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.

in this section
about a site
about a girl
about a myth


about the site wicked thoughts edge of the season arts links we have brains