Overview of Persephone’s Journey

Persephone was a girl abducted and raped into marriage as part of an agreement between her father and Hades.  She was held captive in his lonely underworld realm until her mother was able to negotiate her release for annual home visits.  Her story about betrayal, abduction, and rape has been re-told in poems, novels, and the lives of women since first told by the blind poet, Homer, 3,000 years ago

Persephone’s Journeyenters thedeeper, emotional experiences of sexual violenceand the underworld journey through the stories of individual Persephone women.  Told against a backdrop of 2,500 years of Western history. From the iron fist of military control extending from piratical Greece, through Rome and the rise of Christianity, to European monarchies, and the post-modern world of twenty-first century America, this book shows how the patriarchal West gave rise to an underworld of violence and oppression of all women and most men.

Persephone’s myth began with a traumatic descent, but the underworld is not the end of her journey.  In some ways it is the beginning. From the nightmare of her descent, something new and vital can emerge like pumpkins growing in a compost pile. Renewal begins with the courage to make peace with the past, and to face the future with hope. This is where Persephone’s mature power lies.

Persephone’s spirit speaks with the voices of generations of women who were not permitted to learn to read or write and women who have lived in the dark heart of cruelty, slavery and abuse. She is a psychological presence everywhere in women today in memories of our mothers, their mothers, and all our grandmothers.   Her story creates a sacred common ground for women’s lives. She is an archetype that is emerging from the shadows of Western civilization’s legacies of racism and misogyny.



Search for the Lost Goddess

Persephone Woman is a synthesis of thirty years of reading, meditating and writing about the most misunderstood of all the Greek goddesses.  Most valuable in helping me understand Persephone have been the experiences and insights of hundreds of clients, students and friends.

My curiosity about Persephone was first aroused when teaching Goddess Within workshops throughout the U.S. and in Canada in the 1980s.  We played a theater game in the workshop that involved players selecting a goddess (Demeter, Artemis, Aphrodite, Hera, Athena and Persephone) they felt most familiar with.  The point of the game was for players to be able to ask an “everything you ever wanted to know but had no one to ask” questions.  From the questions asked it was clear that Persephone was a mystery to anyone in the workshop who did not identify themselves with the goddess of the spirit world and the underworld journey.

A few years later, while writing the Goddess Within: A Guide to the Eternal Myths that Shape Women’s Lives, with Roger Woolger, I searched for myths and stories that would help me understand Persephone’s psychology. Except for Toni Wolff, C.G. Jung’s colleague, and her writing about the “medial” woman, there wasn’t much to go on beyond poetry and women’s stories.

Dissatisfied with the Persephone chapter in the Goddess Within I committed myself to learn what I could about Persephone, and eventually write a book based what I learned.  Thus began my journey to Persephone Woman.

Persephone was a goddess like no other among the Greeks or Romans.  For one thing, she lived within cycles of change, of life, death and rebirth, whereas the other goddesses were immortal and unchanging. Most of the other goddesses for the Greeks were born adults, as unchanging immortals:  Aphrodite arose from the sea foam on a scallop shell, Athena was born out of her father’s head.  The other goddesses choose to live in the gated community of Mount Olympus.  Their lives are more like modern soap operas than the lives of mortal women.  For another, she chose to live on earth, not Mount Olympus.  And her subjects were the spirits of the dead, not mortals.

She had a complex relationship with her mother, extending from childhood and maturity.  They have power struggles, to be sure, but they also make a powerful team when they are working together to maintain balance in our planetary ecosystem.

As time passed I collected several liquor cartons of notes, clippings, journal entries and miscellaneous other jottings.  In 2000 I began to organize the mountain of material, which to me seemed like a pile of straw to be spun into gold.  Then life intervened with work and family challenges and Persephone was returned to her liquor cartons and placed in a dry corner of the basement.  Seven years later life gave me another window of opportunity to make headway with ‘the book.’  That window stayed open throughout a winter and gave me a sense of the story of Persephone’s journey in real life terms, but left many questions unanswered.  Back into the liquor cartons and down to the basement for another seven years.  Now she is renewed again in the room where I write and have Skype sessions with Women Who Dare coaching clients.  Now she is coming into focus so that her never- ending story can be told in 21st century terms.