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Maiden and Queen – part 2

Posted by Erik on August 5, 2008

[link to part 1]

The first underworld nights were hard for her,
A child of sunlight and perpetual summer.
He was a perfect gentleman, of course,
Once he had her with him…
And it’s not like she hadn’t been flirting with him.
Even if she hadn’t known who it was,
She had felt his presence, his watching her.
In love with her new-found power
(But not understanding it, not yet),
She had dared more than perhaps was wise;
Giggling with her nymphs as they played in the meadows,
Hem pulled up just this much higher,
Shoulders not-quite-consciously pulled back that little bit more
When she felt that gaze upon her.

So, it wasn’t a complete surprise when he came
Bursting through upon her wandering alone,
All earth horses strong arms sweat rough hands almost screaming
Carried into darkness.

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19 Responses to “Maiden and Queen – part 2”

  1. This one… I am nervous about it. The abduction and rape are so hard to recast in a modern context in a way that means anything palatable to a modern sensibility. It’s a scary fine line you’re stepping up to here, I think.

    But I respect your willingness to risk criticism by writing with as much integrity as you can bring to this particular edge. (Which has always been one reason why I’ve never been truly easy with Greek mythology, however familiar and comfortable on some levels, and prefer the Norse and Celtic pantheons in some ways. Though it’s not possible to avoid the patriarchal edges there, either, if you look closely enough.)

  2. executivepagan said

    The next part is going to be the hardest, no question… although I do have the benefit of alternate interpretations to call on, as well as Greek cultural practices… there is such a thing as an “abduction marriage” in Greek (and Balkan) history, and while the bride certainly was not always a willing party to the arrangement, from what I’ve read it was not unknown for a young couple to arrange an “abduction”.

    To give you just a hint of where I’m headed with it, I think it likely that Kore was not entirely unwilling to escape from her mother’s (somewhat overprotective?) shadow, at least for a time… but that, as I’ve already hinted, she didn’t necessarily “grok” what she was letting herself in for.

    Y’know, the more I think about this the longer the poem gets! :D

  3. Feral Boy said

    Myths need to be understood in the context of the society that they come from. If we are too quick to impose our own standards and mores on them, we get
    the Walt Disney version of the tale. Any lessons to be
    learned are sacrificed in order to “spare the children.”

    The same goes for poetry — some of the best brings up issues and concepts that are not usually spoken of in polite society. But often those things that lurk in the darkness are the ones that are most important to face
    and ultimately deal with.

    I’m eagerly awaiting the rest. Stay the course!

    — Feral Boy

  4. executivepagan said

    Part of the problem is that the only version of this story that most people know is based on the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, where it is quite explicitly an unwilling abduction… but that is far from the only interpretation that was around even in antiquity. I’m presenting my own personal interpretation of the story, of course; but I don’t think that any of my opinions would have unduly shocked the Ancients. :)

  5. Here is my feeling which is only one person’s opinion – I knew immediately this was male fantasy even though i have no idea who you are — i know because i really am a self aware woman and a pagan feminist.

    Did it ever occur to the male mind that the actuality of the choice to be with a man for part of the life cycle is not a rape? That the one goes from the self to the group and back to the self and that this is the great truth of the story? As it is in the myths of the dying god?

    At the time you write about it could only be portrayed as rape because of the patriarchy which slaved women and held them as property. You acknowledge this but still….The complexities of feeling are based in the treatment of the seed before and after as they are today and all that is not here but only the fantasy which is a male fantasy about women’s feelings and their experience. How the male insists the woman feel and be in order to make his approach easier. The fantasy of the young girl wanting him. But sadly no truth revealed about the source of the wanting or the why of the wanting.

    Men should not speak in the female voice regardless of their sexual preferences. Because everything they say is a lie. Don’t pretend to be woman – you don’t have a clue — whites should not pretend to be black — they cannot speak authentically –only from their fantasy –and everything they say is an insult –speak in your own authentic voice — the life process is in trying to find your own voice and express your own experience through it — if you feel feminine or want to be a woman or want to be raped or overpowered by power that wants you- say it as who you are — don’t pretend you know how women feel or that you have a woman’s experience or that you are a woman. This is what transsexuals do -try to pass — by using the worst male identified stereotypes of what women are in trying to pass. This is evil. And it is avoiding the truth of what you are and what you want to do.

    This sounds harsh but it is actually a nudge to get you to use your gift in the service of telling the truth of your own experience which no one can know without your telling. And your truth of going from inner to outer to inner is just as rich and full of colors as this imaginary woman you have constructed.

  6. executivepagan said

    Thanks for the comments.

    I am, indeed, a man – this is not exactly a secret, given that I have talked about my wife and daughter here on more than one occasion. Therefore, it follows that my response to the story of Persephone will be from a male perspective. And that is all that this poem is about – me working out my reaction to the myth as it has come down to us, and what meaning I think it has for my life and my faith.

    I’m sure I will have a fuller response for you, hopefully this evening – you raise several points that deserve to be addressed more thoroughly than I can do right now.

  7. Here is a good idea.

    Write a poem on why eating the seeds keeps the individual in the underworld. What ARE the seeds? Why does the time correspond to the exact number of seeds eaten? Where IS the underworld? What is the Underworld? What or who really brings you there ? Your shadow? Your animus? What does the other self look like? How does it act toward you?

  8. executivepagan said

    Actually, in reading this over again I’m not sure there *is* much more to say now that we’ve cleared up that I’m not pretending to be a woman (I still don’t understand where that impression came from, but whatever…).

    Did it ever occur to the male mind that the actuality of the choice to be with a man for part of the life cycle is not a rape?

    Yes. That’s actually where the poem will be heading, because that is my belief as well. The relationship is not simple, and I feel sure that Their eventual compromise was hard-won, but I think that the modern assumption that this was a simple abduction/rape as seen on the evening news is, in fact, dead wrong… but interestingly, I am more accustomed to hearing women argue that the myth has no value precisely because it legitimizes rape.

    Men should not speak in the female voice

    I don’t agree. I have experimented with the female voice a couple of times; mostly because that is how the poems appeared, full-blown, in my mind, but also because I think it’s a valuable exercise to try and see the world through different eyes. I never “pretended” they were written by a woman – and in fact, with the possible exception of “Always a Lady”, I think it’s pretty obvious that they were written by a man.

    Here is a good idea. Write a poem on…

    I might eventually write more on some of the topics you suggested (I do have a definite understanding of the meaning of the pomegranate in this story, rooted in ancient associations, that will be a prominent component of the dénouement); but most of your suggestions, while interesting in their own right, are not really related to the aspect of the myth I am exploring – the relationships between Persephone and Her mother and husband. This is not a Jungian work, but a personal and a religious one.

  9. OK but one last thing. What I was talking about is writing in an authentic voice. In your poem you are speaking as if you know how she feels -what her reactions were. This is inauthentic. What you can do is unravel the myth in a male voice from a male’s experience. When you say what she felt you are saying what a male wants a woman to feel and that is not truth. It is propaganda from the patriarchy. It seeks to define women not as they are but as men wish them to be.

    The pomegranate is only a vulva from a patriarchal filter over the myth. The Christians did this to the pagan vegetable god who they made into their dying on the cross man god. Filters on the myth are illusion and obscure the meaning rather than reveal what is useful spiritually. – The Demeter/Persephone myth is only superficially about sexuality. The separation from the mother and coming into autonomy; the transformation into becoming the adult or parent figure is the myth and the seeds are the key. Nor Hall explored this in “Mothers and Daughters” which you would enjoy.

    You know there is religion and then there is spiritual truth which is very individual. The purpose of myth is to help the individual understand how they function in the world as a combination of all the forces in nature –to reveal the working internally of elements that SEEM separate from the human organism. The connections revealed, so to speak.

    Anyway, I dreamed how to explain this which is to tell how I learned about speaking my own reality from an authentic voice. I used to love the Mary Renault books, particularly “The King Must Die” which told the Theseus myth. Mary wrote in the male voice but since she was a woman she romanticized the male motives and dynamic and the consequences (karma). She saw him as an outsider sees power even though she wrote in the voice of a male. She was not a male and saw it the way a woman looks at power and longs for that power without any understanding of it. Therefore, she was in the end only writing propaganda, not truth. There was a hole in the newspaper as Ferlinghetti said.

    I realized this when I read “Ariadne” by June Rachuy Brindel, which tells the story of the last priestess from the authentic voice of a woman inside a woman. I immediately understood Renault’s work as a romanticized fantasy and realized it was because the voice was not authentic.

    I was urging you to find the male in your poem and speak from there. Not to say how the woman felt when she was in the field being watched but how the male felt watching her – He may have felt she was asking for it but you cannot know she really was yet that is the way you present it in your poem.

    Read Ariadne and I think that will clarify what I am saying especially if you have read Renault.

    Well I won’t intrude on you again but fade back into my lurker status. I have enjoyed this exchange. Even if I am totally wrong about everything I have said, I am sure it was interesting for you as your poem was to me. BB

  10. executivepagan said

    I never made that association with the pomegranate. I freely admit I don’t get the whole vulva-symbolism thing… and again, that’s something I am accustomed to seeing more in women’s representations than in men’s. My understanding of the importance of the pomegranate in this story is that it is sacred to Hera – it’s a symbol of the hieros gamos, the sacred marriage. There are more filters to see this story through than just the sexual, as I think I showed in part 1 of the poem. That aspect was central to part 2, but I’ll be looking at still other aspects (eventually) in parts 3 and beyond. In the end, though, while the ancient versions of the story may differ as to causes and motivations, they’re pretty much unanimous that Kore was carried off by Hades – that is just the material of the story that I had to work with in part 2.

    I do like the idea of exploring Hades’ side of the story, and maybe (Muses willing) I will one day. At the moment, though, this is a work specifically for Her; as I wrestle with the next section I am feeling more and more that this attempt to “get inside” Her story (and this particular myth is, above all, Her story) is becoming an act of devotion.

    I see what you mean in drawing the comparison with Mary Renault – that makes sense to me. I don’t entirely agree with your conclusion, but it does help me to see more clearly where it’s coming from. I might quibble that the perspective in the poem is third-person, which implies an outside observer, but that may be too fine a distinction to draw.

    However… to take your argument to its logical conclusion, then I would have to say that ultimately none of us can write authentically about any culture, place or time other than our own. Brindel’s authorial “voice” is not more authoritative than Renault’s, or M Z Bradley’s, or my own, because none of us knows what it’s like to be an ancient Greek, man or woman. And nobody could ever write about the Gods!

    On a side note, have you read Ursula Le Guin’s “Lavinia”? I think you’d like it. I, in turn, will look for the Brindel. And yes, this has been interesting – my favorite part of blogging is the conversations! Thanks.

  11. Feral Boy said

    To my mind, the sign of a great writer is that they CAN write from the perspective of other times, cultures, or the opposite sex. Charles de Lint writes urban fantasy, and many of his protagonists are women. My sister Barbara wrote to him to ask if he was not in fact female (he took that as a compliment :) ). His portrayals conveyed to her very well many of her own perspectives and experiences.

    Also, gender reversal in some societies is one of the hallmarks of shamans. I would disagree that the spiritual link to the Otherworld they provide for their people is evil. Closer to home, there are others who interact with non-human beings, in order to gain what
    wisdom they can from them. This is not only in native American cultures, but also ancient Irish. There is the tale of mad Suibhne, who lived with the birds until the terms of his geas were fulfilled.

    Ultimately, until we begin by imagining the thoughts, emotions, and motives of those who are different, we will never bridge the chasm between Us and The Others.

    — Feral Boy

    p.s. E.P., have you read “Always Coming Home” by U.K. Le Guin? I think you would enjoy her portrayal of a culture very unlike ours, though the “archaeology of the future.” I find that her world view here resonates very much with my own.

  12. executivepagan said

    Oh yes, I read “Always Coming Home” when it first came out. Fascinating book… I was working at Waldenbooks at the time, so with the employee discount I was able to afford the deluxe edition that included a cassette (yes, that *was* a long time ago, thanks for asking ;) ) of the music from the book.

  13. “ancient versions of the story may differ as to causes and motivations, they’re pretty much unanimous that Kore was carried off by Hades”

    But who or what is Hades?

    Another aspect of self? The shadow? The animus? or the male aspect? or is this myth about rape? In actual rape myths there is a different kind of transformation that occurs (and this is true when men are transformed as well)

    When the nymph (Daphene?) turned into a tree to escape rape that myth said what rape /unwanted advances do/does to women not that a woman became a tree. The myths about changing/ transforming into something other than human are about what the actions of others do to the soul of the acted upon.

    All myth concerns the self acted upon and the elemental reactions – sometimes there are two different entities but when we talk about the UNDERWORLD we are always talking about different aspects of the self, not different entities –subconscious as opposed to consciousness – inner as opposed to outer.

    The sacred marriage is what ? – the pomegranate is what??seed/sperm in the womb/vulva. That is obvious – what is more important is what this symbolizes to the INDIVIDUAL. What do we humans do the pomegranate — We EAT it. and become nourished by it. Drink of my body eat of my blood — what does the woman do every month.? What is the Source of all Life?? God — Then who is God? Who nourishes life with her vulva’s blood? Where does that life come from? Now you are talking about the sacred mystery which is what or who is God.

  14. executivepagan said

    But who or what is Hades?

    Um… Hades is a God. They can’t be reduced to archetypes or symbols for human psychology, any more than people can.

    the pomegranate is what??seed/sperm in the womb/vulva. That is obvious

    Um, again… not to me, it’s not. Nor to my wife, who has been reading this thread (and who is an authentic woman – I promise :) ).

    I do not believe that all mythology is self-referential, nor that the world is a symbol of human sexuality, nor for that matter that the Divine can necessarily be reduced down to a single entity, whether that be God or Goddess.

    Sometimes a pomegranate is just a pomegranate.

  15. Feral Boy said

    > The sacred marriage is what ? – the pomegranate is what??

    More importantly, to whom is the meaning obvious? All of us have different perspectives when it comes to symbols. If an image can be interpreted in only one way, it is a sign. Part of the definition of a symbol is its ambiguity. Thus the swastika is the Nationalist Party to some — and also stands for the sun (the interpretation given to its representation in art from 40,000+ BCE). A pomegranate means vulva to you — to a Hebrew, it may be “… a symbol for righteousness, because it is said to have 613 seeds which corresponds with the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah.” (found in Wikipedia, I have not verified that). “Pomegranate” is also the source of the word “grenade”, because the shrapnel produced by a grenade is evocative of the its many seeds — yet another association, with death instead of life, or sex.

    In short, there can be almost as many meanings for a symbol as there are beings to contemplate it. And thanks for invoking Freud, E.P. He encouraged deeper contemplation of symbols, even though his own perspective turned out to be rather limited in the end.

    — Feral Boy

    p.s. I don’t necessarily believe the Gods can be reduced to symbols or archetypes of the consciousness. But I DO think that the archetypes are the interface that we use to communicate with them. It is MUCH easier to talk with another Person, than to “life, the universe, and everything.”

  16. executivepagan said

    Yes, you’re spot on with the Jewish meaning. Pomegranates are quite common in Jewish art and symbolism. In fact, they’re regarded so highly that they are frequently found as part of the “dressing” of the Torah scroll – the silver caps that cover the scroll handles are often (usually? not sure) in the shape of pomegranates.

    I like the concept of the archetypes being an aid to communicating with the Gods, although I do think that we are talking to Persons – whether they are manifestations of something else is not that important to me, since if they are then that’s apparently how the something else wants to communicate with us.

  17. Feral Boy said

    That’s why I use the term “interface”, as in communication with a program. You use a certain API to hand data to a program — as a user, you are not concerned with what that program does. All you need to know is that you input something in a certain way, then “… a miracle occurs…” :) , and it outputs the result. Using the same API, you can communicate with a file on the Internet in Germany as easily as with a local Access database. Consider the API to be the method you choose to communicate with the gods, and The Mystery what happens inside the “black box.” The important part is not what is inside — it is the process of speaking with Them.

    — Feral Boy

  18. executivepagan said

    I can go with your analogy, noting a slight concern that it not be misinterpreted as “slot machine” theology…

  19. Feral Boy said

    Just a little friendly advice — Stay away from “Windows for Prayergroups” !!!!

    This you probably read a long while back, but it’s still
    relevant & kind of fun:

    http://www.well.com/~cynsa/engine.html

    Enjoy,
    Feral Boy

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