In the Northern hemisphere Autumn is a time of deep dreaming and inevitable descent. All of the myths say so and the inherent lessening of the light offers solid proof that, lest we try to resist the all-encompassing rhythms of nature, it is time to go down and in.
One of my favorite archetypes of the Autumnal season is that sexy, evocative, and competent, queen of the dead, Persephone. When this time of year rolls around, the sky is moody, the leaves are gathering beneath our feet, the temptation to be humming haunting melodies under our breath is overwhelming (okay, at least for me) and the pending arrival of the ancestors is as palpable on the air as the coming of Winter skies. In the season of Persephone, I become obsessed with all things pomegranate.
I know it is the great queen’s influence. She is there, in the depths of my psyche, whispering to me to pay attention to what is important, to hold reverence for the turning of the seasonal wheel, to slow down and remember. It is not a morbid thing to remember those that have gone before, it is an act of love and recognition of the cyclical nature of life. There is something about staying cognizant of the gateway to death that helps us value the many gifts in life we might otherwise take for granted.
From decades of personal seeking and eons of study in preparation for my classes over the years, I admittedly stand in awe and appreciation of good scholarship on our many beloved ancient archetypes. I have had exceptional gateways open because of a single potent sentence in the scholarship of a dedicated author.
That said with all sincerity, my personal favorite means of getting to know an archetype is direct communion. Sometimes the scholarship is a viable doorway in. Sometimes the portal comes unexpectedly in a dream. Other times life makes it evident that you should seek the council of a given mythic helper lest you be an idiot and deny all the signs. It’s easier to just go when called.
To be honest, I don’t remember what first called me to Persephone specifically, but ever since I started studying archetypal goddesses way back in 1979, I was drawn to what they called the “dark goddesses”. Oooh, sounds foreboding right? Not to me. These were the babes of descent and survival.
Just like the rest of the world, the up and coming current version of a women’s spirituality movement in the United States seemed to shy away from the deeper issues, and gravitate toward all things light and flowery. Not that there’s anything wrong with the verdant world of green goddesses that abide above ground; I am in fact rather fond of many of those goddesses as well. I just lean toward exposing what brings balance and I was deeply interested in the goddesses they weren’t talking about, the ones who had been to hell and back, the keepers of the darker half of the year.
Persephone and her pomegranate seeds had me enthralled. I’m sure it was, in part, my own life story, even at sixteen, that drew my attention to the heroines that had successfully traversed the land of the dead and returned with pearls, or pomegranates seeds, of wisdom.
The thing to know about Persephone is that she is a badass, regardless of the nonsensical light that the post Hellenic myths try to cast her in. She is not a hapless victim. And this is where getting to know an archetype on their own turf comes in handy. Regardless of what the predominant culture says about them, if you meet with them directly they will set you straight about their nature and their duties.
Um, hello!!! Persephone is a psychopomp. That means she is competent at assisting the dead in their times of need and laying to rest their woes. In her version of the story (and there are those who suggest that the Pre-Hellenic version of the Greek myths corroborate this perspective), she was drawn to the underworld of her own volition. There was no predation, familial abduction, or rape about it. She was a girl becoming woman who heard the call of her own soul and followed it. She bravely developed her skills and took her place in the fabric of society in a useful and meaningful way. Badass. I told you.
There is such value in such a mythic map, especially in these times of spiritual amnesia. Not everyone can quiet the unquiet dead and god knows there is real need for such a gift. Anyone who has witnessed the ravages of war can attest to that. Singing over the bones of those who went to their graves unsettled, balming the souls of those who were left behind, these are roles in traditional cultures that keep things neat and tidy, truly healthy, for the generations yet to come.
So when you remember Persephone, ditch the rogue story of her as an unwitting accessory to someone else’s glory. Remember her as the embodiment of grace, power, dignity and purpose that she is. In my experience, if you you sit with her for just a bit, your own true path in life becomes a whole lot clearer.