Mothers & Daughters: The Myths We Live By | Mount Holyoke College
"The primary relationship between women is the relationship of mother and daughter The mother-daughter dynamic through three views: personal, feminist , archetypal . help us reframe our emotional connection to our personal mothers . Perhaps we feel closer to Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. In her book, Understanding the Borderline Mother: Helping her Children by her father Cronus and is never exposed to a proper mother/daughter relationship. The marriage between Zeus and Hera occurred on top of a mountain, Mt. Kithaeron The myth of the divine mother and daughter, Demeter and Persephone, is told in .. I am that Demeter who has share of honour and is the greatest help and.
Persephone is abducted and taken down to the Underworld to become Hades' wife and, eventually, the magnificent Queen of the Underworld. In one of the main versions of the myth, Persephone is not only abducted, but also raped by Hades. Meanwhile, Demeter is left on earth, searching desperately for her daughter.
Mothers & Daughters: The Myths We Live By
She cannot find her anywhere and begins to wander the earth, until she reaches the town of Eleusis. Old and desperate, she is taken in by some parents. She helps to care for their son and to return their favor, she puts the child in the fire each night, to make him immortal. Horrified, the parents ask her to leave and she fiercely threatens them.
To spare their life, they agree to Demeter to build her at temple.
Mother and Daughter: Demeter and Persephone — Owl & Crow
From her newly built temple, Demeter hides and allows the beautiful plants and growing things to die. Everything withers in her sorrow and rage for the loss of her daughter.
Winter, death, and famine descend upon the land. The humans are starving, until finally the gods intervene.
Hermes is sent to the Underworld to bring Persephone home to her mother. However, upon his arrival to the land of the dead, he is amazed not to find a weepy sorrowful daughter, but instead a radiant and glowing Queen. She loves her new home and is helping the spirits of the dead cross over.
Hermes requests her to return and Persephone is torn. Finally, Hades gifts Persephone six pomegranate seeds, the food of the dead. She eats them and returns to her mother, Demeter. Demeter is so overwhelmed with joy and exuberant love that spring begins to blossom in Persephone's return. However, because her daughter has eaten the six seeds, she must return to Hades each fall.
During this time of lament, Demeter again causes the earth to wither and die and be reborn in Persephone's arrival come spring bringing with her the renewal of hope, harmony, and beauty.
When I first heard this story in sixth grade I was immediately intrigued. I loved the explanation of the seasons, and there was something alluring about Persephone's descent. Eating the seeds of the dead and having to return each year made sense to me, in a deep, archetypal way. Similarly, my own eleven-year-old daughter is fascinated with the story I leave out the rape version and also, with the eating of these seeds; this ingesting of something that connects you to a place this is mysterious, unseen, forbidden even.
The word "Hades" means "unseen," as well as "death" and "abode of the dead. Only later in history does Hades become personified as a dark, alluring, handsome, and destructive man who seduces, abducts, or rapes Persephone, depending on the version. As myths communicate on several levels at once, Hades can also be seen as the dark times in our lives, initiations perhaps when we are dragged into the Underworld against our conscious will.
In this way, innocence is lost and we enter the dark night of the soul. This may be in the form of any kind of loss, grief, or deep pain. In the particularly sensitive passage from girlhood to womanhood, when girls enter puberty, this loss of innocence is so often connected to sexuality and exploring that, being subjected to it, or seeking out validation. In Thomas Moore's examination of the myth he suggests that Hades is the dark subterranean undercurrents that our children, our daughters, are drawn to or fascinated by.
Whether we chose to participate or not, certainly we can all remember the strange allure of illegal activities, forbidden films, sexual encounters, drugs, and other mind altering experiences. In more ancient versions of this myth, long before it became the Rape of Persephone, Persephone chooses from her own willingness to enter the Underworld.
According to Charlene Spretnak's research, " In her reclaimed version of the Persephone and Demeter myth, Spretnak offers the new-old perspective in which Persephone willingly and determinedly descends to the Underworld in a yearning to help earth-bound spirits cross over to the light.
Persephone as Dark Mother As we peer even further into the twilight of ancient history, we find the Persephone's role as the Queen of the Underworld is far less the story of a young maiden, and much more a powerful, fierce, fearsome even Goddess of death, dissolution, and rebirth.
In this way, Persephone is akin to the dark mother archetype found in other cultures such as Ereshkigal, Inanna's dark sister of the underworld, or Kali, the fearsome yet benevolent goddess archetype of India who both devours flesh and yet also grants boons to her devotees.
Kali spends her time in charnel grounds, intimately connected with the dead. Is it possible that a more ancient version of Persephone was the ruler of the Dead, in equal nature as Demeter? In Homer's Iliad, Persephone is "grim," and in the Odyssey, she is "dread" or the "awesome one. Persephone is not necessarily such an innocent Maiden after all, but instead a complex feminine archetype.
And her abduction by Hades may have a much deeper meaning, one that indicates a more shamanic story behind the myth. If we are to view Hades not as just a Greek lord, but instead as Death itself, loss of ego, dissolution—the shamanic perspective—we find new ways to relate to this myth and bring it into the contemporary connection in our own lives.
Myths are not only stories, but reflections of societal shifts and changes. As the ancient story of Persephone and Demeter passed down through the ages, Spretnak suggests that "evidence indicates that this twist to the story was added after the societal shift from matrifocal to patriarchal The Grieving of Demeter After Persephone enters the Underworld, whether by force or by choice, the loss of her daughter evokes such profound grief within her mother Demeter's heart.
This depth of experience was central to the Thesamorphia, an ancient woman's grieving ritual inspired by the story of Demeter and Persephone. Later, it is believed that in the memory of her sorrow Demeter herself established the Eleusinian mysteries to bring the central connection to death and life to the initiates.
Sorrow is the winter of the heart; the death of something that we love dearly. True loss is both stark in its reality, knowing that a beloved person or time will never return and never happen again.
Professor of religious studies Christine Downing recounts, "All of us who are mothers know After the profound loss of my first daughter, who stopped breathing a few days after birth, I felt completely numb for an entire year. I recall being in Kathamndu, Nepal, in a shell-shocked state, unable to sleep for weeks.
I watched a woman next door dressed in complete black slowly chopping down the dead grass with a small scythe. This repetitive motion was like the song in my heart at that time, forlorn in the wake of death and loss.
After a year, there was a natural turning, when the grieving, as if some mysterious time clock ticked over into a new phase and the sorrow made way for beauty and rebirth. In the myth we also see that Demeter attempts to turn her mothering instinct toward the baby boy, tending to him and also putting him in the fire to make him immortal.
Demeter & Persephone
Moore remarks that, "the myth shows us that there is a difference between human mothering and divine mothering. The latter has a broader perspective and is a deep form of the maternal impulse. In Demeter's loss, she seeks to continue her role as mother. Similarly, women and men too often seek out a way to mother perhaps after a loss or in the sorrow of being unable to have children of one's own.
The connection between human and divine is a constant reflection of our own mundane lives and the grace of divinity that sparks within. Following the joyous reunion of mother and daughter, Demeter introduces the people of Eleusis to her Mysteries where the initiation is held every fall thereafter. What to look for in the Hymn to Demeter: Note the introduction and the ending.
Note the physical details of Eleusis. Note the lighthearted character of the narrative, the fact that the earth goddess herself, Gaia, caused the narcissus to grow and wide-pathed earth to yawn so Hades might kidnap Persephone.
Then the whole earth laughed for joy. How might this indicate complicity in a divine conspiracy and to what purpose? Your browser does not support inline frames or is currently configured not to display inline frames. Further questions to consider: If we consider this Homeric Hymn an archetype of the feminine experience, how might it differ from that of the male experience? Is the female experience defined by issues related to marriage and fertility; the male quest, by war and adventure?
How does the Hymn define the relationship between mother and daughter? One of loss and reunion? How does the Hymn define Is the relationship between father and daughter? One of remoteness and betrayal? How could the poem be viewed as a metaphor for the institution of marriage in ancient Greece? How might marriage ritual then relate metaphorically to the salvation of the soul? At the end of the hymn, does Persephone appear angry over being kidnapped and ravaged?
Does the hymn relate to undercurrents in marriage and family relationships in the modern world? From the kidnap image, to the chariot and the pomegranate. Scenes from the marriage ritual have been depicted on vases since the 7th century BC.
Some of these scenes are shown in the attached figures. The groom then takes the bride aboard his chariot for the procession to his home where they both will live.
All women were viewed as manifestations of the earth goddess. But the daughter was more on permanent loan to her husband than his property.
Demeter and Persephone: A Mother-Daughter Tale of Spiritual Evolution
She had a dowry that had to be returned if they divorced. Marriage to the ancient Greek also carried with it the connotation of death for the maiden. Since Demeter and Persephone are one and the same goddess, part above, part below, so women also existed in this state. Women bring people into the world, just as seeds planted in Gaia spring forth new life, and women are also responsible for the dead, since the dead are reunited with mother earth. Women mourned and prepared the dead for burial.
This was their god-given duty as manifestations of Gaia. But it went even beyond this. The Eleusinian Mysteries were based on the Hymn and constituted that part of the ancient Greek religion whereby they attained everlasting life.
Those who were initiated into the Mysteries would, following death, join the gods in the Elysian Fields, the Isle of the Blessed. The Mysteries were the most important religious rites practiced in Greece during antiquity. The ancients believed the existence of Greece depended on them and that they held the entire human race together. The Mysteries were a sixteen-day ceremony starting in Athens and involving many sacrifices.
During the last two days the initiates formed a procession from Athens to Eleusis where they danced and attended a gigantic feast.
The following evening the initiates, who sometimes numbered in the thousands, attended the initiation, which consisted of wandering in the dark blindfolded, drinking a sacred decoction of pennyroyal and barley and witnessing the epiphany. The intriguing debate continues among scholars as to what actually took place during the epiphany. It was kept secret under penalty of death, but many believe it concerned the birth of a divine child, a nativity scene with the presentation of a divine mother, Persephone, and her newborn son, Dionysus.