Part 1, from last week, can be read here.
For those folks in the southern hemisphere who are entering fall as we the northern climates enter spring I offer this next personal narrative.
Every Autumn I buy a smooth skinned crimson pomegranate to celebrate the Fall Equinox. But until this fall I have never intentionally bought a pomegranate to acknowledge the Persephone in me although her cyclic journeys to the underworld have also been my own. I have resisted my alignment with Persephone because I have come to fear my own descents. In the last few years these periods of depression have become more severe.
The September I turned 70 on the last day of the ancient celebration of Persephone’s Eleusinian Mysteries. I spoke out loud as I set my birthday intention. I am aligning myself with Persephone. I held a pomegranate in the open palm of my hand, thinking of the fruit as a symbol of my willingness to take this step. I also saw the beautiful round fruit as the Earth, imagining the ruby –like seeds imbedded in the soft white flesh as Earth’s possibilities. As I surrendered and finally accepted my mythic identity/alignment with Persephone, I experienced a subtle energy shift. I thought about the maiden goddess who becomes Queen of the Dead, and the one who makes predictable cyclic descents into the Underworld. As I breathed through my body I experienced a palpable sense of relief… I recalled the recent dream that informed me that the “Way of the Goddess” was my way, and that I had to choose her again. Not surprisingly within a few days I once again entered a state of profound depression during which time I suddenly remembered my first encounter with a pomegranate…
I must have been about five or six the night my father brought home the lush red fruit with its silky skin. He sliced the pomegranate in half.
I was transfixed by the sight of this fruit that was also full of seeds and entered some kind of non – ordinary state as I took half the pomegranate from my father’s hand and ate the first bitter-sweet ruby seed.
This memory of the two of us is so sharp and clear and ends so abruptly that I realize now that it was a mythic story that the child tapped into. I entered Persephone’s “field” for the first time as a young girl… This fall when I accepted my mythical alignment with Persephone I crossed her threshold as an adult, and with a lightening flash of insight understood the meaning behind my compelling childhood memory. When I took the pomegranate out of my father’s hand I accepted the fate that was mine to own albeit unconsciously. On an archetypal level the young child entered into a mythical contract with her father, a Hades figure. She took the fruit and ate the seeds insuring that she too would become an underworld figure. My identity as a Persephone was sealed by that encounter though it would take a life – time to live it and to unravel the threads.
To perceive Persephone as an archetype is to understand that a pattern of energy/information is attached to the figure. Archetypes work as attractor sites pulling a person into a particular alignment with an archetypal pattern or field. The nature of these fields is unknown but they work on the same principle as other known fields like the field of gravity. Archetypes are impersonal, they are patterns of energy that carry specific information and each one has a specific region of influence. Archetypal patterns often live through us without our knowledge but if we are sensitive to their energy charge we may have the feeling that we are living a more authentic life once we are pulled into a particular field because like attracts like. In this way of thinking as a child I already had personality traits and had been born into a specific field of influence that left me vulnerable to being drawn into a death field as a Persephone. I remember vividly how I reacted when I first read the myth; I was enthralled by all the characters and inexorably drawn into the story almost against my will. The character I was most reluctant to align myself with was Persephone. And that was more than twenty years ago. Last fall when I accepted Persephone in me it opened a mythic door to my most authentic self. What I didn’t realize then was that by accepting Persephone in me as the woman who made cyclic descents, I also gained access to the story of her joyous ascent in the spring.
A Brief Overview of the Myth of Demeter and Persephone:
The story begins with Persephone gathering flowers (saffron crocus or poppies) in a field one autumn with Demeter watching over her beloved daughter. Suddenly the earth splits in two and out of the chasm comes Hades who scoops up Persephone and in a flash descends back into the Underworld. Demeter searches frantically for her daughter and eventually meets Hecate, goddess of the crossroads who takes her to Helios. Helios the sun explains that Persephone has been chosen as the bride of Hades, who is King of the Underworld. Demeter is in such a fury that she causes the Earth to become barren. Eventually Persephone is released from the Underworld to appease Demeter’s wrath. In some early versions Hecate rescues Persephone. Demeter is overjoyed to be re-united with her daughter and the Earth once again becomes fertile. When Demeter learns that Persephone has eaten the seeds of the pomegranate she realizes that Persephone will have to return to the Underworld for a few months of every year because she accepted the seeds from Hades, who tricked her. During the months of the year when Persephone is once again Queen of the Underworld, the land becomes barren. Both Demeter and her daughter accept Persephone’s fate and in the fall of the year every five years the Eleusinian Mysteries are celebrated with Persephone leading the procession. The mysteries are secret so nothing is known of what transpired at Eleusis for almost 2000 years except that those that participated were freed from the fear of death.
BIO: 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 Maine.
13 thoughts on “Persephone Rising, Part 2 by Sara Wright”
Thank you – a wonderful piece of writing. Your experience of it as a young child suddenly came back to you as an adult – how magical is this.
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Very interesting. Blessings to you and the goddess and your path with her.
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Sara, this is my favorite thing you have ever written. It is a beautiful blend of your personal experience as well sharing an understanding of archetypes, the goddess, and myth.
Years ago, when I was working in HIV/AIDS, Persephone was my archetype and guide. Charlene Spretnak’s version of the myth resonated with me so deeply that I have never been able to embrace the widely accepted version since then. In this possible pre-Hellenic telling, Persephone hears the souls calling from below and chooses to go to them, to bless them in their afterlife. She is not abducted. She is conscious and has agency and in this way, she becomes queen of the Underworld. As one who choose to work with the dying, the Persephone archetype was most definitely working through me.
And this is the beauty of myth – they are not set in stone. They are fluid, adapting to the time, reflecting the needs of the believer. In this way, our relationship to the archetype presented in the myth may change as we change and grow. Just as you, yourself, have experienced.
Thank you for sharing. Blessed be. Happy Spring! Persephone emerges again.
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Yes and this is the positive side of Persephone as goddess
Oh goodness this delights me… I love what you say about myths – exactly – they are fluid – not written in stone – one way to see them is as EMPTY patterns of energy waiting to be lived by humans in whatever way the archetype is supposed to manifest for that person…. I also resonate with the idea that Persephone hears souls calling…
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Sara, this is beautiful and so full of insights. We are is used to the dualistic ideas of spring-summer-life-joy, fall-winter-death-sadness that we forget how important it is to be able to transverse all the levels of being, including the Underworld. Blessings to you on your journey!
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Dear Sara, this version of Persephone’s story robs her of any agency, which I believe She had in the earlier versions (pre-Olympian). Persephone is shaman/ redeemer in the earlier tellings: not subject to the choosings of gods, but an agent Herself of comforting the dead, with Her potency for renewal and restoration of beauty. She is the Seed, who carries within Her what is required for the task of renewal.
In either version, I do understand your hesitance to accept identification with Persephone, because of fear of the descents (many are afraid for that reason) … and am so glad you have found the courage last fall. I think Persephone Herself is confident of Her ability to return, belonging as She does to Mother/Goddess knowledge of the cycle: confident of the cyclic descent and return, which patriarchal story robbed from us and all. That is why I think it important to tell Her older story wherein She has re-integrated Her agency, Her redemptive capacity.
Thank you for remembering the Southern Hemisphere’s current Season of Autumn, which of course is seamlessly connected to your Spring! :) Best wishes shamanic one.
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Thanks Glenn’s – I have a tendency to think that both versions speak to different truths for different women at different times… after all these are mythical patterns and the whole includes both a positive and negative aspect.
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Yes Sara there is no doubt that the abduction version speaks of a reality that we and our mothers and grandmothers live/lived with daily and intimately. I wrote a version that I called “Persephone III”, after traumatic experience 30 years ago: after thinking/imagining that I had escaped the abduction version, but actually I hadn’t.
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None of us do- I guess that’s my point – it’s always “both and “.
it’s just that the pre-Olympian version does not get the airing it deserves, and indeed is largely unmentioned. It is an important story and one that saved me and many others.
Gosh it was the version I leapt onto first!
Again we need both