Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls it singing over the bones, she recommends the retelling of stories and myths as part of a process to find the instinctive woman archetype. She says the underworld is synonymous with the psyche in Jungian psychoanalysis.
So I re-wrote a scene from one of my favourite myths as an exercise. Here’s the result –
Deep below the surface of the Earth in a lofty chamber carved out of shiny obsidian stone two gods confronted each before a huge fire brazier. Demeter was in grey hooded robes and looked gaunt and wasted. Hades King of the Underworld in regal crimson and black velvet ceremonial cape towered over her resplendent.
She faced him unflinching. Staring him in the eye, daring him to raise his power against her.
‘I have come for my daughter’
‘Who told that your daughter is here?’
‘The Sun that sees all things that happen in its Light’
‘Leave woman. Now. Do not meddle in the affairs of gods.’
She could not take his dismissive gaze. Right there before his very eyes Demeter started to grow taller. She grew and grew till she was as tall as him and her robe had turned into a long white smock girdled with gold.
‘I am here for my daughter.’ She said again. Her voice rumbled around the chamber. Her eyes were steady and steely blue.
Hermes dashed down from the shadows above where he been hiding.
‘Hades, we know she’s here.’ Hermes said.
Hades went to sit on in his throne swishing his cape out of the way.
‘Summon the Queen Persephone’ he ordered a court messenger after a thoughtful pause.
When Persephone entered the chamber and saw her mother she rushed to her and they fell into each others arms. For a long time they sat together, cooing at each other, staring into each others eyes, inhaling deeply each others scent, fingers reacquainting with cheeks, hair and bodies..
At length Demeter turned to Hades
‘I must return with my daughter immediately.’
‘Oh but you can’t sister. She’s mine now’ the Dark Lord smirked.
‘What do you mean?’
‘She’s eaten the forbidden fruit your majesty’ Hermes spoke again.
Demeter rose from the sofa in a rage. Her hair and skin crackled with energy. Her eyes fixed on Hades and began to glow a deep white light.
Hades sprang up prepared to defend himself, his trident at the ready to deflect her pulse of power and to return his own. Persephone and Hermes looked on with alarm.
Suddenly all the air and crackling energy was sucked out of the chamber. The combatants slouched. Hades looked to his left and saw his brother Zeus standing in the chamber’s entrance with his lightning bolt aloft.
‘Cease this fight immediately!’ Zeus bellowed, and the rocks shook and the earth quaked and moved.
‘It is I Zeus father of Kore the Maiden that gave her unto our brother Hades as his Queen, known as Persephone.’ He addressed Demeter.
Zeus lowered his lightning bolt. Air rushed back into the chamber and they all could move and speak again.
‘How could you do that without telling me?’ Demeter wailed. ‘All the years I spent looking for my daughter, grieving for her? Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘Would you have consented to give your only daughter to the Dark Lord?’
Demeter was silent.
‘My brother has made her a Queen and treats her as befits my daughter!’ Zeus said as he looked fiercely at his former lover.
‘I am her mother. I should have been told.’ Demeter insisted, unbowed.
‘Is that why you have withheld the harvest?’ Zeus softened his tone. ‘Come come sister you can’t withhold the harvest from the people every time you’re unhappy’ he coaxed.
‘Well I did anyway. And I will continue to withhold the harvest till I have my daughter back.’ Demeter looked determined.
‘But you heard already she’s eaten the fruit. She can’t leave.’
‘By eating the fruit I guess you mean that your pervert brother Hades has raped my underage daughter!.’
She turned and glowered in Hades direction. He bristled with restrained anger and looked away.
‘Yes I can tell that she must be pregnant. I really don’t care. I’m leaving with her now.’ Her anger shook the room.
Persephone was sitting on the sofa listening. She rose and moved to the center of the chamber from where she first curtsied deeply to her mother Demeter, then her husband Hades and finally her father Zeus. Then she rose to her full height and addressed each one.
‘Mother, Goddess of the Harvest and all good things that grow on Earth. I am overjoyed to see you after so long a while. Blessed is the day we are reunited.
‘My love for you is immortal and eternal. Though you may think me young I was not raped. I knew as soon as looked into my Lords eyes that I belonged to him body and soul. He is the lover of my dreams that I awaited. My Dark Lord.
‘He swept me away into his dark kingdom and I did not notice the passage of time. His love mesmerised me and I lost my heart to him. I did not feel the seasons pass. Or the absence of the sun. I did not hear your voice Mother. Sheltered in him I did not remember your bosom or your warm embrace’
Persephone turned to Hades, curtsied deeply and stayed their a moment longer than before her head bowed low.
‘My Lord and Master. Ruler of the Underworld and Ruler of Me. King of my Heart. My heart belongs to you for all eternity. Each day your kind love binds me to you. You can be harsh with others but you are always just and fair.
‘The only spell that worked is love and you have shown me plenty of it. I could not leave you if I tried but in moments of sober reflection I missed my mother like only a child could. Acutely, deeply, longingly.
‘I yet need my Mothers love and nurture to fortify me to dwell in this harsh kingdom of dead souls with you. Allow me go but for a season to be with her and I shall return to you refreshed again.’
Persephone then turned to her father.
‘As for you father isn’t it bad enough that you begat me with your own sister, but to go and bargain me off to your brother like a piece of property? How sick is that? You’re giving gods a really bad reputation father.’
‘How dare you speak to me like that’ Zeus bristled and made to raise his lightning bolt to strike but Hades quickly blocked him with his trident. They glared at each other menacingly.
‘The Queen, my wife will be free to speak in her Kingdom’ Hades bellowed.
Zeus more than a bit surprised at Hades reaction but unwilling to start another war just yet backed down reluctantly.
‘I will spend a season of the year with my mother and the rest of the year here reigning beside my husband. You Zeus will make it so.’
‘Persephone, only a season?’ Dememter looked crest fallen.
Persephone looked at her. They hugged.
‘Maman, do not be sad. I have a good life here. I am Queen and I am much loved. I am a maiden no more. Kore is gone. I am a woman now and Hades is my man. Yet you and I will be together every year at spring.
‘Each year I will emerge from the dark underworld like a seedling and together we will coax the other seedlings from their pods. Many children for you to care for till I come again.’
‘And why should I agree to this preposterous plan?’ Zeus broke in.
‘Because if you don’t I will continue to withhold the harvest’ Demeter said as she stepped towards him.
‘And I will stop taking the spirits of the dead’ rasped Hades.
‘And I won’t let you see your grand children!’ Persephone declared.
‘This is mutiny! And you brother! You join these women against me! What is wrong with you? There are many other goddesses and women to chose from!’
‘And I chose this one.’ Hades said.
In three strides he was beside his bride and in a heartbeat she was in his arms and his lips covered hers. Their kiss was long and deep. Zeus and Demeter fidgeted and looked away.
Hades finally broke away and stared deep into Persephone emerald eyes.
‘You promise you will return my Queen?’
‘I promise I will return my Lord. Before the summer solstice starts I will return to be by your side again.’
‘Then I will await anxiously your return while you and Demeter restore the harvest. Zeus I assent to this arrangement.’
Demeter looked suspiciously at her brothers Zeus and Hades. They had known each other too long for their to be any remnant of trust left between them. Then she looked into her daughters face. Sincerity and love shone through and her heart melted.
‘If this is what you want beloved daughter so be it. I will be content with one season in a year. But remember I will be here again should Hades or Zeus ever hurt you.’
They never did. Zeus was busy cheating on Hera his wife and always getting into some amorous trouble. While Persephone lived happily ever after with faithful loving Hades.
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