Demeter’s Lament

Then Sunrise kissed my Chrysalis-
And I stood up-and lived-
-Emily Dickinson
900_At the first touch of Winter Summer fades away

At the First Touch of Winter Summer Fades by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

In the Eleusinian Mysteries, the myth of Persephone and Demeter holds the primordial vibration of feminine grounding, the feminine mysteries and initiation. There are many possible teachings that may be transmitted from the heart of this myth to us in our modern context, though essentially it is a rite of passage.

Erich Neumann speaks of the return of Persephone as a return to the Self after being wrenched from the ouroboric connection with The Mother, or matriarchal consciousness. From this perspective we may imagine that somewhere on the inner planes of mythology, Demeter the Earth Mother still wanders the earth lamenting the loss of her daughter- the manifold eruptions and imbalances of Gaia may be viewed as a cry of pain at the loss of the full feminine expression in the world soul. It seems that in our solar world of modernity we are in danger of ripping ourselves from the matrix (related to the Latin word for Mother) of life, and, in severing the organic umbilical cord, we are fashioning an artificial valve of science and technology to fill the void.

The lament of ‘The Mother’ ripples and wails through the land as in our our inner landscapes.

Myths whisper to us from a place of truth beyond our usual human perceptions and offer us a gateway through which we become channels between spirit and the material worlds. They offer us the possibility of transcending cultural conditioning to tap into the roots of who we are, and glimpse our original face in the cosmic mirror.

Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter, so great and deep is her pain that while she grieves no life can flourish, everything withers and dies in the bitter cry of a broken heart. For modern women exploring this myth as a way to wholeness, we can view the story of Demeter and Persephone as both the lament of the Great Mother, and the fracture through the mother-line expressed in relationships between mother and daughter where the connection has become damaged. It may also be viewed as a loss of our own maiden whose essence may be trapped in the unconscious.

Demeter Mourning Persephone

Persephone Lamenting Demeter by Evelyn de Morgan –

And what of the young woman whose mother cannot lament or grieve her loss because of her own ungrieved or unacknowledged lost maiden? In her book Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women, Sylvia Brinton Perera points to this condition when she says,

“Unfortunately, all too many modern women have not been nurtured by the mother in the firs place. Instead, they have grown up in a difficult home of abstract, collective authority- “cut off at the ankles from earth”.

In the instances where the mother-line has been damaged or severed, how do modern women connect or reconnect with their feminine essence, and how can the myth of Persephone guide us in this? For the woman without feminine grounding, a descent to her unconscious and a confrontation with her animus may produce a woman who is overly identified with masculine values and betrays her feminine wisdom, or else a man-pleasing woman who rejects her instinctual feminine needs. On another level, it may be the woman who falls prey to and becomes victim of the dark animus projected out into the world as the abusive or controlling lover.

Kore the maiden, from our contemporary perspective, then, is not always the innocent, undifferentiated daughter still bound by the loving strings of the ouroboric Mother’s apron. She may well be the vulnerable daughter who, without a sense of Self, is more acutely vulnerable to abduction. At puberty this lack of grounding can be particularly dangerous for then she is susceptible to powerful forces outside of herself that seek to claim her…  these forces can be seen in the endless stimulation of technological and media seduction- or in the increasing number of girls who are being diagnosed and labelled with a mental health condition- in this case they are taken by the obscuring effects of  medication.

Kore’s abduction by Hades can be read in many ways- a classic interpretation is that of a rape but from a symbolic perspective it speaks of the first encounter of the young feminine with the animus- her inner man- this is reflected in her outer experience and her first conscious contact with the structures of patriarchy. Whether the maiden is a well loved, well attached daughter of her mother or not, it appears this confrontation with the masculine is inevitable and necessary for psychic growth. But for the girl who never developed a solid foundation, how does she navigate the labyrinth of the unconscious in the grip of a dark animus?

The relationship we have with our own mother and female-line will directly influence our capacity to create and maintain a strong feminine foundation. If our mother is not present to her own feminine nature she is unable to initiate it in us. When this sacred bond is broken the young feminine, left unprotected and vulnerable may be abducted well before puberty, before she has the psychic structures to even make sense of her experiences. How can we heal from these injuries to the feminine nature?  Perera says,

“The process requires both a sacrifice of our identity as spiritual daughters of the patriarchy and a descent into the spirit of the goddess, because so much power and passion of the feminine has been dormant in the underworld- in exile for five thousand years.”

How can we make a conscious descent to reclaim the repressed parts of ourselves towards a state of wholeness?

Drawing on myth, symbolism and archetype and using techniques such as shamanic journeying, dance, breathwork and other embodied practices… by paying attention to dreams and opening to the imaginal realms we can initiate or deepen a process of Self reclamation. If you are called to explore feminine consciousness, women’s initiation and ritual, contact me to find out about up-and-coming events and workshops.

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