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Persephone Thesis: Essay Component
"Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries!”
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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 Persephone’s story comes almost entirely through her mother, Demeter, leaving a void where Persephone’s 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 Homer’s 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 story’s 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 cult’s 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 wasn’t 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 Demeter’s 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 Demeter’s 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 man’s 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 Demeter’s 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 Demeter’s 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 cult’s 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 Demeter’s story originated far further back than the recorded Mysteries, even to prehistoric Greece in the form of mother and fertility goddesses.

Charlene Spretnak’s 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 Demeter’s 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 daughter’s absence and withdraws her powers from the world, creating the first winter, until Persephone again resurfaces and spring returns with Demeter’s 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 Persephone’s 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 daughter’s new role is in complete reversal to later versions where Demeter is depicted as completely against Persephone’s descent. While it could be claimed that this is because the situations are very different, consent is still the main point of disparity. Spretnak’s take on the story also focuses largely on Persephone herself, rather than following Demeter like Homer and Ovid’s 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 Ovid’s tales.

Also interesting in Spretnak’s retelling is the details she offers about Persephone’s 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. Spretnak’s 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. Spretnak’s 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 Ovid’s 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, Persephone’s father figure (notably absent in the previous version of the myths), is aware of Hades’ intent but, rather than face Demeter’s 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 Persephone’s 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 Demeter’s anger is so great about her daughter’s abduction, is it really believable that she would abandon it so quickly?

Homer’s 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 Persephone’s Kore persona as innocent, virginal and very little else.

Patriarchy
If we are to trust Spretnak’s 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 that’s all she was?

Homer’s 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 Persephone’s 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 nation’s religion, it seems this transition did not dent her importance. It’s 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 she’d 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 Homer’s 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 Greece’s 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 mother’s 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 husband’s. 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 woman’s 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 mother’s reaction to this abduction. Very little information is given on Hades and Persephone’s 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 Spretnak’s ‘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. It’s the easy alternative, though a curious one.

Modern Persephone
In her book Life’s Daughter/Death’s Bride, Kathie Carlson continually uses words such as ‘force’, ‘trickery’ and ‘deception’ to describe Hades’ attitudes towards Kore, Persephone’s 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 Carlson’s use of Persephone’s 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 didn’t 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 Ovid’s retellings. While Carlson’s 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 Persephone’s adaption to her own situation. Herta Rosenblatt’s 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 Demeter’s own guilt, finishing with comparisons to Clytemnestra and, perhaps more surprisingly, Medea. The end of Medea’s story is highlighted by the unthinkable act of her slaughtering her own children in revenge, so to compare this to Demeter’s 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 Persephone’s games in the fields in the moments before her abduction. This poem appears to be another manifestation of Demeter’s grief, with phrases such as “Your mother watches you break it/ blessing your eagerness”  holding a double meaning. Demeter is blessing Persephone’s 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 Persephone’s 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 Persephone’s 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 Persephone’s 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 couldn’t 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 Demeter’s 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 Persephone’s 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 isn’t 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.

Spretnak’s ‘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 Spretnak’s 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 Persephone’s role to her also gives her a purpose, not only in the underworld but for herself as well: she changes from an object that’s passed around to a figure with real power in her descent to the Underworld. Malcolm’s 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 Greece’s 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 Homer’s ‘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!

Creative Component can be found here: [link]

I feel so dirty. I can't do my footnotes on dA, and it goes against everything I stand for.

SOB.

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. Life’s 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.
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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.
Dolls: [link]

-

I made a small fairytale for my story "Elegon" about how fairies were created.

It's intended to sound like something a mother would tell their daughter at night before bedtime.
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I bet you missed me when I went away. "You’ll come back," you thought. When I didn’t you bit your lip, but you were sure I would make it with time. After the second day, and the day after that, the doubts started to creep in. You caught yourself sucking in a painful breath whenever you saw something of mine lying around. Bits of my life left with you would slither into your sight when you least expected it the same way the memories would swamp you if given the slightest chance.

When days turned into a week, you entered into a hush drunk state: eyes bleary and sore from holding back any semblance of emotion. You were quiet, but not calm. Your hands became tumultuous storms when you'd glance over at our picture, fingers becoming tidal waves as you would toss it onto the bed.  You were tired, but not nearly tired enough to forget.

On its own, you would find your body shaking at the brush of your own fingers across your skin, a reminder of where I touched you last. And then you couldn’t stop yourself. You were tracing every faded trail I ever left on you. Frantic touches. Not the kind lovers share, but touches desperate with need to assure yourself it had been real. As the sensations fall short, you realize nothing you can do could compare. My fingerprints grow fainter. The empty room eats you alive.

Part of you did not give up hope; it clung to your bones, digging its claws deep into the marrow, scarring you. My presence became a ghost. You began to see me at every turn, twirling my hair as I sat on the couch and folding paper on the kitchen floor. You would find yourself littered with paper cuts and memories you kept wishing you could erase. Nothing is the same for you as you try to pluck the hope from you.

Someday, you promise yourself, this won’t happen. Someday, when you find my cereal in the back of your cupboard, your heart wouldn’t stop. Someday if you came across my socks under a pile of dirty laundry, your hands wouldn’t stall. Someday, maybe, someday you would finally get around to throwing away the rest of me. But for now, you’re bitter. For now, you cradle the nonsensical song I used to hum. For now, you still whimper when my alarm clock blares. You rip it from the wall and throw it across the room wishing it would break into a million pieces. Wishing I hadn’t broken you. But I did. I did and it wasn’t fair. But you know I fight dirty.
Soulmates

I see her face when my eyes are closed
She lives in my heart and I in hers
My dark-haired beauty, my soulmate
A lifetime of love; given, accepted
Cherished beyond measure
A love so deep it creates its own space
Where none other dare intrude
A love story for the ages
But some stories are never written
Never put to the pen
For others to marvel and sigh over
To shine through the future as beacons
Of the truth of love
She died before we met
These are the great love stories never written
Lives lived out in the sorrow of the soul
...
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They say words can never hurt you.

Silence does a better job.
Another little thought I've had for a while. Sometimes, the best way to hurt someone's feelings is not to say anythng at all. You don't even have to break a sweat. :shrug:
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Writers paint pictures that painters can't.
Basically something that came up in a conversation about the power of words and it just came up as a pure thought. Unchanged and exact. And I personally believe it.
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Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to 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 well—everywhere 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 citizens—high 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 now—raising the minimum wage, securing a national health plan, and demanding passage of right-to-strike legislation—can 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.
From the FAQ for the Democratic Socialists of America: [link]

So :iconmephistophilez: questioned my decision to stop believing in socialism, especially since I still support the ideals. It was a matter of practicality anyway, not ideology.

From what the Democratic Socialists of America stated about socialism, their brand of socialism sounds both possible and ideal.

Workers co-ops and nationalization of certain industries are already widespread in the social-democratic nations of Europe, so it seems quite possible for America.

So I hope this helps with any questions about socialism.
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He wasn't one to leave Life waiting. Immune as he wasn't to adversity, the man dealt with it swiftly and moved on. Never did his friends see him sad. Looking back on his personal tragedies would stop his flow, and he valued time enough not to kill any of it. As a result, any thought that could lure him into grief was stored on the back of his mind. A cheerful attitude was all the world spotted; a stance he prided himself in actually feeling.

The technique could only be effective for so long. The gloomy thoughts piled up, eventually becoming so many as to opaque the rest of his mind, threatening to take over his mood. Wasting days submerged in sorrow terrified the man. He realized the only way to move forward with Life was to stop entirely. It was time to return to The Room.

***

The man told his friends he’d be unable to attend that evening’s party, arguing that he was going “on a quest to find himself”; an explanation everyone, the man included, rightfully mocked. Once at home, he cut all possible contact with the external world, and came face to face with The Room.

He allowed himself to sigh while still outside, then entered. Knowing the process by heart, he closed the curtains first, and didn't bother turning on the lights, lighting a candle instead. The most embarrassingly sad song he knew of, which existence he wouldn't get caught death acknowledging outside, was now playing at loud volume. Taking off his shoes, the man laid down in the mattress and stared at the ceiling.

A funny occurrence came to him all of a sudden, and just as quick he forcefully ignored it. Optimism had been under the spotlight for too long; misery had a right to voice itself too, and it’d leave him deaf if he silenced it much more. He invited his imagination to turn against him, so the repressed thoughts could be at ease coming out. Once they saw the emotional gate had been opened, slowly but surely they took center stage, and the man’s stay in rock bottom began.

Furious at their imprisonment, his memories selected the worst moments from his past to pollute his present.  Remembrances of friends who turned to be anything but, taking advantage of him then laughing at his face once the truth came out. The man bit his lip. Flashbacks were he failed those who truly valued him; the shame was still there, augmented by facing all these disappointments at once. He began to breathe heavily. It was then his mind brought back the faces of those who he hadn't spent enough time with … and wouldn't be able to anymore.

The man lost it. Agony had settled in, and he couldn't look at himself without also glancing at the sourness of the past. Agitated, he took hold of the pillow, failing to squeeze relief out of it. The memories were going to make him explode. He wondered why he had done this. Why he had let taunted Distress to swallow him whole. Why he hadn't brought a person that didn't think of him as the miserable man he felt like. Closing his eyes briefly, he forced them open immediately. Time had come to see himself in his entirety, with everything that involved. The evening followed its course, as the thoughts kept coming.

* * *

The man didn't know how much time had passed. He didn't think it would take a few minutes to leave that many tears in his pillow, though. Self-awareness was popping up again. The song had now become tiresome. How many times had it looped already? He endured the song for another minute, before he got fed up and turned it off. Taking the gloom to heart and crying some more proved impossible. That’s not to say the memories had vanished, but looking at them now, he found them overacted and needlessly dramatic. His anxiousness now seemed so over the top and absurd, that he laughed for the first time since he had entered The Room; a clear sign that it was now time to leave.

His sadness had been depleted, his emotions drained. After putting out the candle, he turned on the lights, then turned them off, realizing he was leaving. The man put his shoes back on, and stared at the messy bed sheets. “If only the maid knew, she wouldn't be so disgusted cleaning this”. Chuckling, he took a final glance at The Room as a whole. When would he have to come back? Next month, next week, the day after? Whatever the case, by the time he closed the door behind him, it had been enough for today. A look at his watch confirmed there was still time to attend his friends’ party. One shower later, he was ready to attend it. After all, Life moved forward ... and now, so could he.
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    it is 9:36 on a Tuesday night. i don't know if it's still snowing, but i do know it's cold and my palms are covered in a thin layer of sweat. slowly, it eats away at my epidermis like a parasite. soon i will be nothing more than skeletal muscle and a decaying pericardium. i think this is beginning to happen already, this disintegration. it began five minutes and thirty seven seconds ago when i realized two things:
   
    you will never love me.
    i will love you all the same.

    our timelines were never meant to connect, not really. there was just that second-long contact, a chance, a lifetime in my eyes. i keep replaying that moment again and again. i don't remember what you were wearing, how your hair looked, the way your smile looked. no; all i can recall is how your skin felt on your forearm, the sound of a marker against flesh. 
    i realize that that is all we will be: a fleeting smile. a promise to keep in touch. 
    i will never kiss you. i will never get the chance to sweep the hair from your neck, and i will never understand how beautiful you are when it's raining. we will never sing along to my crappy mixed cd's. i will never see you right when you wake up or right before you fall asleep, and you will never know that i think i fell in love with you the moment i saw you, because i love you enough not to tell you.
    blue eyes. i think you looked at the ocean for too long and so it became a part of you.

    someday, you will forget about me, and i will feel it happening; and i will let go, because to love is to let go, is it not? 
.
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"Define yourself in one word."
"Complex"
A person cannot be defined with a single word. That's imposible.
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