My body struggles to unfreeze from the frozen wastelands of winter, as the snowdrops open fully to the still-freezing north winds.
I drag myself around from the drained exhaustion of all that happened, as the nights slowly open their dark arms to greet the light.
Moments of emerging happiness begin to feel possible … for She has returned, my dearest Daughter Persephone, and her heart is opening once more, to Life, to Love, to me, Her Adopted Mother Demeter.
The first narcissus shows its tiny yellow head.
Spring may be here soon.
I cannot tell you the full tale of her shocking departure in late autumn, for it is partly Her Story and she is still so young, my dear Persephone.
Perhaps one day She will tell you herself why she needed to leave; when she is recovered enough, feels safe enough - and we can laugh at it together enough.
But not yet … for the narcissus is fragile and young and not yet fully open.
It is still my job as Mother to protect Her (though She may never thank me for, nor ever know, how much a Mother’s love kept her safe from getting lost forever in the Underworld).
‘‘I’m fifteen …you’re overprotective!’’ She had once accused. Not long before her raging departure and her willing abduction by Hades.
The black hole that opened up, I now know was my own grief when I sobbed ‘She is gone”.
She may always believe that there was no real danger where she went, and never understand my shock, the loss, the weeks of sleepless nights of my journey.
And why should she? Young Maiden of fifteen years old, furious with me, liked Hades telling her she could stay forever…that she would be safe with him.
Persephone offered her complete trust to the dark stranger Hades. And he never brought her back home.
Endless phone calls … She still has no understanding of why the Gods were all alerted, why they confirmed the inappropriateness and unsafety of where she was …child protection issues … with Hades in the Underworld.
She was oblivious to the thud of shock in my heart on the day I heard she had further disappeared, with Hades’ permission, to a place from where there might have been no return.
My body howled as a wolf under a full moon whose cub has been killed.
‘How will she ever find her way back to me now?’ I had wailed in utter despair. I knew then it was possible I would never see her again. My adopted daughter of eight years.
She may never understand why I was directed by the Gods to declare her a missing person who needed to be brought home to safety … it’s called police protection.
She may not appreciate that it was my passion, devotion, utter determination and insistence that she be returned, which got her home.
She came back retraumatized and raging. Mostly at me, for having made it all happen.
It is the nature of being fifteen years old not yet to take full responsibility for one’s own journey. Understandably so… whilst almost a young woman, my daughter is also still a child.
Forget the story of a quick and happy reunion when Persephone returned - it was through the awful days of winter when the hard work of survival and restoration were endured.
It was unknown for some months that in Persephone already lay the seeds of her own healing, her own maturing, her own destiny.
A seed has much dark soil to push through, before it will flower into sunshine.
We will draw a veil of privacy and say it was a very traumatic growing period for this particular seed.
Stunted growth in previous bad soil had been shockingly revisited.
One day Persephone may choose to tell you of what actually happened whilst she was there, and her meaning of it all, without damaging herself or anyone else in the telling.
If I speak of these things, it would be like most one-sided stories from the past, told by those who are the most articulate and hold the power.
A young maiden’s first trip into the Underworld does not make Her a Queen.
And I am still Mother Demeter.
Besides, it is her story and not mine to tell.
So I will tell you of my journey:
As we withstood the earth tremors she brought back from Hades, we all survived. Just.
I needed more endurance than I ever knew possible, recovery from my own broken heart and not to react to all she brought back with her from the Underworld.
Sometimes my body shook with the force of the boulders she hurled in my direction to clear a new growth path, as she screamed, “Well, who else can I be angry with?”
What a seed! Determined to see if the soil would be strong enough for her to be properly replanted and if past shit could turn into good compost for seed to grow through.
Persephone was a brave fifteen year old Princess of Survival.
For the narcissus is fragile and young and not yet fully open.
And a seed has much dark compost to push through, before it will flower into sunshine.
If we could just begin again, Mother and Daughter, so her roots could grow in good enough soil
And so, eventually we did.
When I collapsed into exhausted deep sleep…Hecate the Old Crone came in my dreams to show me the way; the three pathways where past, present and future all meet. Three dreams in one night.
I was on an adventure, my life’s journey ‘healing ancestral karma’ Hecate whispered.
Standing in a lake lit by the silver and gold light shining from the full moon ‘It’s a mystical union’ she offered as comfort.
And lastly, a snake that was troublesome - for it could harm the young and vulnerable - was skinned and left white and skinless.
I was transformed by Persephone’s disappearance. I shed an old skin.
She has taught me how to be a better Mother.
I came to know in every fibre of my body how deeply I loved Her, and my broken heart died to a Greater Heart which could hold and love both of us equally.
No more power struggles, nor fear and fights over who will survive through winter. We both made it through in this Greater Heart.
My daughter, no doubt, will travel to her Underworld so many times (as I have done before her).
Back and forth over years to come, till she truly will not need my protection. In that place of winter death and dark endings, She will demand her own freedom, face her own demons. She will become Her Own Mother and journey alone in her soul. When she knows the territory of the Underworld so well, she will trust herself forever even in the presence of Hades.
She will endure the Darkness of Winter knowing she will emerge transformed.
Then She Will Be Queen Of the Underworld.
One day, perhaps, she will have a daughter of her own and then she will understand the journey of the Mother Demeter.
I am calmer and happier now as I walk alone to my Temple, through my fields, which will soon be seeded with barley.
The first sun of earliest Spring warms my body and attempts to soften the too-long-frozen earth of my fields.
Because of the light returning I can see my own shadow. Dark, of the earth and alongside me, Persephone walks with me in peaceful anticipation.
With Springtime returned, I become whole and warmed again.
Light and dark in equal measure, equal power, equally articulate.
For I am my Mother’s Daughter and I am my Daughter’s Mother.
I am Queen of the Underworld, and I am Mother Demeter.
There is to be a ceremony at the temple in our honour - come, join me in decorating my temple with silver green cloths. Let us make our spring flower headdress as we declare the Mysteries of Eleusis. I will adorn my slightly less stiff body with golden robes to celebrate the miracle of new life.
Mother and Daughter are reunited. Life can start again.
The narcissus can fully open and seeds have flowered into sunshine.
Already I look forward to watching Persephone’s summer dancing in my Barley fields and then on to the harvesting of my life…..
Praise be for the coming year!
So that Persephone may remain protected, the teller of Demeter’s tale will hold a veil between this time and that. For ancient myth is beyond all time and clearly lives through us today.
If you would like to give feedback or discuss the piece (maybe even share your own Demeter story) then responses are welcome via the editor.