November 17th 2019: Asteroid Persephone joins her husband, a conjunction to Pluto in Capricorn, the climax of her Underworld expression. Her previous conjunction to Pluto was in January of 2014.
Persephone manages the balance between Pluto and Ceres, our solar system’s two most prominent dwarf planets. Ceres is the largest body in the asteroid belt; Pluto is the first-discovered and largest-known KBO. In astrology, they are energetic opposites and partners. Pluto rules all things that happen underground, and Ceres rules things growing out of the ground. When Persephone is in her summertime phase, she is united with maternal energy: grounded, present, flourishing, abundant. In Persephone’s winter phase, she is in communion with her shadow.
It requires a delicate approach to deconstruct the symbols of this myth, since it is difficult for many trauma survivors to handle the concepts of rape and kidnapping as they commonly appear in most versions of the story. The real meaning of this myth has been totally distorted by centuries of misogynist beliefs about mothers, daughters, and the process by which a girl becomes a woman, distorted by insidious mainstream religious brainwashed beliefs that hell is a place of torture and annihilation.
Ceres is our solar system’s archetype of Mother, she is intimately bonded to her daughter and she would do anything to protect her, giving everything to nurture her health and happiness. When Ceres sees Pluto taking her little girl away, and sees that she is in pain, Ceres thinks that this is non-consensual, Pluto is hurting her and she needs to be rescued. In her eyes, Persephone is not strong enough to bear any pain, not ready to be separated from her Mother. Ceres is desperate to prevent her baby from going through hell, and does not understand that Persephone has become mature enough to make this choice for herself. The vast majority of mythological interpretations do not recognize Persephone’s maturity either, depicting her as cluelessly swept away, or more commonly, as a victim of sexual assault.
The caricature of “Death” shows a skeletal figure in a black robe with a scythe who arrives at the moment someone dies. This “Death” doesn’t actually kill anyone, rather he is the escort that assists mortals in managing their experience of transition. This is a very useful analogy to re-imagine Pluto meeting Persephone. As Persephone came to the death of her childhood- her own realization that a full life cannot be lived without embracing her shadow (and that in order to do so, she must leave her mother’s protective nest)- in that moment, Pluto arrived, and initiated her into the realm of Hades… a place that we are all supposed to be very, very afraid of.
As living creatures, as mammals, we evolved to need Mother’s love. Being cared for in a safe place is not optional, it is mandatory for our existence. But it goes against the natural energetic laws of this planet to stay safe and receive nurturing forever.
In the Underworld, Persephone’s agency is erased from the story again, depicted as being duped into eating the pomegranate which forces her to return to the Underworld. Shifting away from this interpretation is psychologically beneficial to anyone who is healing from trauma. Persephone knows that eating the fruit represents the loss of innocence, but she also knows that the loss will give her access to knowledge that was forbidden by the caregiver that protected that innocence. She returns to the Underworld not by force, but because she is now a mature woman, she is embracing her whole self. In the Underworld, she bravely and honestly faces the truth of her loss, her fear, her helplessness, her sorrow, knowing it is as vital to wholeness as love, warmth, safety, and self-esteem.
And Ceres, destroyed by the loss of her daughter, refuses to allow anything to grow while they are separated, punishment for the whole world. I have never believed this! This is not a myth of winter that resonates with the rhythms of Earth.
Hekate guides Ceres towards the radical acceptance that mothers must give their blessing in order for their children to individuate into adults, and that the mother’s perception of separation is an illusion. Ceres learns to understand that letting go of Persephone does not mean that she is losing her. Winter is not Ceres having a grief-rage-fit, it is a sign of her acceptance that Persephone has chosen to leave and does not need her mother’s active nurturing when she is gone. Winter’s death only feels like emptiness and loss when we refuse to look beyond the surface.
The life force of planet Gaia, all creatures, all ideas, all movements on Earth go through a cycle of birth, growth, harvest, death, compost, and fertilization for new birth. The relationship between the seasons(Ceres), and the cyclical nature of consciousness(Persephone) is one of the greatest spiritual mysteries of all time. It is the paradox of transcending the darkness(Pluto) by learning to embrace it.
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