Persephone, it seems to me, is truly the Goddess of the Equinoxes, because She is both symbol of spring and life's renewal when she returns to her mother Demeter at the turning of the seasonal Wheel, and she is also Goddess of death, wife of Hades, and Queen of the Underworld in the ending and dormant times of turning of the wheel.
Having said this, I allow myself here to move out of the great universal language of archetype, and will get a bit personal. The truth of life in nature is that everything is changing, everything dies to become something else, or at least, make way for something else. As beings embedded in nature, this is true of us as well, whether we like it or not. The summer ends, and as we feast on the delightful fruits and breads of the harvest, we barely notice, indeed, deny, the slow creep of winter. And yet that beautiful, or horrific, or both, Leveler is already advancing over the horizon, implacable and indifferent.
This is true of nature, this is true of biological life, and it's true of our psyches as well. When Persephone sings at the balance points of the year, at the crossroads, I believe in listening to Her song, whether it occurs in the bright lit flowering fields, or is an echo issuing from caverns deep in the Underworld. And that is the point at which Hecate appears with her torch (but that is another story). We all love the Song of Persephone in the spring, the song that tells us "this is the time to BE", to feel the honey sun on your shoulders, to love, to move away from the lonely tunnels of the mind and into the great Conversation of the fields, of the planet.
When Persephone calls from the caverns, not so easy. I myself have felt that emotional frailty, anxiety, the "taste of winter" (even in Arizona!) that this time of planetary change brings. I continue to attempt to allow those feelings to educate me by the process of their arising. You try to discover the language and content of all the songs the Persephone sings, what the soul is trying to tell you. You don't "transcend" the voice of Persephone, you mature and change, you keep on moving, as She does.
This is Persephone's time of Balance, of Equinox, Her Integral being. Which moving away from psychological jargon simply means realizing that we must, somehow, say "yes" to all of it, and keep moving, keep dancing the light and shadow dance. Persephone will dance with us, will educate, if one can only accept this Moving Point of Balance. We are all, in the final analysis, Wanderers.
by Louise Glück,
In the first version, Persephone
is taken from her mother
and the goddess of the earth
punishes the earth—this is
consistent with what we know of human behavior,
that human beings take profound satisfaction
in doing harm, particularly
we may call this
I am not certain I will
keep this word: is earth
“home” to Persephone? Is she at home, conceivably,
in the bed of the god? Is she
at home nowhere? Is she
a born wanderer, in other words
replica of her own mother, less
hamstrung by ideas of causality?
You are allowed to like
no one, you know. The characters
are not people.
They are aspects of a dilemma or conflict.
Three parts: just as the soul is divided,
ego, superego, id. Likewise
the three levels of the known world,
a kind of diagram that separates
heaven from earth from hell.
You must ask yourself:
where is it snowing?
White of forgetfulness,
It is snowing on earth; the cold wind says
Persephone is having sex in hell.
Unlike the rest of us, she doesn’t know
what winter is, only that
she is what causes it.
She is lying in the bed of Hades.
What is in her mind?
Is she afraid? Has something
blotted out the idea
She does know the earth
is run by mothers, this much
is certain. She also knows
she is not what is called
a girl any longer. Regarding
incarceration, she believes
she has been a prisoner since she has been a daughter.
The terrible reunions in store for her
will take up the rest of her life.
When the passion for expiation
is chronic, fierce, you do not choose
the way you live. You do not live;
you are not allowed to die.
You drift between earth and death
which seem, finally,
strangely alike. Scholars tell us
that there is no point in knowing what you want
when the forces contending over you
could kill you.
White of forgetfulness,
white of safety—
there is a rift in the human soul
which was not constructed to belong
entirely to life. Earth
asks us to deny this rift, a threat
disguised as suggestion—
as we have seen
in the tale of Persephone
which should be read
as an argument between the mother and the lover—
the daughter is just meat.
When death confronts her, she has never seen
the meadow without the daisies.
Suddenly she is no longer
singing her maidenly songs
about her mother’s
beauty and fecundity. Where
the rift is, the break is.
Song of the earth,
song of the mythic vision of eternal life—
shattered with the strain
of trying to belong to earth—
What will you do,
when it is your turn in the field with the god?
“Persephone the Wanderer” from Averno by Louise Glück.
Copyright © 2006 by Louise Glück.