Monday, February 19, 2007

Persephone Through the Ages

I'm apparently obsessed with the myth of Persephone, so I went on a little search to find out where Persephone's Latin name Proserpina came from. The inspired philosopher who writes for Persephone's Box Blog, Sage, pointed out in our latest exchange that "proserpere" is the correct root of her name (which Sage taught me means "to emerge or creep forth", a reference to the way plants come out of the ground in the spring). The root of her name is not "prosperitum" (which means prosperity) as I'd thought. Another interpretation of "proserpere" is "seed" or "germination" but upon more soul-searching, I found that "proserpere" also means "first serpent" in Latin (or, I would see "pro" as being "for" the serpent). Now, that's interesting, because I've been writing all about that serpent worship in these past couple of months ever since "The Secret" came my way. (Edited to add) In the Orphic myths, the maiden goddess Persephone was seduced by Zeus in the guise of a serpent.

I think Persephone represents the teaching of karma and hierarchy (Natural Law) in a nutshell, whose central teaching is that there is no good and evil but only life. I think Persephone is Proserpina who is Prisni, an aspect of a Hindu evolutionary triple-goddess named Kali, who is known to us under literally thousands of names but she is the same Goddess of the Underworld who rules the dead (creation, preservation, destruction). In the pre-Vedic tradition of Tantra, Kali is represented by the three stages of woman: virgin, mother, crone (this myth not only assigns gender roles but ageist roles as well). In Hindi, the name Prisni means "cow" in contrast (dualist stereo-type) to Nandi's "bull" (although in real life, I don't think cows are known as being dangerous). The parallel doesn't stop there: Persephone is an aspect of Demeter, the ruler of the earth. So, Persephone is the (ugly?) crone part of mother nature, maybe a figure similar to the Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu, who is all-powerful, evil, merciless and despised for her power. She's female, she's aggressive, so she must be conquered.

Is it any wonder that the men in Roman-Greek mythology days would adopt the teaching of law of attraction and Hindu/Tantric myths (where lovely concepts like cunni-lingus come from, thank you, India)? There's something to be said about the Brotherhood of Man! Is sex and social engineering how men bonded on an international level right around 4th century BC? Anyway, Persephone brings to us many good things, such as being an excellent muse for great works of art, as well as sparking the most interesting conversations revolving around her. She's served our world as the symbol through whom we can find insight into our own psyches (in however hokey a fashion) and try to understand why the Earth is so unkind sometimes, why life is so hard. She's a beautiful slave to her own self-destruction: she brings everything upon herself and takes down the whole world with her. She frees men from guilt, or so her story can be interpreted.

Serpent or no, we have come to love and need her. After all, I believe Persephone is innocent and that justice will come for her through our mercy for her powerless position. I hope to continue learning more about Persephone, a favorite female figure in our multicultural civilization. By the way, if we leave out the crone part, isn't what we have the virgin-whore dichotomy, the childfaced girl-woman, so innocent AND sexy AND so hard to "get"? This female figure seems quite maleable to make her mean whatever we want, and when you strip her down to bare bones, she isn't as sophisticated as she seems. She's just a natural woman, perfect between youth and womanhood, but then she must grow up and leave behind all childish things.

(Painting by Edvard Munch: Woman In Three Stages, 1894 Oil on canvas, 164 x 250 cm,