Goddess Archetype Persephone: Maiden and Queen of the Underworld
Archetype is a term coined by the great Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, and he described them as ancient and archaic images that derive from the collective unconscious (the causal or mental body), or innate universal psychic dispositions which form the basic symbols of the unconscious. They form a dynamic substratum common to all humanity.
In other words, we could almost say that behavior is not individual, but rather universal. We are acting out universal patterns that exist in the mind of all of humanity. (Of course we study this in acting; good actors access the archetypes of the collective unconscious).
Plato also spoke of archetypes, the eidos or ideas which were pure mental forms imprinted on the soul before birth.
Each archetype exists as an inherited potential in each man, and can be actualized when it enters consciousness as images or manifest as behavior.
There are a limitless number of archetypes that exist, and they are eternal and universal; in other words, they always have existed and always will.
Jung mapped out the soul (or causal body) with endless archetypes that he saw in humanity.
There are 5 main archetypes in the psyche:
The SELF, which is the center of the psyche. It contains the archetypes in it, and is the ideal that the person wishes to be. (Astrologically, I would call this the SUN).
The SHADOW includes the traits deep within us, hidden and usually repressed or denied. They often appear as the opposite of the self. We may have chosen to deny or repress these quailites in childhood, such as anger, vulnerability, sexuality, etc.. It is very important to known and own the shadow qualities in order to become whole. (Astrologically, I would call this the 12th house)
The ANIMA is the inner feminine. (Astrologically, I would refer to this as venus).
The ANIMUS is the inner masculine. (Astrologically, I would refer to this as mars.)
The PERSONA is the mask that we present to the world. (Astrologically, I would refer to this as the ascendant).
The beauty is that we can activate or de-activate the archetypes consciously, using our will, although some of them will greatly color our being if they are very prominent in us.
Goddesses in Everywoman
Some of my favorite information about archetypes comes from the books called called GODDESSES IN EVERYWOMAN (AND GODS IN EVERYMAN, for males) by Jean Shinoda Bolen, and she discusses goddess archetypes that exist within us females as powerful forces that influence what we do and how we feel, how we perceive the world. They make us all very different from one another.
For the females, there are goddesses in two categories: virgin goddess and the vulnerable goddesses.
The virgin goddesses (Artemisia, Hestia, Athena) in themselves are not vulnerable. They were not victimized and did not suffer (in Greek mythology). They are autonomous, unto themselves, and the virgin quality represents the independent, self-sufficient quality in women. Artemisia and Athena are goal-oriented and logical thinkers, and Hestia is the spiritual priestess, focusing inward in meditation. They seek their own goals, and are self-sufficient.
The vulnerable goddesses–Hera, Demeter, and Persephone–represent the traditional roles of wife, mother, and daughter. They are relationship-oriented archetypes whose identities and well-being depend on significant relationships.
They are attuned to others and vulnerable; all three goddesses were raped, abducted, dominated, or humiliated by male gods. Each suffered in her own way when an attachment was broken or dishonored, and showed symptoms that resembled psychological illnesses.
Persephone, also known as Proserpina, is one of the vulnerable goddesses because she was so intertwined in relationships (first with her mother Demeter, then later with Hades). First, before her transformation into Queen of the Underworld, she was the Kore or Maiden.
As a Kore, she was a slender, beautiful young goddess, who is associated with fertility symbols such as the pomegranate, grain, corn, and narcissus, the flower that lured her. As Queen of the Underworld, she is a mature goddess who reigns over dead souls and guides the living who visit the underworld.
Persephone was the prime figure in the Eleusinian Mysteries, in which the Greeks experienced the return or renewal of life after death through Persephone’s annual return from the underworld.
Persephone was the only daughter of Demeter (the powerful and possessive mother) and Zeus. She was a carefree girl who gathered flowers and played iwth her friends. Then Hades, also known as Pluto, God of the Underworld, appeared out of the earth in his chariot, taking her by force and carrying her to the underworld to be his unwilling bride.
Her emotionally possessive mother Demeter was beyond herself with fury and despair, and forced Zeus to bring her back from the underworld. Zeus sent Hermes, the messenger god, to bring her back, but before she left, Hades gave her some pomegranate seeds to eat, which basically cursed her to spend one third of each year in the underworld with Hades.
She later became Queen of the Underworld, and would receive and guide souls who descended to those realms.
As an archetype, Persephone predisposes a woman to be highly receptive and more passive rather than active. This archetype also allows a woman to look eternally youthful, since she is eternally the maiden. She has a very strong connection to her mother, and is very receptive, as a mother’s daughter.
She doesn’t have an independent sense of self, and she is very much a good girl, who wants to please her Mommy and be protected and sheltered from the world. And of course Demeter the mother fosters her daughter’s dependence, to keep her close and live vicariously through her, for she sees her as an extension of herself.
The Kore: The Archetypal Maiden
The Kore represents the young girl who does not know who she is, and is as yet unaware of her desires and strengths. Some women remain a Kore their entire lives, not committing to anything, neither a relationship, nor an educational goal, or work, even though they may be in college or in a relationship.
But their internal attitude is like an eternal adolescent, indecisive about what they want to be when they grow up, as they are receptive, waiting for someone or something to transform their lives. Her inner receptivity makes her very malleable and chameleonlike.
The Anima Woman represents a man’s anima (inner feminine) and is “all things to all men.” She adapts herself to his wishes, makes herself beautiful in his eyes, charms him, pleases him. She is not sufficiently aware of herself to be able to give a picture of what her subjective life is like. She can receive the projection oa man’s unconscious image of woman (anima) and unconsciously conforms to this image. She does the same with any significant people she is around; she will change herself to become what others want, because she has the proclivity to please others.
Before her abduction, Persephone was a child-woman, full of innocence and natural sensuality, of which she is not aware. This archetype is quite popular in American culture, where people love the sex kitten to be innocent and unaware.
Queen of the Underworld
The underworld represents the depths of the psyche, a place where memories and feelings have been buried (the personal unconscious) and where images, patterns, instincts, and feelings that are archetypal are shared by humanity. Persephone the Underworld Guide represents the ability to move back and froth between the ego-based reality of the “real” world and the unconscious or archetypal reality of the psyche.
The Persesphone archetype helps a woman to meditate between the levels of consciousness, including those who have lost touch with reality and become lost in the unconscious. Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bella Jar is a description of this journey.
On the other hand, some Persephones can work as guides in a therapeutic environment; they have the receptivity to the unconscious realm without having to be held captive there.
Persephone is the Kore, the spring maiden. Her energy is green, young, and vital, with the potential for new growth.
How to cultivate Persephone
Persephone is highly receptive, so this receptivity is the quality to cultivate, especially for very focused, non-receptive Athena or Artemis women, who have the masculine quality of focus and acting, rather than being femininely open and receptive and malleable, which Persephone is at times to a fault.
Hera women tend to be locked into their own expectations, and Demeter think they know best. They can be domineering.
The Persephone woman is youthful, girlish, and has an energy that says, “take care of me.” She is like a willow branch that bends and goes with the wind. (Very similar to the Homeopathic remedy of Pulsatilla!)
As a child, she is a good girl, pleasing others, though she may be introverted and cautious. She can tend to be codependent with her mother, who is usually overly possessive of her and projects her own unlived life onto her.
Persephone procrastinates, and hopes to be rescued from her task. Work is never important to her, until she matures into the Queen of the Underworld, when she will enter a creative, psychological, or spiritual field, working as an artist, poet, therapist, psychic, actress, etc.
Marriage is something that often “happens to” a Persephone woman. She gets abducted, as she was by Hades in the myth, when a man persuades her to say yes. She has a very receptive, traditionally feminine personality, and she usually defers to the stronger person around her.She may feel powerless and dependent on others who are more powerful.
In later life, she may have the regal presence of a wise elder who knows the mysteries of life and death.
On the negative side, she may be easily dominated by others since she is so passive. She is the most formless of the goddesses, lacking ambition, drive and commitment. Her growth comes through learning commitment and follow-through.
She may also have a hard time with assertiveness, and never become angry because she wants to be liked, and feels dependent on the generosity of others whom she perceives as more powerful.
She may also be narcissistic to an extreme, to be liked, always worrying about how she looks to others, how she sounds, etc.
She is susceptible to depression when she is dominated by people, since instead of becoming assertive, she bottles up and represses her feelings instead of expressing them. And she internalizes her anger, blaming herself, feeling guilty and powerless. She may withdraw into the inner world of her imagination and inner self. She may spend hours on end in meditation, introspection, or inner creative work. However, she must be careful lest she slip into psychosis and become too disconnected from the outer world.
After Persephone emerged from the underworld, Hecate became her constant companion. Hecate is Goddess of the Dark Moon and the Crossroads, who rules over the realms of magic and sorcery. This is symbolic of the fact that Persephone has the constant connection to the underworld and another dimension.
Sexually, since Persephone is such a maiden and girl, she may be unresponsive, unless she connects to Aphrodite, Goddess of Love and Beauty. She also needs to stop seeing Hades as her captor and see him as Dionysus, for they are one and the same! Dionysus can invoke her passions and sensuality and make her a mature woman.
Ultimately, Persephone in her glory is the ecstatic priestess and goddess. She is naturally a medium and psychic, as a guide to the underworld, or rather the “otherworld.”
For more details and more archetypes, check out the book:
Tagged with: archetype • child woman • goddess • goddesses • hades • jung • kore • maiden • persephone • virgin