Still waters run deep as the life raising powers of the Sun decline, the magnetic force of the Underworld exerts a compulsive pull on the waters of life and sap falls back down to its lowest level. Life has no choice but to follow it – into the mysteries of the dark. Old forms decompose in chilly autumnal rains, whose waters of death enable the decay that releases essential elements into the cauldron of rebirth, creating the compost that will nourish next year’s growth. Life is fed by death.
– from the Astrocal 2017 Moon Diary
Exactly five hours after the Sun reaches 15° Scorpio, and almost an hour after the waning Moon enters Cancer, Venus completes this year’s watery Samhain trio when she enters Scorpio. This feminine, mysterious transit echoes Persephone’s annual descent into the Underworld, where she resides with her husband Hades for a third of the year.
Persephone (Latin: Proserpina) was also titled Kore or Cora, meaning “the Maiden”, and was the daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter and Zeus. She is a death aspect of the Triple Moon-goddess along with Hera, Circe and Hecate, and thus has long been an important goddess to witches. She is also one of the original chthonic deities.
The term “chthonic” (THON-ik) means “of or relating to the underworld”, literally “underground” in Greek, and particularly applies to the death gods and goddesses of Greek religion. Persephone is one of many Life-Death-Life deities who embody the cycles of death and rebirth and bear multiple complicated aspects.
There is a duality to Persephone’s nature, however, as an agricultural and spring-time goddess through her mother, Demeter, and as a chthonic goddess due to her marriage to Hades, who abducted her into his realm. Demeter, distraught and enraged over this, seized the land in a wintry grip and refused to let any crops grow until she was reunited with her daughter.
Though Hades eventually gave in to Zeus’ demands that he return Persephone, he had already tricked her into eating several pomegranate seeds; once one has consumed any food or drink in the underworld, they are obliged to remain forever.
However, even the Lord of Death never was completely unreasonable, nor “evil” (though understandably feared and considerably taboo), and therefore a compromise was reached in the form of Persephone dwelling for a third of the year in the underworld with Hades, and the rest of the year above with her mother, when the earth would be warm and abundant again.
The Sabian symbol for the 15th degree of Scorpio (where the Sun will be shortly after midnight, officially marking Samhain) is…
“Children playing around five mounds of sand”
This immediately made me think of children playing up above in the realm of the living on Halloween night, the five mounds of sand mirroring the five churning rivers below, in the realm of the dead. Perhaps the five mounds of sand are even at the beach, where Venus (or Aphrodite) was born out of the waves on a scallop shell, as Venus now joins the illuminating Sun in dark Scorpio.
Venus and Persephone are feminine beauty, youth, agelessness, divinity, sensuality and fertility. The juxtaposition of these qualities to death and decay may seem counter-intuitive, but it only more fully serves to demonstrate and even personify the inherent duality and cyclical nature of life and death, and that death feeds life. There is beauty in life and in death, beauty in rest and decomposition of that which has been, and the beauty of the hope and potential of the fertile seed that has yet to blossom.
The Norse goddess Freya is often compared to Venus/Aphrodite, being a goddess of love, beauty, sexuality and having great magical and psychic abilities, but she also has a considerable dark side, journeying between realms, including the underworld, and claiming half of those slain in battle.
Death, the underworld and the autumn season in general are already commonly associated with the Classical element and energy of Water; the Greek Underworld itself contains five converging rivers, including the famous Styx (who is also a goddess) which is the border between the land of the living and the land of the dead.
There are many death deities that are also specifically associated with Water, even dwelling in physical water. Sedna is one of the most prominent of such deities, being the Inuit goddess of the sea and Queen of the Underworld, Adlivun.
(Read more about Sedna here)
Sedna also offers an appropriate lesson to reflect on for this time of year, as illustrated in “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. She parallels her tale describing the archetypal “Skeleton Woman” aspect of all women, to Sedna…
“In the opening motif – that of a woman lying under the ocean – Skeleton Woman is similar to Sedna, a Life/Death/Life figure from Inuit mythology. Sedna is the great deformed creation goddess who lives in the Inuit underworld.
Like the father in the fairy tale “The Handless Maiden,” Sedna’s father chopped off her hands. Her fingers and limbs sank to the bottom of the sea, where they became fish* and seals and other life forms that sustained the Inuit ever after.
What was left of Sedna sank to the bottom of the sea. There she became all bones and long, long hair. In the Inuit rite, earthbound shamans swim down to her, bringing peace-food…
The shamans comb her long, long hair while singing to her, begging her to heal the soul or body of a person above…
A part of every woman and every man resists knowing that in all love relationships Death must have her share. We pretend we can love without our illusions about love dying, pretend we can go on without our superficial expectations dying, pretend we can progress and that our favorite flushes and rushes will never die.
But in love, psychically, everything becomes picked apart, everything. The ego does not want it to be so. Yet it is how it is meant to be, and the person of a deep and wildish nature is undeniably drawn to the task.”
* – while Estés suggests that fishes are among the creatures which were born from Sedna’s severed limbs, traditionally (and logically) it is only marine mammals (warm-blooded, like Sedna) that were considered to have come from her.
Coming tomorrow, Nov. 7 – special Samhain Oracle Reading channeling Persephone and using Christopher Butler’s new Healing Light Tarot
© 2017 M. Everwhite – All Rights Reserved
featured image: “Proserpine” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1874
Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés