Sunday, May 23, 2010


Some time ago I wrote an amazing poem by working with a dream image. The image came in the form of a disembodied voice which spoke the following words: "What is a sparrow to borrow and to marry?" I thought it might be interesting to turn that around and ask the same thing of the dream image. First, what do the three terms sparrow, borrow and marry have in common? And, second, what is the value of that idea? Want to discover what happened next?

You can by clicking this link. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Descent Mythos


Today, in the twenty-first century, our blindness to the underworld appears to have intensified. Our culture’s aggressive denial of death is the complement to our equally aggressive pursuit of instantaneous transformation. Philippe Aries, who studied the evolution of western attitudes towards death, found that it took only 30 years at the beginning of the 20th century to uproot thousands of years of tradition. Death ceased being a commonplace, acceptable and social experience and instead became something "shameful and forbidden" (1974: 85). Baring and Cashford (1991: 159) point out that our attitude towards death had already undergone an enormous change much earlier, around 2500 BCE, when we lost the archetypal feminine perspective that acknowledges death-in-life which makes possible rebirth and transformation. Thus it is that contemporary people regard the slow, arduous journey into and through the underworld not merely as unwelcome, but as abhorrent....

Descent initiates the individual into a new role and a new relationship to life that is irrevocable. In fact, the individuality of descent might be evidence that humanity is moving beyond what Woodman and Dickson poetically describe as “Mother Mud” and “Father Law”—that miasmic and authoritative body of custom and convention that bind collectivities (1987: 181). Descent is a profound individuation process, which Jung defines as “fidelity to the law of one's own being” rather than the law of the collective, and the realization of our individual and unique wholeness (CW 17: 172, 173). It is a “high act of courage” that feels as inescapable as a law of God (175). Because individuation pits us against the collective, leaving us to sift through inherited values and beliefs to find authentic ones, it wounds. But that is not the end of it. To borrow Sylvia Perera’s lovely phrase, wounding creates “separations across which fresh passions can leap” (1981: 80). Trauma and passion are bedfellows.

The painful and forced separation of Demeter and Persephone is, of course, the trauma which sets the Hymn to Demeter in motion. We can see that Demeter’s hymn is the story of fresh passion created by two deep wounds, abduction and betrayal. Hades abducted the maiden but Zeus and Gaia were complicit in his action, Zeus by giving Persephone to his brother without Demeter’s permission and Gaia by “growing the narcissus as a snare for the young girl—a flower herself, as her mother says—instead of supporting Demeter against him, as might have been expected” (Baring & Cashford, 1991: 383). There is another erotic wound that is implicit in the Hymn, too, one that goes unmentioned: Hades’ longing for a consort and queen. Eros is a potent force throughout the Hymn; the visible passion of Demeter and the invisible passion of Hades are just two of many examples. Here, though, I will turn my attention to an even more ambiguous and possibly “invisible” force of Eros in the myth: Persephone’s passion in the underworld, as I first imagined it through reading the text and then as I danced it in a ritualized enactment of her journey.

To read more of this essay click here.

Excerpt taken from Embodying Persephone’s Desire: Authentic Movement & Underworld Transformation by Elizabeth Eowyn Nelson published to Mythopoetry Scholar Ezine vol. one January, 2010.

Professor Nelson is core faculty
PacificA Graduate Institute


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

To My Daughters On Mother's Day

The Patio Maidens
The little one in the nursing
felt poorly; knew what scared was
scarred was; it didn't
feel good and nursing
mattered… it's

mattering now.

Nursing for the home
at any stage
where is that
other side?

Several weeks ago a
quail of Artemis laid an egg
in my geranium pot on the
patio and something like a stone
began rolling away beneath me.

Next day she lay
and laid another and then another
and the next and the next
till finally on the seventh day
she rested.

Aphrodite's dove in haste
built a scanty shanty
in another corner of my patio
on the backside of a
potted cactus living atop
the bookshelf where
I have no book left unread
and a seashell
where still I sit sometimes
and dream...

I was lighting the grill
and got the salmon
half-way done when she came
and lay laying two eggs
then left again.

I water the geranium
from the underside now
putting an oversized
iron skillet with a
flat bottom underneath the pot
which, by the way
I had to set atop a chimenea
to keep javelina from eating its
blossoms the night before. Indeed,
some ways of nursing seem odd…

yet, the little ones in the nursing
have me by the heart and I
feel like I'm all the way back
to where I come from. Something
holy has come over me;
I am fierce about life again
which has started something else

Picture it! The eggs got laid
one by one in a frying pan
to incubate and hatch
while I must water the frying pan
to feed what fires the geranium
and all this sits atop a curvy
chimenea where Hestia
apparently and presently
keeps safely life's eternal flame
tending this fire by keeping up dis

appearances; nursing for the home
(at any stage) in deed
is unseemingly odd. Yet, presently
and even though
they will come and go
these little ones in the nursing
have made it feel like home to me
again. In your nursing…

make it feel like that.

©2010 stephanie pope
First publication May, 2005