The life of a woman and a man are different. Women go through stages in life which change them profoundly, such as their first love or motherhood. These stages are of great change, transforming beings at every turn, arising new biological components, modelling a behaviour which differs at every stage. These differences and stages in life are reflected in myth. The symbology related to women is different, appearing personalities, animals or plants, symbols, which possess a variety of characteristics never found in myth depicting men.
Aphrodite’s birth, for instance, represents brutality and violence. Her myth is though different to other women’s. This is due to Aphrodite’s depiction being departed from the style of Homeric poetry, into an archaic Ancient Hellenic style, which was culture in the region prior to the flourishing of Ancient Greek culture. Aphrodite appears born from the sea, from white foam, which recalls Anadyomene, the goddess risen from the waves. Aphrodite’s birth comes from a union in the sea, the mutilation of Uranus, the casting of his manhood into the sea. We recall from Hesiod that she was born when Uranus penis was cut and thrown into the sea. In this story, begetter and begotten are one in the womb of water. There are elements of this story with a symbology interesting for this article. The foam from where Aphrodite is born for instance, which in certain version stories appears as a shell or a mussel, symbolises an Aphrodisian humid element.
In Ancient Greece divinities are eternal forms. These forms show a balance of tremendous cosmic forces. In Apollo for example, we find a god who is at the same time the sublimest clarity and the darkness of death. Dionysus, on the same line symbolises life and death, Zeus, might and right. Divinities are contradictions structured in a balance, in a perfect equilibrium. At the same time, the divinity of the gods can only be experienced spiritually, which can come only as a revelation. This is a paradox in women, the paradox of motherhood. Artemis for example, symbolises the untamed-mess of young animals and equally in the terrors of birth. It is a paradox of joy and lust, not just for murder, but for fecundity and animality.
This paradox is an ideal, something yet unopened, a bud, a potentially beautiful flower that hasn’t flourished yet, untouched. Mythologically, the idea is embodied in miraculous primal beings, either in such a way that in them father and child, prime begetter and prime begotten, are one and the same, or that the fate of the woman becomes the symbol and expression of all genesis and origination. In woman, its fate is presented as bud-like-form, personified as the Kore or the goddess Maiden. There are lots of maiden goddesses around the world. In fact, Zeus shared dominion, not with his wife Hera, but with the Androgynous figure of Pallas Athene. Pallas Athene is a goddess maiden or a kore, unlike Artemis, who is kore and parthenos at the same time. Athene does not succumb to a man, while Artemis maidenhood presupposes the possibility to succumb to a man. Persephone also differs from Athene. The former is kore because she embodies the role of mother and maiden in one. We have on her the idea of daughter and mother, representing life, and the idea of a wife with husband, representing death. We recall that Persephone is raped and brought to the underworld by her husband. Within this myth we find Hades, who is her murderer and an active role in the myth, and the mentioned Persephone, who is passive and raped by the lord of dead.
Persephone is a Kore, an ideal figure, a lingering in the borders of Hades, an allegory of woman’s fate. The borders of Hades is an allegory of the borderline between maidenhood and the other life. The seducer, king of the underworld, is an allegory of the earthly bridegroom and husband. In fact, this goddess is worshipped as the queen of the dead, and the rape of the bride is an allegory of death. Persephone symbolises a double figure, Kore and daughter of Demeter, a mother-Kore-seducer, and as the ruler of the underworld, the bridegroom of Hades.
In this regard Dr Kerényi mentions about the goddess Hecate, who has a role to play in Persephone’s rape on the eyes of Demeter and on this world. Hecate was in her cave at the time of these events. She is a goddess connected to the moon. She might be the double figure of Demeter, leading Persephone into the underworld. She is the bringer of light pictured with a torch, also represented in Demeter and Persephone, as the guide between two worlds. In archaic Greece she is pictured as a triad, mistress of the three realms: earth, heaven and sea, the crossroads of the worlds being leading to the underworld. She also keeps some motherliness, being depicted as nurse and nourisher.
In this story of the primal maiden we find this relationship of Demeter-Persephone-Hecate as Mother-Daughter-Moon Goddess. Demeter is another of the key goddesses to understand the primal maiden myth symbology. She is a goddess depicted as purely human, a mother who has been maiden. She represents human sorrow, because of the loss of her daughter. Her daughter Persephone has to frequently go to the underworld and that makes her feel sad. Her absence, which is consistent and frequent in time connects Demeter’s daughter to life cycles. An interesting relationship between Persephone’s absence and agriculture appear in myths, no crops grow on Persephone’s absence. Demeter is the goddess of agriculture and is connected to the mysteries of Eleusis. This shouldn’t surprise us as we mention, Persephone’s absence connection to agriculture. Ancient greeks believed grains to be Demeter’s making. She also connected marriage and death, Maiden and moon. So again we find similar characteristics to Hecate. Demeter is the mother goddess, the corn goddess and the goddess of esoteric mysteries. In Greek stories we find Demeter nursing the king’s son by placing him on fire. Grain dies on fire, so Demeter shows her divine power by placing a child in fire and keeping him alive. Immortality is a condition of Demeter and this is akin of the grain. The grain is immortal, borns, grows, dies and re-borns again. There were some nocturnal celebrations of Eleusis related to Demeter, to her connections with the underworld. The birth of a child for instance, is celebrated with the shining of a great light. The Kore maiden Persephone is an allegory of corn. So we find the relationship light, fire, good concealed in evil and immortality. Demeter is not only the image of the mother, and of the mother that separates from her daughter, but the grain is a symbol of a start and an end, of mother and daughter, the grain points to the universal and the eternal.
In the mysteries of Eleusis there was a fasting period before the sowing, connected to the disappearance of the maiden. The sowing reminded of the rape by Hades of Persephone. Sowing is therefore connected to the disappearance in the underworld. The pig is a sacrificial animal which is connected to sowing. A pig reaped apart delays, just as grain decays on earth and hints at the Kore dwelling in the realm of the dead. The death of grain is a stage to be overcome and pig sacrifice is a ritual performed to imitate nature’s cycle process to support completing the sowing process. Persephone passes a third of her life in the underworld, does the grain remain dead that time frame? Seeds were kept in storage like tombs, for four months each year. The threefold process of grain ripening is an allegory of the three faces of Demeter-Persephone-Hecate. The division of three is connected to Hecate three worlds, three realms, Hecate relation to the moon, to the grain and to the realm of the dead.
Another character Dr Kerényi discusses is Persephone. Hecate appears in her Persephone aspect as non-being, and in her Demeter aspect, she appears as the Hellene form of the idea of the all-mother. In Ancient Greece exists a duality of fundamentally different goddesses. The idea of non-being in Greek religion forms the root-aspect of being. In Eleusis we see how the Kore and Demeter are connected. In archaic Greece Demeter appears as containing her own maiden form. To enter into the figure of Demeter means to be pursued , to be robbed, raped, to fail to understand, to rage and grieve, but then to get everything back and to be born again. Stories of maidens being raped are found in myths. We learn myth stories where Zeus and Poseidon take by force maidens, raping them and marrying them, such as with Erynis and Nemesis. Both goddesses transform themselves into wild animals to escape their seducers, but fail to escape their fate. However, they give birth to their daughters, symbolising a rebirth of the new maiden. The transformation into animals represents the animal nature of maidens, their wild stage being as maiden-kores. The birth of sons and daughters the continuation of this life cycle.
Persephone appears as awful, praised and feared. She is indeed a great goddess. She has dominion over the manifold powers of death. Her important features are similar to Medusa, the only member of a divine triad, the trinity of Gorgons, to succumb to death by violence. The Kore raped and the killing of Medusa are further connected by the name of the killer. Persephone is as Medusa’s killer Perseus, having both names provably a common origin. Medusa is also connected to Persephone in the bride, grain and death aspect of them. Two other maidens, Athene and Artemis, who are also kore figures, share the same symbol that Persephone, the Gorgon’s head. So we find common features in Ancient Greece related to Kores.
Persephone reigns in the realm of Hades, a non-being that is. Myth story goes that from a uniqueness that had not being, the realm of Hades existed. Persephone and her husband Hades make a terrible couple, king and queen of the underworld. Instead of a single terrifying shape, the whole kingdom of the dead rises up to oppose the entry of the soul of one not yet buried. So it is from opposing being and not-being that the underworld exists. Similarities between Perseus and Hades are also found related to clothes they are wearing for example, or Perseus drowning Dionysus in the waters, which signifies the underworld. The usage of the sickle for killing, instrument used to cut the seeds, it is another common feature found in myths related to Persephone and to Perseus.
Her whole being is summed up in an incident that is at once the story of Demeter’s own sufferings. It is the mythologen of the marriage of the reluctant goddess. In Persephone, the sublimest beauty as well as the most hideous ugliness has its foundation. Non-being can put on an alluring face, and the goddess of the dead can appear in the form of an Hetaera. Such were the Sirens, Circe and Calypso, but not the Grecian Persephone. The foundation of her Aphrodisiac beauty lies in what we have called her uniqueness. This means what constitutes the structure of the living creature apart from this endlessly repeated drama of coming-to-be and passing-away, namely the uniqueness of the individual and its enthralment to non-being. In a world of living and dying, that is, in the world of Demeter and Persephone, there is an intimate connection between uniqueness and beauty.
Nevertheless, there are strange associations in this triad of goddesses: Demeter-Persephone-Hecate: marriage-death, bridal chamber-grave. Marriage in this connection has the character of murder: the brutal ravisher is the god of death himself. On the other hand, marriage retains its proper and primary meaning as the union of man and women. There is a connection between death and fertility. Another odd connection is the Kore’s rape with Hecate, the moon goddess. These are connections related to witchcraft and ghosts. The world of Hecate is the lunar aspect of the Demeter world. Hecate is also a distorted aspect of the world of the mighty huntress and dancer Artemis. This is related to the connection of fertility and death to the moon. A third odd association is that about plant that serves mankind as food. A question of some occurrence in our cosmos which mythology expresses equally in the symbol of the moon, the woman, and the grain, fond of the Kore figure. This is also the case on the Indonesian archipelago. In there it appear Kores, such as Hainuwele, the divine maiden. This last mention myth is about the fact of death and the connection to procreation and the increase in mankind. In Hainuwele myth, from the first murder of men came useful plants. In Indonesian Hainuwele myth also it appears the character of Rabie, who is connected to the moon. Rabie is also another maiden whose second form is a pig. There is another myth in which it appears that from the first nine families of men, which originally were divine, came Ameta, a human and hunter who found from a pig the first coconut plant that grew on earth. From the mixture of Ameta blood and the coconut plant flourished Hainuwele, the Kore. She was murdered and from her dismembered body vegetal life emerged. Hainuwele is also danced underground, in a labyrinth, like the one leading to Hades, and her dances help her to enter the realm of death. A dance requiring a rope, which parallels Greek myth. At the death of Hainuwele, men could also die and reach the gate of Satene, the gate of hell and of human life. The killing of Hainuwele was the way to humanity, and the dance to death was a dance to birth. So Indonesian myth supply same odd relations found in Greek myth, even the connection birth-death by a dance.
The maiden of primordial mythology may have harboured the cares and sorrows of motherhood in her nature, but the patient earthly endurance of the absolute mother is wholly lacking to her. To find the wholeness of this maiden-kore figure, is to take into account these three fold figure representing maiden-mother-moon goddess. This primordial maiden, found in Ancient Greece in various goddesses’ features and in other places such as Asia Minor, is also found in Eleusis. Eleusis was greatly influenced by Crete and Mycenaean culture. In the myth related to Eleusis we see the primordial maiden born from the drama of the universe, divided into three, just as the goddess is herself threefold: original Kore, mother and daughter. Eleunisian participants identified themselves with Demeter. By entering her figure they realised the universal life principle to be pursued. Initiates in those rites entered divine motherhood. This was indeed the rituals initiates went through, men and women entering in the figure of Demeter.
The Eleunisian mythologem represents Eleusis as the place of the Kore. According to the idea on which the mythologem is based on, Eleusis is the place of birth, of that ever-recurrent cosmic event which guarantees the continuance of life in Attica, indeed in the whole world. In Eleusis we experience the arrival of the goddess of birth, the goddess Eileithyia, which comes from pre-Greece, from Agrai and moving to Crete. All these ideas of the goddess of birth originated from Artemis, who in pre-greek culture was like Demeter. It is therefore an evolution from Artemis and into Demeter, to the goddess of divine motherhood, of this recurrent event of birth from an elemental being, a primeval maiden being.
Eleusis is an age-old Greek goddess of eternal birth and rebirth. The main theme of this religion was the birth of a divine child. In these mysteries, the birth of Brimos is one of the symbols, unfolding of the budlike idea that envisaged the continuity of life in the unity of maiden, mother and child, a being that dies, gives birth, and comes to life again. In the mysteries of Dionysus and of Persephone, the basic theme was the eternal coming of life from death; the repeated celebration of the mystery continued this cosmic event. Water also appears as the symbol that gives birth to everything, purifies everything, a primal element, the original source of all birth. Water in Eleusis is a representation of the Eternal birth, in all directions, in birth and in death.
The mythological idea to which we have devoted these considerations in Eleusis was twofold: an event was the birth of a divine child. The figure was a goddess, the primordial maiden, an archetype that contained all the dramatic possibilities associated to Persephone’s fate, from being born, to giving birth. That Kore was virgin. Virginity is not anthropomorphic but a quality of the unadulterated primal element which had given her birth. The primal element, water, also is a purifying element. As a hint to that purified element we see that fish was sacred to participants to the Eleunisian mysteries. We find the idea that the primal maiden must be born on a primal element.
Dr Kerényi speaks of the Eleusinian paradox. The experiences of the initiates in Eleusis had a rich mythological content, expressed for instance, by the dazzling and sensuous image of Anadyomene rising from the waves. Comparing Buddha’s flower sermon, which represents the truth found in every individual, and the Eleusis search for a common standpoint from which all participants would understand, we see the difference. In Eleusis we find the search for a common standpoint whereby all participants understand, through immediate vision and insight. Therefore, no words are needed, neither a sermon such as the one told by Buddha. Furthermore, in the flower sermon the flower contains the truth. The ear of grain in Eleusis, in the other hand, sums up a certain aspect of the world, the Demetrian aspect. The two goddesses and their fate are variations of this symbol, more elaborate, spiritually more formed and developed; and the birth as a divine event is yet another kind of summary. In Eleusis, through the grain of wheat and through the mother-daughter goddess the same vision opens into the abyss of the nucleus. Every grain of wheat, and every maiden contains, as it were, all its descendants and all her descendants, an infinity series of mothers and daughters in one, the infinity of supra-individual organic life. The Eleusinians experienced a more than individual fate, the fate of organic life in general, in their own fate.
Dr Carl Jung looked at the psychological aspect of the Kore, who, according to the Swiss, has her psychological counterpart in those archetypes which Jung called the Self on one hand, and the Anima of the other. The writer believes that typical figures of the unconscious are forms existing a priori, or biological norms of psychologic activity. As example we have the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother (primordial and Earth mother) as a supra-ordinate personality (daemonic because supra-ordinate) and her counterpart the maiden, and the anima and animus.
Dr Jung believes the kore to be his concept of Anima, while the kore in women represents the Self. We observe that always all figures are bipolar, as the Kore, who is at the same time maiden and mother.
In the Demeter Kore myth, the role of the masculine is insignificant (the seducer / conqueror). The figures corresponding to Demeter and Hecate are supra-ordinate, not to say over-life-size mothers ranging from pieta type to the Bauso type. The unconscious, which acts as a counter balance to woman’s conventional innocuousness, proves to be highly inventive in this respect.
We find the connection of mother Earth, with the moon, the colours black and red, with blood and with the neolithic Venus. The maiden signifies non human, an extraordinary myth, like nature. The Earth mother is a divine being, represented in the queen Venus. The underworld nature of Hecate is closely connected to Demeter and Persephone’s fate, symbolising the dark side of human psyche. Then we have the supra-ordinate personality, a total man, representing the wholeness of unconscious psyche, an impersonal psyche common to all men which is inherited through generations. This totality of the psyche Carl Jung calls it the self, the whole of the psyche, including the ego. The self is felt empirically not as subject but as object, and this by reason of its unconscious component, which can only come to consciousness indirectly, by way of projection. Because of the unconscious component, the Self is so far removed from the conscious mind that it can only be partially expressed by objective, abstract symbols. The human figures are mother and daughter, father and son, king and queen, god and goddess. Animal symbols or theriomorphic symbols are the dragon, snake, elephant, lion, bear and other powerful animals or again the spider, carb, butterfly, beetle, worm, etc. Plant symbols are generally flowers. These lead to geometrical figures: circle, sphere, square… Mother-daughter is an intermingling giving rise to that peculiar uncertainty as regards time, a woman living earlier as a mother, later as a daughter. Life spreads out through generations (immortality), so the ancestors inheritance passes through the individual.
To describe the Kore-anima as observable in man is different. Since a man’s wholeness, in so far as he is not constitutionally homosexual, can only be a masculine personality, the feminine figure of the anima cannot be catalogued as a type of supra-ordinate personality but requires a different evaluation and position. The anima appears in the unconscious as mother and maiden. It is bipolar, like the animus. It can appear positive or negative: young-old, mother-maiden, good fairy-witch, saint-whore. When we meet an unknown female figure in dreams, who oscillate on the extremes of goddess and whore, it is advisable to let her keep her independence and not reduce her arbitrarily to something known. Anima has occults connections with mysteries, with the world of darkness. She also has a particular relationship with time, she is more of less immortal, because she is outside of time. Since we can no longer or only partially express the archetypes of the unconscious by means of figures in which we religiously believe, they lapse into unconsciousness again and hence are unconsciously projected upon more or less suitable human personalities. An infantile man generally has a maternal anima; an adult man, the figure of a younger woman. The senile man finds compensation in a very young girl, or even a child. The anima also has affinities with animals, symbolising her characteristics.
As a conclusion, Carl Jung states that the Demeter-Kore myth is far too feminine to have been merely the result of an anima-projection. Although the anima can, as we have said, experience herself in Demeter-Kore, she is yet of a wholly different nature. She is in the highest degree femme a homme, whereas Demeter-Kore exists on the plane of mother-daughter experience, which is alien to man. The psychology of the Demeter cult bears all the features of a matriarchal order of society, where the man is an indispensable but on the whole disturbing factor.
Based on the book Essays on a Science of Mythology By Carl Gustav Jung and Károly Kerényi.
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