She wakes, in an unknown place, in the dark. It is not
yet dawn, she thinks, and then she begins to remember. The
day before… and the night… the man she met…
and then…. She closes her eyes, trying to block the
memories, the shame, but she can smell him still on her
body. It is as if he is in her body. In her.
Weeks later, she knows it is true. He is in her. In the
form of child, growing within, yet not yet visible. She
knows now she has to make a choice. And soon….
In the well-known story of Demeter and Persephone, we often
see Persephone as the child, the daughter, the one who was
abducted, victimized, taken away. We keep her here, as a
Maiden, preserving her innocence, her powerlessness, and
our sympathy for her plight. But in becoming Goddess of
the Underworld, she does not remain simply Maiden, simply
Daughter, simply Child. In the Underworld, Persephone moves
from Maiden to Mother.
Most women today do not wait until marriage to experience
their sexuality. I myself began having sex with my boyfriend
I am responsible; I get a prescription for birth control
pills. I am honest; I tell my mother.
She looks at the package, reads the instructions. As a devout
Catholic who used the rhythm method during her violent marriage
to my father, she’s never seen birth control pills.
“It’s evil,” she says. “See how
they have you start on a Sunday? It’s to mock God.”
I say nothing. I take them anyway. I start on Sunday.
I continue to have sex even after this boyfriend and I break
up. I also become less responsible. Less honest.
I sometimes do not use birth control. And I no longer tell
my mother anything.
“It should be noted that once Persephone, the Maiden,
eats of the fruit of the dark world-- the seed-filled symbol
of sexual awakening and procreation-- she must live within
that world for half of her life, returning to her mother
as wife rather than virgin.... Persephone's journey, like
Inanna's, can also serve as a metaphor for the individual's
assimilation of the fruits of the dark unconscious, the
progress beyond the paradisiacal but undifferentiated perfection
I no longer tell my mother anything. Until I get pregnant.
When I am in graduate school, at the age of twenty-two.
I drive the hour and a half to my mother’s house
in a borrowed car, tell her I want to take a walk, and tell
her I am pregnant.
And, I say, I want the baby.
She is wonderful. Supportive. Says I should move in with
her and her husband, that they will help raise the child.
I cry. I have not felt this close to my mother, ever.
Most contemporary accounts do not mention Persephone's pregnancy
or the birth of a child; Barbara Ardinger cites Robert Graves
in asserting that "Persephone is faithful to Hades
but has no children by Him.” On the other hand, Erich
Neumann writes that when Kore/Persephone returns from the
underworld, "the cry is heard, 'The noble goddess has
borne a sacred child.' " While accounts differ on whether
Persephone gave birth to a child, we do know that she was
initiated into sexuality (through rape and later, marriage)
during her time in the underworld.
Thus women who, like me, like Persephone, have been initiated
into sexuality and an unplanned pregnancy in this way, are
faced with a choice about whether to become mothers before
they are prepared.
The choice of whether or not to become a mother makes a
woman step into the place of her mother in a profound way.
She may realize for the first time that her own mother may
have had deep reservations during pregnancy—and this
may bring about questions about her own beginning.
Did my mother imagine her life without me? Could this be
the origin of the deep anger she sometimes reveals toward
Such searching may lead a woman to keep her child—as
a way of making up for the lack she feels from her own mother.
I could keep this baby, mother him, to fill the space left
empty by the absence of my own mother, Demeter….
Other women discover a new respect for their mothers when
they are pregnant. If her mother was young or in a difficult
marriage, if she was unmarried or still in school—all
of the external circumstances of a mother’s life are
brought into clearer focus now, and a woman may find forgiveness
for her mother where before there was only pain.
Such a woman may decide to let her child go, in order to
give herself a season of mourning for her own childhood
before she takes on the responsibilities of a mother.
No, I will not bring a child into this place…. I will
spare him the suffering that comes to those who must live
in such an Underworld….
Whatever her decision, a woman who has become pregnant is
different from a woman who has not. Because of the insight
she gains in her new state, she is now more Mother than
Maiden. She now tastes the burden of motherhood—the
hard decisions, the guilt, the doubt—without the benefit
of encouragement and praise that mothers who carry their
babies in their arms receive from strangers as they walk
down the street.
That night in my mother’s house, the pain begins.
At first I think it is indigestion. Then the pain splits
through me so quickly that I am screaming before I know
what is happening.
My mother comes to me in my childhood bed, covered with
a white eyelet comforter. “What is it?” she
I tell her I do not know.
A week later, I am in this bed again. I have been hospitalized,
had emergency surgery for the pregnancy that was ectopic.
I will be having no baby. I am still in pain.
My mother walks into the room, in the early morning, already
dressed for work. She takes a look at me in bed, groggy,
and picks up the pain pills on the desk.
“Get up,” she says. “Call someone and
find a ride back to school. You are an adult. It’s
time to get back to work.”
She takes the pain killers with her as she walks out the
It is this wisdom-- the knowledge of death, the harsh
realizations entailed in the move from Maiden to Mother,
the new understandings of what it means to be a mother—that
Persephone personifies. Women who have faced Persephone’s
choice have had the opportunity to touch this aspect of
the Feminine—the wise mother within who mourns for
our lost girlhood, who reunites us as grown women with our
mothers, and who prepares us, through pain and loss, to
become mothers ourselves.
Years later, when the day finally comes when I hold my own
baby, newly born, and caress the tender skin, I am a better
mother for my struggle. I know the thin and painful line
between life and death and I hold my baby more firmly in
this life, treating the child with greater grace.
And when I am honest with herself as my friend who said
after her abortion that things die every day, I know that
mothers of living children are capable of many little deaths,
too. So I learn to hold my tongue when I am angry, and I
pull up patience when I am tired, and I find forgiveness
for myself and for my mother so I can focus on the present
I am a mother who appreciates the tedium and delights in
the ordinary—because I know how easily it can slip
New York: Oxford University Press, 1994,
Goddess Meditations, Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1998, p.
The Great Mother , Princeton, Princeton University Press,
1955, 1991, pp. 318.
Item Price:$ 27.00 (plus shipping) Two Susun S. Weed herbals,
plus a free bonus. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing
Year for the daughter; New Menopausal Years the Wise Woman
Way for the mother, and Moon Days for you to share. Wise
Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year gathers natural remedies
for all aspects of fertility (including avoiding it), pregnancy,
birth, and postpartum care of mother and babe. New Menopausal
Years, Alternative Approaches for Women 30-90 gives you
the information you need to "ace" menopause and become a
postmenopausal woman with a healthy heart, strong bones,
and great vitality -- without hormones. BONUS: Our gift
to you - a hardbound copy of Moon Days, a great collection
of women's writings on menstruation, edited by Cassie Premo
Steele. This special collection of three insightful books
will delight, surprise, and inspire you and your mother
and your daughters! Retail value is $54.00, you save 50%
- Yours for $27.00 plus shipping.
Order by credit card at http://www.herbalmedicinehealing.com/store/item_view.asp?estore_itemid=1000073