure her cyclical return to the Netherworld each fall.
The popular explanation for this story is that Persephone’s descent mirrors what happens in the fall during the agricultural cycle after the fruits of the harvest ripen, all plants and trees lose their leaves and winter spreads her wings over the earth.
Curiously, I have my own story about the Pomegranate and later some notes on being a Persephone Woman. My dad was Italian and didn’t come to this country until he was twelve years old. He worked for an international company in New York as an aeronautical engineer and sometimes brought home unusual gifts for his children. One night he arrived with a most beautiful fruit that he apparently procured in an Italian market in the city. (In retrospect I think he was deeply attached to his Italian roots, though he embraced the so – called “American Dream” and became a very successful businessman).
When he held out the Pomegranate (I was between age three and four) I had the following visionary experience:
I was transfixed by the color, shape, the smooth coat of the “apple,” as the Pomegranate is sometimes called turning it over and over in my small hands with awe and wonder becoming one with the fruit. When my father took a knife and sliced open the pomegranate iridescent crimson beads bled and stained the wooden cutting board bright red, I initially shrieked in horror at the sight of my own blood, but soon calmed by my father’s voice encouraging his daughter to try the seeds, I trustingly complied, loving the tart sweetness almost as much as I loved the deep crimson color.
That was it. I have no other recollection attached to this visceral/ visionary experience. At the time, of course, I had no idea what had happened; it was only later that I could name the visioning. I had been transported into a mythical dimension, re – experiencing an ancient storyline…
When I first learned about the myth of Persephone in my late 30’s I was studying to become a Jungian analyst. I was stunned when I re-lived this ‘lost’ memory I didn’t know I had. What did this experience mean for me I wondered uneasily.
Gradually, other excruciating and repressed memories surfaced. My father’s seemingly senseless violent outbursts that terrorized me, his road rage, attempted rape by cousins, boyfriends, enduring unspeakable violence at the hands of my children’s father, and then my repeating the pattern with future men always against my will until I chose celibacy as a way through – or out.
Reluctantly, oh so reluctantly I owned that I was a Persephone who had unconsciously entered into a relationship with Hades, or Poseidon, a mythical pact I had little control over. I knew by then that archetypes are empty patterns of energy/information that must be lived through by humans who are pulled into their fields for good or ill.
It was only then that I forgave myself for my earlier transgressions, which I now understood were also orchestrated by forces that would always be more powerful than I could ever hope to be. This is where we see the limits of free will, so dear to the American psyche.
Initially, I thought that by developing awareness around this destructive pattern I might be able to transform it, but this was not to be. Instead, periodically I still continue to live out this storyline.
The trigger this week involved a betrayal by unknown women or a single woman and a male friend. These women were digging for dirt and pulled words/phrases/individual writings out of context to pass along to this man who then passed harsh judgment on me. This double hit threw me into a state of shock for days because these women had never met me, distorted what I had written and used parts of my work to attack my character, my honesty, politics, my belief system, twisting information to suit their personal agendas and god knows what else. My friend’s harsh judgment based on what others told him devastated me.
At first my grief over this violation mushroomed, and all I wanted to do was hide. (by the way the literary root of the word violate is rape or sexual assault – the Latin Volare is its root which means to be treated violently).
But I am familiar with my own process; first holding myself accountable for my mistakes, then grieving, feeling my anger, and finally resolution as I let go and decide how to move on. It is a constant source of irritation to me that this kind of experience comes out of the “blue” and strikes from behind while I am diligently trying to work through “the problem” whatever it is. (in this case it was pro bono editing) I am never prepared, and just yesterday once again I was told how naive I was.
For the first time I am questioning my “naiveté.” Am I really that naïve or is something else going on? I am an honest person. I am not devious, and I have spent most of my life serving others ( human and non human) in one capacity or another as an educator/professor, counselor, writer, and advocate. Perhaps my lifetime focus on others has left me vulnerable to those whose intent is to harm? I don’t know.
This morning I awakened with firm resolve, no longer feeling like a victim (this violation might not have occurred if I had not written so honestly– my 50 percent).
I went food shopping and when I saw the shimmering scarlet Pomegranate I bought it, understanding that by doing so I was acknowledging that once again I am choosing to align myself with Persephone, and by extension, my own Fate.
I can’t change what happened but I can REFUSE to accept these harsh judgments made by others just as I make the choice to move on. This is where I see the power of being a “Persephone Woman” emerging out of the depths of my unconscious and Deep Time.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Northern New Mexico.
16 thoughts on “The Pomegranate by Sara Wright”
Here in Greece pomegranates ripen in late September and early October. There are none on the trees at this time of year and it is difficult to find them in stores. By the time I come back to my garden after the Goddess tour (mid October), all of the pomegranates have burst their skins and the birds have had quite the feast.
I remember the verb rapare from my 7th grade Latin class, this is the root of our word rape. In the text we read it referred to the rape of the Sabine women, which our book translated as seizing or carrying off. I don’t even think I knew what rape meant then, but I knew it meant something worse than seizing or carrying off. I asked the teacher why it wasn’t translated more accurately. Of course he had an answer, but I don’t remember what it was.
As for being the naive victim of other people’s meanness, for me the origin of that was my mother’s telling me that my father loved me deep down and not naming his meanness for what it was. Thus I came to confuse meanness and love. After my mother died, my brother helped me to understand that I had been confused (by my mother) and to see as he so succinctly put it, “that the only way you can get along with Dad is if he decides on that particular day that he intends to get along with you.” Reading Alice Miller’s theory of the poisonous pedagogy of control also helped at that time. And then some years later I was a participant in a workshop where there were exercises that were intended to help us to recognize our body reactions (intuitions) about the people we come into contact with in the course of daily life. In that workshop I “got it” and after that I have been pretty good at sensing people’s characters and intentions and am much less frequently “surprised” that when others do not treat me well: I am able to see them for what they are — in many cases not always nice — rather than covering over meanness with the idea given to me by mother that what looks like meanness is actually love deep down. I don’t know if this can help you. Maybe.
By the way my mother apologized in a powerful dream not long after she died.
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I most certainly confused love and cruelty… was told again and again that “my mother really loved me” after one more betrayal… it is probable that this pattern continues unconsciously leaving me vulnerable. When the woman is someone I know my body gives me the information I need to protect myseld – but when it comes out of the “blue” I am still a sitting duck. Ugh.
Curiously, just yesterday I had a little dream that showed a pile of kindling ready to be lit and there was a sign attached to the wood that I couldn’t read… I immediately felt the warning – two hours later I had a response from one of these women that sent me a stupid goody to shoes type sign that said I needed to be kind to all human beings! I laughed! The first time I had no context for this betrayal but apparently now I do and my dreams are trying to protect me! Thank god for dreams.
I loved learning that your mother came and apologized to you after her death… I have not had a similar experience, unfortunately.
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The dream where my mother apologized was truly a-mazing and unlike you I do not usually remember my dreams. My mother was loving in general, unlike yours, but she did not want to see that her husband was not always as loving as she liked to imagine he was.
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How wonderful that your mother came this way to hold herself accountable for hurting you – I’ve wondered why the closest I’ve ever come to having my dead mother near is thru encounters with owls… it may be that I need some sort of psychic boundary of protection? Does that sound crazy?
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Yes I think we need to create a psychic barrier when we have toxic relatives. We need to say “I am not going there any more. I wish you well, I wish you healing, but I am not going to put myself in place where you can hurt me again.” For me this place is letting go of anger and replacing it with positive wishes for the person, but it is not forgiveness to someone who never apologized. It is looking with a clear eye at what is: a person who is no doubt wounded and who continues to hurt others. I would never rule out the possibility of the apology but I would not expect it, nor would I keep trying to fix something that may not ever be fixed.
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Oh, you are so right hitting the mark with every sentence – thanks so much Carol
Wonderful insight, Carol. Thank you!! And thank you for the article, Sara Wright. Interesting!
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My dad, who was terribly abusive to me, as well as loving, came through in a soul retrieval after he died and apologized. It made such a difference, I was able to let him go.
Like Carol, I have learned to have good wishes fro the toxic people in my life, such as my mother, and to keep myself well-protected. Boy, did that take a long time! I actually do forgive both of my parents, but it doens’t mean I give my mom an inch–anymore.
I don’t believe that we can’t change these patterns that keep reoccurring in our lives. I believe they are there precisely for the healing. However, it can be very hard, deep, time-consuming work.
Having been trained to be a victim from earliest childhood, I have worked long and hard to change it. I have come far, and am much more able to be aware of when I am going to be attacked and to protect myself.
II really don’t think that you are destined to suffer from this for the rest of your life, Saran. I wish you well and continued awareness and healing.
I have been reading and writing about the Persephone story for about 40 years, but it was not until I was in Florence just before christmas i. 2013 and I saw a fruiting pomegranate that it hit me why this fruit appeared in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter ( I read this i. Ancient Greek in the early 1980s). Coming from the southern hemisphere I had simply not seen this before. A revelation of sorts.
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What a stunning post! I salute your courage in sharing and divining it. Brava! I’ve never been particularly attracted to the pomegranate, though I think it’s beautiful. I’ve seen pomegranates on altars, but I don’t eat them.
Have you heard of the Broadway musical Hadestown? It won Tonys last year. Yes, it’s about Persephone and Hades and more.
Barbara, I haven’t seen Hadestown but i think I am familiar with it!
I loved your excellent post, Sara, and am grateful for your honesty. Thank you.
I’m curious: Are you by any chance an INFJ on the MBPTI? Many with this type are Persephone women! While it’s often not fun, as you know, it has its rich rewards — one of them being the joy of bringing the wisdom of the deep unconscious to light for others to learn from.
I send you warm blessings on this Thanksgiving holiday.
I am an INFJ–I didn’t know about that connection to Persephone women!
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Sorry Sara, I just saw this from 6 months ago. INFJ is one of 16 personality types on the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBPTI) I stands for Introverted, N stands for Intuitive, F for Feeling and J is for Judging. It’s too much to explain here but you can find it on the Internet if you look it up. While it is by no means flawless, many people find it very useful for helping them understand themselves.
I am sorry but I do not know what these are – INFI or MBPTI
So powerful, so wonderful — all of it so joyful too.