Kora, the Maiden, loved to explore the Earth and all its beauty. One day in her wanderings she encountered strange shadows that haunted her steps. In her wisdom, she knew she could help them and prepared for a journey into the underworld. She made her descent, causing the Earth to contract in grief, bringing death, decay, and winter. When Kora arrived, she met each shadow one by one, preparing them for rebirth in the physical realm. When it was time to return, she made her way back to the surface of the Earth and saw its barren state. She wept in grief, taking upon herself the name Persephone, the bringer of destruction. And yet, her tears began to flow over the parched Earth, bringing about spring and summer in their zenith. She was filled with hope coupled with newborn responsibility, assuming her role as Mother and Keeper of the Earth. She knew she couldn’t abandon the Earth again. But as she went about her work, she once again encountered the shadows. This was very conflicting. What could she do? If she went to the underworld again, the Earth would retreat back into winter. But she also knew that it was her duty to help the shadows. Despite the unknown, she once again descended into the realm of shadows. Just as before, she anointed each shadow until they had all been met. She then returned, found the Earth just as she expected she would—in harsh winter. Her tears once again flowed, seeing spring and summer once again return. That was the moment she became Demeter, the Mother of Earth and Keeper of the Seasons. She now embodied the spirit and vision of the Maiden Kora, the creative responsibility of the Mother Persephone, and now the wisdom of the seasons of the Crone Demeter. For ever after, Demeter cared for the above and the below in their proper season, maintaining balance and order.
This is Stephanie’s personal retelling of this ancient myth. There is strong evidence to support the idea that the well known Greek version was not the original myth. Many patriarchies absorbed and adapted myths through their lens. In the Greek version Demeter and Zeus copulate and give birth to Persephone. Persephone is the ultimate victim, abducted by Hades, raped, and taken to the underworld. Demeter pleads with Zeus to save their daughter. Zeus, looking out for his “bro” Hades decides not to punish him so much as to compromise and placate his angry wife. So Persephone—who is never consulted in any of this to ask what SHE wants—is bounced around in a split custody deal. Whenever she is down with Hades in the underworld, Demeter goes into grief and winter comes upon the Earth. Whenever she returns to the surface, Demeter rejoices and brings spring and summer.
What a disempowering story! All of the women are pawns in the hands of all-powerful, amoral, male gods. None of the actions they take are intentional or empowering. Everything happens to them and against their will. It feels only fitting that we creatively imagine a more matriarchal telling of this myth that honors the feminine journey. This version merges three key archetypes or phases of a life journey into one: Kora, Persephone, and Demeter. This is the Goddess Trinity of ancient Crete which has profound modern day application.
One clarification: patriarchy does not mean “men in power” but rather oppressive power in a top down hierarchy. Just as matriarchy does not mean “women in power” but rather a system of governance that is family led in a down up community model.
Let’s explore these archetypes. The Maiden represents youthfulness, anticipation of life, naivete, playfulness, new beginnings, virginity (in its original meaning), hope, exploration. Like Kora, in the myth, there is a clear transition from Maiden into Mother, where she must learn to explore her shadow side and step into a life of commitment and responsibility.
The Mother represents realized life, the fruits of creation, responsibility, patience, nurturing, discipline, commitment. Like Persephone, there is a transition from Mother into Crone, learning how to live in balance with the seasons and learning what is enough for now. Mothers often feel that they keep the world in orbit and it gets harder and harder to take breaks and give ourselves deep self-care. We start to believe that we can never take a break because the whole world will fall apart. And here’s the thing, it might. But just as Persephone learned, it’s not about controlling the mess, but expecting the mess and learning how work within it. Shadow work is not a one and done but rather a layering down.
The Crone represents death, dissolution, recycling, wisdom, transforming, rest before rebirth, seasonal living, shadow work. Demeter embodies all of the archetypes. She has not forsaken the Maiden and Mother. Yes, there is a death, but there is also a resurrection. Kora as we knew Kora does not exist. But Kora-Persephone was born as a new unit. It’s as if there is a wiser and more mature version that can grow with us into our new phase. Motherhood is informed by her “reborn” Maiden. What are the creative ways that she weaves into your Mother tapestry? What is the “both/and” within these roles? How can we embody spontaneity and responsibility? The Crone is the one season of our lives that we get to view life through the lens of all three archetypes, which is the source of her deep wisdom.
The Maiden is sold as the most relevant, sexually attractive, and worth living for. Motherhood is looked down upon and dreaded. But the Crone is by far the scapegoat. The witch. The hag. She is everything we hate and despise. We don’t want to grow old, have wrinkles, grey hair, warts, saggy skin, or sexual irrelevance. But the Goddess Trinity gives us a rich template for living, allowing us to see inherent value and worth in each phase of our lives.
The menstrual cycle is a mini-version of these archetypes. We get to explore our Maiden/Spring post-Menstruation phase. We get to relish in the harvest of our efforts in the Mother/Summer ovulatory phase. We get to wrap things up, put down balls that we’ve been juggling, and prepare for rest during our Crone/Autumn + Winter phase. So often our frustration and dislike of our periods is a reflection of our deep imbalance and resistance to living in harmony with the seasons. We have trained ourselves to run from the shadows. To hide from winter. To be scared of the darkness. So when our cycle pulls us into it anyway, we feel victimized.
We can also weave these archetypes into the analogy of a tree. Think of the Maiden as a young sapling: full of potential planted into the fresh earth. After a few winters she’s been toughened up. She has several new rings on her trunk. She is moving into Motherhood phase, producing fruits for all to enjoy. Then, visualize some of the archetypal trees we’ve grown up with: Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas, or the Ents from Lord of the Rings. She’s the Crone! And after she’s fallen and you can count the rings on her stump, you can bet that the Maiden is right there in the center, surrounded by the Mother, and embodied by the Crone. All three are there!
As you embark on the birth path, you are transitioning from Maiden to Mother, even if it’s your second, fifth, or tenth baby. You deserve to be celebrated, honored, and supported for that transition! Part of that process is grieving the Maiden. Letting her go in the way that you knew her while trusting that she will be born anew and her presence in your life will make you a better, happier, and more fulfilled Mother.
To learn more about Stephanie’s work, please visit: bhavabirth.com