What I would like to share with you is a very old story that on the surface is a creation tale about the changing of the seasons. The mythos I will be sharing is not only older than the popular rendering but also quite different. The most well know version of Persephone [post-Hellenic period] is violent and traumatic. She is abducted and raped by Hades god of the Underworld and tricked/forced into marriage. I don’t really know precisely how the old version turned into such a vicious narrative (unless its mirroring the fall of the old ways and the brutality against it that existed for about at least seven hundred years).
The oldest rendition gifts us a robust expression of this story and I hope that I can do it some justice in concentrated form. So lets point our toes and dive into a little storytelling and if you can stay afterwards, a segment on “moon magic”.
One morning as young Persephone was playing with the flowers and creatures of the land she started to hear a low sound and she strained to hear it.
She had never heard a sound like this before and could not quite tell where it was coming from. Melodic and yet somewhat haunting, Persephone realized that the sound was like many voices moaning and even crying.
Still enmeshed in the purity and naivete which permeates youth, Persephone set off to find the origin of the voices. She thought perhaps she could bring her powers of eternal joy as a young immortal and put an end to whomever was suffering in sadness.
She wandered for hours until the elusive sound finally became louder and she found herself in front of a cleft in the earth. Bewildered and soft of heart, Persephone began to make her way down the opening and before long she found herself a top a kind of underground tree.
What she discovered was many lost souls entangled in the tree’s branches. “Help us. Free us.” they wailed. Their lamenting caused a deep pain that she felt in her core and so she set out to disencumber and free each one of them.
In the process Persephone became entangled herself. She didn’t realize how stuck she was until she set the last soul free. There she hung for three days and three nights. Finally, two beings who approached her came into focus. Before her stood a luminous crone, Hecate, and Hades, son of the Titans and ruler of this underworld land.
In the world above that had only ever know green lands and abundance, the plants had wilted away, famine had begun, and the air grew dark and cold without Persephone’s light. Demetra had been besides herself missing her only daughter and had journeyed to find her, alerting all to be on the lookout for her Persephone. So this is how Hecate and Hades had come to find her. They took her down with great care and talked amongst each other while they awaited the time to reunite Persephone with her mother.
Persephone who had been instructed in the etiquette and rules of the underworld knew that she wasn’t supposed to eat or drink anything from this place. It was forbidden, but, she was so hungry and so very thirsty after spending three whole days and three whole nights hanging in the underworld tree that surely it would be okay if she just had a tiny, a very tiny nibble of a pomegranate that grew beside her. So small of a nibble that no one would ever know.
In the cloak of her own shadow, hidden from Hades the king and Hecate the gatekeeper, six shining, jeweled pomegranate seeds slipped down Persephone’s throat and gathered at the base of her belly.
This just goes to show that Persephone, despite her initiation by descent, was still holding some naivete, for all immortals would be aware of her forbidden snack.
So it was, that when Hecate, Hades, Demetra, Apollo, and Persephone met, the news was very grave indeed. Although Persephone had been safely retrieved, because she ate the fruit of the underworld she would no longer be able to live in the earthly realm with her mother. However, because the earth had become barren and frozen an agreement was struck. Persephone would spend six months in the underworld where she would learn the secrets of life, death, and the universe with Hecate and eventually rule beside Hades as his beloved. This six months out of the year would mark fall through winter(bringer of death). The other six months Persephone would spend topside with her mother, the sacred earth goddess Demetra, this would be marked as spring through summer(bringer of the light). It is said that 2000 years ago, the secrets of life, death, the universe itself were passed on to students and initiates through the Eleusinian Mysteries by Demetra and Persephone themselves.
Now here’s a couple plot twists we never saw coming: In Italy, Persephone is called Proserpina where she is known as a goddess of abundance. Dig a little deeper and find that her name originally could have meant the first serpent. Snakes have long been associated with spiritual relationship and realization through direct perception. You can find this symbolism in mythos in many indigenous cultures throughout the world including but not limited to the Rainbow Serpent of Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime, the Feathered or Vision Serpent of the Mayans, and the Kundalini Serpent of Kundalini yoga practice.
….Dig a little deeper still, and her name is thought to have been Pluto…who is Hades. If that doesn’t take you back to some Ace Ventura “Finkle is Einhorn. Einhorn is Finkle” I don’t know what will. In the realm of symbolic language, what does that represent to you?
What does the story do inside of your psyche? How does Persephone’s descent to the underworld represent an initiation? Do you witness life, death, life cycles in the realm of your own creativity? What about other aspects of your life? In old ways all over the world, story held invaluable potential for deep understanding and even healing. Why do you think that is? Story was also a way to access the worlds in between here and there… the magical spaces. This is because magic cannot be summoned with the mind alone. The story stirs up the feeling, the feeling becomes embodied.. the embodiment is the vessel and the invocation/evocation. Do you have a story that’s close to your heart? How is it magical for you? How do you “apply” it to yourself in a way that has a nutritive affect?
Even though I delivered the extra abridged version, I hope that there is still enough here to kind of mull about in the psyche, oil up the imaginative body, and maybe even warm up some new insight. If we pay attention we can see how a lot of old stories relate to cycles. There are cycles with the planets, the moon, nature, and even ourselves. It is in understanding cycles that we can understand relationship with everything. As above so below as within so without. I hope you liked this version of the Queen of the Underworld.
Because Proserpina is a magical story, this time of year is special, and mystical practices are not considered as taboo as they once were for 500-2000ish years, I thought I’d offer an ancient and precious kind of moon enchantment. If you have any special books that say something to the effect of “this kind of moon is for that thing and do these things on this moon etc…” and it’s very prescribed…. put it away (for now at least). From now until the 31st track where the moon is in the sky, go outside every night, and just be receptive. Take some delicious deep breaths, no expectations or projecting any insecurities or storylines. Don’t take your phone with you, don’t let yourself choose distractions or excuses and just be there and see what happens. Typically nothing right away if this is new (but you never know) except relaxation and improved quality of life but that’s still pretty huge. If you want a more advanced practice then do it regularly beyond the next couple of weeks. Don’t stop. Journal your experiences so you can look back through the years and see the patterns, see the layers. Become really good at the practice of “listening”. Don’t air it all out and put it on social media… keep it close. keep it intimate. Do it for you.
In my favorite example of animism, Robbin Wall Kimmer in her book Braiding Sweetgrass explains a time when she was attempting to reclaim her native language. Her native language was so difficult she nearly gave up. She even exclaimed that there are twenty (I think) different ways to say the word water. How was she supposed to know which one to use? She was exasperated… and she also happened to be sitting next to a body of water. After observing the water for sometime, something happened to her perception. She understood that in order to use the correct word for water, she first needed to know who the water was that she was speaking of.
Anthropomorphizing means projecting human personalities onto animate and inanimate things, whereas animism is a way of being and living that includes honoring and “listening” to the spirit/anima of things. A beautiful expression of this is:
“Watching gardeners label their plants
I vow with all beings
to practice the old horticulture
and let plants identify me.” Robert Atkins
The “speaking” of course isn’t the same as a human voice and because we lack [in the English language] the vocabulary to adequately discuss the other kinds of [aside from brain function] intelligence, sometimes animism can be mistaken for anthropomorphizing; although, they are not the same.
Side note: For an interesting and fun podcast on the subject of perception outside of brain function, check out this Radiolab podcast called Smarty Plants- https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/smarty-plants
What could it mean to let the moon name you? Not only would we be unable to discover this meaning with a judging mind, but it’s not something that can be discovered with brain perception. Because we don’t want to anthropomorphize, we want to listen deeply, not with our ears, not with our brain, but from a very quiet space inside of our experience where we absolutely cannot rush and the experience is not one of our minds own creation.
In his book The Secret Teachings of Plants: the intelligence of the heart in the direct perception of nature, Stephen Harrod Buhner gives us a very special key if you will. This key is essentially embodiment. Mr. Buhner discusses the Aristotelian principle of Aesthesis (fun fact: it’s where we get the word aesthetic from). The meaning behind aesthesis can be found in a moment in which we are so taken by the beauty of something that we come into contact with in nature that is causes us to catch our breath and we find ourselves swept up in a profound state. It really is an experience of oneness with that waterfall, night sky, sun setting on the water…. whatever the portal is.
In the beginning of the moon segment I mention that if you have any magically related moon guidebooks if you will, to put them away simply because as fun as it is to learn by way of reading, the real way to the heart of magic is embodiment. In order to find that we must have direct experience. In order to have direct experience we must dedicate ourselves to a kind of practice that slowly loosens the tense knuckled grip of the judging, labeling, and projecting mind.
If we develop a practice that we don’t view as arduous or stressful (bc you can’t do it until- insert excuse here), but rather an aspect of our day or night that brings peace and a sense of wholeness and reconnection, then our practice evolves into being-ness. It evolves into a way of life. You begin to live magically. The moon enchantment is an enchantment for you. If you choose, you can with this kind of practice find your way home to very old ways that open, inspire and bring new awareness’s to the heart.
I hope you choose magically.
All my love, A. Katarina