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The room is mostly empty. A strand of Tibetan prayer flags dangles listlessly from a single thumb tack. The white walls are punctuated with tiny pinhole dots, the last reminders of where posters and photos once lived. A thrift store desk, repainted many years ago, sits empty. The lack of homework and hair scrunchies and change hurriedly deposited there makes it seem even older and somehow smaller.
The offering bowl filled with cleansing herbs floats alone on a sea of beige carpet. The charcoal is lit. A single, curling tendril of smoke rises from the center, and I close the door....
In my last blog post, "Demeter and the Birth of the Holy Child," I explored the connections between the Goddess of Agriculture, the Virgin Mary and the celebration of Christmas. Both Demeter and Mary echo the life-giving qualities of the Mother Goddess. Also, they are both associated with the age-old concept of the Sacred Marriage, the union between Earth and Sky. Demeter was impregnated by Zeus and Mary by Yahweh, both of them sky gods. This essay sheds light on the Sacred Marriage aspects of Gaia and Demeter.
Art by Susan Seddon-Boulet
"In the best known version of the Greek myth, Persephone is dragged down into the underworld by Hades, whose title is 'Pluto.' But in earlier, pre-patriarchal tales, she descends there under her own power, actively seeking to graduate from her virginal naïveté by exploring the intriguing land of shadows. 'Pluto' is derived from the Greek word plutus, meaning 'wealth.' Psychologist James Hillman says this refers to the psyche-building riches available in Pluto's domain. Hades, he says, is the 'giver of nourishment to the soul.'" – Rob Brezsny
I’m writing this during the month of my mother’s birthday, and when I recently read this quote, it made the tale of Persephone and Demeter become mine, and I wanted to explore this new perspective in the context of my relationship with my mother.
I was never taken into the underworld, so the archetype as it is commonly known never really resonated with me, but that changes drastically if it is understood as a willing and self-powered journey of nourishing discovery! I'll be wanting to ponder this tale in its new light (thanks, Rob Brezsny!)
Read on for a personal exploration of the complexity of these roles of mother and daughter in the context of this ancient myth...
None of the Goddess myths portray the intensely emotional mother daughter relationship more than that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone.
Like every good story, there is a beginning, middle and end. It begins with Persephone as the epitome of innocence and beauty, just as every daughter is to her own mother. In the middle is the metaphorical death of Persephone when she is abducted by Hades and descends to the underworld, followed by Demeter’s inconsolable grief. In the end a new way of life is forged; a compromise that serves both daughter and mother....
A Modern Hellenic Tale of Winter Solstice Eve