Today I’m exploring how the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone can speak to us about healing wounds to the Sacred Feminine. This well-known myth, which I shall tell briefly below, is a story of mother-daughter relationships, of wise-woman guidance, and of the transformational nature of loss and grief as we go through the challenges of life. If you’ve had a traumatic mother- daughter relationship then this myth has guidance for healing this wound.
Demeter is the Greek earth goddess, who presides over fertility, crops, growth, abundance, and the natural cycles of life. She has a perspective of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things, and the natural cycle of eternal return – birth, death, rebirth – as things come into being, live, decay and die, and return to the earth where they nourish new life and the cycle begins all over again.
Her daughter Persephone, who at this stage is known as Kore (the maiden), enjoys a life of light-hearted innocence, basking in her mother’s love, the companionship of her friends, and her pleasure in the beauty of all around her. In her innocent and sensual absorption in life, whilst gathering flowers with her friends, Kore grasps at an exquisite flower, set there as a lure. As she tries to pull up the flower, Hades, god of the underworld appears from the earth in his dark chariot and abducts her into his domain, where the dead reside. As the tale unfolds, it appears Zeus, Persephone’s father and the ultimate god of Olympus, has given permission for Hades to take Persephone as his wife.
When Demeter finds Persephone is missing she rages and despairs, frantically searching for her daughter. Finally Hecate, the wise crone who haunts the crossroads, tells her about the agreement between Zeus and Hades. Demeter, unable to cross into the land of the dead, goes into a rageful depression. She stops all growth and causes a famine until Zeus agrees for her to see her daughter.
Persephone returns to her mother, no longer a maiden but a radiant wife. Demeter halts the famine, and Persephone’s return heralds the new growth of spring. She confesses to having eaten some pomegranate seeds offered to her by Hades, which means the underworld will continue to have a claim on her. Zeus requires her to spend part of her year as Queen of the underworld, and part of it on earth with Demeter.
Together, the two women create the Eleusian mysteries, guiding the people to live peaceful and contented lives by understanding the teachings of their mythic story. Hecate, in compassion for the dead, agrees to take Persephone’s place in the underworld when she is in the earth realm.
So, what does the myth teach us? There’s so much more complexity to this myth than I can offer here. This is just a taste of the wisdom of the second module of my upcoming course Healing the Wounded Sacred Feminine.
The transformational journey of this myth has to do with three aspects of the feminine – the maiden, the mother, and the crone. It’s a journey of healing from traumatic life events – the loss of innocence, the ravaging of unexpected life-changing events, the pain of feeling for all the losses occurring in our lives and on this planet.
It’s a journey of becoming openhearted and resilient through acceptance of life’s losses, and of nurturing life within and without so the cycle of life continues to flow. It’s about death of old ways and beliefs to nourish new beginnings. It’s about honouring the strength of our most innocent, vulnerable parts and transforming from victim of circumstance to radiance, wisdom and compassion through life’s lessons.
It’s about radical acceptance, radical compassion, and the radical wisdom of age, time and experience. And it’s about soul-making: learning how to transition more smoothly from the depths of experience to the surface of everyday life and back again, weaving the cloak of meaning and purpose that comes of deep feeling, wise grieving, and letting life in.
I hope you’ll join me in the course and we’ll explore all of this more deeply.
With you on the journey. – Violet