Friday, August 27, 2010

The Daughter of Demeter

 Fall is a bittersweet time for me. It was right before my birthday in October, that my mother told me she had an incurable form of cancer and had a few months to live. I didn't know how to handle the news and so as I often do I turned to mythology to help me through life. I don't think anyone is ever prepared for a parent dying or their death, even if they've been ill for quite a while. The mythical Goddess Persephone "She who Destroys  the Light" came to gather me and to descend into the Underworld with her.

Persephone (usually pronounced /pərˈsɛfəni) was the young beautiful daughter of the Goddess of the Grain and Earth, Demeter. Actually her first name before she became Persephone was Kore; meaning "young maiden." Like every mother-daughter relationship, they had their differences; but also a love of enduring strength.. One day, Kore was out with her friends on a beautiful Spring day  gathering flowers. Hades, the King of the Underworld, ruler of the Dead had his eye on Kore for some time and knew that her mother would never consent to the marriage of them. So, with his great chariot of ghostly black horses, he ripped a hole through the underworld and abducted her down into the his realm. Kore cried out to her mother, which Demeter heard but she came too late to rescue her.
Only a few gods were allowed to enter the underworld then return to the world of the living. One of them was Hermes, the god of communication, travel, messenger for Zeus. When Demeter found out about Kore's abduction and was told there was no way to save her, she mourned so greatly that all the flowers, plants, and wheat that was of vital importance withered and died. Zeus, knew that this couldn't continue and so send Hermes down to see if he could bring Kore back to her mother. This is the part where the myth of Persephone differ. Some say, she was brutally raped by Hades and was forced to be his queen, some say she met the Crone-Goddess Hekate, and learned magick and prophecy from her. While others believe, she grew to love Hades and saw that the dead needed a queen ruling next to the king.

Hades was so in love with Persephone he seduced her with a fruit which we know as the Pomegranate. Persephone who had never seen such a fruit, ate six of its seeds. She didn't know that anyone who ate or drank anything in the Underworld wouldn't be able to leave. When Hermes went to the underworld and found out about Persephone eating the Pomegranate seeds, he had to tell Zeus. Zeus knew to both appease his brother Hades and Persephone's mother Demeter, a compromise had to be found. It was decided then that for each of the seeds Persephone ate, there would be three months of Fall and Winter and three months of Spring and Summer. When Spring returned, Persephone would be able to return to her mother.

As I was watching my mother dying, I was forced to go into my own underworld of grief and depression. My mother was not able to communicate with me what she was feeling partly because of how sick she was and also there was always a lack of an honest, open and loving communication between us. I knew that I would never be able to fix and repair the relationship I so wanted but never had with her. A mother daughter relationship is one of the most complex relationships a woman will ever have. Every woman is either a mother or a daughter and even if the mother is the most positive and loving mother there is, there will still be wounds to heal.  I was blessed enough to have a therapist who was this wise, gray-haired, older woman who walked me through the dying process of my mother as Hekate mentored Persephone. It was also at this time, I started to seriously study tarot cards which opened up a whole new world for me of prophecy and magick. I wasn't consciously following the myth of Demeter and Persephone, the myth was living through me though. 
My mother passed into the Summerland in January, a day of rain and freezing cold winds. The Banshees were singing their song of death while I was in the middle of a "celebration" that my mother had requested when she died instead of a funeral. She asked to be cremated and then those who loved her, remember her through stories they had experienced with her. I was surprised at how many people, especially younger women showed up. My mother was able to nurture, support and love these other women for some reason in a way that she wasn't able to do with me. I didn't envy them, I was just surprised at the number of my "sisters" my mother had created, like Demeter's harvest. I had now become the  Queen of the Underworld and knew it was time to learn and enter depression as consciously as possible for my own sake and my son's as well. Did I do it gracefully? Hell no, pardon the bad pun. But I did learn and am still learning how to become at peace with the spirit of my mother and the path of depression.
 In Spring time all of my mother's roses would burst forth with these magnificent blooms emitting a heady perfume, I would think of her then ever after that . For like Demeter, she loved to garden and would spend hours quietly and peacefully while I had no interest ever in gardening. Now when Spring comes, I greet my mother back into my life, with one of the rose bushes, I transplanted from her house to mine. A mother's love no matter how damaging still bears a gift of beauty if you can find it. Do you get along with your mother or if she has died; what was your relationship like? If you have daughters, do you see your own mother now inside of you? I'm always interested in hearing about mother-daughter relationships.


bettyl said...

Mythology has some very interesting points that we can learn from.

Thanks for your warm comments on my blogs!

Anonymous said...

Wow I loved reading this...I love reading about Mythology...I am very sorry for your loss...

annie kelleher said...

i am very sorry for your loss and i hope your grief eases with the years. my mother is still alive but two years ago my grandmother died at the age of 95. she and my motehr didn't get along and so i was the one appointed by the family to bear the burden of her rancorous personality. i used to think of her as the albatross i bore around my neck until i too turned to mythology for support. i found pele, the goddess who frequently appears to those who seek her favor as a querolous old woman. with that understanding, i was able to better bear the burdens of my grandmtoehr's last couple years - i couldn't serve my grandmother, but i could serve mama pele in her guise.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

A descent, death and rebirth experience is a profound initiation by the Goddess. It leaves you forever changed for the better. Although difficult to go through, you have been blessed with that experience!

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your grief.

I hope that you will emerge from your underworld a stronger person.

Thank you for your visit.

~Onreeone~ said...

There is no such thing as a coincidence I believe. Just today I was thinking about my relationship with my mother and the relationship I have with my two older daughters. I always wanted to be close to my mom and I still do. There are seasons when we are closer than others and at this time it is one of the off seasons. I am partly to blame though as I hold some deep seeded resentments that stem way back. I thought for the longest time that it was the Mom's responsibility to reach out to their child. Being the Mom now, I know there are times when I wish my daughter would call or just stop by and it makes me pick up the phone and call because I do not my daughters feeling as I have in that sense. I believe that I have an open and honest relationship with my girls on my part. I never put myself on a pedestal and have talked them thru most of their teen years now. Being and open book and telling them of my life and past mistakes hoping to keep them from making some of the same. That is something that I never had with my mom. I still don't really know who she is, but then right now I'm not sure if she knows' who she is.

My mother and my grandmother were close though. And it was my mother who nourished that relationship as she got older. When my grandmother passed away it was very hard on all of us, but especially my mom. It was around the holidays that she passed over and every year now it seems some of the joy has been taken from my own mother. Thank you for this post and you will and have already come farther than even you can recognize. Many Blessings:)

Wendilea said...

What a wonderful person you are Wendy to take such a heart wrenching story and turn it into a positive message of hope! Brightest blessings to you and the memory of your mom!

Mother's Moon's Message said...

beautiful story although tragic in its own way. It is funny sometimes the way family relationships go. I have never had what I would consider a truly good relationship with my mother. And in turn attempted to cultivate the relationship with my daughter. yet it seems that my best relationship has been with my grand daughter. There is much truth to the statement that you are born with your family yet choose your friends... Unfortunately not all of us are blessed with the wonderful mother daughter relationship that I am sure most all women wish they had. Yet there are always othes along the road of life that can give us that same nuturing sense.

It is still a journey Wendy.. and you have traveled far. And your growth and mannerism proves that. Blessings to you.

Wendy said...

Betty, I'm so glad you stopped by to say "Hi" and I'll definitely be by your blog again.

Thanks Christie for your words. I love mythology because it has so much to offer, I bet you'd write a great mythical blog post ;0

I know of Pele, Annie...strong goddess that she is and it sounds like she chose you to give you the fiery creativity and strength to hold the family pain. I'd love to hear more about your relationship with Pele!

Ladfi: so glad you stopped by and little by little I see some light amongst the shadows. Thank you for coming by and leaving a comment.

Angie, you and I seem to have a very similar path. And I always so appreciate your openness and honesty with such intimate detail. It helps me so much when people share their own struggles and challenges met with courage like you have done.

Wendilea, your comment put a big smile on my face. Thank YOU for reminding me that part of the healing process is sharing our story with others. Thank you for such a warm comment. Sending blessings right back to you.

Mother Moon, if I haven't told you before, let me say it again. I consider you one of the wisest and spiritual persons I know. I love your posts about you and your granddaughter. And I think you hit it right on the nail when you said, there's our "blood" family and our "soul" family and we have to seek what we've lacked. Thank you so much for the continual support and wisdom you bestow upon me. Blessings right back to you.

Moonwillow said...

When I was younger, my relationship with my mother was difficult and quarrelsome. Moving away from home worked magic on our relationship. We just couldn't live together. She is still the same person; I just work harder to try to accept our differences and be more forgiving.

Illustrated Ink said...

Wendy, your story really moved me. My Mother and I are very close, she's a dear friend that I can always turn to. When I think of losing her, I'm paralyzed by fear and grief. I know that day will come, and my Mother herself, is very calm and accepting of death. I on the other hand, simply cannot face the thought of losing such a huge part of my life and heart. I've always enjoyed Persephone's story, it's one of my favorite myths. Relating the story to your grief and experience of losing your Mother has given me much to think about. This particular topic had always been hard for me, and your story has helped me address and face my fear. I'm very sorry for your loss. I think it's lovely that you transplated one of her rose bushes to your home.


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