Sunday, June 26, 2011

Exploring the archetypes: Persephone

This series of posts is going to be both collections of all information about a particular archetype in one place as well as an ongoing exploration of the archetype, it's mythological history, relations with other archetypes, whatever comes up.

Persephone in Myth: a synopsis

PERSEPHONE was the goddess queen of the underworld, wife of the god Haides. She was also the goddess of spring growth, who was worshipped alongside her mother Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries. This agricultural-based cult promised its initiates passage to a blessed afterlife.

Persephone was titled Kore (the Maiden) as the goddess of spring's bounty. Once upon a time when she was playing in a flowery meadow with her Nymph companions, Kore was seized by Haides and carried off to the underworld as his bride. Her mother Demeter despaired at her dissappearance and searched for her the throughout the world accompanied by the goddess Hekate bearing torches. When she learned that Zeus had conspired in her daughter's abduction she was furious, and refused to let the earth fruit until Persephone was returned. Zeus consented, but because the girl had tasted of the food of Haides--a handful of pomegranate seeds--she was forced to forever spend a part of the year with her husband in the underworld. Her annual return to the earth in spring was marked by the flowering of the meadows and the sudden growth of the new grain. Her return to the underworld in winter, conversely, saw the dying down of plants and the halting of growth.

In other myths, Persephone appears exclusively as the queen of the underworld, receiving the likes of Herakles and Orpheus at her court.

Persephone was usually depicted as a young goddess holding sheafs of grain and a flaming torch. Sometimes she was shown in the company of her mother Demeter, and the hero Triptolemos, the teacher of agriculture. At other times she appears enthroned beside Haides. 

From the Library of Halexandria

Another vulnerable goddess, like Hera and Demeter.  She adapted to the experience of powerlessness by responding with depression, acceptance, and only a diffuse awareness.  She fulfilled the dual figure of the Maiden (Kore or young girl) and mature Queen who claimed for herself whatever she wanted.  On the one hand, she was carefree, compliant, passive, acted upon by others rather than active herself, did not know “who she was” and unaware of her desires and strengths, malleable, innately receptive, adaptable (to meet a man’s wishes), and unaware of her sexual attractiveness, innocent, lacked passion, nonorgasmic, demure, youthful, vital, young in spirit, receptive to change, accomodating, conformed to circumstances or stronger personalities, open, flexible, uncertain of getting married (“bartered bride”), introverted or dormant sexuality, and the most indistinct and unthreatening of all the goddesses.  Sleeping Beauty or Snow White.  Persephone avoided anger but could become narcissistic, devious, dishonest, and manipulative.  Her work was unimportant until she entered the underworld and became Queen, whereupon she became possessive, creative, spiritual, psychic, artistic, unorthodox, deeply personal.  Only when she lacked someone to do things for her or someone to blame could she grow.

Tarot Correspondences

Each archetype has two corresponding Tarot cards: one from the Minor Arcana, which shows the archetype at it's healthiest - it's the way we can manifest their power and energy. The corresponding card from the Major Arcana, on the other hand, is the divine gift of the spiritual realm that they're seeking to manifest through us..

Page of Cups

The Page of Cups is a woman whose imagination is totally free, free to dream wonderful dreams and to create her life exactly as she chooses. But although her head is in the clouds, her feet rarely leave the ground. People represented by the Page of Cups are true romantics at heart. A Page of Cups person will be gentle and compassionate, often highly imaginative and artistic. She values tranquility and peace, and as such is often out of place in the modern world because she cannot always cope with conflict. She seems dreamy and detached a lot of the time, though beneath her quiet calmness belies a bravery and studiousness that could rival a Knight's. Her ideas may seem elusive and impossible to realize but, more often than not, their base is solid.

Though she can be moody and impractical because she is so rooted in the spiritual and the emotional, the Page of Cups is always ready to serve. If you cease to dream, she tells us, then your dreams shall never come true because they do not exist anymore. In your darkest moments, dreams can often provide a ray of hope through with the Page of Cups can manifest. Dare to dream and all things become possible.

Unlike the other archetypes, Persephone manifests in two very different ways, depending on whether or not she's made the descent into Hades:

As Kore, "Bringer of Spring" - The Star (XVII):

Whenever all hope seems lost, the Star will appear to prove that you have really lost nothing, except perhaps your sight of the Path. When you get lost the Star will light your way. After the light of the Tower destroys the false path you were following, the kinder and gentler light of the Star will lead you back to the right path. The Star is a card of faith, both in your own power and in powers greater than your own.

A woman kneels besides a pool – her right foot rests on the water but does not break the surface. Once faith is placed in its power, the pool of the subconscious becomes able to support the conscious mind. The miraculous ability to walk on water is symbolically translated here into the ability to trust in another power, whether in the heavens or in yourself. Once that trust is achieved, anything is possible. Now that you have been inspired, you still have much work to do in order to bring your vision into manifestation. You must combine the solidity of material existence with the waters of your emotions and of your spirit. This is a time when miracles can happen, so kick off your shoes and wade into the pool, confident that the water will support you until you reach the other side.

As Persephone, "Queen of the Underworld" - Death (XIII)

Death is one of the most misunderstood, but also the most powerful, cards in the Tarot. Humans naturally fear the unknown, and so Death is our greatest fear since it is the greatest unknown. The majority of us are unaware that our mind and spirit die all the time, constantly shedding old beliefs and acquiring new ones. It has been said many times by many readers: the Death card is not a card of death - it is a card of transformation. Death is nothing more than a transition to the next level of life. The river shows that life will go on, no matter what disastrous things happen. The river water will reach the sea, rise into the clouds, then rain onto the land to flow into the river again. Nothing is destroyed, because nothing can be destroyed - there can be only transformation. The only real reason the transformation shown by Death is so catastrophic is because it is being held back, fought against by those too afraid to realize that change is beneficial. Every change happens for a reason, and Death is a force like Justice in that it is absolutely fair. It does not discriminate against one group and spare another - everyone is equal in the eyes of Death. There's no point fighting death, it only makes things worse. Like the Hanged Man, accept that change happens and let it do what it must. The bishop on the right side is actually welcoming Death, because he knows of the great spiritual transformation it brings. Almost all versions of the Death card show a symbol of resurrection or re-birth.

Is there anything that you are carrying with you that is no longer necessary? Let it go now, before you proceed. Are your old attitudes holding you back, or are high expectations constantly disappointing you? Cast them off, or let Death wash them away from you. Open yourself and let it strip away all that you no longer need - fear, revenge, intolerance. Flowers cannot bloom if the land is full of weeds which choke the ground, and likewise, your spiritual enlightenment will be held back by doubt and fear. Let them go now or risk having them painfully ripped away when Death inevitably returns.

Pesephone Posts

The Persephone archetype: an in-depth look
Archetypal relationships: Persephone and Hades
Musings on Persephone
Freeing Persephone
Getting (un)stuck in Hades
Learning to live (not wait to start living)

Again, much of the above descriptions comes from The American Tarot Association, Goddess Power, The Library of Halexandria and from Wikipedia pages on the various tarot cards. All credit goes to them for their brilliant explorations of the archetypes and tarot cards. Make sure you check them out yourself and get their wisdom first hand (links are over there to the right.)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for writing this blog. For me it was for the first time I found someone who shares some of my feelings and descrobes them in terms of archetypes. Could you please tell me, what books or sources did you use to find out all these informations about archetypes? It would be very helpful.


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