Costober 2021 Days 3-4: Persephone

Persephone, goddess of both youth and death.

About the Look

Persephone has long been my favorite Greek goddess. I don’t think this is particularly distinctive. She might not be as popular as Athena, Artemis or Aphrodite, but she’s preferred by goth and artistic types, and she’s currently starring in the wildly popular webcomic, Lore Olympus. My first academic exposure to Greco-Roman mythology was in seventh grade. Persephone represents the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, which was very powerful to tween me.

The story of Persephone, like the Little Mermaid, is a story of transformation. She is the goddess of youth, Spring, and flowers, who becomes the Queen of the Dead. There are many interpretations of her journey; I prefer for Persephone to fall in love with Hades and choose to stay with him. This allows Persephone agency, and gives them a happily ever after. But I don’t think it erases the horror of being dragged down to Hell for her beauty or the sorrow of her split existence. Persephone makes her choice, but she is still trapped going back and forth between two realms, neither of which is hers. That’s a relatable experience of adulthood.

In my mid-twenties I struggled with my mental health, and during my recovery my therapist gave me excerpts of Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Goddesses in Everywoman, specifically the Persephone chapter. Bolen’s Persephone is a woman who can’t or won’t grow up, and ends up dragged into the underworld of mental illness. But she learns to adapt, and to take control of her choices and her life. The chapter ends with the suggestion that having been through it, she makes a good guide for others dealing with those same stresses.

A Persephone woman who has been to the underworld and back can also be a therapist-guide who can connect others with their own depths, guiding them to find symbolic meaning and understanding of what they found there.

Jean Shinoda Bolen

That is precisely what I want to do.

About My Looks

Both of these dresses were purchased secondhand and neither fits quite right (floral a bit big, butterflies a bit small). But I choose to think of it as part of the transformation sequence.

For the goddess of Spring I looked for flowers and colors, particularly highlighting pink as a traditionally feminine color. I have a small collection of flower crowns and a larger collection of scarves so I already owned both.

For the Queen of the Dead I wanted to be monochrome and I looked specifically for black butterflies as symbols of transformation. The dress accentuates my waist in a way the floral dress decidedly does not (you can see in a few of the photos that my child and photographer lent me their belt because I had no waist at all). I also have a lower neckline that the ruffled shrug draws eyes toward. The Queen is more ‘adult’ than the maiden and also more modern.

The skull, named Mr. Bone Man, is from my child’s personal collection. This time of year is when they purchase essentials so everything from soap to t-shirts are spooky all year round.

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