In the Greek myth the young maiden Persephone was abducted by the king of the underworld and held captive in Hades against her will. She was later freed due to her mothers efforts, but had to return for months each year. As she matured she became the unseen of the underworld, which represents the unconscious, and a guide for others who journeyed there. The Persephone woman has deeply spiritual and psychic gifts that connect her to the collective unconscious. This can be painful for her while she learns to guide herself through these unusual landscapes, and she is characterised by a disconnection from the ‘real world’.
Of all the goddesses Persephone is the least assertive. Whereas the other vulnerable goddesses are driven by strong instincts, such as the want to marry Hera or have children Demeter, Persephone has no such drive. This natural passivity can leave her vulnerable to manipulation by others.
Just as in the myth, the Persephone woman has two sides; the young maiden and the unseen of the unconscious. But many women find it difficult to grow beyond the role of maiden. She is characterised by an eternal youth, and an inability to make decisions lest others be closed to her. To grow beyond the maiden the Persephone woman must psychologically come back to the world, just as the goddess did in the story. She must learn to make commitments and see them through, to make her own decisions and direct herself. Then she will be able to live in both worlds, the ‘real world’ and the realm of her unconscious which she can then become unseen of, rather than perpetual maiden.
Character of the Spiritual Guide
The maiden: The Persephone woman is characterised by her youth, and willingness to go with the flow. She likes to be acted on rather than to act herself, and is unaware of who she really is, or what her own strengths and desires are. She maintains a youthful dream about what she’s going to do ‘when she grows up’, but with little action taken on her part she waits for someone or something to transform her.
Compliant: The Persephone archetype is prone to passivity and dependency, which is often fostered by her parents. They may try to make her choices for her saying that they know best. Because Persephone is the most naturally compliant of the archetypes, she will likely go along with their wishes, only to blame and resent them later. Until she learns to stand in her own power and direct her life as she chooses, she with remain ‘held captive’.
Chameleon like: The Persephone woman has an innate malleability, and unconsciously reflects what others expect of her. For this reason she may find herself doing things that feel alien to her, or that she later struggles to identify with. She may lack the core identity that most people have throughout their lives, and feel somewhat disconnected from her past. This can be unsettling; but once she has accepted responsibility for self direction, she has more potential for growth than any of the other archetypes.
The child-woman: The Persephone woman, as long as she remains identified with the maiden phase of the goddess, will remain very childlike even into her later years. Her sexuality will not have awoken in her yet, and she remains passive and compliant, preferring to follow the lead of others. Many cultures reinforce this image of women as passive and innocent which greatly halts her ability to grow beyond.
Ruler of the unconscious: Although the goddess Persephone was first abducted into the underworld, she later returned to it willingly and became it’s unseen. This illustrates the Persephone woman’s gift to move between the ‘real’ world of the ego and the world of our spiritual unconscious. She may find that she can connect with psychic or mystical abilities, and has the potential for immense spiritual growth.
Challenges of the Spiritual Guide
Indirectness: In the myth Persephone ate the pomegranate seeds offered to her by Hades willingly. However, when later asked by her mother she lied and said that she was forced to eat them. This illustrates the indirect quality of the Persephone woman, who may resort to lies and manipulation to avoid conflict. Because she sees others as more powerful she prefers not to tackle issues head on, but to get her way indirectly through flattery, avoidance and half truths.
Inaction: Preferring others to lead the way can cause the Persephone woman to do things that she later regrets. Because she doesn’t like to make decisions, she may end up deferring important life choices that she will look back on as wrong. Rather than accept responsibility for this she blames others, and this can limit her growth. She may end up feeling that life has passed her by and that the transformation she was waiting for never came. Action must be taken, and mistakes made, for her to grow beyond this.
Self Consciousness: The Persephone woman tends to rely on feedback from others to build an image of herself which can lead to a self consciousness verging on narcissism. Looking to others as mirrors to reflect herself, rather than appreciating them for who they are.
Depression: If a Persephone woman is controlled and limited against her wishes she finds it especially difficult to change the situation or untangle herself from her ‘captors’. Instead she may fall into a listless depression, where she is unable to feel anything or to act. Because she is prone to withdraw to her inner world when the outer world becomes too demanding of her, she risks getting caught up in it. This can lead to a disinterest in the outside world and a reluctance to leave her inner sanctuary which then becomes her prison. Communicating her needs and worries to others is an important step in breaking free of this cycle.
Relationships of the Spiritual Guide
Women: The Persephone woman finds it easy to make female friends. Her innocence often illicits a maternal response in people, and she will likely have a best friend with a very strong character.
Partner: The Persephone maiden is ever compliant and unassuming, always willing for her partner to take the lead. This can attract a variety of partners; ones as innocent as herself, those who like to dominate, and others who seek a feminine woman they can rescue.
Work: The Persephone woman who is still in her maiden phase may move from job to job and find it difficult to settle on a career. For the woman who has developed into the unseen stage she will likely find herself in a deeply personal and creative field. She may be a poet or artists, or work with people on psychic or spiritual levels. She may not have any credentials, but nor does she need them; her experience is worth profoundly more.
Sexuality: If the woman is still in her maiden phase her sexuality has yet to be awakened. Once it does this has a very positive effect on her self esteem and becomes another route for growth.
Marriage: In her maiden phase she will view marriage like being captured in the Greek myth. She will either never marry, or if she does she will do so to please others, but may be quite reluctant herself. Many ‘maiden’ Persephone women are married but not truly connected to their husbands, for some however it can provide a route for growth by activating other archetypes.
Children: Persephone women can make excellent mothers. In her maiden aspect she is able to connect with her children’s imagination and love of play, and in her more mature form she is an excellent guide, teaching them to value their inner realms. If the Persephone woman has overbearing parents then this can undermine her self confidence when trying to bring up her children. She may still feel like the child, and that her mother knows best. It’s important for her to reclaim her role as mother and be firm in her power.
Development of the Spiritual Guide
Child: Persephone children are often introvert, and play in their own worlds. It may take them a while to make a decision about something, and they are unlikely to jump in without observing and reflecting first. This can be misinterpreted by parents who may seem them as timid and needing directing. Instead of allowing the Persephone child to make up her own mind in her own time they may decide for her. The child will usually comply, as is her nature, which may lead to a lifetime of indecision and inward pressure to defer to other peoples wishes.
Teen and young adult: These years are often full of decisions that the Persephone archetype finds hard to make. She will likely follow what her parents have laid out for her, even if she disagrees with it. She is easily distracted which makes school work difficult, and she may lack confidence. The Persephone adolescent is more likely to follow the path of least resistance and submit to what’s expected of her, than create her own path.
Mid-life: If the Persephone woman still identifies with the maiden version of the archetype then the years will become increasingly difficult. She will realise that she is growing older, and perhaps that many of life’s opportunities have passed her by. This can lead to depression which can leave her feeling defeated by life. Or it can become a transformative experience that enables her to step into her power and become unseen of the unconscious.
Later years: If the Persephone woman is able to break through her identification with the maiden then she has many wonderful and rewarding years ahead. She has the potential to become wise beyond her years, understand the mysteries of life and death, and tap into her innate psychic and mystic abilities. She can become a guide for others into the realm of the unconscious, and feels grounded in her power and sense of self. If on the other hand, she is unable to break through her barriers, then she may stay in a depressive state unable to connect with her true calling.
Rooting your Spiritual Guide
Make your own decisions: Many Persephone women live their lives allowing others to make their decisions for them. However, when they give up their ability to choose, they also relinquish their responsibility, and with it their opportunity for growth. By becoming more aware a Persephone woman can learn to exercise her independence and make her own decisions. This may require some time alone with no one to defer decisions to, or blame when things go wrong.
Ecstatic experience: In her expression of unseen of the underworld the Persephone woman has a very unique capacity for spiritual and unconscious connection. You may find that you are able to meditate or reach and hold altered states of consciousness quite easily. You are able to exist comfortably between the worlds of the ego and the spirit, and you prefer ‘being’ over ‘doing’. By strengthening your centre in this way you may find that you are no longer subject to others peoples’ designs on you, and will naturally become the leader of your own life direction. For those women who develop this side of themselves they may be drawn to ritual or ecstatic experiences which would greatly enhance their development. An ecstatic experience is reached through altered states of consciousness, induced by practices such as holotropic breath work, shamanistic journeying, trance drumming, ecstatic dancing, or psychedelic compounds.
Psychic potential: In the Greek myth the mature Persephone becomes a guide to the underworld which is the realm of death and the unconscious. This can also be understood in a literal sense with some Persephone women developing psychic abilities. Her diffuse awareness and receptivity opens her up to ESP that most people miss entirely. To develop this ability she will have to mature past her identification with the maiden.
Guide to the underworld: If the Persephone woman is able to return from her own depths, then she can become a gifted guide for others. She is able to go deep into the archetypal subconscious and explain her experiences in intuitive ways that resonate with people at their core. This can lead to greatly rewarding work, and she has the power to change and heal many peoples lives. She can shift her perceptions from the ‘real’ world of form into the ego-less unconscious, and is adept at meditation and energy work. The hardest task is to find this power within herself, and return from her own underworld. She must first break free from her prison and reclaim her rightful place as directer of her self and life.
Movement: The Persephone woman will likely find a special connection with ritualistic or meditative exercise. She is able to experience them on a deep level and in her mature form can become an excellent teacher of these arts. Examples are tai chi, qigong, ecstatic dance, shamanic drumming, yoga, or meditation practices.
Nourishment: The Persephone woman may feel an ambivalence towards food, and is unlikely to make herself a proper meal if eating alone. By looking at nourishment in a spiritual light she may begin to feel differently. We like to think of food as energy from the sun, transformed by a kind of biochemical alchemy through plants, and then gifted to us in a form we can use to create our own energy. This way of seeing food allows for a reverence and connection with the mystery.
Your gift: Your gifts are your intuition, imagination and empathy for the suffering of others. You have a unique ability to see people and events on a deeper level, and can help people to connect with their highest self. To embrace your gifts you must first return from your own ‘dark night of the soul’, and heal your wound of being drawn into situations and people that diminish your sense of personal power. Stand firm in your centre, cultivate your inner strength, and maintain personal boundaries between yourself and those who seek to direct you.