We can take a single detail from the life of the goddess
from our own lives, perhaps) and see it in many different ways...
But what does it mean to be Queen of the Underworld?
What does it mean to be "abducted"? In fact, what does "the Underworld"
Maybe the Underworld is what looms beneath everything
we try to shy away from. The ego's averted Kingdom, place of
vanishing, "where the images of the departed dwell."
Depth plane, death plane, the empire of our losses--including
thing the ego always is losing (as if it ever had it) --the loss of
control--that grandiose fiction... And yet this, simultaneously, is the
realm of Plutous, the dimension of riches--as if the ego's loss, a
deeper self's gain. Say that Pluto is that deeper self, and Persephone,
his sometimes reluctant Queen.
Say that maybe the Underworld is "under," and
relegated to a
"lower" status because (it's) the part of existence not culturally
valued, the part that is feared, the "where" to which we, our loved
ones, and our "best laid plans" all disappear. What happens in the
Underworld is in some way "dark," frightening, culturally
unsanctioned--or even illegal, as viewed by the reigning world up
So it feels like a risk to go, let alone live there,
somewhat like Las
Vegas, the Bardo, or Gomorrah. We could incur losses, or become
lost ourself --or then again, perhaps have a hell of a good time.
I'm suggesting that the Underworld may be on good terms
"the pleasure principal." Perhaps on better terms than what passes
above. Plutonic sexuality, for example, is very powerful, if
somewhat "unsocialized." Underworld activities may be what
the soul wants, and if the light is dim there, perhaps we are freer to do
what we'd want no one else to see.
Before we had rules, before we had Patriarachy and its
people followed something --more akin to energy, more akin to
seasons. Persephone still does...and so can seem naughty--both
violated and a violator (when she thinks no one is looking) or when
we do look at her through the lens of our conventional judgments,
such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders--
a very "Patriarchal" document indeed. And so Persephone bears a
stigma, a wound-- a narcissistic wound perhaps--as do any of us
identified with the goddess, perhaps any goddess, in a time of
Persephone, Pluto, and Demeter are all part of one
constellation--a constellation of the soul's depth itself, as well as of
the soul's deepest wound. I have mostly written about Persephone
as the one who bears the wound for the whole constellation, though
in fact all parts of the constellation have their own nuance of
woundedness, their own nuance of loss (Demeter grieving the loss of
a daughter, Persephone bearing the loss of a mother, Pluto who
bears the cyclic loss of a wife, along with a generalized isolation,
And I'm also suggesting that this wound has been worsened
through the Patriarchal sensibility that has been dominant for the
past several millennia, a sensibility that in itself separates parts from
the natural wholeness, and in the process loses touch with
"wholeness," "nature,"-- and "depth." The head becoming separate
from the body... the body itself seen as a collection of parts, such that
symptoms become treated instead of the whole( person)... Men
lusting after breasts, sometimes oblivious to the woman they are
connected to... The person, the individual, increasingly become
separated from community... The human community increasingly
experiencing itself as separate from the rest of creation...
So its not just Persephone who's become abducted, and separated
from the Earth Mother, but each of us living under the current
cultural conditions are being "abducted" daily from the wholeness of
our natural state. And aside from the rather lightweight occasions of
Mother's Day, or Earth Day (which could be an honoring of
Demeter) where in our American culture do we honor this whole
constellation, where do we honor the soul and its depth? Where is
our Eleusian Mystery? And how might we honor all that's been lost?
In this vein, during a published interview in The Mountain
Astrologer, Jeffrey Wolf Green says that "Pluto represents the
biggest wound in the sense that the soul has been wounded ever since
it had a patriarchal transition and experienced the progressive
suppression of Natural Law. Anytime we have anything natural
which is suppressed, its going to become the basis of distortion and
rage and wounds, because now the soul is being asked to live in
violation of Natural Law. So, of course, Pluto's going to connect
with a deep wound. But then the question becomes: 'What is that
wound connected to?' And my answer would be: 'the soul.'"
If the soul --or the goddess, wants again to be heard and
the Olympian daylight it feels as a lost birthright, then the same
might be said for Pluto --or the Underworld ego of the baby boomer
generation, where so many are questing for their fifteen minutes of
If the gods have always been stars, then perhaps celebrity--along
with pathology--is another way that today we experience them.
If Hollywood blockbusters and the cover of Time magazine
love we feel "missing" in our lives) would be the apotheosis of this
recognition, then perhaps our sense of failure means we've been
abducted to an Underworld fate.
Here, Marlon Brando's character in On The Waterfront,
coulda been a contender" becomes the refrain of a self, a career, a life
that hasn't managed to break free from its Underworld ties.
There may be agonizing wounds, losses, depths, deaths--as
as ecstatic births linked to the Underworld. To be in the Underworld
is to be overcome, something involuntary happening to us--orgasm
itself ("the little death") perhaps being an example: the shudder that
comes up from our depths...
And in the Orphic mysteries Persephone gives birth to a
child in the
Underworld--and that child is none other than Dionysus, a
personification of ecstasy--who himself is later overcome by ecstatic
maenids who tear him apart.
But to stay with the image, the Orphic one of "Persephone
birth to Dionysus," what might this be saying?
Psychologically, I take this to mean that ecstasy requires
to be overcome, a thin-ness of ego boundary, a deep receptivity, and
so a certain kind of vulnerability is involved. In other words, there's
a capacity for vulnerability in the soul (Persephone), a lack of ego
boundary, an undefendedness--that is the "mother," the matrix from
which ecstasy arises.
In this way, Persephone can appear as a medial figure,
a muse, a
drug, an overwhelming experience--and like Hecate, is thus a
goddess of liminal events. She perpetuates and supports that which
arises involuntarily--grief, bliss, "excesses" of feeling, whatever is
ravaging our ego boundaries, and thus exposing us more to our
What happens in the Underworld--our pleasuring as well
our wounding--seems related to our fate, and may be fated to go
against our previously prevailing hope of gain, our previously
prevailing sense of grain. (Our seeds must fall to come up as corn).
Something deep may be working against our wishes, turning the life
we have clung to upside down.
To be in the Underworld is to have undergone a descent,
a loss, a failure or depression...it's to stand alone--or nearly so--it's
to be "at a loss," cut adrift from familiar surroundings, familiar
relationships, familiar assumptions, cut off from even whom we
have taken ourselves to be.
It is said that no one--or almost no one-- enters the Underworld
willingly. We need to be overcome, overwhelmed, in order to go
Our Fate has taken us where we ourselves had feared to tred.
"Abducted," some part of us resisting, we find ourselves involuntarily
led. There's something like a "destiny" being followed, contrary to
the ego's guidance or wishes. And sometimes that
...is exactly what we need.
To be in the Underworld is to live amidst uncertainty,
landmarks, nothing to follow, but the heart--which sometimes has
own dark convictions.
The Underworld can not be found on any map, nor located
by any conscious plan. In this way it is "dark," mysterious,
a hidden precinct of the soul--and a precinct where the ego doesn't
get a vote.
It is The Great Place Below--under our normal place or way of
--perhaps any version of "away" we are involuntarily taken or led.
And if we are lucky--may be where we touch the invisible riches
of the self's deep Lord.
As for Persephone, the Underworld's Queen, she might be
who got "mobbed up" with an underworld figure--departing from
her mother's visioning (perhaps that she marry a dentist). Yet
there's a purity, a virgin innocence in Persephone's obedience to her
own heart, her own nature and fate. It will cost her everything--for
seasons at a time--though in another sense, nothing is ever lost.
She may have to wear a faintly scarlet letter on her breast,
the end, perhaps, she has her cake and eats it too. Which, after all, is
what cake is for.
From an upper-world, Olympian perspective, our girl has
South, "under the hill," and marries--involuntarily--against
conventional wisdom. So, for all her reluctance, perhaps there's a
courage in Persephone, a dauntless willingness--where love is
concerned--to risk looking wrong. (She's not linear--but is moved by
that which is invisible, feels she has no choice but to "go with the
energy," without caring so much what it looks like, and with little
control over where it might lead her). As the poet Robert Creely
writes in his poem "Kore,"
are you leading me
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