The Tangled Hedge: At home in the numinous wilds

An animist & spiritual naturalist Hedge Witch explores feminine spirituality... the hunter emerging from the numinous wilds to gather with her sisters.

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Persephone and Demeter: A Personal Tale Of Birthright and Motherhood

Art by Susan Seddon-Boulet
(http://www.turningpointgallery.com/)

"In the best known version of the Greek myth, Persephone is dragged down into the underworld by Hades, whose title is 'Pluto.' But in earlier, pre-patriarchal tales, she descends there under her own power, actively seeking to graduate from her virginal naïveté by exploring the intriguing land of shadows. 'Pluto' is derived from the Greek word plutus, meaning 'wealth.' Psychologist James Hillman says this refers to the psyche-building riches available in Pluto's domain. Hades, he says, is the 'giver of nourishment to the soul.'" - Rob Brezsny

This is the month of my mother’s birthday, and when I recently read this quote, it made the tale of Persephone and Demeter become mine, and I wanted to explore this new perspective in the context of my relationship with my mother.

I was never taken into the underworld, so the archetype as it is commonly known never really resonated with me, but that changes drastically if it is understood as a willing and self-powered journey of nourishing discovery! I'll be wanting to ponder this tale in its new light (thanks, Rob Brezsny!)

But first, let’s focus on Demeter.

I know for sure that my mother has mourned my seeming capture by the underworld, and in her view, its dark lord… and done what she could to get me back, and has had her own mother-tale of suffering at the “loss” of her daughter, even though her daughter has been off mastering two realms, and becoming a queen in her own right.

Unfortunately, much of that suffering comes at the hands of a religion that makes her feel responsible for the eternal souls of all her children. As if the agency and choices of her adult children could be controlled by just being a good enough parent, and pinned on her if she fails to keep them in the church.

But her religion (Mormonism) is driven by the engine of people trying to be good enough, and always feeling like they’re falling short, so that they just need to submit a little more sincerely, and do as they’re told more perfectly, and rely on their god’s blood sacrifice to make up for where they will inevitably fall short. I should be sure to tell her if I get a chance that she did everything they said she was supposed to, she was a good parent and taught us well. If the “all-important” part didn’t stick, it was simply because what we were taught (and what she was taught) is not actually true. But she’s not aware of that, and may never be, in this life.  I would never have broken away if I hadn’t found undeniable proof and been certain of that. But she and I will always have a half-relationship with short visits only, due to this split, and if anyone was taken away from our natural bond by a dark lord, it was she.

I am the one who has tasted the fruit. My journey was guided only by my own soul, and exploring the intriguing land of shadows was a natural part of the curious consciousness exploring everything, and learning to navigate a beautiful and complex world. Dark and light together are our birthright, and claiming my agency and my part in the forbidden realm of the “worldly” world that isn’t sanctioned by the church (and that includes genuine spirituality) – that world they are “in” but not “of” which is so rich in knowledge as one learns from living in it and knowing you are integrally part of it –  felt more right than anything ever has. It has been more nourishing than anything the church ever offered.

I would say I wish I could offer this fruit to my poor, deprived mother, but I know that despite the mindset they gave her, she is in fact “of the world” – you can’t make that untrue – and has managed to swallow seeds here and there, and to grow, and to produce fruits of her own that will nourish the world. I’m doing my best in that capacity. ;)

Happy birthday, Mama. Love and honor to your sacred motherhood and cherished self. You formed me, body and mind, and taught me to be a good mother, myself. You were my first goddess. Wishing one a better life than is already being lived would not be out of order for either of us to do.

 

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Lia is an Anthropology major, & mother of two daughters, in the Western U.S. Spiritual influences tend toward the ancient and indigenous, with a future-focused hope to return humanity to sustainability.

Comments

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Monday, 21 July 2014

    Such a touching story and so sad. As I was writing an earlier comment that disappeared, it struck me that your mother is the one who was abducted by the patriarchal gods and their minions on earth. siggghh.

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Monday, 21 July 2014

    sigh indeed

  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter Tuesday, 22 July 2014

    Thank you, and I'm sorry that your comment disappeared. I certainly agree. I have felt robbed of my family by the highly patriarchal "Family First" Mormon church, who holds them hostage, contingent on my return to the fold. My family did not actually disown me, but it's a very strained relationship, now, and I will never be taken seriously by my relatives as long as I'm not one of them... as in, a Mormon. That tells you what comes first, and it isn't family.

    Not that I was taken very seriously in the first place, as a female in that organization that excommunicates people who ask uncomfortable questions about why women are excluded from decision-making positions of authority and other priesthood responsibilities.

    It's so much better on the outside. :)

  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Monday, 21 July 2014

    Blessings on you both in your continued journey.

  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter Tuesday, 22 July 2014

    Thank you so much, Lizann. Blessings in return, gratefully. :) It sounds like you know this kind of loss, yourself.

  • JudithAnn
    JudithAnn Wednesday, 23 July 2014

    Lia,

    It was so very interesting for me to read your take on the separate but entwined journeys of Demeter and Persephone, from the perspective of a daughter -- I could almost believe it was my own daughter writing it. I too found parallels in the mythology within my own relationship with all three of my daughters, most of all the youngest. Most like me, the delayed but inevitable untying of the cord was to say the least, heartbreaking and a life changer for us as well. We are coming together again, but as you note in your experience, it will never be what it was. You may be interested in hearing the mother's perspective here http://witchesandpagans.com/sagewoman-blogs/goddess-muse/bonding-or-bondage-the-mother-daughter-duel.html

    I wish you continued healing in your journey and the hopefulness that your mother will come to more fully understand the unconditional love that is the true, family first order.

  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter Wednesday, 23 July 2014

    Thanks for sharing your perspective and your own post with me, JudithAnn. Your painting is compelling, and your story is both touching and frightful for me to imagine, with my own cherished daughters who are nearing the threshold of adulthood. Your insights with the messages of the painting were beautiful to read, and I'll be following your blog. :)

  • JudithAnn
    JudithAnn Thursday, 24 July 2014

    I welcome you as a follower of my blog and appreciate the sharing here. My own mother has passed over ( 9 years now) and as I enter each new age of dancing the dance with my daughters, I cannot help look back and think of the seemingly insignificant things I said or did then, that I only now realize when receiving them from my daughters, carried much more weight than I had thought. Such is life though, a lesson from birth to grave.

  • Jason Leslie Rogers
    Jason Leslie Rogers Sunday, 27 July 2014

    Hello, Lia,

    Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading this. It still amazes me every time one of the ancient stories communicates truths as deeply personal as the ones you discovered while meditating on Persephone. Your story also touched on a wound of my own, however, and that is where it resonated.

    I am the son of a Pentecostal Christian minister, and although my parents (to my knowledge) are not aware that I have been walking the Pagan path in some way or another for most of my adult life, they have known for a while now that I am not Christian (not by their definition, at least—there are pieces of the biblical narrative that I will always choose to be present with me).

    Being in the room with them (which only happens a few times a year, as I live several hundred miles away) is an event full of silent condemnation and sadness on their part and anger and resentment on my part. However, whenever they eventually learn that their son practices shamanism and witchcraft and speaks to trees, I'm sure the condemnation will cease to be silent.

    When those times come, I hope I will be reminded of your story. I hope I will find comfort in remembering that it was I who chose to explore these depths.

    May peace and grace find you, often.

  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter Wednesday, 03 September 2014

    Thank you for your words and wishes, Jason. I wish the same for you.

    Not only did we choose these depths, but we have the capacity for compassion for our parents' illness of calcified, caged minds, and that can give a perspective that eases the pain. I like to think that after this life, they'll remember who they really are, and be proud of us. I feel a sense of this when I think of my late father. :) It also reminds me to keep my mind open and to be wary of too much certainty or judging.

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