Persephone: The Subtlety of Feminine Power

This week we continue exploring our goddess theme with a guest post from local high school student and mythology enthusiast, Morgan Stevens. Morgan is a senior at School of the Woods in Houston and interned with us recently. She is presenting her senior thesis on Greek goddesses and the modern woman. Intrigued, we asked Morgan to be our guest blogger. Her thoughtful and inspiring post is below.

Often as I scroll through my Facebook feed I encounter quizzes that promise to diagnose my personality. Some ask me what my mythical creature is, or what my name was in a past life. The most popular ones I see typically have some relation to mythology. Which Norse god are you? Or what is your spirit animal? I’m usually curious as to what my results will be and who wouldn’t be? In our lifelong journey to find ourselves its nice to have something to answer the question of who we really are. Though others can easily observe our energy, aura, and beautiful idiosyncrasies, it is hard to clearly see ourselves from an insider’s perspective.

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In preparation for this post I took a quiz on which Greek goddess I most personify. I answered questions such as which colors I am most attracted to, my greatest flaw, even my favorite female artist. For the record, my answers were pink, temperamental, and Ke$ha. Each question had six possible answers, and in the end it was decided that I am the incarnation of Aphrodite. However, in the past different quizzes have given me different answers. Sometimes I am the wise, vicious Athena. Other times I am the life-giving Demeter. I have even been called the powerful, jealous wife of Zeus, Hera. Though I appreciate these incomplete explanations of myself, I am often left doubtful of their depth. In my experience as a Greek and Roman mythology fanatic, gods and goddesses are often as complex as the humans who have created them. It takes more than a shallow internet quiz to explain who I am.

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One such complex goddess is Persephone, the maiden daughter of Demeter. She is rarely recognized by pop culture but she has an important lesson to teach. Her story tells how Hades captured her while she was in her garden. He saw her innocent beauty and wanted it for his own. While Persephone was in the dark underworld, Demeter mourned for her lost daughter and made the world barren and cold. However, when Persephone was finally given the chance to return to her mother, she realized she wasn’t ready to give up her role as Queen of Souls. She accepted pomegranate seeds from her captor-husband, Hades. She made her choice with a streak of independence. As a result, she forever tied herself to limbo. She chose to exist in both the upper world full of life and the underworld filled with the dead.

Recently it has become popular to recognize Persephone as a symbol of feminine power, and I agree with this viewpoint. Though I do not think all women should be pigeon-holed into the role of the goddess of spring and Queen of Souls, I believe Persephone demonstrates a subtle, protective influence often associated with the feminine in our culture. As a young woman attempting to find my role in the world, I often see this quality discounted as a weakness. Many of us see power as strength over others, as ambitiousness or aggression. Not coincidentally, these qualities are often seen as masculine. If a woman hopes to earn respect in our world, she must demonstrate these traits. For the record, many women possess them naturally. However, many, including men, often find their Persephone likeness overlooked. Their emotional literacy, their subtle independence, openness, and kindness are seen as weak in a patriarchal society. With compassion comes balance, and with complexity comes beauty. I believe we can all learn something from the maiden who chose.

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2 thoughts on “Persephone: The Subtlety of Feminine Power

  1. Morgan, how very articulate you are on this topic! I hope you take it was a compliment when I say that had I not known this was written by a high school student, I would never have guessed! I am fascinated with historical embodiments of the feminine divine, but I am not nearly as well versed as you are in the realm of Greek mythology. Keep studying. We need more dialog on feminine archetypes!

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