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queen of the underworld, goddess of the harvest, water nymph, abduction of persephone

Persephone - An Intutitive View

Author: Aimee Bova

abova@att.net
http://www.alternative-beauty.com
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Persephone is a Goddess whose history has been
mainly inferred from ancient mythological placement of her as Demeter’s daughter
and Hades wife. She has rarely been addressed outside of the context of her
connection to these two more infamous individuals.



There are many variations in the stories and legends told of Persephone,
according to the cultural viewpoint. The common theme throughout all the
versions however is the abduction of Persephone from the verdant face of the
earth to the nether realm, the dark domain of Hades. The story goes that
Persephone was picking wildflowers (some versions place her in the Eleusinian
fields of ancient Greece), and spied upon a very rare type of narcissus way out
in the distance. Compelled to avail herself of this rare blossom, Persephone
strayed far away from safer surroundings and alone wandered into the field to
gather it. It was at this point that Hades, Lord of the Underworld spied her and
seized the opportunity to whisk her away to his shadowy realm. Some stories
claim that it was her plucking the narcissi that caused the door to open between
worlds and allowed Hades access to her in the first place. As it was, Hades
claimed her as his bride and established her as “Queen of the Underworld”,
sometimes she is called the “Queen of Death” or the “Goddess of Sleep”. It was
purportedly the relationship she had with Hades that apparently granted her
these titles and this “status”. Meanwhile, Demeter, the “Goddess of the Harvest”
who ensured prosperity and abundance on the earth discovered the loss of the her
daughter coming to learn of Hades actions from a water nymph who had witnessed
the whole event. This made Demeter very unhappy and she then appealed to Zeus,
Hades brother for Persephone’s release. I have seen credible accounts of this
story where Zeus has been presented as Demeter’s husband as well as Demeter’s
brother. I cannot state thus far which he was or whether he was both. However,
Zeus could not interfere on her behalf (why, I do not know) but was willing to
offer a compromise. The compromise was if Persephone had taken no food or drink
while in Hades domain she would be free to go, if not, she would have to stay.
Demeter did not like this at all, and Hades knowing the fact that those who
partake while in the realm of death must remain there insured Persephone ate
while in the underworld.



The most popular version of this story relates that Persephone had eaten 6
pomegranate seeds while there and hence had to remain in the underworld for 6
months, while residing upon the earth for the other 6. Now, prior to this
decision of “time sharing” so to speak, Demeter had used her powers to influence
Zeus to cooperate with her. Demeter refused to allow the earth to bear any
fruits as long as Persephone remained with Hades; the earth was thus condemned
as barren, and all its inhabitants were suffering because of lack of food.
Hence, the compromise of Persephone splitting the time she spent between both
worlds.



The obvious symbolism here is the seasonal changes the story represents.
During the fall and winter, Persephone dwelled under ground; during the spring
and summer she re-appeared. Persephone has often been attributed as being the
“Goddess of Spring” and some say that April, the beginning of spring, is the
month of her return. Although I honor the traditional and richly symbolic
versions of this story that I have read, I feel there are other significances
implied.



I think Persephone is alive and living. Perhaps not on the face of this earth
as a persona, but living nonetheless and is a most powerful deity in her own
right. I think she has been underestimated in the typical relegation of her as a
“helpless” victim of Hades who “involuntarily” became the “Queen of the
Underworld”. True that many would argue, “Yes, she was a victim because only
that which was most pure would attract Hades in the first place.” I think not. I
think Persephone was wise in a way like no other of the other Goddesses. She was
thoughtful, connected to the earth, and knowing. It is her mysterious knowledge
which I believe to be most attractive to Hades, not her “innocence”, not her
“ignorance”. I do believe that if I were the God of the Underworld, (a place by
the way all creatures eventually make there way to), then I would most adamantly
want a powerful mate capable of handling both worlds, that of the living as well
as the dead. I think this would require a very unusual individual indeed.




For some unknown reason, despite my usual disinterest in mythologies
Persephone always seemed so familiar to me. So much more real than some abstract
and elusive persona. I began to wonder if she had really been abducted at all. I
began to wonder if in fact Homer, and other “yarn spinners” of the day didn’t in
fact alter the story ever so slightly to conform to the patriarchal structure of
society prevalent in that time. It seems to me that certainly it would be much
more credible for a male dominated society to demonstrate that even in the
“Worlds of the Gods”, males dominated too! In this fashion, as unrelated and
subtle as it seems, it does support an undercurrent of the patriarchal
consciousness during that time. Yes, there were Goddesses of war too, however,
in every one of those stories still there is the pretense of a patriarchal
society.



I think that the mythologies of the Ancient Greeks and Romans go back before
Greco-Roman civilizations existed. I believe that similar to the Bible, the
stories were told and retold, and with each passing century the stories became
adulterated to suit the majority, the reigning power. Even today, anyone who has
ever gone to Italy or Greece can confirm a vestige (maybe more than this…..) of
a still predominantly male oriented culture. And women, aside from rank, talent
or causes fit only in relationship to that. It is most definitely not the other
way around. In other words, it is not the glory of the women for what they are
and what they mean that makes them great, it is the women in relationship to
their male counterparts where their glory lies in society. Still today this is
so.



I meditated on this most “unorthodox” possibility and came to the conclusion
that my perspectives may be valid. My intuition told me that indeed,
Persephone’s legend is an example of interpretations as influenced by society,
culture, and philosophical viewpoints. In ancient history (according to our
timetable…I feel “history” goes a lot farther back than that) the approved
schools of thought were all male oriented. The masculine energy was always
exalted above the feminine. Now I am not a “feminist”, nor a “man-hater”. I am
pointing out that maybe, the myths passed down to us from the “reliable” and
“well-respected” sources of the first millennia were perhaps tainted ever so
slightly by the ruling male powers of the time. Perhaps these legend were handed
down by “masculanists”. Why is that not a word? I wonder…..



In my view, Persephone was a wise woman, a knower of hidden knowledge. I
believe she gleaned her knowledge from the spirits in nature. Plant spirits,
animal spirits, water spirits, all spirits. I believe that Persephone was not
abducted by Hades at all. I think she was well aware of him and had already
encountered him as an energy all ready present in the cycles of change all
creatures experience. Even if the world was ever verdant and green prior to
“Demeter’s Curse” (the catalyst for seasonal changes), still, no flower bloomed
perpetually. Always, there would be a process of change; creatures would be
born, would grow, and renew themselves. I believe also that Hades, like
Persephone exists today as much as then. In my view, Hades is the regenerative
force that governs the renewal part of the process. The period of rest and sleep
all life must go through at some point. I also liken this period of renewal to
what we call death. Yet, it is not death at all, merely a process of change.




Persephone to me represents life and creation, therefore, she could not exist
without Hades nor Hades without her. Each was an equal part of a greater whole.
The dichotomy is that they were each still “whole” yet seemed to express
themselves in contrast to the others focus of activity. To me it seems that in
her embracing of life, she would had to have embraced death, Hades; and vice
versa. So both are part of existence itself; an existence which is ceaselessly
changing, ever in motion. In this light, I feel that contrary to the
“victimized” female she has been portrayed as, she rather went willingly and
knowingly with Hades to the underworld. Establishing herself as the knower of
the whole. In turn, Hades received the promise of life immanent. Their
relationship in my view served to unify both worlds. There was no one greater
than the other here, no one more dominant. There was only one life, one world,
one existence.



From a metaphysical view, I believe Persephone represents the subconscious.
That which lies hidden in the collective consciousness of humanity awaiting its
time to appear. In its proper season, according to spiritual order. I see
Persephone as one who knows the Akasa, the book of life. It is this knowledge
that I believe is the deeper meaning to her title as “Queen of the Underworld”.
It was in her knowing of “self”, the whole self, the shadows as well as the
light, which gave her the inner vision to see what was to come. When one has the
consciousness of oneness, all separations cease to exist. Once can see always
how one thing connects to another, one can accurately predict the effects
according to the cause.



Again, from the mystical perspective she would have had to realize the truth
of nature, the nature of life, the nature of death. In contemplating this on a
more personal level, isn’t there also a Persephone within each of us? The
dweller on the threshold that is aware of all dimensions, yet belongs to none of
them- playing its part in the cosmic play as it needs to unfold. I feel
personally that in becoming aware of our own hidden depths, our own subconscious
storehouse of endless activity, causes, effects and pursuant events we too shall
find the seeds of our future. Just as the seeds Persephone imbibed while in the
underworld served in their own way to determine the future, her future. In this
way, I believe all of us possess seeds. Latent impressions that, given the right
circumstance, are waiting to resurface…in their own time and season. In knowing
our own causes we too could, as Persephone did, become conscious of the whole
and realize that both worlds, in fact all worlds are unified in the only world
there is. The world of existence, the world of spirit and energy.



I also see Persephone as a cosmological figure, representing the evolution of
consciousness. Basic cosmology splits existence into three main areas; life,
death, and afterlife. In Christian terms this equates with earth, hell and
heaven. In eastern terms this equates with Brahma (creation), Shiva (destroyer),
Vishnu (preserver). In fact, basic cosmology really only represents the cyclical
nature of existence in its broadest terms. In this context, I view Persephone as
initially the spirit of “life”, “creation”, “earth”; symbolically I feel this
represents the conscious mind. Then, upon her descent she become familiar with
the aspect of existence called “the underworld”, “hell”, “dissolution”;
symbolizing the awakening of the subconscious, that is, knowing the record of
her existence, the Akasa. Her establishment as the new reigning Queen of the
Underworld, and her ability to move between both worlds fluidly suggests to me a
unique step in development. She was thoroughly aware of the depths, the soul of
her being and had mastered death. She was master of both worlds, working with
the greater order of existence and regulating the seasons as part of the cosmic
plan. She was no longer unconscious, but consciously, subconsciously and now
super-consciously aware from the process of evolution she experienced as
symbolized by her life upon earth, her descent into the netherworld, and her
return as Queen. A being transcendent.



I think I rather like my own intuitional approach to this ancient story. I
feel it provides a deeper meaning to historical mythology, and gives us all
something to think about. Perhaps a way to glean understanding on the mystery of
existence, our own existence, and a life more important and meaningful than it
appears.



Some interesting correlations to
Persephone:




The Poppy- symbolizing sleep, forgetfulness, loss of total memory as
happens when one is not aware of the subconscious.




The Acorn- symbolic of new life that sprouts from a small seed. The
oak tree grows high to the heavens from this seed, yet burrows roots deep under
ground.




The Pomegranate- symbolic in the Bible as a symbol of knowing,
awareness and wisdom. Here too in Persephone’s story it represents eating of the
“tree of knowledge”, the knowledge of good and evil, life and death.




The High Priestess in the Major Arcana- symbolizing the knowing from
within, the knowledge of cause, mysteries. A book is often portrayed in this
tarot card as it represents a knowledge of the Akasa, the record or the book of
life.




The Earth- symbolizes the realm of objectified activity. The medium of
the soul to express on the landscape of time and space.




The Moon- symbolizing feminine mystery. Also, the reflective activity
of the higher mind which the world of appearance both mirrors and veils.




Woman- the great creative force. The life bringer, the bearer of
spirit encased in matter. Representing the thrust of creation.




The Number 2- symbolizing the world of appearance based upon
duality.




The Color Red- symbolic of birth, the blood of life.




The Month October- the beginning of nature’s descent underground; all
life withdraws and retreats.


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