Hi. I’m Persephone, Elizabeth’s favourite archetype. She relates to my experience of kidnap by Hades into the Underworld with her own kidnap to Nigeria, which she describes as Hell on earth. She is of course referring to the poor and oppressed Africa, not the fat cat elite Africa that is its own sort of Elysium.
Elizabeth has had an opportunity to witness some of the poorest living conditions in the world, rampant superstition and the bitter, desperate competition that abject poverty breeds. Sensitive soul that she is the experience has had a traumatic impact on her. The transformation of Kore the Maiden into Persephone the Queen of the Underworld is a metaphor for the journey from naive maiden to powerful woman.
Stories were how Elizabeth survived years of physical and emotional abuse and later on life in a medieval jungle community. She also identifies my mother Demeter’s grief with her mothers grief. Sadly a reunion never happened for Elizabeth and her mother. When Elizabeth finally returned to Moscow after 35 years she really did feel like she had come up from Hades for a breathe of spring air. My story helped her understand her experience.
Elizabeth started getting increasingly gothic after her mothers death. She explored gothic art and imagery, earth religions and witchcraft. At one point she was a rock star, then she was a priestess, a happy go lucky maiden, a ballsy career woman. When she was in her early 30’s Elizabeth, who has always been a voracious reader, started to explore theoretical feminism. The philosopher in Elizabeth enjoys learning through stories, folk lore and the spiritual.
Elizabeth has more fun with a pantheon of imperfect gods and goddesses than one authoritarian god. When she read feminist writers relating feminism through the lens of Greek, African and Inca mythology she did the same and concluded that I was also Ezenwanyi in Igbo mythology, and Africa was Hades. Many of her fathers people believe that Elizabeth is the queen and the goddess Ezenwanyi and on the now rare occasions when she returns to her fathers little village in the Igbo heartland they treat her like one.
Local lore doesn’t say where Ezenwanyi comes from but she is a fair complexioned, beautiful woman with the attitude of a diva. Amiable and generous when happy, she can be vindictive and vicious when unhappy. She was described as a mermaid, half fish and half human and she dwelt in the deepest parts of the rivers where the current was strongest. In the mid 20th century in remote little Igbo villages and towns people still left offerings of sweets, cake, fanta and candy for Ezenwanyi along the forrest paths to the river.
I have been summoned to give testimony of Elizabeth. She wants to be like me when she grows up, to be a woman of substance, of power and of authority accepting her fate as queen of Hades. Hades isn’t a very nice place. It reminds me of the ghettoes and favelas of big Gotham like cities around the world. The dark under belly of the cities, hidden from view like the dark side of the moon.
She thinks because I am a goddess and a queen that my life must have the virtue of Elizabeth I of England, Catherine the Great of Russia. Or even Elizabeth II. Queens that took their role way too seriously if you ask me. Hades is hot. You do not want to exert yourself. And seriously, what disaster could possibly happen in Hades anyway. The disaster has happened.
She’s not going to like reading this (Elizabeth hates it when her characters take on a life of their own) but I’m not like those queens. I’m different. I’ve changed. I’m not Kore anymore. And I’ve gotten over my separation from my mother. I’ve accepted my marriage to Hades and spending the rest of life here. She should too.
Elizabeth is not like that though. She’s a stubborn little fighter. Nothing is impossible to her, a notion that has caused her more than her fair share of frustration. For Elizabeth its only impossible if its not being paid any attention. She is beginning to grudgingly accept that she is only human and not Super Woman. Not even I am Super Woman. And I am a goddess.
Even as she writes this her nature rises to the challenge ready to say “ I AM Super Woman!” We both chuckle. Elizabeth was a fire cracker when she was younger. We’re both pleasantly surprised she made it this far. She lived like a rock star and really believed she was going to crash and burn before 40. Now she is actually planning to stick around till 70. She’s still a little bit of rock and roll but she is also a little bit of country now.
I want Elizabeth to accept me for who I am; an indulged, spoilt, party loving diva who likes to go out among her subjects, The Dead, and spread love where she can. Some of our subjects cannot receive comfort and their cries for solace echo in our ears and in the dark chambers of our heart. The music, the parties, the laughter mute their cries but they are always there, in the background, the White Noise of Hades. Like a ray of sunshine I grace them with my warmth and beauty till I can go back to Olympus, to replenish and renew my self again at my mothers bosom.
I would like to say to Elizabeth now that I have the chance – go ahead and be yourself, be confident and do not be afraid. You can be whoever you want to be and you can be yourself. You don’t need me anymore but you honour me by summoning me to testify for you here and for introducing me to this assembly.
Q: Is it possible to improve the quality of life in Hades?
A: They are only dead men and women in Hades (there are no children here). My husbands job is jail keeper, everyone here is in forced labour. Nobody ever leaves here except me and Hades and once in a while we give a get out of jail free card. Even though my husband and I come and go we have to come back quick quick. Just like Elizabeth can leave Africa when ever she wants and never come back but she choses to come back. She calls it the last bastion of true liberty in the world. Under-regulated markets, pure laissez-faire capitalism, growing consumerism, endemic tax evasion, poor gun control, habitual corruption, pervasive nepotism, rabid opportunism, deadly competition and lots of wide open spaces. (Does that not sound like Hades?)
In Africa paupers become kings as quickly as kings become paupers. Elizabeth the social entrepreneur cannot ignore the opportunities. And after living more than 3 decades in Africa the plethora of rules and regulations in London, Moscow and New York make Elizabeth feel like she’s in a straight jacket. Besides, there are just as many risks living in the northern hemisphere as there are in the global south. At least in Hades the weather is always warm, about as close to paradise as you can get.
I spend my time and money on my appearance – my subjects like glamour, pomp and circumstance. It distracts them from their daily misery. Most nights will find me wining, dining and dancing with my playmates. And the days see me hearing petitions from my subjects. All I can offer are cool drops of solace. I cannot forgive sins. The only people that have ever received a get out of jail free card weren’t supposed to be here in the first place. I can give wealth to my subjects but I cannot give them life, health or children. There are no children in Hades. When people insist that I give them fruit of the womb I can only give them Dead spirits, mysterious, mischievous and impish spawn.
There is no sunshine in Hades. No growth and no growing. Endless stagnation, no aspiration and eternal screams from the tormented. We have ruthless court intrigues. In Olympus if you’re banished from court you could retire to the comfort of your country estate. In Hades banishment from court means a sad, harsh, dog eat dog existence in Tantalus. The courtiers, not having the solace of death to look forward to (you know, because they’re dead already) fight viciously for a position in the royal court. It is hard to live surrounded daily by suffering and pain. It is a trauma to the soul. It is brutal to live surrounded by the Dead, tragic desperate souls that have no hope.
My husband is often away so I do not see him as often as I would like to. The flow of souls into Hades is unending. He is constantly opening up new territory and mining new gold fields. He takes his job seriously. He is not a womaniser like Zeus. (I do not know how Hera puts up with Father.) Hades is a bit sombre and he needs to be firm to run Hades. He has to manage countless souls – the good, the bad and the ugly. He can’t afford to be complacent. He comes to me for light and for love. I am the only life and love in Hades. I am what gives Death Hope. God’s own queen that dwells beside the cool pool of water.
Who else could have given me words to speak to the nations, if not Elizabeth – defender of the underdog, rescuer of the dysfunctional and the wounded, the voice of the maligned and misunderstood. The elders and me love her because she always remembers us and tells our stories.