Persephone Thesis: Essay Component "Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries! __________________________________________________________________
It is generally accepted among historical scholars that the cult of Demeter and Persephone, or Kore, existed in Greece and the surrounding Mediterranean islands long before the traditional Olympian gods became entrenched. Her origins are Cretan . Like Aphrodite, the mother and daughter goddess represent a matriarchal form of fertility worship in the forms of crops and nature, and through this the cycle of birth, growth and death. This myth, however, has taken hold of imaginations from its evolutions into the Eleusinian mysteries of Ancient Greece, to the paintings of Victorian Europe, to today, each with their own distinctive takes and emphases on the story. Perhaps it is the fact that we know so little about the original tale of Persephone the daughter of Demeter, goddess of fertility, snatched away into the unforgiving Underworld that creates such curiosity within us. While we are intrigued by ancient myths, the myth of Persephone appears to hold a special place for women.
Unfortunately, the majority of our knowledge of the myth comes through the poet Homer and, later in the Roman era, Ovid. Both working in the strictly patriarchal world of Ancient Greece and Rome, their depiction of Persephones story comes almost entirely through her mother, Demeter, leaving a void where Persephones personality, story and thoughts should take place. We learn almost nothing about her or her forceful husband, Hades, and it is only recently that authors have begun to focus on Persephone as a character rather than a plot device. To place her character and purpose, however, is difficult. While she may have been worshipped long before the Olympians gods we are familiar with were instated in Greece, very little hard evidence of her nature and purpose survive. It is the prominence of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the Ancient Greek world that reminds us that Persephone must have been important, to have been a figure of worship in a cult that lasted to the Roman empire. This would suggest she was far more than the kidnapped child that Homers Hymn to Demeter makes her out to be.
Using a mixture of traditional and modern sources, I have attempted through this essay to tease out a more contemporary and believable version of Persephone. A modern audience may not feel at ease with the stagnant, Homeric version of Persephone we are given, yet to move back to a pre-Olympian version of the myth and ignore the better known tradition would be counter-productive. Therefore I wished to study both traditional and contemporary models of the Persephone story before creating my own work. This involved looking at the Eleusinian Mysteries and their cult and the few remains of pre-historic Greek religion, right through to feminist views on the story and modern retellings focussing on Persephone herself.
The Eleusinian mysteries Before studying any of the literary criticism and interpretations of the Persephone myth, it is vital to research the storys origins and meanings in their traditional contexts. While it is obvious that the myth still resonates with a modern day audience female writers in particular, a cross section of which I will look at later, are fond of revisiting the themes of the story one cannot ignore the original meanings of the myth, and the cult that grew around it.
The Eleusinian mysteries were one of the most secretive cults to flourish in Ancient Greek society. Because of this strict code of secrecy the cults practices remained completely unknown to those not initiated into them, well into the late Roman period and even then, the accuracy of the information leaked is considered dubious. A few solid facts are known about them, though. Firstly, that their worship was concerned with the fertility goddesses of Demeter and Persephone, and the changing of the seasons and growth of the crops. Secondly, some of the most important figures of Ancient Greek society such as Sophocles joined the cult, which resonated so strongly that people would set forth on pilgrimages to Eleusis from other countries simply to become initiated. Thirdly, the Eleusinian Mysteries were open to any and all people provided they were free of blood guilt the sin of murder and that they spoke Greek. This final point is perhaps the most important, for this inclusion wasnt the sort that ruled the Athenian elections, where all simply meant all male citizens of the polis. The Eleusinian mysteries were open to men, women and even slaves, one of the few perhaps even the only cults that were truly inclusive at the time . Evidence of its appeal through all classes can be seen in the manner of offerings left in the temples of Demeter and Persephone; where other gods such as Zeus, Hera and Athena boasted large marble votives, the majority of offerings to these goddesses temples were made of less expensive terracotta, a more accessible medium used by the lower classes . Perhaps its popularity is what made it important enough that every five years, a procession walked from the cemetery of Athens, the Kerameikos, to nearby Eleusis to commemorate Demeters months of searching for her lost daughter, part of which was known as The Greater Mysteries. These mysteries were not confined to Eleusis either, with evidence in other temples suggesting they were carried out across Greece , and perhaps even further abroad. With the cult as wide spread as it was, and with The Mysteries being carried out at Eleusis for almost two-thousand years and well into the Roman era, we can assume that although the rituals and story may have changed over the years, the worship of Demeter and Persephone carried on much longer than this .
While the Mysteries are presumed to be primarily concerned with the harvest and Demeters blessings on the earth, there is an undeniable undertone that they were also about death and rebirth. Thrice happy those among mortals who, having seen those Mysteries, will go down to Hades; only they can have true life there; for the rest, all there is evil, said Sophocles, strongly suggesting that the rites, and what was seen at them was thought to ensure a blissful afterlife in the Underworld, removing the fear of death from the initiates .
Initiates, regardless of gender, at least temporarily took on names with the feminine ending, implying that to truly understand the seasons and mans place within them, one must look at life through the female perspective . This is a very interesting notion due to the fact that Ancient Greece was a highly patriarchal society where women were required to spend the majority of their time within the house, and within their own quarters of the house. This lends itself to the theory that Demeter and Persephone, much like other goddesses such as Aphrodite, Artemis and Athena, were worshipped long before Ancient Greece became a patriarchal society. I shall expand further on this theory later in this essay.
Returning to the idea of Persephone and Demeters worship primarily focussing on the change of seasons and the harvest, the Mysteries appear to have been a later incarnation of a much older cult. It is possible that the two goddesses always shown as extremely close in all the Persephone myths were not originally linked. Demeter is specifically a Greek name, while Persephone is a variant on the non-Indo-European name Persephonia, implying that she may not have originated in Greece at all. The exact meaning of the name is not agreed upon by scholars, but it is always believed to hold negative or ominous associations which link Persephone to the role of a death goddess, even in pre-Greek tradition . How she became associated with Demeter is unclear, perhaps it was an example of religion merging, but it seems that Persephone usurped the position of Demeters original daughter, the maiden goddess Kore. It is possible that Kore already had associations with death perhaps even spending the barren portion of the year in the underground, as the myth goes and that the integration of the two religions was seamless due to similarities in the roles of the goddesses .
Unfortunately, despite the cults popularity and inclusive nature, loyalty to its strict code of secrecy has left us with very few sources about its practises and the nature of their worship. We are even without an original telling of the Demeter and Persephone myths, although something of their nature can be found in ancient sources such as wall reliefs and vase paintings, and through information passed down by Christian apologists, though this latter source must be examined with caution . It is unknown why the initiates into the Eleusinian Mysteries were said to no longer fear death no doubt there was a form of divine secret that made them feel closer to the goddesses, particularly Persephone but what this may have been and exactly what the initiation ritual their worshippers went though may forever remain a secret to us.
Historical Persephone As previously mentioned, apart from the reliefs and vase-paintings of Persephone, Demeter and Hades, we have been left without an original version of this highly popular myth. This is partially because The Mysteries were so secretive, but also because it is likely that Persephone and Demeters story originated far further back than the recorded Mysteries, even to prehistoric Greece in the form of mother and fertility goddesses.
Charlene Spretnaks 1978 version of the Persephone myth, later re-released in 1992, she claims, is based on what remains of the oral traditions of the myth, pre-Hellenistic and rebuilt around what little evidence has been found. It is a particularly interesting account for us not only because it allegedly adheres to the prehistoric, oral tradition of Persephone, before it was tainted by influence outside of Greece and Sicily, but also because she claims to have not fleshed out the surviving fragments of evidence beyond the word-smithing necessary to weave the facts together . It is a simple myth, in comparison to the Hellenistic versions I shall look at later, and formulaic in nature: Persephone and her mother, Demeter, watched over a winterless world and taught mankind about the plants and agriculture. Persephone notices lost spirits of the dead and questions her mother about their neglect, and we find out that Demeter is the one charged with their care. With her mother concerned about feeding the living, Persephone leaves and descends to the underworld of her own accord, with Demeters blessing. On finding the cavern of the dead, Persephone declares herself Queen over the dead, produces a bowl of pomegranate seeds the food of the dead and initiates (them) into (their) new world . Demeter is distraught at her daughters absence and withdraws her powers from the world, creating the first winter, until Persephone again resurfaces and spring returns with Demeters joy.
There are more than a few noticeable differences between this, pre-Hellenistic take on the myth and the story well known today. There are two in particular I would like to focus on: firstly, that there is no mention of Hades, and secondly that Demeter gives her consent to Persephones choice to rule the dead. While Demeter does mourn and cause winter to fall over the world while Persephone is in the underworld, this expressed permission for her daughters new role is in complete reversal to later versions where Demeter is depicted as completely against Persephones descent. While it could be claimed that this is because the situations are very different, consent is still the main point of disparity. Spretnaks take on the story also focuses largely on Persephone herself, rather than following Demeter like Homer and Ovids Hellenistic and Roman versions. It is briefly mentioned that Demeter searches for her daughter, but it is for her imminent return, not because she has been lost. It is the only version which I have come across in which Persephone is shown as a powerful figure in her own right, still innocent and benevolent but possessing the strength to stand on her own. This version of the myth is also far less complex than any later retelling, lacking the intrigue and adventure elements of a kidnapping and extended search. Both goddesses are benevolent towards humanity a trait typical of fertility goddesses rather than the vengeful figure of Demeter in Homer and Ovids tales.
Also interesting in Spretnaks retelling is the details she offers about Persephones role in the underworld. The other two ancient sources, Homer and Ovid, tell us almost nothing about her time spent with the dead, only that she mourned and fasted until she was tricked or convinced into eating the pomegranate seeds. Spretnaks retelling has an entirely different meaning for the fruit: seen as a fruit of the dead, partially for its colour, it is shown here as part of the ritual in which the dead are reborn:
As each spirit crossed before Her, Persephone embraced the form... She reached for a few of the pomegranate seeds, squeezing them between Her fingers. She painted the forehead with a broad swatch of the red juice
It is without doubt that Persephone, in this scene and story, is the only death deity present. Spretnaks retelling claims that Persephone received and renewed the dead without ever resting or even growing weary. , implying she gained a certain satisfaction from her role as their guide and bringing them forward into a new life. I would argue that this Persephone is a similar version to what would be worshipped in The Mysteries, a strong, guiding figure primed to lead the worthy out of death and into a blissful rebirth, rather than the helpless girl she becomes in later myth.
There is no such figure in either Homer or Ovids versions of the myth. While they differ on details, the points relevant to this essay are essentially the same: Hades saw Persephone, loved her (either with help from Aphrodite or of his own accord), and abducted her through trickery. Zeus, Persephones father figure (notably absent in the previous version of the myths), is aware of Hades intent but, rather than face Demeters wrath, he simply allows the abduction to happen. Demeter neglects her duties to the earth in grief as she searches for her daughter, only to find she is beyond her reach in the underworld. The conflict is solved by Zeus, who not only gave Hades permission to abduct Persephone in the first place, but also has remained aloof to the situation until the end. This ends with Persephones year being divided between her mother and her new husband, and apparent reconciliation between Hades and Demeter. For the myth to follow its original course in any shape or form, this ending is inevitable: Persephone must stay in the underworld for a portion of the year, and Demeter must be appeased enough to restore life to the world when her daughter returns. Those two points are vital for the myth to hold any significance in an Ancient context, yet to a modern audience this almost abrupt, dues ex machina style ending might come up a little short. If Demeters anger is so great about her daughters abduction, is it really believable that she would abandon it so quickly?
Homers version of the myth the official version given by the Eleusinian mysteries concentrates almost entirely on Demeter and her journey while searching for Persephone. Her anger is frequently commented on and, other than her brief interlude as nursemaid for the house of Keleos, her normal maternal nature is hardly mentioned. It appears that the search, rather than Persephone herself, and the deprivation of food from the land is the most important element of the story. Outside of her abduction, Persephone is given very little attention. We learn that she is a maiden, beautiful and modest and very unwilling in her marriage to Hades, but this is about all. Her role as a goddess of the underworld, outside of being married to one, is not referenced at all. Even with her mother at the beginning of the myth, she is not given a specific job or identity. To take this aspect of Kore, the maiden, further we could also say that she is placed among other maiden goddesses in the field. Despite Pallas (Athena) and Artemis being identified, both these goddesses were renowned for being forever virgins, highlighting Persephones Kore persona as innocent, virginal and very little else.
Patriarchy If we are to trust Spretnaks version of the original Persephone myth, even as a guideline, the differences between the peaceful descent into the underworld and the later tales are glaringly obvious. Homer and Ovid are, obviously, writing in a patriarchal society rather than one ruled by mother goddesses.
One theme frequently mentioned in the study of the Persephone myth is that of patriarchy. Ancient Greece, all written records we have of it, is unquestionably a patriarchal society with women at a lower rank. Many historians believe that this was not always the case, and an older, matriarchal religion consisting of female deities such as Aphrodite, Artemis and, of course, Demeter and Persephone existed in a prehistoric society, before the Olympian gods were introduced by invaders from the north . It is believed there were three waves of invasion: The Ionians, the Achaeans and finally the Dorians, and that the patriarchal gods such as Zeus, Poseidon and Hades were brought with them . Much like the Christians did when taking over aboriginal religions, these northern invaders amalgamated the existing goddesses into their own religion, keeping some of their attributes but disempowering them by making them, essentially, more human. Aphrodite became flighty and vain, Artemis practically forgotten and Persephone is changed from a guiding light for the dead into a secondary death god, placed after Hades. This, however, is only taking into account the scant written sources we are left with. Unlike Christianity, there was no set religious text across the Ancient Grecian tradition (or, perhaps, none which have survived), so to take what we see at face value would be to diminish a complex and vast religion. Persephone became a victim of forced marriage and her mother left mourning for her daughter: despite this, both were still revered in their own cult from prehistoric times, through the Roman era and into the Medieval period, before Christianity finally stamped the Eleusinian Mysteries out. Why would a victim of abduction draw such respect that the mysteries were never betrayed, if thats all she was?
Homers version of the Abduction of Persephone, as previously mentioned, has very little to do with Persephone at all, rather focussing on Demeter. While this might have been the official version of the myth commissioned by the cult, it makes very little sense that she was revered as highly as her mother for doing so little. This would imply that Persephones role in the everyday lives of the Ancient Greeks was far more than just a forced-consort role, someone who had been integrated into a system and forgotten. Either Persephone played a far greater role in the Hellenistic versions of the myth than Homer and Ovid let on, or this official version of the myth and not fully encompassing the beliefs of the every-day people. If, indeed, Persephone was pulled into the Olympian family tree simply for reasons of amalgamation and adaptation to an invading nations religion, it seems this transition did not dent her importance. Its likely she was still considered very much a goddess of the death, as was her original role, and whether she was the wife of Hades or not did not matter. She would still complete the role shed always held, such as outlined in the re-telling by Spretnak, and the Mysteries popularity and predominance in ancient Greek culture would prove this.
The Hades and Persephone myth is also often interpreted as a representation of Ancient Greek marriage ceremonies. Arranged marriages were normal in Ancient Greece, with the father of the bride and the husband to be organising the wedding between them. Neither the wife nor daughter are said to have been consulted in the arrangement, much like how in Ovid and Homers versions of Persephone, neither she nor Demeter are approached. The age gap between Persephone and Hades is not so strange in this context either: brides were young in Ancient Greece, and while the average age of marriage was sixteen they could be married as soon as they entered puberty, while the average age for a man to marry was in his thirties. While this may seem strange to a modern audience, the reasoning behind the age difference would have made sense in the context. Girls were married early because it was presumed that at this age, so soon after puberty was upon them, they would still be virgins . Men, however, married later because not only would they be established by their thirties, they would have also finished any military service to their polis-state that might have been expected . A particularly interesting part of the wedding ceremony in Ancient Greece is that, after the official wedding the passing of responsibility of the woman from her father to her new husband she was taken from her home to that of her new partner. Jennifer Powers mentions that this process was mentally painful for the bride but also physical, as the husband grabbed his new wife by the wrists to take her from the house while she said her farewells . When we compare the abduction of Persephone to the Ancient Greek marriage rites, moments such as this do show similarities between the taking of the bride, and the taking of Persephone. I would argue, though, that these similarities were only imposed later, after the Persephone myth was drawn into the canon Olympian pantheon. I feel that to link the traditional Grecian goddess of death, Persephone, to Hades through marriage rather than combing them into one was a smoother transaction for the invading forces, due to gender issues, the abduction situation mirroring a marriage ceremony gives the story greater weight. The primary focus of the myth is on the imposition of the seasons onto the world, and an explanation of death and rebirth rather than the marriage of cultures, although the manner in which the myth changed under Greeces new rulers is quite drastic.
As mentioned previously, before entering the Underworld Persephone is known simply as Kore: a generic title for maiden in Ancient Greece. It is only on entry to the Underworld does she acquire her own name, and through this her own personality and assets, rather than just ones she shares with her mother. When associated with her mother and fertility motifs, it is often difficult to tell the two apart on wall reliefs , however in her role as an Underworld goddess Persephone becomes a completely different creature. While providing a softer side to death, she is also the embodiment of it and the way through it. Hades was the judge of the dead but Persephone, if one goes by the older traditions, was the rebirth afterwards, symbolised by her returning to the earth each spring. This idea follows on from the idea of marriage because in essence, the bride went from her previous, almost genderless existence in the mothers home to a new role as wife to her husband. The marriage ceremony in ancient Greece involved the bride-to-be leaving her childhood belongings at the temple of Hera, symbolising her leaving childhood behind to become a woman and, eventually, mother. Though women in ancient Greece had little power, this change can also be seen in Persephone in her abduction to the underworld. Before this she was a child, Kore, and it is only through marriage and her descent that she become her own person.
As previously mentioned, Persephone has always been a goddess of the underworld, and hence of death. Her very name, when translated, means something similar to Bringer of Destruction, and earliest, pre-Olympian myth tells of her willing descent to the underworld to guide the spirits of the dead. Why has this, more powerful interpretation of the goddess been so comprehensively ignored? Even with the two myths combined say, that Hades abducted Persephone and then she found her purpose in her new life her figure is still one of power, purpose and with a role similar in stature to her new husbands. I would argue this role has been ignored for two reasons: firstly, that we have seen this myth through a predominantly patriarchal history, particularly in the Victorian era; secondly, because feminist interest in the past has focused heavily on the abduction and alleged rape, the intrusion of men upon a womans rights and body, instead of looking beyond this to an image of an adapted Persephone, or if they do they portray the change as a negative experience. I would argue that this is not the case, nor the point of the myth. Rather than the rape portion of the story, the Hellenistic version focuses on the mothers reaction to this abduction. Very little information is given on Hades and Persephones time in the underworld at all. In the original myth, according to Spretnak, There was no mention of rape and even in the Homeric version of the myth, the rape is not mentioned as being a physical rape. The word rape is only used in the context as if she was raped . Certainly it was a distressing time for Persephone both in Spretnaks original myth and the Homeric and Ovid versions both mention her delight on returning home and her fast in the Underworld, and the Hellenistic versions of the tale have her obviously distressed and screaming on being abducted but other than this we are given no information on her conditions or treatment while under Hades roof. While a feared god, unlike his brothers Hades is rarely, if ever, portrayed as cruel or violent: vases and reliefs from the times of the Mysteries show Hades as a devoted consort to Persephone, rather than a malicious ravisher and abductor . Instead this is ignored, favouring instead to portray Hades as a terrible, overbearing rapist and Persephone as largely useless to prevent her own defilement. Its the easy alternative, though a curious one.
Modern Persephone In her book Lifes Daughter/Deaths Bride, Kathie Carlson continually uses words such as force, trickery and deception to describe Hades attitudes towards Kore, Persephones name before her decent to the underworld. Carlson is not subtle in her viewpoint; at every possible moment she uses violent language to describe the interaction between Persephone and Hades. However, to take the view that Persephone was unchanged and continuously fighting her entire underworld ordeal is to take a singular reading of it, a feminist reading which while constantly swelling on the intrusion of men into female relations still paints its leading lady as mostly passive. Persephone, according to Carlson, is not a figure we can look up to, as she was in her original myth and mysteries: she is a victim whose only action is to starve herself. Even Carlsons use of Persephones maiden name, Kore, is disempowering in itself. Kore was a widely used name in Greek mythology, meaning nothing more than maiden or girl. It is a name of no description, distinction, and is used frequently to describe other goddesses or their children. It seems that in their constant rage against the male justified by the rape in this story feminism has run out of things to argue about without giving way. But she didnt want it is the constant thread of their argument, but they refuse to move outside of this notion and this is where they fail to do the myth justice.
The majority of modern retellings on the myth focus on Persephone rather than the traditional viewpoint of Demeter given in Homer and Ovids retellings. While Carlsons text on Persephone largely revolves around the ideas of patriarchy and, towards the end, the evil nature of Hades in his breaching of the mother/daughter bond, at the same time I would argue that studies into the myth are now moving away from this more negative aspect of the story to focus on the relationship between Demeter and Persephone and, finally, on Persephones adaption to her own situation. Herta Rosenblatts Three Poems, featured in The Long Journey Home revolve around the two women: The first of the three, The Dance of the Mother Woman is Demeter centric, looking both at her and comparing her to other mythic women in turn. The poem moves between focussing on Demeter as a good mother, in comparison to figures such as Niobe, Mary and Eve, all of whom are considered good women. It also deals with the possibility of Demeters own guilt, finishing with comparisons to Clytemnestra and, perhaps more surprisingly, Medea. The end of Medeas story is highlighted by the unthinkable act of her slaughtering her own children in revenge, so to compare this to Demeters interactions with Persephone seems quite a step. Rosenblatt is likely using this heavily weighted name as the guilty conscience of a mother who has failed her daughter. Coupled with the second poem of the set, A last game of childhood, this might very well be the case. This second poem focuses on Persephones games in the fields in the moments before her abduction. This poem appears to be another manifestation of Demeters grief, with phrases such as Your mother watches you break it/ blessing your eagerness holding a double meaning. Demeter is blessing Persephones joy in picking flowers but, in hindsight, this can be seen as a blessing for the later abduction.
Were you Weeping takes a completely different approach to the myth, focussing on Persephone in the underworld. The poem is not centred around the typical Persephone myth, rather it focuses on Persephones view of another Underworld myth, that of Orpheus quest to revive his wife. Orpheus wife, Eurydice, was bitten by a snake and descended to the underworld and Orpheus, determined to win her back, travelled down to Hades and Persephones domain and when they refused to release her, he played his lute with such skill that the gods and the dead were reduced to tears as they remembered their lives and the world above them. This is an interesting view to take, as such memories would be particularly painful for Persephone, and one I attempted to incorporate into my own retelling of the myth. The relationship between Persephone and Hades here is not shown as violent or forceful.
"when the dark god appeared, in his glory and power, and, ravished, you died the death of love? Were you weeping, and your hand pressing that of your husband? Were you humming the tune of that spring day and he smiled the smile of remembering: "
Despite the word ravished, one wonders how a woman who has allegedly been raped could treat her husband with such affection. The word love is one very seldom used in the myth of Persephone, save perhaps in popular culture, and I would again like to refer back to the fact that arranged marriages were common in Ancient Greek culture. Perhaps we can read this poem as Persephones acceptance of her marriage, however forced, and adaption to it.
A contemporary re-telling of the Persephone myth, and one that heavily inspired my own take on the tale, is the duo of poems written by River Malcolm. Her blend of Persephone as both victim, and then her change to controlled matriarch of the Underworld acknowledges both the Hellenistic take on the myth, with Persephone abducted against her will, yet also lends itself to the prehistoric take of the tale also. Malcolm does not leave us with a weak Persephone always willing to run home to her mother, she instead transforms Persephone into the queen of the dead who is one with her own powers and duties, and even takes on the mantle herself by choosing to eat the pomegranate seeds.
"It is Hades, my husband, who bids me cease, knowing, as those of my fathers generation do know, that Destiny must be obeyed even by the Gods. "
This is the one published retelling of the myth I have read that has Persephone choose to eat the pomegranate seeds of her own accord, rather than through trickery of naivety. It is a refreshing change to see her with a powerful mindset, not a cowed, frightened girl. The most powerful image for me, however, were the lines Even Cerberus the fierce/ whines when I approach and begs/ for a pat from his mistress hand. . Cerberus was the three-headed hound of the underworld that guarded one of its many gates to prevent the dead from escaping, and was famously captured by Herecles as one of his redemptive feats. For the typically meek figure of Persephone to be commanding such power, I would argue, is an inspiring take on her situation: not only has she adapted to a situation she couldnt prevent, she has embraced it and taken control of it.
In this poem too we find the tensions arising between mother and daughter. The constant repetition of the line And where was my mother seems to say that Persephone partially blames Demeters lack of attention for her plight, for not protecting her from this arranged marriage. Even at the end of the poem, where the focus shifts to Persephones inevitable return to the earth, the tone is jaded as if I could be again the same girl I was ... I, Queen of Death, Lady of Darkness ending with an almost ominous note as Persephone compares herself to seeds of death.
The Critical-Creative Connection For my own piece I found my placement of Persephone a difficult one. Until further investigating the myth and its origins I was highly influenced by the popular version of the Persephone myth, mostly based on the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Popular culture, however, views this rape either as a non-physical one perhaps to make the myth more approachable or one of seduction, and interprets the myth as a story of love rather than kidnapping and separation from the mother. Amateur authors often borrow the plot or themes of the story and apply them to other characters or situations yet these are almost always love stories . While realising the original story was far harsher than these popular, modern versions, the notion that perhaps the myth isnt completely negative was one that stayed with me. I enjoyed the picture of the stronger Persephone that these retellings often portray, rather than the helpless Homeric girl, and knew that this would be the type of Persephone I would emulate in my own reworking of the story.
Spretnaks original telling of the myth, along with the poems by Malcolm were the two key factors in my own portrayal of Persephone. As a heroine, Persephone has so little power in the majority of retellings that Spretnaks image of a strong woman determined to honour the dead was highly appealing to me and something that I wanted to channel into my own work. Restoring Persephones role to her also gives her a purpose, not only in the underworld but for herself as well: she changes from an object thats passed around to a figure with real power in her descent to the Underworld. Malcolms glimpse into a changed, somewhat jaded figure of Persephone gave insight into how one might, realistically, change and adapt into the situation. Her figure of Persephone wanting to stay in the underworld because of the power she has attained was a very interesting take on the popular notion that Persephone stayed because she wished to, rather than because she was forced to. That she might have enjoyed the power, and perhaps the freedom that came with that power, was something I had not thought of before reading this poem.
In my own retelling I have attempted to meld the better known Homeric version of the myth with these modern and traditional retellings. I wished to explore the change from featureless, innocent girl to powerful goddess and wife, a change which has not been the primary focus of other retellings I have read while researching for this essay. Other retellings focus on her before her descent to the underworld or, alternatively, just after her abduction or a long period of time later, after she has adapted. This phase of adaption, as far as I have read, has yet to be addressed.
The story of Persephone has been given many guises since its evolution into the Olympian pantheon, and not all of these have been positive. Until recently, the primary focus for study of her myth has been in her abduction and alleged rape, rather than in the protagonist herself and her relation to the changing world around her. As we find out more about the traditional role of Persephone in pre-historic Greece and discover her true purpose and power, perhaps it will be easier for us to accept that she is not simply a girl who has been uprooted, but also a goddess in her own right who had a significant role in Greeces religion. This is shown through the prominence of her mysteries, that survived even into the Roman era, and while we will never know the full details of what this cult entailed, its popularity and far-reaching significance imply that Persephone, and her mother Demeter, were far more influential than Homers official version of the myth implies. The myth is still popular, taken up by artists over the years and given new meaning and significance as they apply it. Because much of the myth surrounding Persephone and Hades is unmentioned this leaves the story open for interpretation, so perhaps the appeal to a modern audience is that unlike in ancient times there is no, single official version of this myth and that we can interpret it as we see it. While some choose to highlight the patriarchal influence on the text, I feel that we can benefit more through examining Persephone as a character and how she adapts to her changing world and situation, and how she can triumph through this, rather than leave her as a victim. She was abducted, but it is what we do with her after this which is where the real meaning of the myth lies.
So this is half of what I spent my year doing, my thesis. No, I'm not really expecting anyone to read it, but for crying out loud don't steal it. I spent forever on it! Probably a few mistakes still, here and there, but it's submitted now so WHOO!
I feel so dirty. I can't do my footnotes on dA, and it goes against everything I stand for.
I'll pop the bibliography here though, so I don't feel quite so terrible.
Bibliography: - Demeter and Persephone in Ancient Corinth, American School of Classical Studies at Athens. Princeton, New Jersey: 1987. - DOWNING, Chrstine (ed.). The Long Journey Home. Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston: 1994. - ARISTOPHANES. The Frogs, trans. David Barrett. Penguin Books, London: 1964. - BONNARD, André. Greek Civilization From The Iliad To The Parthenon Vol. 1. Macmillan, New York: 1962. - CARLSON, Kathie. Lifes Daughter/ Deaths Bride. Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boston: 1997. - CARTER, Angela. The Bloody Chamber. Vintage, London: 1995. - ELIADE, Mircea. A History of Religious Ideas, trans. Willard R. Trask. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago: 1978. - FLACELIÈRE, Robert. Daily Life in Greece at the Time of Pericles. Harper and Row, New York: 1970. - KNIGHT, W. F. Jackson. Elysion. Rider & Company, London: 1970. - POWERS, Jennifer. "Ancient Greek Marriage.", [link] Jan 5 1999. Online. Accessed August 2009. - SPRETNAK, Charlene. Lost Goddesses of Early Greece. Beacon Press, Boston: 1992. - WITTIG, Monique. Across the Acheron. Peter Owen Publishers, London: 1987. - ZUNTZ, Günther. Persephone. Clarendon Press, Oxford: 1971.
The water was lonely. It ran from river to river, ocean to ocean, alone. Many of the creatures that lived in the water paid it no mind, continuing on with their own life, unaware of the water's. The water decided one day to make itself some companions, someone to flow and keep company with. The water watched many humans at its rivers and oceans and created, what the water called, Ulas based off of the females. Some were made of water while others were made of scales and flesh. The Ulas made the rain and took care of the sea and river life during the day, while they played all night.
One night, the air passed by the river and saw the Ulas playing and dancing along the water. The air suddenly felt lonely, just as the water had. It blew through the lands all alone and decided that it could use companions as well. The wind called them Auras. The air, like the water, designed them as female humans made of air and flowing dresses. The Auras traveled with the wind and their domain was the sky, coloring it with light, clouds, and stars.
The earth saw how the water's Ulas and the air's Auras were and decided that it would make its own, not out of loneliness, but instead to take care of the earth. The earth named them Demetras after an old myth humans used to tell about the earth. The Demetras took care of the earth, tending to the plants, the animals, the soil, anything under the earth's domain.
The fire saw how the water, air, and earth created these "creatures" and wanted to make its own. But the fire wanted them not to be companions or to help the earth, but instead to help bring destruction upon the land. The fire named them Endanas and made them out of fire. The Endana's fire was fueled by hate and contempt, burning out if they didn't have those feelings. The fire sought to use them for destruction upon the land, but upon seeing its creation flutter about gracefully, even though they were filled with spite, they were still gentle beings that were kind and loving to the fire, happy that it had brought them to life.
The fire couldn't bring itself to set them off causing destruction to the earth and instead used them to tend to the volcanoes and to watch over such things as forest fires to prevent them from getting out of hand. The fire realized how lonely it had been, outcast by the other elements because of its destructive powers, and soon allowed the Endanas to lose their hatred, for their fires would always burn bright.
And so the Ulas, Auras, Demetras, and the Endanas all lived peacefully, working hard over their domains. The dragons of the land called them Fadas or Fairies, which remain their name to this day.
A herd of twenty licorn glided out of the surrounding forest, spiral horns and fluffy silvery hides glinting in the moonlight as they clattered across the cobblestone streets. They splashed in and out of a shallow creek that meandered through the front yard of one of stately townhouse, throwing up liquid moonbeams from their flying deer-like hooves. Finally growing weary of their wild games, they broke up into small groups, wandering up the hedge bordered streets to graze on lawn grasses and clover. Suddenly one of the licorn snorted, as a sickly oily odor filled its delicate nostrils. Its mane bristled all the way down its spine as the scent awoke a deep primal fear. Others soon sensed it too and panicked, and the whole herd quickly turned and vanished into the trees as silently as they had appeared.
Lolly Mcclaren's stride slowed as she made her way down the main street of Hogan's Bay. In spite of the balmy evening and the bright festive atmosphere, she felt a cold tingle at the back of her neck. Every step she took, it felt as though glacial eyes were boring into her back, into the very inner depths of her soul.
Lolly jerked her head around causing her PawStar hat to come sailing off. Tucking Pocki, the fussy little pug under one arm, the girl bent down to pick it up, and stiffened when she first saw the gray riding boots standing nearby. Then the gray silken trousers, and then the long trailing end of a gray cloak. Warily, she looked up, but her eyes soon fell on empty air.
Shivering, Lolly stood up and clipped the bow back in place. It's just your imagination playing tricks on you, she told herself firmly. That's all. Nothing to worry about. You haven't done anything wrong, have you? The fairies can't hurt you if you're carrying a Tolken.
Then a voice inside her head said, "It's not your imagination, and it isn't even your Tolken, you pocky-eating, art-thieving, soul-leeching weaboo!"
Her eyes scrunched shut as a barrage of images flashed through her mind--children shrieking and scrambling for dear life as she bounced high on large trampoline, a little red-haired girl looking at her accusingly while cradling a dead kitten, an angry store clerk riffling through her book pack and pockets for stolen Anime merchandise.
"Evening, Miss," said a burring, rather pleasant voice.
Lolly jerked and blinked a few times, and then found herself looking up at a tall, imposing figure dressed in the high cut frock coat and stovepipe hat of a Nye constable.
"Everything all right?" he asked, eyeing her through his dark round spectacles.
Funny how the police around here seemed to dress like characters out a Steampunk fantasy novel.
"Huh? O-oh...Yeah," Lolly stammered, feeling her cheeks flushed beneath her layers of heavy makeup.
The constable placed a reassuring gloved hand on Lolly's shoulder. "Well, there's a lot of spirits around tonight," he said kindly. "But don't worry, they won't hurt you...unless your soul's like dark, damp, vermin-infested basement, which hopefully for your sake, Miss, you don't have ."
"Don't worry," Lolly assured him with a dimple smile. "My soul's so shiny and bright that it attracts unicorns."
Moon Agate Beach (2)
The yellowish-brown dog was now sitting on Kes's feet and leaning its heavy weight against her legs. She made no effort to dislodge the beast, large dogs tended to make her nervous and judging from the official-looking star hanging from its collar, this was a police dog.
Kes wondered if the dog was off-duty or if it was actually helping out the local constables check for kids who were either dangerous intoxicated or high on something potent.
Megaera, on the other hand, seemed blasé about the the huge hairy copper relaxing just a couple feet from her Demonia Combat boots. She sat really still and watched Ellery as she spoke, smoking her steadily diminishing reefer.
Ellery Wilcox had the kind of voice you wanted to listen to--calm, thoughtful, and compelling. She drew you in, and you wanted to catch every word even if the story she was telling probably involved horror that iced over your spine and shriveled up your gods forsaken soul into cold ashes.
Locker no 490 (3)
"Because the middle school was so large," Ellery explained, "it was divided into 3 different 'academies' (6th, 7th, and 8th). 6th grade ( where I was) was housed downstairs while the 8th grade and most of 7th was housed on the second floor.
"The library occupied both stories, and it was on the second story that infamous Locker no 490 was located.
"After Nadine, her burly friend/bodyguard Brenda and a few others in Rm. 105 'persuaded' the Scenes to unblock the door and put everything back in perfect order; Veronica finally told me the story of Locker no 490.
"It was a famous school legend, about as popular as the legends of Bloody Mary, the Tri-cycling Gas Mask Ghost of Sunset Court, and the Skull Headed Collie of Sutter Road.
"I was too busy being a model student and making new friends to pay any attention to local ghost lore.
"According to the legend, the curse started way back in the early 1970's. Back then Curtisville wasn't the gentrified bedroom community it is now. It was mostly a sprawling backwater chiefly consisting of trailers, humbled shacks, ranches, nurseries, and a wrecking yard.
"At that time, Curtisville Middle School wasn't quite as large and luxurious--just 13 classrooms, an auditorium/lunchroom, and a much-smaller library. Every single locker there was long and full-sized, no top and bottom at all. And many a small seventh-grader suffered the indignation of getting crammed into one by the school doofuses.
"In an effort to combat the town's growing image problem and promote better tolerance and understanding, the school decided to host a group of exchange students from Okinawa.
"Things went surprisingly well, despite the language barrier and some cultural differences, perhaps because several reporters including world famous Walter Cronkite commented about this exchange program on the news, and the town's folk didn't want to appear badly with the eye of the world watching them.
"It wasn't until the middle of August that the inexplicable, hideous tragedy of Locker 490 finally came into play.
"The seventh grader who was using the locker was a Japanese student by the name of Marina Yamauchi. She started hearing noises at first--faint rustling and creaking like someone or something was moving around inside. Yet whenever she opened her locker to check, there was nothing unusual to be found. Everything was where it should be, books and binders stacked in proper order, her jacket hanging in one corner, her book bag with her lunch inside lay at the bottom untouched.
"Since there was a maintenance room right near her locker, Marina eventually decided all the strange noises she had been been hearing were due to the janitor working next door.
"The strange sounds continued, and then the weird smells began, as well as the sensation of being watched. It was like someone was standing just a few feet away staring with huge unwavering eyes. Common sense told her that no one could be there; it was impossible for anyone to hide in that cramped narrow space let alone move around without her noticing. Afraid, Marina stopped using her locker altogether and instead, carried her stuff with her everywhere. But even this precaution didn't help, the sensation of being watched persisted, becoming more intense. Now the watcher was coming after her, staring at her with wide unblinking eyes.
"Marina knew that somehow this disturbing experience was connected to that locker. Even though she wasn't a superstitious person, she knew two of the locker numbers--'4' and '9' were considered unlucky in Japan.
"Four was pronounced 'shi,' which was the same pronunciation as 'death,' while nine was pronounced 'ku,' which had the same pronunciation as 'agony' on 'torture.'
"She also noticed when the numbers--'4,' '9,' '0' were added together, they came up with another unlucky number--'13.'
"But even though she desperately needed someone's help, she didn't tell anyone. Even though she wasn't a shy timid person, she wasn't sure people would believe her.
"Plopping down at a cafeteria table with a weary sigh, Marina listlessly picked at her lunch.
"Several of her friends walked up, and the one named Via Nakada, a seventh grader of Hawaiian-Japanese and Nye descent, asked her, 'What's wrong Marina?"
"'Nothing, it's just...' Marina paused. 'It's nothing,' she sighed again.
"Concerned, her friends glanced at each other. This wasn't like Marina, trying to hide her feelings whenever she was upset or sad.
"'No, really Marina, what's wrong?' Via persisted.
"Reluctantly, Marina looked towards her friends before glancing back at Via.
"'I think my locker might be haunted,' she muttered. Then she told the others gathered around the table about the weird things that were happening to her.
"Nobody snickered or laughed, they just stayed silent, giving her weird looks. None of them ever heard about anything paranormal happening at the school before. No mysteriously moving photographs, no overwhelming feeling of dread (unless you count visits to the principle's office and Mystery Meat Day), no wispy apparitions, glowing orbs or unexplained sounds. There was not even a case of unusual death, suicide or sudden insanity.
"Compared to other middle schools, CMS was pretty normal, full of ordinary kids with ordinary preteen problems. It would have still went on being perfectly normal if it hadn't been for that damn locker.
"'But that's impossible!' one girl exclaimed. 'There's no ghosts here! It's probably just your imagination over-reacting.'
"'Well, I think someone's playing a trick on you,' another more reasonable girl said. 'There's some real jerks around here, it must be one of them. You should go to the office and complain.'
"Still others started trading guesses on what the thing was that was haunting Locker 490 might be. Some guessed it was a ghost, while a few (having just seen The Exorcist ) insisted that it was demon.
"In the end, Via offered to trade lockers with Marina, insisting she wasn't afraid of any spook--supernatural or otherwise. "Relieved, Marina quickly agreed, and right after lunch, did the change.
"Things immediately returned to normal, and by the end of August, the events of Locker 490 had receded into the shadowy recesses of Marina's mind, although they weren't completely locked away and forgotten. Then two weeks before Thanksgiving Break, Via just...vanished.
"I stared at Veronica, feeling my eyes grow really wide. "Va...vanished?
"'Yep,' Veronica affirmed with a nod, 'vanished this very same month, right after fourth period. Right in the middle of school rush hour. One minute she was walking towards her new locker to get her gym clothes, the next minute she was gone, the locker door half opened.
"'No one thought it was weird at the time, so many kids left their locker unlocked and sometimes even open when they were chatting with their friends.
"'Later, when the police started interviewing people, some of them told how it was very odd that Via would go off leaving her locker open and unlocked since she worried a lot about theft.
"'A massive search involving hundreds of volunteers and police canvassed the surrounding area. Via's face soon appeared in every newspaper and missing person poster across the country, but not a trace of her was ever discovered. To this very day, her strange disappearance remains unsolved.'
"I took a bite of my Saint Benoît Yogurt as I speculated on this. In the background, I could hear over the sound of rain and wind, Marble Hornets playing again and the faint rustling of cards and clink of 'poker chips.' However, Rm. 105 was emptied of half of its participants , most having gone upstairs to see if they could find any trace of this supposed 'Locker Monster.'
"Maybe she just decided to run away,' I suggested. 'Probably was really unhappy at home, had a lot of arguments with her folks.'
"'No,' Veronica shook her head , 'on the day she disappeared, Via was really upbeat. Had a lot of positive things going on in her life; why should she suddenly leave like that?' Veronica licked the mustard from her fingers before continuing, 'Then there were the creepy noises that people claimed to have heard coming from the locker, as well as this weird perfumey kind of gross smell .'
"'Wut?' I leaned forward. 'What weird smell and noises?'
"'Well, this is where it starts sounding like something out a Stephen King story,' Veronica quietly told me, 'but according to some of the eyewitness accounts, shortly after Via went missing, distant screams were heard coming from inside the locker. There was also a funky smell, and these sticky-sounding footsteps walking away. The sound grew even fainter as if going down some vast unseen hallway, though the locker was narrow and really cramped and people couldn't see anything strange in there.'
"I sat riveted to my seat, goosebumps tingling all over. I suddenly recalled on my few visits to the library how people would always give this one set of lockers wide berth.
"'When the screams and footsteps faded away,' Veronica somberly explained, 'the smell soon disappeared.'
"Suddenly, a brilliant, blinding flash of lightning lit up the entire room and a second later a huge crash of thunder followed. This totally freaked me out and I jerked, immediately flinging myself out of my seat, and then the overhead lights started flickering before going out entirely. Amid the panicked shouts and loud swearing, I heard the door fly open with a crash that shook the walls, then felt a blast of freezing wet cold."
To be continued in The Visitor From Curtisville--Ch. 5--Bad Omens
'Sometimes people wonder where stories come from. A person can tell a story about something so unbelievable, yet so wonderful that it seems real. That's because it is.
I don't wonder about it, though, because I know where stories come from. It's a magical place with thousands of enchanting creatures, beautiful plants, trees as high as sky scrapers and heroic people. Whatever you can think of, it exists there.
Every once in a while, people come to witness all of this. They watch the talking trees, dance with the fairies and feel the heat of a dragon's fire. Eventhough there are many people at the same time, you don't walk into them. No matter how long you stay there, you won't meet any other visitors or even know that they're there.
Stories come to us for a reason. It's because we saw something, met someone or did somewhat unusual things that we remember. We remember them and write them down or tell them to others. That's how stories are born.
It's a place I've visited so many times over the years that I've come to know it by heart. I know every little detail but it still doesn't cease to amaze me. Friends I've made are waiting for my return, things I've started are waiting to get finished and places that are expecting to be discovered soon.
One day you'll know your way around there as well as I do, maybe even better. You'll find friends for life, unexpected journeys are waiting for you and there are many things you've got to do while you're there.
But now it's time for bed.'
'No, I want to know about the adventures. Please daddy, please tell me!' My daughter cried out from her bed. I smiled at her and shook my head. 'Go to sleep and experience them yourself. Go talk to the oldest tree in the universe, go teach the fairies how to dance and go tame a dragon of your own. I'd love to hear about it in the morning '
This is something that I wrote because of something my dad and I were talking about... He used to make up stories for me when I was younger, and I asked him where he got them from, his answer wasn't exactly like this but I gave my own twist on it!
So I hope you like it and I'd love to hear what your thoughts are!
PS Special thanks to my amazing friend =capricordestin for reading, editing and improving this piece! Thank you so much for everything! *hinthint* go check out her gallery people!
When I awoke, Jayy's arms were still threaded tightly round me, but there was another set holding us both. I gently opened my eye to see a strange man. He was smiling softly in his sleep and Jayy's head was nuzzled in the crook of his neck. Instinctively, I huddled closer to Jayy, shutting my eye sharpish as I felt the man stir. 'Wha- James! So that's what Dahvie was shouting about.' There was almost a playful accusation in my brothers next words. 'So, you just decided to climb into my bed?' 'Well, I would of woken you, but you both seemed so peaceful I decided to let you sleep.' The mans voice was soft and gentle. 'By the way, who is she?' 'My baby sister.' I inwardly rolled my eyes as Jayy called me that. 'Baby sister? Sure you don't mean adopted daughter?' Said James with a chuckle. 'Whats the difference?' There was another chuckle. I snuggled closer into Jayy and his arms tightened. 'She's seems very fond of you.' James said. 'Yeah.' murmured Jayy. 'And, you seem fond of her?' James persisted. There was a pause, in which I received a kiss on the top of my head. 'Yes. I am.' he replied. 'Y'know, if she's your baby sister slash adopted daughter, does that make her mine as well?' I heard Jayy sigh. 'Soon enough James. But you'll have to give her time. She's been through a lot. ' Jayy's voice sounded like it was gonna break. 'Hey, hey, shh shh Jayy. She's safe now, you've got her.' I heard a sniffle. 'Yeah.' 'We better get back to sleep. It is about two in the morning.' They both cuddled down as well as closer together, meaning I was sandwiched tightly between them. Strange as it sounds, it wasn't all that bad. I was expecting to having to mentally prepare myself for the whole touching thing, but when James did kiss the top of my head, I didn't freak out. Huh, maybe he was right. Maybe it was the fact Jayy was here. Either way, I soon dropped off again, Jayy gently rubbing my back.
When I awoke, I sat up. Gently climbing out as so not to wake them, I looked back as they moved closer together, James holding Jayy protectively. I smiled and went down the stairs, stumbling a little. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, due to one of my past owners, I am blind in my right eye. Cheers - who was it now? - oh yeah, Samuel! I eventually reached the bottom and found Dahvie in the kitchen, watching the kettle boil. He looked up as I walked in and smiled a tired smile. 'Heya sweetie.' he said softly. 'You alright?' I nodded shyly. I mean, this guy was one of my idols. 'James found his way up there then I assume?' he asked with a chuckle. I nodded again, with a small smile. 'You don't speak much do you?' he commented, slowly coming over. I felt myself tense and forced myself to relax. He stopped in front of me. 'Whats your name?' he asked. 'Roxie.' I said, finally finding my voice. 'Thats a nice name.' he said. I nodded. 'Now, if you're anything like Jayy, you'll be hungry, am I correct?' I was about to say no, set to ignore my hunger like most days, when my stomach decided to give a loud, indignant rumble. Dahvie chuckled as I turned so red that tomato's were jealous. 'Come on, I'll make you some toast.' he said. I nodded, and only slightly flinched as he put a hand on my shoulder to lead me to the table. I gently ran my fingers along the wall, so as I didn't bump into it, and stumbled a little as per usual. I always seemed more steady on my skateboard. I sat on the chair and Dahvie put some bread in the toaster. He then sat in front of me, and began quizzing me. 'Full name?' 'Roxie Avril Griffis,' 'Fav colour?' 'Deep blue.' 'Fav food?' 'Skittles or chocolate digestives.' 'Fav band? Other than us.' 'Black Veil Brides.' 'Fav animal?' 'Snake or Bearded dragon. Oh, and Spiders.' He laughed then. 'Fav BOTDF song?' 'You done goofed or PLUR.' 'Fav member of BVB?' 'You're making me choose? Fine then, Ashley.' 'Whats with your eye?' I froze. My eye, because I can't see out of it, drifts around a lot. I usually hide it under my fringe, but my fringe was somewhere else on my head. 'I-I can't see out of it.' I whispered. 'I'm blind in my right eye.' He raised his eyebrows. 'Why not?' I gulped. 'Promise you won't tell anyone else?' He nodded. 'Is anything to do with why you can't, sorry, Jayy won't let you go home?' I nodded and took a breath. 'When I was seven, my mum died suddenly. My father had died before I was born, and Jayy had left by then. Not wanting to be put in a home, I ran away. I lived on the streets for a while, until I met a man, who promised me shelter and food. Being my naive seven year old self, I followed him blindly. He lied. I was abused in every way possible, and then, when he got sick off me, he... trafficked me to another man. This went on, until I was given to a guy named Samuel. While he was... raping me, he punched me in the eye. Hard. It later turned out he had destroyed the vision in it. I was soon given to another guy cause Samuel didn't want a half blind girl.' I took another breath. 'I told them at the hospital that I was a professional skateboarder, to explain my bruises. I am, but I compete in the disabled tournaments. Jayy only knows I was beaten and raped. He doesn't know about the trafficking or my eye.' I finished, and was ashamed to find tears slipping down my face. A pair of warm arms suddenly enveloped me and I shot across the room instinctively, flattening myself against the wall. 'Hey.' Dahvie came over. 'Sorry. Instinct.' I whimpered. 'It's okay.' he soothed, holding his arms out again. This time I moved towards him and allowed him to hug me gently. His hand gently caressed my curls, my face hidden in his shirt. 'Shh, shh.' he murmured. 'It's alright, no one's gonna hurt you now. Jayy certainly won't let it happen and neither will I.' I sniffled. 'Roxie?! Roxie?!' I heard Jayy's panicked voice calling me. 'She's in here.' called Dahvie, not loosening his hold. Jayy came running in, a terrified expression on his face. 'Roxie!' He ran over and hugged me tight. 'Don't you do that ever again! You never scare me like that again!' 'Sorry Jayy.' I whispered. 'Jayy! You found her yet!' Another's mans voice was calling. 'I've got her James.' Replied Jayy. A man suddenly appeared and I got my first proper look at James. He was about 6'3, with chestnut hair that fell to his waist. His eyes were an emerald green, with flecks of darker green in them. He was toned and strong, the sort of guy who looked like he could lift you with one hand with ease. 'Hi.' He said almost shyly. 'Hi.' I replied just as shyly. He held a hand out, and I took it, gently shaking it. He gave a grin, and held his other arm out, and I moved forward, letting him hug me. I hear what could be classed as a relieved sigh from Jayy. 'Hey!' He suddenly whined. 'I want a hug!' James chuckled. 'No, my turn.' I said childishly, poking my tongue out at Jayy. 'Now now children, I have two arms.' Said James, holding one arm out. Jayy must have come over as I felt a warm body press itself against my back and another arm circle me. I gave a smile. 'Y'know Roxie, you need some new clothes.' Said Jayy suddenly. I looked up at him. 'New clothes?' I repeated the foreign phrase. It sounded vaguely familiar. I think the man who I had met when I was seven had promised me them, but i had never heard the phrase since. 'Yes. I'll call Jeffree. He's good at picking out clothes that suit people.' Said Jayy. 'Are you trying to purposely scare her?' Asked Dahvie, raising his eyebrows. 'Nahh, Jeffree will be all right.' Dismissed Jayy. I merely exchanged glances with Dahvie
Roxie Avril Griffis cannot remember much of her early life. All she knows is that she was happy. Her father may have died before her birth, but for a period her mother and older brother were there by her side. But times change. She's fifteen now. Her mother is dead, and her step-father has shown her nothing but hatred. She had dealt with every abuse in the book. In-fact, her step father isn't even her real step-father, she was merely trafficked onto him. Finally breaking free of the vicious cycle, she runs away and who should she meet, but Jayy Von Monroe? And what happens when, despite her protesting, he takes her to hospital, only to discover that he is her older brother who left those many years ago? And as she discovers so many new, mixed emotions and event in her new life, can this older brother and little sister who haven't seen each other in ten years stay as close as they were when they were younger?
Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democraticallyto meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives. Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as welleverywhere but in the United States. Because of this, many false ideas about socialism have developed in the US. With this pamphlet, we hope to answer some of your questions about socialism.
Doesn't socialism mean that the government will own and run everything?
Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.
Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.
Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.
Democratic socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.
Hasn't socialism been discredited by the collapse of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe?
Socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states. Just because their bureaucratic elites called them "socialist" did not make it so; they also called their regimes "democratic." Democratic socialists always opposed the ruling party-states of those societies, just as we oppose the ruling classes of capitalist societies. We applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc. However, the improvement of people's lives requires real democracy without ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism. Democratic socialists will continue to play a key role in that struggle throughout the world. Moreover, the fall of Communism should not blind us to injustices at home. We cannot allow all radicalism to be dismissed as "Communist." That suppression of dissent and diversity undermines America's ability to live up to its promise of equality of opportunity, not to mention the freedoms of speech and assembly.
Private corporations seem to be a permanent fixture in the US, so why work towards socialism?
In the short term we can't eliminate private corporations, but we can bring them under greater democratic control. The government could use regulations and tax incentives to encourage companies to act in the public interest and outlaw destructive activities such as exporting jobs to low-wage countries and polluting our environment. Public pressure can also have a critical role to play in the struggle to hold corporations accountable. Most of all, socialists look to unions make private business more accountable.
Won't socialism be impractical because people will lose their incentive to work?
We don't agree with the capitalist assumption that starvation or greed are the only reasons people work. People enjoy their work if it is meaningful and enhances their lives. They work out of a sense of responsibility to their community and society. Although a long-term goal of socialism is to eliminate all but the most enjoyable kinds of labor, we recognize that unappealing jobs will long remain. These tasks would be spread among as many people as possible rather than distributed on the basis of class, race, ethnicity, or gender, as they are under capitalism. And this undesirable work should be among the best, not the least, rewarded work within the economy. For now, the burden should be placed on the employer to make work desirable by raising wages, offering benefits and improving the work environment. In short, we believe that a combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work.
Why are there no models of democratic socialism?
Although no country has fully instituted democratic socialism, the socialist parties and labor movements of other countries have won many victories for their people. We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada's national health care system, France's nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua's literacy programs. Lastly, we can learn from efforts initiated right here in the US, such as the community health centers created by the government in the 1960s. They provided high quality family care, with community involvement in decision-making.
But hasn't the European Social Democratic experiment failed?
For over half a century, a number of nations in Western Europe and Scandinavia have enjoyed both tremendous prosperity and relative economic equality thanks to the policies pursued by social democratic parties. These nations used their relative wealth to insure a high standard of living for their citizenshigh wages, health care and subsidized education. Most importantly, social democratic parties supported strong labor movements that became central players in economic decision-making. But with the globalization of capitalism, the old social democratic model becomes ever harder to maintain. Stiff competition from low-wage labor markets in developing countries and the constant fear that industry will move to avoid taxes and strong labor regulations has diminished (but not eliminated) the ability of nations to launch ambitious economic reform on their own. Social democratic reform must now happen at the international level. Multinational corporations must be brought under democratic controls, and workers' organizing efforts must reach across borders.
Now, more than ever, socialism is an international movement. As socialists have always known, the welfare of working people in Finland or California depends largely on standards in Italy or Indonesia. As a result, we must work towards reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must fight for a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses.
Aren't you a party that's in competition with the Democratic Party for votes and support?
No, we are not a separate party. Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party's left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts. Winner-take-all elections instead of proportional representation, rigorous party qualification requirements that vary from state to state, a presidential instead of a parliamentary system, and the two-party monopoly on political power have doomed third party efforts. We hope that at some point in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.
If I am going to devote time to politics, why shouldn't I focus on something more immediate?
Although capitalism will be with us for a long time, reforms we win nowraising the minimum wage, securing a national health plan, and demanding passage of right-to-strike legislationcan bring us closer to socialism. Many democratic socialists actively work in the single-issue organizations that advocate for those reforms. We are visible in the reproductive freedom movement, the fight for student aid, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered organizations, anti-racist groups, and the labor movement.
It is precisely our socialist vision that informs and inspires our day-to-day activism for social justice. As socialists we bring a sense of the interdependence of all struggles for justice. No single-issue organization can truly challenge the capitalist system or adequately secure its particular demands. In fact, unless we are all collectively working to win a world without oppression, each fight for reforms will be disconnected, maybe even self-defeating.
What can young people do to move the US towards socialism?
Since the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s, young people have played a critical role in American politics. They have been a tremendous force for both political and cultural change in this country: in limiting the US's options in the war in Vietnam, in forcing corporations to divest from the racist South African regime, in reforming universities, and in bringing issues of sexual orientation and gender discrimination to public attention. Though none of these struggles were fought by young people alone, they all featured youth as leaders in multi-generational progressive coalitions. Young people are needed in today's struggles as well: for universal health care and stronger unions, against welfare cuts and predatory multinational corporations.
Schools, colleges and universities are important to American political culture. They are the places where ideas are formulated and policy discussed and developed. Being an active part of that discussion is a critical job for young socialists. We have to work hard to change people's misconceptions about socialism, to broaden political debate, and to overcome many students' lack of interest in engaging in political action. Off-campus, too, in our daily cultural lives, young people can be turning the tide against racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as the conservative myth of the virtue of "free" markets.
If so many people misunderstand socialism, why continue to use the word?
First, we call ourselves socialists because we are proud of what we are. Second, no matter what we call ourselves, conservatives will use it against us. Anti-socialism has been repeatedly used to attack reforms that shift power to working class people and away from corporate capital. In 1993, national health insurance was attacked as "socialized medicine" and defeated. Liberals are routinely denounced as socialists in order to discredit reform. Until we face, and beat, the stigma attached to the "S word," politics in America will continue to be stifled and our options limited. We also call ourselves socialists because we are proud of the traditions upon which we are based, of the heritage of the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, and of other struggles for change that have made America more democratic and just. Finally, we call ourselves socialists to remind everyone that we have a vision of a better world.
Faeries alight upon the 'shrooms Gossamer wings glow under the moon Delicate laughter tickles the ear Creatures of magic start to draw near Hush watch the fairytales of old come alive Who on children's imaginations they've thrived The moon is full they start to dance Enchantments lull you into a trance The sun gives the horizon a gentle kiss As they disperse, you know you'll miss The faeries alight upon the 'shrooms With gossamer wings that glow under the moon
I pixelate Icarus to forfeit my counterproductivity. Who needs rose tinted glasses when you have glazed eyes enamelled sighs and sugarcoated insomnia. I long for movie tomorrows instead of these xylophonic beclazone dreams. I want to saturate the grey matter into technicolour without a hint of remorse. I want to play the undersleeper, pinning back my eyelids with the idiolect of those I'd like to know better. Do you want to hear my mind vomit or should I just turn the page and start again...?