Persephone: Maiden Goddess and Queen of the Underworld
Persephone is a Mommy's Girl
The young maiden Persephone was abducted and raped by Hades when he kidnapped her against her will, taking her into the Underworld to live with him. When Persephone was released to her Mother Demeter, she had eaten pomegranate seeds Hades offered her, thus sealing a promise to spend one third of every year with Hades in the Underworld, and the other two thirds safely with her Mother, Demeter.
So The Goddess Persephone was worshiped in two ways, one as the Maiden or “Kore”—which means young girl. The other was as the Queen of the Underworld, the mature Goddess who reigned over souls, guiding the living who visited the Underworld. She knew the secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were the religion of the Greeks two thousand years prior to the arrival of Christianity. The Greeks experienced the return or renewal of life after death, or reincarnation, through Persephone’s annual return from the Underworld.
Typical Traits of Young Persephone, The Kore
The Kore, or young maiden, represents a young woman who does not know what she wants out of life yet, and is unsure of her talents and strengths. Most young women go through this period, but for some it is not only a phase, they can remain a maiden all their lives. This can happen if they are not in a committed relationship, do not have a job or meaningful profession, or if they continue to act like an eternal adolescent, always indecisive about who they are or what they want do with their lives. Persephone women have passive personalities, so do not act, but wait to be acted upon by others.
Persephone was a child-woman before Hades abducted her, unaware of her sexual attractiveness, beauty, and innocence. This is rewarded in some cultures, where young women are expected to be quiet and demure, never say “no” directly, and to try to act in a harmonious way whenever possible. A Persephone woman is sexually inexperienced, sheltered and obedient. If the people around her try to project an image upon her, she will not resist this at first. She will try to be whatever others expect of her in an almost chameleon like way. Many women are at this stage of life for at least a short time, when they are young and life is filled with possibilities.
In the seasons of life, Persephone is eternally Spring. This helps her as she becomes older, because she can reactivate her spirit after times of depression and loss, and once again find vitality, youthfulness, and be receptive to new areas of change. She always has the potential for new growth in her psyche. Women who have Persephone as part of their makeup will stay young at heart and have positive attitudes throughout their lives, always being able to reinvent themselves. She may always have a youthful quality about her, and look much younger than her age. She bends to conform to circumstances, but can easily spring back, remaining unscathed unless she experiences something significant or makes a commitment that will change her.
Persephone is Passive
A Persephone woman typically attends college because it is expected of her, but education is normally just a pastime for her. She can be easily diverted and may try different majors, finally settling on what may be the path of least resistance. She will take on a job, but will succeed mostly to please her boss, not because she wants to advance. Although work cannot be important to a woman who has “Kore” traits, the situation changes when she turns into the Queen of the Underworld. Then she may love working as an artist, poet, psychic, or therapist. Whatever she does in this guise is deeply personal and may be different from what convention demands.
As the Queen, Persephone will work in a very individual style, and may be able to find her way without the cumbersome and boring education that she objected to as the maiden or Kore. Young Persephone is comfortable with other young women and is normally the most popular in a group of peers, enjoying social situations with girls her age. She is pretty, so girls who do not think they are attractive may project their own undeveloped femininity onto her and treat her as she is very special. Since Persephone has been treated as fragile and precious all her life, she will take this kind of treatment for granted. Her best friend is often someone with a stronger personality than hers, as a Persephone woman brings out maternal feelings in the peers and older women around her.
Persephone and the Fated Pomegranite
Persephone's Behavior with Men
When Persephone is with men, she becomes the child-woman once again, unassuming and youthful in attitude. She’s the woman who when asked where she wants to go, replies, “Wherever you want to go.” There are three types of men drawn to her. The first are young men who are as inexperienced as she is, the second are tougher kinds of guys who are drawn to her innocent, helpless sort of fragility, and thirdly, men who are not comfortable with more mature or grown up women will feel safe with Persephone. A “May-December” romance between an older man and a young woman is an old fashioned, patriarchal model. The woman is supposed to be weaker, younger, less experienced sexually, and less educated.
A man who does not want to have a woman who seems strong, or difficult to please, like his Mother, wants to have relationships with younger girls, as is makes him feel powerful and dominant. Being with a man like this can help a Persephone woman break the strings to a domineering Mother, because she is a Mommy’s girl. For some time she will be like a pawn between the man and her Mother, until finally she will have to choose between the two. If Persephone does find herself at odds from her Mother for the first time in her life, and sides with the man, she will literally or figuratively move away from the Mother, finally making a decision towards becoming a separate human being. Although this will be the hardest choice she has made in her life to date, she will now be less compliant and has taken a step toward emotional independence.
Marriage and Motherhood May Overwhelm Persephone
Marriage does not always agree with a Persephone woman, unless she initiates the idea and is truly in love with the man. Since she is so passive, if a man asks her to marry, she may say yes, then treat him as if he “kidnapped and raped” her as happened in the myth with Hades. She needs to be sure of herself before she makes a commitment. If she has children, she needs to be mature enough to see herself as a “real” Mother, not as someone playing a role. A strong willed daughter of a Persephone type woman may end up telling her Mom what to do and the roles may be reversed, with the child feeling as if she is the Mother.
Persephone’s own Mother can undermine her and make her feel as if she cannot do anything right while raising her children, so Persephone has to lay down the law and tell Grandmother who is the boss while she is visiting. On the other hand, Persephone Mothers give their children freedom since they know how it feels to be hovered over all the time. She loves her children and is proud of their independent spirits, so different than her own. She will nurture their imaginations and be very patient while playing with them. As long as Persephone has grown past the Kore stages, she will guide her children towards their creative talents and other abilities.
Hades Abduction of Persephone
Persephone May Remain a Maiden
Middle age is bothersome for Persephone, she will be upset by her changing looks, even though a woman with her vitality normally looks younger than her age. If she keeps identifying with her Maiden role, she may have many cosmetic treatments and try to dress in clothes that do not suit a woman her age. If she has moved forward and matured, she will not be as depressed by her age. Then she probably had experiences that made her grow or made commitments in her life.
Since she is the Queen of the Underworld, later in life she will become a regal presence, a wise elder who knows the mysteries that make life and death meaningful. She probably has had mystical or psychic experiences and tapped into a well of spirituality she never realized she had, so this will make her less fearful about growing old and dying.
Persephone influences make a woman easily dominated by others, and she is the most indistinct of all the Goddesses. She is characterized by a lack of direction and lack of drive. But this also gives her many avenues for growth. Persephone must learn to make commitments and live up to them. She has to fight her inertia and learn how to make sensible decisions. She cannot stop working at something because she is tired of it or because it is not enjoyable anymore.
If she finds the courage to marry the right man, she can mature from a girl into a woman. She must learn to face life on her own and take care of herself. Persephone women have been so overprotected they do not believe in themselves. Once she made a bond with Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty, in the Underworld, Persephone came in touch with her own sexuality. Her acceptance of the pomegranate seeds from Hades meant she would have willingly went back to him. When her perception changes and she can understand a man appreciates and loves her as she is, she may learn to trust and this can help evoke passion in her.
Persephone Can Mature
Some Persephone women develop a love for religious experiences, intoxicated by Goddess or other spiritual rituals that deeply move them. Since she was the guide for mortals who visited the Underworld, she has the function to be a medium, hold séances, and communicate with spirits that have passed on. Her receptivity and lack of focus can actually become a plus that helps her extra sensory perception, or ESP. She only has to get in touch with the part of herself that felt at home in the Underworld, because she can wisely know when she is at a dangerous crossroad and when to seek a safer route. She has had awesome or scary, irrational experiences, visions and hallucinations, and spiritual encounters. If she can learn to explain what she has learned through these situations, she can become a guide for others. Then Persephone can be a therapist or guide who can connect others to their own depths or inner selves, so they too can find symbolic meaning and understanding of what they find there.
By the time she is thirty or forty, she may realize all her friends have married and have children. But to her, marriage is the same as being kidnapped, and she would rather be single. She tends to be less than truthful, and likes to manipulate others. She feels powerless from her experience with Hades, but can be charmed or flattered into feeling better. Unfortunately Persephone women are vain, and often become so fixated on themselves they will spend hours changing clothes and putting on makeup. They think other people live just to give them feedback on themselves.
During the myth of her captivity in the Underworld, Persephone was sad, never ate and never smiled. These are symptoms of depression, and if they get worse, she needs to seek help for her mental health. Some Persephone women withdraw into a reclusive world, and get preoccupied there, when real life seems too demanding for them. But in the story when Persephone emerged from the Underworld, Hecate, Goddess of the Crossroads, was her constant companion. So she does have the strength to return to the world and be aware of reality.
Bolen, Jean Shinoda M.D. 1985 Goddesses in Everywoman Powerful Archteypes in Women's Lives Publisher Harper Collins New York Chapter 10 Persphone: The Maiden and Queen of the Underworld, Receptive Woman and Mother's Daughter pgs. 197-223
Monaghan, Patricia 1999 The Goddess Path Publisher LLewellyn Worldwide MN Myth and Meaning of Demeter and Persephone pgs. 139-148
© 2011 Jean Bakula