From Victim to Survivor: How the Craft Taught Me To Overcome Sexual Trauma (Part II)
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Posted: July 5th. 2009
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Disclaimer: I am not a certified professional. The following articles (Part I and Part II) are intended as a testimony, and in no way should be taken as gospel. If you or someone you know has suffered abuse, rape or traumas of any type, seek immediate professional help.
“I was molested.”
The three most dreaded words, in whatever format you hear them, a parent will ever hear from their child. Three little yet powerful words that coalesce into a statement that at once shatters a worldview of everything as sacred, rose-colored, loving and innocent into a hellish reality. Suddenly you are plunged into a scary and cold world of police reports, endless questioning, potential medical examinations, mourning, depression, hatred and anger. As a practicing witch (or any other tradition of modern paganism) , other questions begin to arise:
•Is there evil afoot?
•Is my dark and negative energy causing more pain on my family and I?
•What about my (insert victim and their relationship to you here) ? Is this a curse?
•We’re all fighting, is this normal?
•Do I curse the victimizer? I’m mad as hell!
These and other questions may seem like bordering on paranoia, but let’s stop to examine them. In light of recent publications by questionable authors on the subjects of energy, empathy and the misunderstanding of the “three-fold law, ” it can be easily understood how many in the modern pagan community can start to genuinely wonder if there is something afoot. Last week I introduced my own testimony, and explained how one of the best-known myths in the West helped unlock the key to my healing. Here again is one version of the tale:
“Plouton [Haides] fell in love with Persephone, and with Zeus’ help secretly kidnapped her. Demeter roamed the earth over in search of her, by day and by night with torches. When she learned from the Hermionians that Plouton [Haides] had kidnapped her, enraged at the gods she left the sky, and in the likeness of a woman made her way to Eleusis . . .
When Zeus commanded Plouton to send Kore [Persephone] back up, Plouton gave her a pomegranate seed to eat, as assurance that she would not remain long with her mother. With no foreknowledge of the outcome of her act, she consumed it. Askalaphos, the son of Akheron and Gorgyra, bore witness against her, in punishment for which Demeter pinned him down with a heavy rock in Haides’ realm. But Persephone was obliged to spend a third of each year with Plouton, and the remainder of the year among the gods.”- (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 29 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.)
Below are some of the keys, as we dissect this myth, which will shed some light on healing:
1. The person who does the abuse fools themselves into believing that they are innocent. Hades fell in love with Persephone; yet true love does not violate. Hades did not fall in love so much as fell in lust. Although as an Underworld deity Hades is not evil, his act is evil, and by committing an evil act Hades has now aspected evil itself. The person committing the crime may not be truly evil. In fact they previously may have been victims; it is not uncommon for victims to turn into predators themselves. However, this does not negate the fact that an evil act has been committed, and as such must be treated accordingly. Whether by intense counseling, psychiatric hospitalization or prison (depending on the crime itself) , the perpetrator must realize the consequences of their actions.
2. The perpetrator rarely acts alone. Zeus helped Hades. How? He did nothing to stop it. In Diodorus Siculus’ version of the tale we read something else: that Zeus gave a wedding gift to Hades and Persephone, basically denying that any “rape” ever took place. Zeus sided with his brother Hades instead.
When rape or any type of abuse occurs, families tend to divide. There will be those who will want it swept under the rug or not talked about. They give benefit of the doubt to the perpetrator (especially if the abuser is a family member) , and will side against the victim. Families tend to divide…not all the time, but it can happen. It is painful for those who side with the victim (especially when the victim is telling the truth) . On top of having been violated, now they are not believed? Worse, Zeus enabled Hades’ fantasy of “falling in love” with Persephone.
3. Anger and bitterness follow. Diodorus recounts the tale thus: “Now she [Demeter] discovered the corn before she gave birth to her daughter Persephone, but after the birth of her daughter and the rape of her by Plouton [Haides], she burned all the fruit of the corn, both because of her anger at Zeus and because of her grief over her daughter.” -- (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 5.68.1) .
It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to not forgive. It’s okay to allow the grief that you are experiencing on behalf of your (insert family member here) . You are channeling the strength of the enraged Goddess herself into your very being. Allow Her anger over the desecration of their/your body, made of the sacred earth that we come from, to strengthen you.
4. Get outside help. Homer’s hymn continues: “Bitter pain seized her heart, and she rent the covering upon her divine hair with her dear hands: her dark cloak she cast down from both her shoulders and sped, like a wild-bird, over the firm land and yielding sea, seeking her child. But no one would tell her the truth, neither god nor mortal man; and of the birds of omen none came with true news for her.
Then for nine days queenly Deo (Demeter) wandered over the earth with flaming torches in her hands, so grieved that she never tasted ambrosia and the sweet draught of nektaros, nor sprinkled her body with water. But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come, Hekate, with a torch in her hands, met her, and spoke to her and told her news: `Queenly Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of good gifts, what god of heaven (theon ouranion) or what mortal man has rapt away Persephone and pierced with sorrow your dear heart? For I heard her voice, yet saw not with my eyes who it was. But I tell you truly and shortly all I know.' So, then, said Hekate.
And [Demeter] the daughter of rich-haired Rheia answered her not, but sped swiftly with her, holding flaming torches in her hands.”
Demeter was distraught beyond reason. Sometimes help will not come from the people you expect. As stated in #2, families tend to divide. Sometimes, when all seems lost and you are at the last ebb of your strength, the anger and bitterness that you channeled for strength has consumed every last ounce of hope…help does come.
Hekate, ancient Goddess of Thrace and Anatolia, as well as wielder of power beyond Zeus, comes and helps Demeter. Homer included Hekate in his version of the tale as “tender-hearted, ” who heard the voice of the raped Persephone. Hekate helps Demeter with the Torch. The Torch is an ancient symbol of Hekate, and symbolizes enlightenment and hope. We see that when Homer writes that it was not until the “tenth enlightening dawn” that the Goddess of Enlightenment Herself arrives to help.
Hekate aspects herself in strangers and people you wouldn’t expect. She robes herself, as a Goddess of Crossroads, when you hit that “crossroad” of your life. When you are at a dead end and don’t know which way to go, Hekate lights the way with Her torch and those she sends to others’ aids. In this tale is the emphasis to get outside help.
You cannot go it alone. You cannot, as much as it hurts, keep the actions to yourself. Whether you are victim or the one who supports the victim, you cannot keep quiet. The officials must know. There are professionals who are trained adequately to deal with this. My own personal experience was not the right way by any means, but for those of you who are undergoing a similar situation or have gone through that situation where the right intentions bring the wrong response, I must tell you that people are human. They will make mistakes. People do not like their comfortable lives interrupted with any tragedy, mistakes or their reputations blemished.
You must find the inner strength to break through and make your case known to the proper authorities. Then allow the Goddess to send the outside help you need in order to give you that support network that one desperately needs when even their own family turns their own back on them.
5. Cut the ties that bind. According to the Homeric Hymn, Hekate took Demeter to Helios, watchmen of Gods and men. Demeter asked him, “Helios, do you at least regard me, goddess as I am, if ever by word or deed of mine I have cheered your heart and spirit. Through the fruitless air (aitheros) I heard the thrilling cry of my daughter whom I bare, sweet scion of my body and lovely in form, as of one seized violently; though with my eyes I saw nothing. But you--for with your beams you look down from the bright upper air (aitheros) over all the earth and sea--tell me truly of my dear child if you have seen her anywhere, what god or mortal man has violently seized her against her will and mine, and so made off?”
Helios answered, “Queen Demeter, daughter of rich-haired Rheia, I will tell you the truth; for I greatly reverence and pity you in your grief for your trim-ankled daughter. None other of the deathless gods is to blame, but only cloud-gathering Zeus who gave her to Aides [Hades], her father's brother, to be called his buxom wife. And Aides seized her and took her loudly crying in his chariot down to his realm of mist and gloom. Yet, goddess, cease your loud lament and keep not vain anger unrelentingly: Aidoneus Polysemantor (Ruler of Many) is no unfitting husband among the deathless gods for your child, being your own brother and born of the same stock: also, for honour, he has that third share which he received when division was made at the first, and is appointed lord of those among whom he dwells.”
They then raced to Olympus, and Demeter’s grief and anger turned so savage that it was at this point she vowed never to step foot in Olympus or let the fruit of the ground spring again. This is the next most important key you can do: anyone who does not believe the victim, and sides with the perpetrator, needs to be immediately cut off.
The victim may already believe in their heart they either:
a. Fell in love (a form of Stockholm Syndrome sets in)
b. Are to blame for their family’s misery
c. Cannot be forgiven
d. Should lie so that everyone can forget.
e. All the above.
Cut your ties. Do not allow anyone close to the family who supports the perpetrator, especially if the perpetrator is a family member. In my situation above, it would have been better had the professionals handled it, instead of allowing church members to criticize and continue the trauma with allegations of sin and exorcism to boot. Inner healing is a delicate process, and unless handled with care, will lead the victim to a dangerous spiral towards the darkest recesses of the Underworld. Even Helios tried to make matters light. Don’t!
Abuse is abuse.
6. The victim will be connected to the perpetrator. Everyone knows what happens next, no matter which version: Kore (original name of Persephone) has been changed to Persephone. Her identity is no longer who she was. The trauma has stolen some of her soul, her innocence and a part of who she might have been.
The Gods themselves did not want to get involved. They were a family. Family divides. It becomes a civil war (oxymoronic though the term may be according to my best friend) . Throughout all of this, Kore was alone, in a dark place and unable to escape. Kore was not to blame for what happened; yet with her identity stripped she was forced to keep a portion of Hades with her. He told her to take the pomegranate seeds (anywhere from 3 to 7, depending on the version) .
Hades was diabolical. His fantasy of falling in love with Kore kept Kore/Persephone trapped. She would have to repeatedly be with him, causing an endless cycle of death, grief and renewal. This part of the tale is said to relate to the seasons. I personally see it as something deeper: once someone has been abused, chances are that they will be abused again. They have something inside them that acts like the pomegranates of the myth, forcing them over and over to be with people who take advantage of them. They never find happiness, and never claim their own power. They are tricked into holding onto the Hades’ of this world.
How can this be? What does the pomegranate symbolize that could give us a clue to help victims become liberated…to claim their inner God/Goddess and stop the cycle? A clue may be had in another version of the myth:
“Plouton gave her a pomegranate seed to eat, as assurance that she would not remain long with her mother. With no foreknowledge of the outcome of her act, she consumed it. Askalaphos, the son of Akheron and Gorgyra, bore witness against her, in punishment for which Demeter pinned him down with a heavy rock in Haides’ realm.”- (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 29 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.)
The symbolism of the pomegranate is terrible enough (at least in this telling of the tale) that Askalaphos told the other Gods. Demeter had him pinned with a heavy rock as punishment. I am no scholar, so I can only interpret the myth through my own experience, but I believe that the pomegranate in this tale represents shame.
Askalaphos intended to shame Kore/Persephone in front of the Gods showing evidence. No one needs reminding of what occurred. The scars that Persephone carried were not external, but internal. No one could physically see the seeds, for she had swallowed them. Persephone carried emotional scars from her rape.
Although a physician should be seen as soon as possible after rape to see if any damage has occurred (on top of forensic evidence) , shame keeps Persephone quiet.
Who could blame her? She did not want exposure. She did not want to be thrown into the media spotlight and used as the poster child for sex offenders and family crimes. Persephone, her identity stripped as Kore (“maiden”) becomes an unassuming Underworld Deity and is punished to always carry a portion of him with her. This is the “energy signature” that tends to separate victims and signals them to others that they are easy. This is not an easy truth to bear.
The most critical time in the victim’s life begins after the rape, when they are being brought from the dark, mental caverns of Hades. Now the real healing begins, along with more pain. Healing is never painless. Everyone knows your name along with what happened. As a victim you literally feel like the entire world is staring at you, exposing you as a “slut, ” “whore, ” like “you asked for it.” Your mind swirls with the possibilities of what you should have done that day; what you could have done.
Most of us blame the lack of our psychic intuition that day. “How could I have let this happen?” We cry ourselves to sleep, feeling alone because we bear the pomegranate seeds within us that remind us mentally, emotionally and physically of what happened that fateful day. For some, the abuse has been on-going for years. However many seeds we bear within, we feel we are doomed to repeat the cycles throughout our lives.
7. Healing begins. Persephone was trapped, doomed to rule over a world that she did not ask for. The world would know of what she had done, and Demeter was helpless to stop it. Again, unconditional love and support are needed. It happened…heal! Heal! Heal! Focus on the healing that the family needs. Although anger and bitterness are natural, one must gather their strength as a family and nurture healing energy.
Demeter felt like the world was against her, as if she was powerless to stop what had happened. Hekate guided her back to where she needed to be. What’s important to understand here is that though Persephone swallowed the seeds, she never passed them. They stayed within her. She held the seeds within herself.
As a victim, you must learn to let go of the seeds…let go of the shame. You are not to blame, and the person who victimized you will trick you into thinking you asked for it unwillingly or that you wanted it all along. It’s a lie. Don’t fall for the trick. Demeter turned her anger into something wonderful: the birth of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Some tales relate how she taught mankind agriculture.
Persephone as Queen later releases Eurydice, Orpheus’ wife. Her compassion identified the need in Orpheus to release Eurydice. Their own tale becomes the basis for the Orphic Mysteries. Despite the pain, humiliation and shame, there is something that we are given: a gift.
We are gifted insights and understandings to help us recognize pain, compassion, suffering and evil. As survivors, we are no longer victims but instead we have a Journey to become survivors and healers in our Communities (both Pagan and non-Pagan) .
We have the potential to transmute our tragedy into a triumph.
May the Goddess Hekate help you and yours wherever you may be. May She bear the Torch of enlightenment and hope. May you, with the efforts of the God/Goddess within, transmute your shame into liberation and healing.
Do not be a victim, but instead a survivor…and ultimately, a healer.
Source of the various versions of the Myth:
Rape of Persephone. (2008) Retrieved June 19, 2009 from http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/HaidesPersephone1.html.
For more information on getting help, here are some sources:
For Emergency help dial 9-1-1
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)
In the UK for male victims of sexual abuse: 0845-122-1201
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