Brownie Bites: The Myth of Persephone- Outtake #3: The Deal


Image retrieved from google images

The politics of the Gods is very similar to the politics within our own psyches. Think of all the voices in your head, clamoring to be heard, or to be in the driver’s seat.  They have their own agendas and make their own deals.

In the post-Hellenic version of the myth of Persephone, it is revealed that Zeus, the supreme God, made a deal with Hades. Hades desired Persephone for himself, and Zeus gave his blessing.  We can only imagine Demeter’s wroth.  It is not until the people of Greece appeal to Zeus to do something that Zeus retracts his blessing and orders Hades to restore Persephone.  Estes does not talk much about this deal, and I would like to pause in following her interpretation of the myth.

It struck me that this deal between Zeus and Hades is exemplary of poisonous patriarchal pedagogy.  This version of the myth expresses the haggling over the female’s creative and sexual assets as one would property. Metaphorically, it is a beautiful example of our own indicative tendency to “devalue” our own creativity ( male or female): to make it into a bargaining chip and in a sense, condone its abduction.   However, on a darker note, it also is representative of the specific kind of father who bargains away his daughter.

Handless Maiden

“The Handless Maiden” retrieved from google images

This motif is prevalent in European folk and fairy tales in which a father, usually a miller, makes a bargain with the Devil by giving it his daughter. “The Handless Maiden” and “The Robber Groom” are two that come to mind. But,  this type of relationship is not just a “fairy tale”.  In the “real world”,  father daughter relationships like this are all too common. My own father devalued my intelligence, curiosity, and creative talents. He did this through continuous assaults on me: emotionally, mentally, and physically. I learned that I was valueless, stupid, and I bargained myself away to a man who also didn’t value me or my “assets”.  While this is more indirect deal making that resulted in the “rape and abduction” of  my Self, here is an example of a disturbingly literal  situation: one of my students related in her narrative essay that her father, who raped her for years, actually taught her how to bargain herself away for sex. At a birthday party for the older brother, the female student, who was only thirteen at the time, was forced to attend. She was the only female among a dozen or so boys. It was a pool party. The father kept hinting that she hit on this boy, or that boy. And being the good, dutiful, daughter that she was, she did what she was asked, much to the approval of the father. The student related that from this experience – and many others like it- she had learned that her only value was in her sexuality, and that her sexuality was cheap. She learned that she was cheap, and had learned to bargain herself in this way. For most of her young adult life, she perpetuated the “rape and abduction” of  what had been done to her by her father.


“The Rape of Proserpina” by Gian Lorenzo Brenini retrieved from Wikipedia

When we devalue our lives, our being, and our creativity, when we think it is cheap, or worthless, we are ripe for the rape of this most precious part of ourselves. Not only is it abducted out of cycle, it is done so with our blessing. We perpetuate the sadistic deal making of the father: our inner Zeus. This stuff is deep, and painful, and often we have no idea what we are doing to ourselves. Again, asking Estes’s question: who took it? is vital.  But also, why? must be asked.

The student, as related above, explained how she found her answers to these questions. In a summer long Evangelical event, she heard other women talking about similar experiences, which made her realize she was not alone and she decided she had worth. She was able to open to the power of  her “God” and experience compassion, healing, and truth. Now, while this may be seen as simple fundamentalist fervor, it was profound and real to her. She found her way. Some find it through psychotherapy, others through yoga or meditation, some through Christ, some through AA, and some just from their own inner abilities, self-study or psyche spelunking. It doesn’t matter how, so long as it gets done. The cure here is that of self-compassion.

PERSEPHONE2Interestingly enough, in the pre-Hellenic version of the myth of Persephone,  Persephone is not abducted. A crack appears in the Earth and she hears the voice of the dead. They are lost and cannot find their way to the Land of the Dead. Persephone, out of deep compassion, descends to help them. More on that later…

When we are able to see this truth about ourselves and how we continuously allow for the abduction of our creativity ( and other parts of our selves), and perhaps come to know, and accept, how we perpetuate and condone it, then we can begin to exert some conscious intervention, power, and re-patterning.  When we embrace and apply self-compassion we stop condoning the abduction of our Selves: psychically and psychically.

We may have a boardroom of Gods and a plethora of Underground mafia kings, but we are the ones who hold the key to the city. The city is ours, and the key is compassion.

Thanks for reading.




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