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October 20, 2003

20 Oct
The Persephone myth is the allegory of trauma... One day, the babelicious young goddess, Persephone, daughter of Zeus (Uber-God of the whole bunch of testosterone-soaked, badboys up there on Olympus)…
Hey, Persephone is Back!

SHE’S BACK!!! Persephone’s gets another shot at the title... of my new book on imagery and trauma, that is. I got the green light from my editor to road-test the old title - Persephone’s Return: The Extraordinary Power of Imagery to Heal Trauma - via some workshop titles I’m scheduling for next year. There is some concern that people maybe won’t relate to this evocative Greek name - Lord knows, it’s not an easy one to read or pronounce! (per-sef’-uh-nee).

It’s actually a great myth, loaded with multo layers of tasty, archetypal meaning. Knocks my socks off, really. A near-perfect allegory for trauma, and rescue by the Feminine Principle (guided imagery). If you don’t already know the myth, it goes like this:

One day, the babelicious young goddess-maiden, Persephone, daughter of Zeus (Uber-God, King of the whole bunch of testosterone-soaked, badboy hotheads up there on Mt. Olympus) and Demeter (Goddess of earth, harvest, fertility, hearth, grain - in other words, the ultimate Earth-Momma) is frolicking in the fields, picking flowers with her girlfriends. She is spotted by Hades, (God of the Underworld), who is instantly besotted by her beauty and charisma, and decides he’s got to have her. With tacit, Boys-Will-Be-Boys permission from Zeus, he abducts her, has his way with her and ultimately makes her his Queen of the Underworld. Indeed, there may have been a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome going on there, because Persephone eventually becomes fond of the miscreant.

Meanwhile, back on the Earth plain, Demeter is beside herself with grief and anguish, wandering the earth, tearing her hair out, looking for her lost daughter. But alas, there is a conspiracy of silence. All the gods and goddesses just shrug and say they haven’t a clue where she is. Zeus acts all dumb and innocent too. Finally the distraught Demeter learns from Helios (God of the Sun, who sees everything) that Persephone was snatched by Hades. She goes to Zeus and says, Okay, Pops, do something; bring our daughter back! Zeus makes out like it’s out of his hands and gives her the age-old, send-me-a-memo/shrug response.

Demeter goes into a stone-cold fury and launches a full-blown strike. OK, fella, have it your way, she decides. I’ll just turn this beautiful, green, fertile, generous earth into a frozen tundra, where everything dies and nothing can grow, and let’s just see how that plays in Peoria, you turkey.

The earth turns cold and dead, and suddenly there is major interest in rescuing Persephone. But the love-sick Hades is loathe to give her up. Zeus dispatches the wiley messenger-god, Hermes to negotiate a deal, and manages to bring Persephone back in a fabulous chariot. The earth once again blooms and thrives. There is celebration and relief everywhere.

But as a parting gesture, Hades has given his Queen a pomegranate (symbol of fertility) to remember him by, and when Persephone takes a bite on her way out, she becomes bound to him, and is compelled to return to the Underworld as its Queen for 3-4 months of the year. (This is why we have Winter. Everywhere but Los Angeles, of course.)

So Persephone, who was abducted as an innocent maiden, gets rescued by the power of The Feminine, and returns a complex, multifaceted, woman-goddess, who fully understands the mysteries of life and death, and is venerated by both worlds. In addition, her experiences in the Underworld have endowed her with the gifts of divination, intuition and healing. She is no longer just a cute Momma’s Girl; she has become a full-blown, powerful Rock Star in her own right.

How’s that for a trauma myth?

Our workshop in Houston was very well received. People honestly seemed riveted by the new information, and I’m very encouraged about the need for it and its all-round relevance. I confess, we are all a bit baffled by the regional differences in registration numbers - we have hundreds of people signed up in Cape Cod, but had a far fewer but nonetheless respectable number in Houston. If anyone has any insights or theories as to why this is so, I’d love to hear. Please send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I’m very much looking forward to presenting ever more refined versions of this workshop at Cape Cod on November 1-2, at Copper Mountain, CO on November 22-23, and in Santa Fe December 6-7. For more info, please click on http://www.conferenceworks.com/speaker_bnapa.cfm .

Every week we get a few random students asking us to (in my opinion) provide vast answers or even write whole papers for them. It always amazes me, ‘cause in the time it takes them to write their request, they could have clicked on the answers, which are highly locate-able over at the Research & Resources, FAQs or the What is Guided Imagery? pages. Anyway, I basically gave my standard reply (the one my kids always got from me, too): YO, LOOK IT UP YOURSELF. This generated an outraged response from someone who thought I was being a Big Meanie. Perhaps so. But I actually think it’s far more demeaning and patronizing to fork over answers that are right there for the finding, than to spoon feed answers, as if the person were too incompetent, or debilitated or dumb to do it for themselves. Requests for me or the staff to write half a paper, when the person hasn’t even done enough basic leg work to narrow down the question to something reasonable, annoy the heck out of me.

On the other hand, I thought the Ask BR question this week, which was also a request for info, was perfectly legit. It was highly specific and the info was not on the site. It was a follow-up on something I’d mentioned in the Houston Workshop, and I was happy to answer it.

OK, that’s it for now. Take care and be well,

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award