Discover more from Rachael Maddox
❤️🔥Resisting destruction doesn’t mean it won’t come.
A thread on the archetypal energy of Persephone. Her power. Her feared reputation. Her ultimate unyielding love.
It was April of last year, after a hazy, dry winter. Seann and I were driving from San Diego to Joshua Tree for a ritual retreat to open our Conception Portal. We were deciding what to listen to, when Anais Mitchell’s iconic folk opera, Hadestown, popped into my awareness. The one that sings the tale of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, King Hades and his wife Persephone.
“Have you head it?” I asked. He hadn’t.
We drove through sun-bleached rural landscapes, heat beating down on Seann’s orange manual Toyota Tacoma, Rajah in the back seat alternating between sighs and sleep, while songs of heartbreaking beauty, fate and cosmic chains, crooned through the speakers.
Track 10. Ani DiFranco. Our Lady of the Underground.
The tune invoked a smokey chamber with a head mistress, consoling all who come to her in distress. She was holding the keys. Domming the masses. Seducing with sophistication. Arrogance, earned.
“Brother what’s my name? I’ll tell you my name,” she sang. “Persephone.”
We looked at each other, brows raised on either of our faces.
“Persephone.” I whispered. “Now that’s a cool name.”
I liked the way it felt on my teeth against my bottom lip. The way it floated through the air. The way it incanted an edgy kind of mystery.
“It really is,” Seann whispered back.
We left it at that.
On the last day of our self-guided retreat, we dove in with a Spirit Babies meditation, open to meeting the essence of the child who’d want to birth through us.
We both saw a young wily girl, curliest of curls, powerful and rascally in one.
Sharing afterwards, it felt clear: this child coming to greet us from the spirit world was a girl. And her name was Persephone.
In the blink of an eye, in perfect divine time, I was with child, and my dreamland grew wild. She visited me night after night, insisting on her name.
At first, I was sold. Pure gold that this girl wanted to re-write the misguided tale they told of her. Scramble the patriarchal perspective of abduction and rape, disempowerment and pain. Claim the choice to become Queen of the Dark. Holder of seeds. Kinky in the weeds of death and rebirth. Yes, daddy, yes. Let’s let them distress. Mmmhhhh. Harder.
But the cultural narrative pressed ever on my chest. “Bringer of Destruction” was her supposed translation. And I began to grow certain that this baby was about to destroy the best parts of me, rather than destroy what needed to be set free.
“Can’t you be some other goddess?” I asked her in the Dreamtime. “Like Aphrodite? Or Dana?”
It was week 9 of my pregnancy and I was on my maiden’s deathbed. Couldn’t cook. Couldn’t walk. Paralyzed by all-consuming nausea. Exhausted beyond belief. Decomposing was my identity. Dare I try to hustle something professional out. That baby would bitch slap me right on the snout.
One part of me wanted to shout, STOP. Ease up. Let me have my life, my body back. Another part, completely enraptured with the death trap of this gorgeous, fearless union. The way we were choosing each other. Changing each other. Arranging and deranging in the same birdsong moment.
It makes me think now of how so often the archetypal energies of destruction get a bad rep.
Persphone. Kali. Inana.
Fearful mortals, we don’t go into their hold long enough to find out that on the other side of the break down, after ample time resting on fertile barren ground, we rise again – tiny buds into blue skies of spring.
More whole. More true. Renewed with the kind of care that only the dark cool dewy caves of the underworld can deliver. Released from who we’ve been. Slate cleaned to begin again. Wiser. Weathered in all the best and worst ways. Tenderized and strengthened in one.
Resisting destruction doesn’t mean it won’t come.
Endings find and break you, no matter your clever attempts at escape.
Get taken by force, or go with choice. Those are the options. No one gets out alive.
Turns out, we’re having a boy. Or as feels more true to me, a baby with a penis.
Persephone won’t be this child’s name. (That’s still yet to be claimed.)
But the spirit of Persephone has absolutely been with us through our pregnancy. Her fiercely loving destructive energy. Her defiant tryst with the shadows. Her less known courage to choose.
Force is far more traumatic than choice. But still, few move willingly towards the crumbling that’s calling their names.
But not Persephone.
She claimed her initiation from Maiden to Mother. After all, before her fall into the underworld her name was simply Kore. Translation: plain maiden.
She didn’t wait to be taken by illness, accident or abusive dead end.
At 13, she climbed down into the fire pit of autumnal melancholy. Chill of winter on the horizon, she said yes to the daylight dropping. Not just for her, but for everyone. She invoked the dark, willingly, shamelessly. And in turn, became the Queen of the Underworld. Married the carrier of seeds, Hades – a man also gravely misunderstood.
She took a stand for her taboo truth.
“They will say I was abducted, but really, this is what I wanted,” she commands. “A dance with my darkest desires. To throw myself into the fire of lust and shadow, the place where fertile beginnings grow. I will let the winter descent – on the world, on my mother – and the sky will darken and cry, and the humans will wonder why, but deep inside, they’ll know the slow snowy rest was the best medicine. We will let go in a blaze and then hibernate in our caves, reflecting on what wants to bloom anew, and what wants to rapidly undo. Like it or not, I love us enough to insist on the depths of the underground.”
I find it interesting that they paint the picture of Persephone through the lens of traumatic force, stripping her of her empowered choice. Like maybe they don’t want us to know that beyond the capture of perpetual summer, is the erotic relief of total release.
They didn’t want me to know I could slow down so significantly that only what was still honest would rise in me. Expectations be damned.
They didn’t want me to know I could work less and less and still somehow receive more and more.
They didn’t want me to know that on the other side of identity destruction was a reconstitution of my most primal authentic joy.
They didn’t want me to know that in totally letting go – of pleasing, of appeasing, of round-the-clock performing for the sake of their needing – I could satisfy not only myself, but a whole swelling constellation of relations far more grown up and mature than any chore of savior and victim.
They didn’t want me to know that my eros could be sharp like a sword, then soft like a rabbit. That I could inhabit both fang and fur. Innocent and deadly. Feral and free. Totally my own, and when I desire – shared with many.
They didn’t want me to know that in all these forbidden roles, I could be loved, really loved. Savored like the deepest midnight peace. The winter solstice dream of starlight shining so so bright, only made possible through the contrast of pitch black fright.
They didn’t want me to know that a fright is just a fright. That maybe it’s even a thrill. That fear is not a reason to deny the season of destruction the soul of the world is calling you to.
But no matter. I found out anyway. My own inner-Persephone tip-toeing like a teenager into the dark.
She couldn’t see where she was going, but she was clear the direction was down. Into the ground of her impending Mother mysteries. Come to see who she was meant to be. Come to find out destruction could be ecstasy. Come to find out destruction would also be messy. But only destruction would crown her Queen of her own sovereign territory. The one she forged by shovel and sword. The one she claimed that earned her her name. And the one that would grow her, after all that waiting, into the unquestionable, glorious Goddess of Spring.
After all, that’s what destruction brings.
New beginnings. New beginnings. New beginnings.
I wonder if there’s a Persephone in you, urging you to choose an irresistible descent before the underground gobbles you unwillingly. Wonder what could be set free if you faced the dark head on. Within you. In your world. In ours.
Wonder the kind misery we could all be free of if we didn’t resist necessary destruction. Necessary quiet. Necessary pause.
Wonder what other medicine this baby is bound to bring me, despite my fear and hesitation. Despite my kink for gripping onto control.
Who knows. But I’m excited to find out…
Big love. Wild trust.
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PPS – Sharing is caring. Pass this story medicine to a beloved who could use a lil nudge into the liberating dark.
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