” Beyond memory, there are all the stories yet to come.”
Myths are fluid and organic, they are in effect living entities that accompany and work with our collective soul throughout time. They lead us to the essence of ourselves and help us to understand our place in the cosmos- they bring meaning to our life. They are continually being reborn, reinventing themselves to fit our cultural condition and our need for sacred connection- they adapt to our collective psyche to penetrate the thinking mind that sometimes loses the ability for sacred connection and dulls our experience.
Myths are like our spiritual teachers from beyond time and space, able to don any suitable guise that we may recognize as a wink or a nod from the other side, and yet tangible and familiar enough to relate to. Myths are also tricksters, they can lull us into a false sense of security- just when think we know them, they turn on us, presenting new and possibly dangerous insights.
What gift can the Eleusinian Mysteries offer us in our contemporary culture that seems largely bereft of spiritual significance and has long since seen the last flicker of a distant past when ceremony, ritual and initiation were accepted as necessary for healthy individuals and communities?
What of Kore, fair and innocent maiden playing in the fields with care-free abandon when suddenly the earth opens beneath her and she is taken into the kingdom of Hades against her will?
What can this mean in a modern context?
And of Demeter, the lamenting mother who can neither rest nor give the gift of life to anything whilst her beloved daughter remains captive by the Dark Lord?
What happens to Kore during her time beneath the earth- she is gone for 6 months – and why can she never return to the earth indefinitely but must remain 6 months of the year in the underworld with her husband? And why, upon her return, is the change so astonishing that forevermore she is known as Persephone, Queen of the Underworld?
What does this myth have to teach us about feminine consciousness today? Is the myth of Persephone an abduction story, a rape, or is it a profound confrontation with the unconscious that leads to self-actualization and an inner marriage with the animus? Jungian Erich Neumann says, “Woman wants to be gripped and moved. At a spiritual and emotional level this means realization, actualization.” The story of Persephone contains all the hallmarks of a descent into the unconscious to bring to light and integrate previously hidden material. It is also a puberty rite of passage and a menstrual myth.
You might meet Persephone in the supermarket, the woman at the check-out returning to work after a bout of post-natal depression, or the woman who has finally got herself off of medication that for years masked childhood wounds that she was never able to bear, and who is now ready to reclaim herself. She could be the woman who finally finds what it takes to get the career that she has always wanted and yet never had the confidence to go after, or the artist who has sold her first painting. We all have a Persephone story.
In joining together dark and light, conscious and unconscious, the feminine is no longer the unconscious principle merged with the matriarchal ouroboric but is a differentiated self-sovereign being.
For modern women who are often cut off from their instinctual selves, a descent into the dark realms, Hades, or the unconscious provides an initiatory experience in which she can reclaim the lost or unacknowledged parts of herself to become whole. This could translate as a shamanic soul retrieval to find and integrate parts of the self that became dissociated- a rescuing of the Lost Maiden archetype. It could also be rite a passage- a stepping over the threshold into womanhood, releasing any infantile or arrested attachments that keep us stuck in a loop of dependency and approval form others. In effect, the myth of Persephone may be adapted to serve any psychic integration that the soul is ready to receive.
It could also herald a confrontation with the animus, the inner male that lays dormant in the psyche of women and is her collective experience of the masculine beginning with her father and subsequent male authority figures, teachers, lovers, brothers, and friends. She may have a positive or negative animus but until she integrates her own sovereign male principle, she will continue to project it onto the men whom she encounters in her life not realizing that what she seeks is within.
A radical confrontation with the inner man, acceptance of his presence, and ownership of his gifts and qualities can affect deep transformation in a woman where she is no longer dependent on an outer man to take care of traditionally masculine roles. As an integrated woman, she may now consciously welcome the masculine into her life as an equal enjoying the essential differences and creative potential of an outer marriage, or hieros gamos– but only when she has acknowledged and accepted her own masculine, or solar power.
You see, the myth of Persephone has many possible meanings for the modern woman, how a woman chooses to let the myth move in her may change over time. With shamanic journeying and tapping into altered, or non-ordinary states of consciousness, a woman may discover the gift of the myth waiting to be received.