Shoreline Driftwood shares with its readers the unconventional insights of its author, Don Coorough, into current events, economics, politics, social activism, philosophy, mythology, psychology, neuroscience, the arts and culture, in addition to his poetry.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The myths concerning Persephone have some interesting applications to the way we look at ourselves and our place in the world.
Persephone provides an archetype of a goddess who stands for birth and rebirth, travels to the Underworld yearly, and returns from her place beside Hades each spring for another, roughly, two thirds of the year. Potent symbolism lies in Persephone’s journey. She travels to the Underworld where she stays through the winter with her husband and lover, Hades, the god of the dead and Underworld. Then, Persephone returns from the land of the dead to live among the other gods and goddesses each spring. Obviously, one of the main symbols is of death and rebirth. Another symbolic representation presents itself through one the principle motifs in her story: that is, the cyclical nature of planting season and the sprouting of new crops arising in the spring after laying dormant over winter’s period of infertility. However, that portion of the symbolism falls more prevalently on her mother Demeter, who it is said willed that no crops would grow and the land would not be fertile again until her daughter, Persephone, was returned to her.For those who believe in the theory of the transmigration of souls (reincarnation), this period of dormant infertility is also akin to the period after death before rebirth. Reincarnation was a belief which was widely held in antiquity.
However, the image of Persephone, a virgin before being abducted by Hades and taken to his realm, in the embrace of the god of death, blending her youth, her vitality and her purity with his cold severity in the world of shadows calls forth a very different symbolic meaning. She redeems death and the god of eternal oblivion. She brings life to ends, suggesting that ends are merely another illusion. She transforms oblivion into transition, hinting at timelessness (meaning time is just one more illusion) and converting the finality of death into a medium for change and renewal. Persephone blesses death with the vitality and vigor of new life, promising that around every corner, even seemingly permanent and eternal oblivion, awaits the opportunity for redemption and new beginnings.
In Christian mythology, Jesus made one brief 3 day visit to Lucifer’s domain in Hell (translated as Hell in English, and taught as such by contemporary Christianity, but the Greek word Hades was used to indicate the Underworld, or the realm and domain of the Greek god Hades). Then, he is said to have risen from the dead before ascending into heaven. Christian dogma essentially claims that Jesus’ death is confirmed by his travels to the Underworld or netherworld or land of the dead, and at the same time, his death offered redemption to souls held there since Adam and Eve (including Adam and Eve) whose sins were washed away by Jesus as his suffering redeemed their souls. Thus, they could then ascend to heaven.
There is a significant difference in the meaning of the two myths which is relayed in the symbolism and revealed by the details. Persephone transforms and redeems death, itself, bringing new life back to the world out from the bowels of Hades’ realm. Jesus redeemed the souls held in the netherworld who awaited his coming to release them to their final reward. Persephone offers hope for continued existence and reveals the interrelationship of death (transition) with renewal – every death places matter back into the ground which feeds plants and gives form to new life. Christianity is more concerned with finality and ends. By asserting a soul’s ends (or all souls’ ends as, according to Christianity’s dogmatic intention, a demand that everyone accept its truth as the only truth) are only justified through worship of Jesus and receiving his redemption, Christians foster a belief in the illusion of ends.
In a universe that is nearly eternal within the boundaries of human ability to contemplate it, ends can never be known. Each end quickly ebbs like a wave of the tide, giving way to the surge of another wave lapping across the shores of experience, bringing with it a new beginning, as well as a continuation of the unraveling of the long thread off the spool of eternal activity. Each moment that dies is an end, but it is also a seed, because a new moment arises from it. This is the lesson the myth of Persephone teaches. The lesson is a cautionary tale, too. Consider what seeds one wishes to sow before acting, because from one’s seeds one will reap the harvest of one’s deeds. This is also the true lesson of Karma.