PERSEPHONE: Queen of the Underworld
I had every intention of starting this material with another heroine and her lessons in taboo, but Persephone showed up and won’t go away. As she does. ;)
So, hello Persephone!
During our time together, I will give you a brief ‘factual’ overview of our heroines - I say ‘factual’ because there are a billion different versions of every story out there. If you are intrigued by learning more ‘facts’, hit up google, youtube, or amazon. The ‘facts’ are out there, in surplus.
Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. (Their Roman names: Proserpina, Ceres, and Jupiter).
Here is the Wikipedia version of Persephone, a bit bland, not quite as rich, symbolically translated, or romanticized as some others, but covers the facts.
Zeus, it is said, permitted Hades, who was in love with the beautiful Persephone, to abduct her as her mother Demeter was not likely to allow her daughter to go down to Hades. Persephone was gathering flowers with the Oceanids along with Artemis and Athena—the Homeric Hymn says—in a field when Hades came to abduct her, bursting through a cleft in the earth. Demeter, when she found her daughter had disappeared, searched for her all over the earth with Hecate's torches. In most versions she forbids the earth to produce, or she neglects the earth and in the depth of her despair she causes nothing to grow. Helios, the sun, who sees everything, eventually told Demeter what had happened and at length she discovered the place of her abode. Finally, Zeus, pressed by the cries of the hungry people and by the other deities who also heard their anguish, forced Hades to return Persephone.
Hades indeed complied with the request, but first he tricked her, giving her some pomegranate seeds to eat. Persephone was released by Hermes, who had been sent to retrieve her, but because she had tasted food in the underworld, she was obliged to spend a third of each year (the winter months) there, and the remaining part of the year with the gods above.
I will share MY interpretation of our heroine, and invite you to cultivate your own.
Basically, Persephone was fierce AF. She took a traumatizing event that tore her away from her nurturing mother and her innocence, and turned it into triumph. She did not remain a victim, instead she learned to utilize her powers / or developed them for her own advocacy, and became the equal to the lord of the hell realms. She learned how to see in the dark, navigate hell, and evolve into a guide between the darkness and the light, the shadow and the illumination, the fear and the hope - AKA the dualities of life, represented by the Underworld / Upperworld.
Persephone had to rely on herself and her own intuitive and instinctive powers, and she had to make friends with the folks down in hell, AKA the dead. She essentially became her own mother, nurtured herself into an evolved woman, and developed the necessary traits to survive - and thrive - as Queen of Hell. Imagine what it takes to accomplish this? It takes determination, fearlessness, and a willingness to BE IN HELL … which is one of the biggest taboos of our time.
In some way, Persephone had to fall in love with - or at the very least make peace with - the God of Hell in order to survive and thrive in his Underworld, in order to truly be his Queen and RULE the life after death existence that she had down there. She took ownership and worked it. When I translate this to myself, this tells me I must learn how to communicate with, and then fall into deep love with, my ‘inner abductor’.
You have one, too.
Who is our inner abductor? Our own internalized God of the Underworld? The one inside us who throws us under the damn bus every day? The side of us that kidnaps us away from the truth of who we are?
You know how it goes:
Oh, a hot bath sounds so lovely. I’d love to go for a little walk in the forest. What I’d love right now is to sit and write / paint / journal / read / relax. I’ve always wanted to write a book. I’d give anything to go on a lovely holiday …
I mustn’t eat that food / drink that alcohol because it feels so dreadful when I do, and then I’m not my best in life. I wish I didn’t have to go out to coffee / dinner / drinks with so-and-so but I feel like I can’t say no. I really need to get off of my phone and social media, stop scrolling like a zombie and go do something that nourishes my soul …
I have this gorgeous idea for a business / project / way to spend time …
AND THEN THE VOICE JUMPS IN RIGHT FUCKING AWAY and tells you the opposite, all the reasons you deserve to suffer or don’t deserve to live the life you want, and you listen to that voice and eat the food, zombie on your phone, or hijack your pleasure time.
That’s your inner abduction in action.
That’s what keeps you in hell, my friend.
So, let’s just start to notice that voice. Oh hello, inner God of Hell. No wonder I feel like hell half the time. I listen to you, instead of being / doing the thing *I desire*.
I listen to you, Hell-voice, instead of dripping with my desires on the fast track to HEAVEN, or pleasure.
Then, we have the CHOICE to allow the abduction or not. If we don’t allow it, we aren’t abducted. If we do allow it, we aren’t abducted. We’ve just mitigated our own victimization, we are no longer a martyr, and we’ve taken responsibility for our own lives.
The irony here is that when we fall in love with our inner kidnapper, we eventually won’t be kidnapping ourselves because we are living in full awareness of and alignment with the kidnappings. I know, it’s a lot to wrap your brain around. It’s a practice, it’s a ritual, it’s a one-step-at-a-time thing. But it’s a gamechanger. Promise.
A bonus: when we are totally engaged with our inner kidnapper, we become more resilient against being abducted in our relationships with lovers, family, colleagues, and society. We are more vigilant about being TRUE to who we are, and less likely to allow ourselves to shrink, disappear, or be bossed around. These things are essentially the same thing as an abduction of course, because they take us away from the truth of who we are.
Persephone is a perpetual reminder to refrain from playing the victim. Patron saint of triumphant survival, steadfast devotee of her own resilience, and nothing-can-keep-me-down, she shows the way to self-responsibility in the worst of circumstances.
Are you invested in being the victim? The martyr? The Queen of Woe Is Me?
Symbols Of Persephone:
Pomegranates have become the ultimate symbology of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld.
What else do you see in the pomegranate?
Our bodies are literally symbols of the Underworld / Upperworld. What comes to you as you reflect on this?
What’s buried under your skin, in your Underworld? (All the dead stuff? All the stuff you hide, that gets projected onto the world around you?)
What do you show the world, as your Upperworld? (Your smiles? Your love? Your laughter? Your tough warrior?)
What else can you view around you, or within you, as a symbolic representation of above / below?
What are some other symbols of Persephone, or any part of her mythology, that you perceive?
Persephone as the Queen of Taboo
In some ways, Persephone is the Queen of Taboo as well. Because in order to *truly* work with the majesty of our taboos, we have to be able to hold, and digest, the hell realms.
The hell realms are one of the biggest taboos of all, because it’s the junk pile that holds alllllllllll the repressed memories, discarded dreams, wounded pieces, self-abductions, and fears that keep us from being powerful, autonomous af, and happy.
WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO GO THERE. Right? Forbidden. Off limits. Taboo AF. We aren’t supposed to feel the things that are going to eventually empower us. We aren’t supposed to talk about the ways our parents or religions or cultures or friends have hurt us. We aren’t supposed to be ‘negative’ because I mean, Pollyanna. Right?
Do you choose to be Pollyanna or do you choose to be Persephone?
Persephone teaches us that we must love the hell realms, the underworld, inside us. The shadow and pushed down aspects are exactly where we need to go in order to thrive in life.
Our shadows and pushed down aspects? That list is SO LONG for each of us. This list of ‘do nots’ is shaped by our cultures, our religions, our families, our school systems, our friends, and our media.
Take some time to contemplate all the things that you are ‘not supposed to’ talk about, think about, or do.
If you feel called, share your list with our group.
If you give this time and attention, you’ll be shocked by how many there are. And, you’ll call forward some very buried taboos that you didn’t even know you carried. You’ll begin to notice just how much self-expectation and judgement you carry that has been handed down to you as ‘belief’ that you must behave and hide your taboos - and you’ll realize you don’t even ACTUALLY believe these things.
In the tradition of Carl Jung, dream analysis often takes the view of: what if YOU are symbolized by EVERYTHING in your dream?
Let’s take that approach here with the myth of Persephone, (as we will be doing with those to follow).
You are Persephone.
You are Hades, god of Hell.
You are Hell itself.
You are all the dead peeps in Hell.
You are Demeter.
You are Zeus.
You are the pomegranate.
You are the Upperworld.
Sit inside this invitation, and see how the mythology begins to shapeshift, like Persephone herself … and let it shapeshift you.
Write a narrative / photograph / make art about your inner abductor, your hell realms, or anything else that inspires you about this topic.
Your world will open more to Persephone’s treasures if you are able to take time to write in your journal about your revelations.
Be very mindful of your dreams at this time … Persephone likes to reveal herself here.
Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell
Goddesses in Every Woman, by Jean Shinoda Bolen