Persephone by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
(Other images on the page of Images of Persephone)
The Goddesses as Archetypes
Most of us were taught about the gods and goddesses of Mt. Olympus at some time in school and have seen statues and paintings of them. The Romans worshipped these same deities, addressing them by their Latin names. The Olympians had very human attributes: their behaviour, emotional reactions, appearance, and mythology provide us with patterns that parallel human behaviour and attitudes. They are also familiar to us because they are archetypal; that is, they represent models of being and behaving we recognise from the collective unconscious we all share.
The Goddess archetypes I am describing in this book are the six Olympian goddesses - Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite - plus Persephone, whose mythology is inseparable from Demeter.
I have divided these seven goddesses into three categories: the virgin goddesses, the vulnerable goddesses and the alchemical (or transformative) goddess. The virgin goddesses were classified together in ancient Greece. The other two categories are my designations.
Modes of consciousness, favoured roles and motivating factors are distinguishing characteristics of each group. Attitudes towards others, the need for attachment, and the importance of relationships also are distinctly different in each category.
Goddesses representing all three categories need expression somewhere in a woman’s life – in order for her to love deeply, work meaningfully, and be sensual and creative.
The vulnerable goddesses
The second group - Hera, Demeter and Persephone – I call the vulnerable goddesses. Hera (known as Juno to the Romans) was the Goddess of Marriage. She was the wife of Zeus, chief god of the Olympians. Demeter, (the Roman goddess Ceres) was the Goddess of Grain. In her most important myth, her role as mother was emphasised. Persephone (Proserpina in Latin) was Demeter’s daughter. The Greeks also called her the Kore – “the maiden”.
The three vulnerable goddesses represent the traditional roles of wife, mother and daughter. They are the relationship-oriented goddess archetypes, whose identities and well-being depend on having a significant relationship. They express women’s needs for affiliation and bonding. They are attuned to others and vulnerable. These three goddesses were raped, abducted, dominated or humiliated by male gods. Each suffered in her characteristic way when an attachment was broken or dishonoured, and showed symptoms that resembled psychological illnesses.
Each of them also evolved, and can provide women with an insight into the nature and pattern of their own reactions to loss, and the potential for growth through suffering that is inherent in each of these three goddess archetypes.
Persephone: The Maiden and Queen of the Underworld
The goddess Persephone, whom the Romans called Proserpina or Cora, was worshipped in two ways, as the Maiden or the Kore (which means “young girl”) and as Queen of the Underworld.
Kore was a slender, beautiful young goddess, associated with symbols of fertility – the pomegranate, grain and corn, as well as the narcissus, the flower that lured her.
As Queen of the Underworld, Persephone is a mature goddess, who reigns over the dead souls, guides the living who visits the underworld, and claims for herself what she wants.
Although Persephone was not one of the twelve Olympians, she was the central figure of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which for two thousands years prior to Christianity was the major religion of the Greeks. In the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Greeks experienced the return or renewal of life after death through Persephone’s annual return from the underworld.
Genealogy and Mythology
Persephone was the only daughter of Demeter and Zeus. Greek mythology is unusually silent about the circumstances of her conception.
In the beginning of the Demeter-Persephone myth, Persephone was a carefree girl who gathered flowers and played with her friends. Then Hades in his chariot suddenly appeared out of a vent in the earth, took the screaming maiden by force and carried her back to the underworld to be his unwilling bride.
Demeter did not accept the situation, left Mt. Olympus, persisted in seeking Persephone’s return, and finally forced Zeus to heed her wishes.
Zeus then dispatched Hermes, the Messenger God, to fetch Persephone.
Hermes arrived in the underworld and found a disconsolate Persephone. But her despair turned to joy when she found that Hermes had come for her and Hades would let her go. Before she left him, however, Hades gave her some pomegranate seeds, which she ate. Then she got into the chariot with Hermes, who took her swiftly to Demeter.
After the reunited mother and daughter had joyfully embraced, Demeter anxiously inquired if she had eaten anything in the underworld. Persephone replied that she had eaten pomegranate seeds – because Hades had forced her “unwillingly, violently” to eat them (which was not true). Demeter accepted the story and the cyclic pattern that followed.
Had Persephone not eaten anything, she would have been fully restored to Demeter. Having eaten the pomegranate seeds, however, she would now spend on-third of the year in the underworld with Hades, and two-thirds of the year in the upper world, with Demeter.
Later, Persephone became Queen of the Underworld. Whenever heroes or heroines of Greek mythology descended to the lower realm, Persephone was there to receive them and be their guide (None found her absent. There was never a sign on the door saying, “Gone Home to Mother”, although the Persephone-Demeter myth says she did so two-thirds of the year).
In the Odyssey, the hero Odysseus (Ulysses) journeyed to the underworld, where Persephone showed him the souls of women of legendary fame. In the myth of Psyche and Eros, Psyche last task was to descend into the underworld with a box for Persephone to fill with beauty ointment for Aphrodite. The last of the Twelve Tasks of Heracles (Hercules) also brought him to Persephone: Heracles had to get her permission to borrow Cerberus, the ferocious three-headed guard dog, which he subdued and put on a leash.
Persephone contended against Aphrodite for the possession of Adonis, the beautiful youth who was loved by both goddesses. Aphrodite had concealed Adonis in a chest and sent him to Persephone for safekeeping. But on opening the chest, the Queen of the Underworld was herself charmed by his beauty, and refused to give him back. Persephone now struggled with another powerful deity for possession of Adonis, as Demeter and Hades once did over her. The dispute was brought before Zeus, who decided that Adonis should spend one-third of the year with Persephone, one-third of the year with Aphrodite, and should be left to himself for the remaining of the year.
Persephone The Archetype
Unlike Hera and Demeter, who represent archetypal patterns that are linked to strong instinctual feelings, Persephone as a personality pattern does not feel that compelling.
If Persephone provides the structure of the personality, it predisposes a woman not to at but to be acted on by others – to be compliant in action and passive in attitude. Persephone the Maiden also allows a woman to seem eternally youthful.
The goddess Persephone had two aspects, as the Kore and as Queen of the Underworld.
This duality is also present as two archetypal patterns. Women can be influenced by one of the two aspects, can grow through one to the other, or can have both the Kore and Queen present in the psyches.
The Kore - the Archetypal Maiden
The Kore was the “nameless maiden”; she represents the young girl who does not know “who she is” and is as yet unaware of her desires or strengths.
Most young women go through a phase of being “the Kore” before they marry or decide on a career. Other women remain the maiden for most of their lives. They are uncommitted to a relationship, to work, or to an educational goal – even though they may, in fact, be in a relationship, have a job, or be in college or even graduate school. Whatever they are doing, it doesn’t seem “for real”. Their attitude is that of the eternal adolescent, indecisive about who or what they want to be when they “grow up”, waiting for something or someone to transform their lives.
Persephone and Demeter represent a common mother-daughter pattern, in which a daughter is too close to a mother to develop an independent sense of herself. The motto for this relationship is “Mother knows best”.
The Persephone daughter wants to please her mother. This desire motivates her to be “a good girl” – obedient, compliant, cautious, and often sheltered or “protected” from experience that carries even the hint of risk.
Although the mother appears to be strong and independent, this appearance is often deceptive. She may foster her daughter’s dependence in order to keep her close. Or she may need her daughter to be an extension of herself, though whom she can live vicariously.
M. Esther Harding, a distinguished Jungian analyst, began her book The Way of All Women by describing the type of woman who is “all things to all men”. This type is the “anima woman” who “adapts herself to his wishes, makes herself beautiful in his eyes, charms him, and pleases him.” She is “not sufficiently aware of herself to be able to give a picture of what her subjective life is like.”
Harding describes the easy with which an “anima woman” receives the projection of a man’s unconscious image of woman (this anima) and unconsciously conforms to the image. Harding describes the thus: “She is like a many-sided crystal which turns automatically without any volition on her part… by this adaptation, first one facet and the another is presented to view and always that facet which best reflects his anima is presented to the gazer".
A Persephone woman’s innate receptivity makes her very malleable. If significant people project an image or expectation onto her, she initially does not resist. It is her pattern to be chameleon-like, to “try on” whatever others expect of her. It is this quality that predisposes her to be an “anima woman”; she unconsciously conforms to what a man wants her to be. With one man, she’s a tennis buff who fits into the country club set; in the next relationship, she’s on the back of his motorcycle as they roar down the highway; she’s a model for the third, who paints her as an innocent ingénue – which she is, to him.
Prior to her abduction, Persephone was a child-woman, unaware of her sexual attractiveness and her beauty. This archetypal combination of sexuality and innocence permeates the Western culture, where the woman who is considered desirable is a sex kitten, a woman with a girl-next-door look posing nude for Playboy Magazine.
A Persephone woman does not need to be young in age or to be sexually inexperienced to lack a sense of herself as a sensual or sexual woman. As long as she is psychologically the Kore, her sexuality is unawakened. Although she likes men to like her, she lacks passion and is probably non-orgasmic.
In Japan, even more than in the Western, the ideal woman resembles Persephone. She is quiet, demure, compliant – she learns that she must never say no directly: she is brought up to avoid disturbing the harmony by disagreeing or being disagreeable. The ideal Japanese woman graciously remains present but in the background, anticipates the needs of men, and outwardly accepts her fate.
Guide to the Underworld
Although Persephone’s first experience with the underworld was as a kidnap victim, she later became Queen of the Underworld, the guide for others who visited there. This aspect of the Persephone archetype develops, as in the myth, as a result of experience and growth.
Symbolically, the underworld can represent deeper layers of the psyche, a place where memories and feelings have been “buried” (the personal unconscious) and where images, patterns, instincts, and feelings that are archetypal and shared by humanity are found (the collective unconscious).
When these areas are explored in analysis, underground images are produced in dreams. The dreamer may be in a basement, often with many corridors and rooms that are sometimes like labyrinths. Or she may find herself in an underground world or a deep cave, where she encounters people, objects, or animals and is awed, afraid, or interested – depending on whether or not she fears this realm in herself.
Persephone the Queen and Guide of the Underworld represents the ability to move back and forth between the ego-based reality of the “real” world and the unconscious or archetypal reality of the psyche. When the Persephone archetype is active, it is possible for a woman to mediate between the two levels and to integrate both into her personality. She may also serve as guide for others who “visit” the underworld in their dreams and fantasies, or may help those who are “abducted” and who lose touch with reality.
In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Hannah Green wrote her autobiographical story of the illness, hospitalisation, and recovery of a sixteen-year-old schizophrenic girl who retreated from reality into the bondage of an imaginary kingdom. Green had to vividly recall her experience in order to write of it. Initially, “the Kingdom of Yr” was her refuge, a fantasy world that had its own “secret calendar”, its own language and characters. But eventually this “underground” world took on a terrifying reality. She became a prisoner in it and could not leave; “she could not see except in outlines, grey against grey, and with no depth, flatly, like a picture.” This girl was an abducted Persephone.
Ex-psychiatric patients, like Persephone, can help guide others through the underworld. I also know several superb therapists who as young women were hospitalised for psychiatric illnesses. They were, for a time, “held captive” by elements in the unconscious, and were out of touch with ordinary reality. Because of their first-hand experience of the depths, and their recovery, they now are especially helpful to others. Such people know their way around in the underworld.
Finally, some people know Persephone the Guide without the experience of being captive Kore. This is true for many therapists who work with dreams and images that arise in the imagination of their patients. They have receptivity to the unconscious without having been held captive there. They intuitively know and are familiar with the underworld realm. Persephone the Guide is part of that person’s psyche, the archetype responsible for the sense of familiarity the person feels when she encounters symbolic language, ritual, madness, visions, or ecstatic mystical experience.
Symbol of spring
Persephone the Kore or “nameless maiden” is familiar to many a woman as the stage of life when she was young, uncertain, and full of possibilities. It was the time when she waited for someone or something to come along to shape her life, before another (any other) archetype became activated and ushered in a different phase. In the seasons of a woman’s life, Persephone represents spring.
Just as spring cyclically follows the fallow period after harvest and the barren months of winter, bringing warmth, more light, and new green growth, so can Persephone become reactivated in women after times of loss and depression. Each time Persephone resurfaces in a woman’s psyche, it is once again possible for her to be receptive to new influences and change.
Persephone is youthfulness, vitality, and the potential for new growth. Women who have Persephone as a part of them may stay receptive to change and young in spirit all their lives.
The receptivity of the Persephone archetype is the quality many women need to cultivate. This is especially so of focused Athena and Artemis, who are in the habit of knowing what they want and acting decisively. They do not do well when they encounter a lack of clarity about how and when to act, or an uncertainty about what has the highest priority. For this, they need to cultivate Persephone’s ability to wait for the situation to change, or for their feelings to become clear.
The ability to be open and flexible (or malleable) that typifies Persephone (at times to a fault) are attributes that Demeter and Hera women often also need to develop, if they are locked into their expectations (Hera) or their conviction that they know best (Demeter).
Placing a positive value on receptivity is the first step in its cultivation. A receptive attitude toward other people can be consciously developed by listening to what others have to say, attempting to see matters from their perspective, and refraining from critical judgments (or prejudices).
A receptive attitude toward one’s own psyche also can be developed. A necessary first step is kindness toward oneself (rather than impatience and self-criticism), especially during periods when a woman feels that se is “lying fallow”. Many women learn that fallow periods can be healing respites that precede a surge of activity or creativity, only after they have learned to accept them as a phase and not a sin.
Cultivating dreams often turns out to be rewarding. An effort to recall and write them down each morning keeps images alive. Insights into their meaning often develop when this is done, as one now remembers dreams and thinks about them. Extrasensory perception can also be developed by many people when they attempt to pick up ESP impressions, and learn to be receptive to images that arise spontaneously in their minds.
The goddess Persephone was a carefree daughter until she was abducted and raped by Hades and was for a time, a powerless, captive, unwilling bride.
Although freed by her mother’s efforts, she ate some pomegranate seeds, which meant that she would spend part of the year above ground with Demeter and part of the time in the underworld with Hades. Only later would she come into her own as Queen and Guide of the Underworld.
Each distinctly different phase of the myth has a corresponding real-life parallel. Like the goddess, Persephone women can evolve through these phases and mature in response to what happens to them. But they can also become stuck in one phase.
Unlike Hera and Demeter, who represent strong instincts that often must be resisted in order for a woman to grow, Persephone influences a woman to be passive and compliant. Thus she is easily dominated by others.
The most formless and indistinct of the seven goddesses, she is characterised by a lack of direction and lack of drive. Of them all, however, she also has the most possible routes for growth.
Identifying with Persephone the Kore
To live as the Kore means being the eternal girls who doesn’t commit herself to anything or anyone, because making a definite choice eliminates other possibilities. Besides, such a woman feels as if she had all the time in the world to make up her mind and thus can wait until something moves her. She lives in Never-Never Land, like Wendy with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, drifting and playing at life.
If she is to grow, she must return to real life. Wendy, of course, made this choice. She said goodbye to Peter and returned through the window into the children’s room she had left long ago, knowing that she now would grow older. The threshold a Persephone woman must cross is psychological one.
To grow, a Persephone woman must learn to both make commitments and live up to them. She has difficulty saying yes and following through with whatever she has agreed to do. Meeting deadlines, finishing school, entering marriage, raising a child, or staying with a job are all hard tasks for someone who wants to play at life. Growth requires that she struggles against indecisiveness, passivity and inertia; she must make up her mind and stay committed when the choice stops being fun.
Between age thirty and forty, reality intrudes on a Persephone woman’s illusion that she is eternally young. She may begin to sense that something is wrong. By the biological clock, she is running out of time to have a child. She may realise that her job has no future, or she may look at herself in a mirror and see that she is growing older. Looking around at her friends, she realises that they have grown up and left her behind. They have husbands and families or are established in careers. What they do really matters to someone else, and in some definite but intangible way they are different from her, because life has affected them and left its mark.
As long as a woman’s attitudes are those of Persephone the Kore, she will either never marry, or she will go through the motions but not make the commitment “for real”. She will resist marriage because she sees it from the archetypal perspective of the maiden, for whom the model of marriage is death.
This view of marriage and husband was quite different from Hera’s contrasting model of marriage as fulfilment and from Hera’s expectation of her husband Zeus as bringer to fulfilment. The Hera woman must know the man and resist entering into a bad marriage by the positive expectations held by the archetype. Otherwise, she will be disillusioned when marriage is not fulfilling.
In marked contrast, the Persephone woman must resist an equally unsubstantiated assumption that marriage is always an abduction or death, to be fought or resented.
Pitfalls for Persephone: Character Flaws
When Persephone was reunited to Demeter, the first question her mother asked her was “Did you eat anything in the underworld?” Persephone replied that she had eaten some pomegranate seeds, and then lied by saying she had done so only because Hades had forced her to. Persephone did what she wanted without disturbing the image her mother had of her.
While giving the impression that she had no control over her fate and therefore could not be held accountable, she actually determined her own fate. By swallowing the seeds, Persephone guaranteed that she would spend part of the time with Hades.
Deviousness, lying, and manipulation are potential character problems for Persephone women. Feeling powerless and dependent on others who are more powerful, they may learn to get what they want indirectly. They may wait for the opportune time to act, or they may use flattery. They may tell only part of the truth or may lie outright rather than directly confront the other person.
Usually Persephone women avoid anger. They do not want people to get mad at them. They feel dependent on the generosity and goodwill of others whom they correctly perceive as more powerful. Therefore, they often treat their mothers, fathers, husbands, employers, and teachers like patrons whose good graces need to be courted.
Narcissism is yet another pitfall for some Persephone women. They may become so anxiously fixed on themselves that they lose their capacity to relate to others. Their thoughts are dominated by self-questions: “How do I look? Am I witty enough? Do I sound intelligent?” And their energy goes into makeup and clothes. Such women spend hours in front of mirrors. People exist only to give them feedback, to provide them with reflecting surfaces in which to see themselves.
In the underworld: psychological illness
During part of the myth, as captive in the underworld, Persephone was a sad maiden who did not eat and did not smile. This phase is analogous to a period of psychological illness through which some Persephone women must go.
A Persephone woman is susceptible to depression when she is dominated and liked by people who keep her bound to them. An unassertive person, she bottles up her anger or differences rather than express them or actively change the situation. Instead, she holds in her negative feelings, and becomes depressed (anger turned inward – which is repression – becomes depression). Feelings of isolation, inadequacy, and self-criticism further contribute to her depression.
When a Persephone becomes depressed, it’s an undramatic, fade-into-the-woodwork depression. Her retiring personality recedes even further, her passivity becomes even greater, and her emotions are inaccessible. She seems wispy and insubstantial. Like Persephone when she was first abducted to the underworld, she doesn’t eat, and she doesn’t have anything to say. Physically as well as psychologically, the insubstantiality becomes more marked over time. Watching a depressed Persephone is like watching a flower fade.
In contrast, a depressed Demeter woman looms large and has a big effect on everyone around her. Before she became depressed, she may have been an energetic, central figure, so there is a dramatic change in her behaviour when she gets depressed – while a Persephone woman was unassuming to begin with, and merely fades away more when she’s depressed.
Moreover, a depressed Demeter makes everyone around her feel guilty, powerless, or angry at the blame she implies. A depressed Persephone, in contrast, doesn’t stir up these feelings in others. Instead, they feel cut off from her. She is the one who feels guilty, blameworthy, and powerless. And often she feels inappropriately guilty for something she said, though, or did. Consequently, a depressed Demeter is an enormous presence in the centre of he household, while a depressed Persephone seems to disappear into the back rooms.
Some Persephones withdraw into a shadowy world of inner images, musings, and imagined life – a world to which only they have access.
A woman may have spent too much time by herself or may have retreated there to get away from an intrusive mother or an abusive father. One of my Persephone patients said: "I had my special places – behind the big brown chair in the corner of the living room, under my tree where the branches touched the ground and hi me from view – where I’d go hide. I spent hours there as a kid, mostly daydreaming, pretending I was anywhere else but in that house with those people”.
Sometimes her preoccupation with her inner world cuts her off from people, and she retreats there whenever the real world seems too difficult or demanding. At some point, however, what was once a sanctuary may become a prison. Like Laura in the Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie, a Persephone woman may become confined in her fantasy world and be unable to come back to ordinary reality.
Withdrawing gradually from realty, some Persephones seem to slip into psychosis. They live in a world full of symbolic imagery and esoteric meaning, and have distorted perceptions of themselves. And sometimes, psychotic illness can serve as a metamorphosis, a way for such women to break out of the limitations and prohibitions that were constricting their lives. By becoming temporarily psychotic, they may gain access to a wider range of feeling and a deeper awareness of themselves.
But psychotics risk being held captive in the underworld. Some Persephone women (like Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet) avoid what is really happening by staying psychotic when reality is too painful. Many others, however, go through the experience with the help of therapy, and learn to grow, assert themselves, and become independent.
After Persephone emerges from the underworld, Hecate was her constant companion. Hecate, Goddess of the Dark Moon and the Crossroads, ruled over the uncanny realms of ghosts and demons, sorcery and magic.
The Persephone woman who emerges from psychotic illness may gain a reflecting discernment that intuits the symbolic meaning of events. When she recovers and returns to the world from the hospital, she often has an awareness of another dimension, which can be symbolised as having Hecate as a companion.
Ways to Grow
To make a commitment, a Persephone woman must wrestle with the Kore in her. She must decide to marry and say yes without mentally crossing her fingers. If she does, marriage may gradually transform her from an eternal girl into a mature woman. If she embarks on a career, she also needs to make a commitment and stay with it, both for her personal growth and in order to succeed.
A Persephone woman may grow beyond Persephone the Kore if she must face life on her own and take care of herself. For many privileged daughters, the first time such independence is possible is after they become divorced. Until then, they have done exactly what was expected of them. They were protected daughters who married suitable young men. They divorce in part because they view marriage as captivity, they were not transformed by marriage; instead, they now find that divorce becomes their rite of passage. Only when they lack someone to do things for them or someone to blame can some Persephone women grow. Necessity becomes the teacher when they have to cope with leaky faucets, bank balances, and the need to work.
A Persephone woman can grow in several different directions that are inherent potentials of the archetype, through the activation of other goddess archetypes, or by developing her animus.
Becoming a Passionate, Sexual Woman
The Persephone woman may be a sexually unresponsive woman who feels either raped or merely compliant when she has sex. Such a woman may say: "A week goes by, and I know he’s annoyed with me about sex;” “I think about recipes when it’s happening”; or "Sometimes, I really do have a headache;" or "I resent sex".
But she may also transform into a sensual, sexy lady. I’ve heard about this transformation happening often in women I’ve seen in my office or in the wives of men who have talked about it with me.
And in fact a sexual initiation that puts a woman in touch with her own sexuality is a potential of the Persephone archetype consistent with mythology. Once Persephone was Queen of the Underworld, she had a connection or a bond with Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty. Persephone may represent the underworld aspect of Aphrodite; Persephone is a more introverted sexuality, or a dormant sexuality. In the mythology, Adonis was loved by both Aphrodite and Persephone. And both goddesses shared the pomegranate as a symbol.
Moreover, Persephone’s acceptance of the pomegranate seeds from Hades meant that she would be voluntarily returning to him. By this act, she ceased being the unwilling bride. She became his wife and Queen of the Underworld, instead of the captive. In real life, sometimes after years of marriage, a Persephone wife may cease feeling that she is a captive of an oppressive, selfish husband to whom she has resentfully stayed married. She feels differently only when she is able to see him as a vulnerable, decent, imperfect man and can appreciate that he loves her. When her perception changes, he may know for the first time in their marriage that she is with him to stay and that she loves him. in this new context of trust and appreciation, she may become orgasmic for the first time and view him as Dionysus the evoker of passion, rather than Hades the captor.
In ancient Greece, Dionysus’s intoxicating spirit moved women to ecstatic sexual heights. He was worshipped in mountain revels by Greek women who would periodically leave their traditional respectable roles, their hearths and homes, to participate in religious orgies. Dionysus transformed them into passionate maenads. And tradition and myth link Hades and Dionysus together: Dionysus was said to sleep in the house of Persephone in the intervals and between his reappearances. The philosopher Heraclitus said: "Hades and Dionysus, for whom they [the women] go mad and rage, are one and the same".
A contemporary Persephone woman can have a parallel “Dionysian” encounter. One woman said: "After I left my husband, I rent out looking for what had been missing in the marriage. I figured a lot of it was me – uptight, well-brought-up, I saw myself as Miss Priss". In a coffeehouse she met a man who became her lover. He was very sensual, and helped her become aware of "nerve endings I never even knew about before".
Uncovering a Capacity for Ecstatic Religious Experience
The archetypal affinity of the goddess Persephone with Hecate and Dionysus may provide a clue to the ecstatic, numinous priestess qualities that some Persephone women develop. They become intoxicated by ritual and feel possessed by a god or goddess. Within Christianity, they may be “charismatics” who “speak in tongues” when the spirit moves them. And today, with the revival of goddess worship, where spiral dances evoke the goddess spirit. Some women who seem ordinary Persephones by day become uncanny Hecates or Dionysian maenads by night.
Developing Potential as Medium or Psychics
As the guide of the mortals who visited the underworld to speak to the shades of the dead, Persephone had a function metaphorically similar to that of mediums who hold séances and allow the spirits of the dead to speak though them. The diffuseness of her personality, with its generalised receptivity and lack of focus, also facilitates receiving ESP. To develop psychic ability, a Persephone woman must transcend her identification with the Kore to find the Persephone-Hecate element that is unafraid of the uncanny, at home in the underworld, and wisely knows when she is at a dangerous crossroad and must seek the safer route.
Becoming a Guide to the Underworld
Once a Persephone woman descends into her own depths, explores the deep realm of the archetypal world, and does not fear returning to re-examine the experience, she can mediate between ordinary and non-ordinary reality. She has had awesome or terrible irrational experiences, visions or hallucinations, or a numinous spiritual encounter.
If she can transmit what she has thus learned, she can become a guide for others. She is a Persephone woman that has descended the underworld and returned from it, and can become a guide-therapist able to teach others how to communicate with the dark world, guiding them through the search of a symbolic meaning and understanding what they find out in it.
From Goddesses in Everywoman by Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. Harper Perennial, The Twentieth Anniversary Edition, 2004
Transcribed by Katiuscia Cancedda, firstname.lastname@example.org
Edited on the web site www.ilcerchiodellaluna.it on October 2011