Sunday, September 26, 2010
Art is powerful. It has the power to direct our thinking. It is simultaneously, an inspiration and inspiring. Before being cast as Persephone in Finding Eleusis by Terra Mysterium, I thought I had my world well figured. What I hadn't perceived, was that were still figures to ponder and the simple truth is, I may never have all the answers.
The Goddess Persephone is regarded by many feminist spiritualists as a weak mythological character created by a paternal driven society. While I was immensely honored that they talented of people of Terra Mysterium wanted me to play Persephone, I was one of those feminist spiritualists; and I cringed at the thought of playing this wispy divinity that marries Her own rapist.
Persephone's most notable story is translated as "The Rape of Persephone." At the time of the story's first circulation, "rape" was not necessarily synonymous with criminal sexual assault, but meant "abduction." It is my belief that the artistic telling of the trials and tribulations of the Gods are to assist mortals in the life journey. The abduction of Persephone by Hades serves as metaphor for the end of virginity, when a woman leaves her mother to marry and become a mother herself. In Persephone's case, Demeter was so over-protective of Her that had not Hades kidnapped Her, She would have been arrested in Her development. It was the one act that forced a change.
Persephone’s story also illustrates that even the all-powerful Demeter could not keep Her daughter as an eternal child; and so if this is beyond even a Goddess' power, then it is certainly beyond mortal scope. Interestingly enough "losing one's virginity" is sometimes posed as a kind of death and it is the King of the Dead himself that comes for Persephone. Once again, we must remember that at the time of this story's first circulation, death and change were somewhat synonymous and were regarded as a part of the cycle of life and not necessarily a bad thing.
The erotic overtones of the story cannot be denied and the pomegranate makes for a sultry symbol of the physical maidenhead. Persephone is forcibly taken to the Underworld by Hades; but before one casts Her in a submissive, victimized role there is more to consider. Persephone's father Zeus committed criminal sexual assault numerous times, but these stories are small flecks of archaic vulgar jokes and not the poetic saga of the "Rape of Persephone." Hades was not like His brother Zeus. He could have had any number of concubines both mortal and divine, but He did not. He wanted a Queen. He chooses to woo only Persephone and it is there in the Underworld that She discovers the pleasures of womanhood. As a child goddess, She had no official standing in Olympus, (the only pure bred child without one) but as the Queen of the Underworld She becomes a true force of such power that the ancient people of Greece and Rome were frightened even to speak Her name and referred to only as "Kore (the maiden)." I find it sad that time has forgotten the stories of Persephone's power, strength and compassion for the living.
For those following my blog, you may notice that I am particularly fond of a white dress. Persephone, I believe liked it too. I wore that same dress in Finding Eleusis.
It is my belief She placed me in Terra Mysterium's path so that She and I could meet. Persephone is far from wispy and She certainly is not weak; more than that, I found that I needed Her, and that She was perhaps the only one who could heal some of my very ancient wounds. She has taught me that perhaps I don't need all of the answers as long as I keep asking questions.
Terra Mysterium's Finding Eleusis was one of the 46 performances featured in the very first Chicago Fringe Festival in 2010.