myth : metaphor
This site was once named for Persephone. It's not now. But
that doesn't mean Persephone doesn't linger here.
Myth is important. I suspect there is some sort of truth
that all mythologies point to. It may be as simple as the
interconnectedness of living things. It may be somethine more
complex, like the nature of the universe beyond what we can
perceive. Knowing isn't important, but thinking about it is.
Myth is metaphor. This Joseph Campbell (I think) quote gets
tossed around my house all the time. It's important to remember.
Myth informs us, not of "reality" or actual events, but of
something deeper. Something both shared and personal. I wish
we had a more current, relevant mythology in modern life.
While plenty of people see their religious beliefs as metaphorical,
most seem to think things like "Christ died and was reborn"
are statements of fact. I contend that the creators of Christianity
never meant that. They meant to speak in the metaphors of
spirituality; the same metaphors that had been used for centuries
before. And if they didn't mean to. Well, they should have.
Christianity is descent mythology.
So, what about Persephone?
What we learn of Persephone (or the Roman Proserpina) in
school makes her a helpless thing, her story the Greeks' "explanation
of seasons". The maiden Kore/Persephone is kidnapped by Death
(Hades). Her protective mother, Demeter, freezes the earth
in protest of the higher (and male) authorities disregard
of Persephone's desires; versions of the story have Zeus,
Demeter's brother and sometime lover, basically selling Persephone
to his younger brother Hades. Persephone breaks unspoken rules
and is forced to cycle between here and there, and the seasons
are her mother's changing emotions. What we learn in school
reduces centuries of evolving religion throughout a diverse
empire into simple, clearcut stories. But then, what we learn
in school does the same thing to Christian, Hindu, Hebrew
myth. Still, even the most reductive version of the myth gives
us a perspective on the power of righteous feminine anger.
The mythology surrounding Persephone, and the possible origins
of those stories, has become a significant part of my life.
That's why I'd call myself a Hellenic pagan, if forced to
identify with any particular group. Though the truth is that
I'm more of a functional atheist.
The Eleusinian Mysteries of Persephone seem to parallel a
number of other descent myths, like those of Isis and Innana.
Again, descent mythology is everywhere - something about going
below, beneath the earth seems to resonate with the whole
idea of death-birth-rebirth. Not to get all goth-girl on you
here, but I think I'm drawn to this death thing. Or, better
still, the death-that-isn't-exactly thing.
There are connections between Persephone and the Gorgons,
between Demeter and Dionysos, and hundreds of other interweavings
of stories. It is also possible that the original (possibly
Minoan) story had Persephone voluntarily becoming the queen
and mother of the dead, creating a split between life (Demeter)
and death (Persephone). For me, this mother and daughter image
is personal and metaphoric enough to serve as a sort of hub
for thinking about life, death, and the spirit.
Most people assume I'm more of a pagan than I am. I'm not
anti-spiritual, but I'm also not religious. I'm essentially
a pagan atheist, if that makes any sense. I have a spiritual
perspective and take inspiration from some ideas of various
mythic and religious traditions, but I see ideas as ideas,
not as truths. It's the one area of thought in which I'm something
of a relativist.
I'm not sure if that all amounts to a cause or an effect
of my attitude towards and research of myth. In any case,
if you're looking for more information about myth and religion,
there's a section devoted to that in my links/exits.