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.