CHAPTER SIX ~ Deliberate Details

One of the first decisions involved in the creation of Pomegranate Flesh was the selection of the cast. While sufficient characters were required to illustrate the Persephone, Demeter and Narcissus stories, investigation of various versions of the myths found that each of these characters was linked with a seemingly endless network of other characters. Editorial decisions were taken about how many other characters were needed to fully illustrate the central themes without becoming distractions from them. Decisions also needed to be made about which of the characters’ names should be used in the text, as many of them were known by different names at different times. The primary rationales behind the decisions about naming, inclusion and exclusion are outlined below:

Kora ~ Referred to as Core by Graves (1981, 2001) and Kore by Guirand (1982), Kora is the spring maiden, daughter of the Earth mother, who later becomes Persephone, Queen of the Underworld. Graves (2001, p. 93) makes a point of saying: “Core should spend three months of the year in Hades’s company, as Queen of Tartarus, with the title of Persephone”, making it clear that Persephone is an adopted name, rather than a birth name. While Graves (2001, p. 94) says that the name Persephone comes from phero and phonos and means “she who brings destruction”, which in Athens became Persephatta (pteris + ephatto) meaning “she who fixes destruction” and in Rome became “Proserpina, the fearful one”, Guirand admits more doubt saying:

The name of the wife of Hades occurs in several forms: Persephone, Persephoneia, Phersephone, Persephassa, Phersephatta. It is difficult to discover the etymology of all of these variations. It is believed that the last half of the word Persephone comes from the word ‘to show’ and evokes and idea of light. Whether the first half derives from a word meaning ‘to destroy’ in which case Persephone would be ‘she who destroys the light’ or from an adverbial root signifying ‘dazzling brilliance’ as in the name Perseus, it is difficult to decide.
(1982, p. 165)

In Pomegranate Flesh Kore/Core was adapted into Kora, for the sake of contemporary reader friendliness and ease of pronunciation and in order to maintain the key sound ‘kor’, which resonates with the word ‘core’, meaning central, and the French word for heart ‘coeur’. When she is given the name Persephone by Charon, it is with the meaning associated with being a bringer of light, because this is in keeping with the role she plays.

Demeter ~ The myth of Demeter and Persephone is widely told and while both Gaia and Rhea are also Greek earth mother goddesses they are not traditionally closely linked with Persephone. Unlike the other Greek Earth goddesses Demeter is frequently referred to as a deity of agriculture, hence the use of her name by the Bio-Dynamic Research Institute to identify officially biodynamic produce (see www.demeter.net for more details). As a ‘giver of laws’ she became known as Thesmophoros and her counterpart in the Roman pantheon is Ceres (Guirand, 1982). The name Demeter was used in Pomegranate Flesh because it is still relatively well known thanks to the many simplistic versions of the story still in print, the biodynamic agriculture industry and because of the aural resonance of De-meter and the-mother.

Hecate ~ Hecate is an enigmatic character in both ancient Greek mythology and in the latest telling. Sometimes she is called the Queen of Witches and associated with black magic, (Graves, 2001). On the whole this image of her was rejected in Pomegranate Flesh in favour of a wise crone image evoked by the phrase “tender-hearted” used to describe her in The Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Evelyn-White, 1954). She is depicted in this, more favourable moon-linked aspect by Guirand (1982), Sharman-Burke & Greene (1989) and Spretnak (1978).

Narcissus ~ Although it is a difficult name to include because it no longer has currency as a first name, the name Narcissus was kept because it was intended to evoke and challenge the idea that to seek self knowledge is to act selfishly and arrogantly. Narcissism is a word commonly used and Narcissistic Personality Disorder is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (1994).

Echo ~ The saga of Echo was used as a device to link Kora and Narcissus and because the story of Echo and Narcissus is still relatively well known, thanks to the APA and to authors such as Lewis (1987). As the name is simple and easy to read, there was no need to change it.

Ameinias ~ While more obscure than the Echo story, this saga was included because told together they emphasis the vilification of Narcissus, who plays essentially the same role in both tales. The bones of the Ameinias story were found in an article by Ezio Pellizer in Jan Bremmer’s book Interpretations of Greek Mythology (1988). Pellizer, in turn, quotes Conon Diegiseis 24 as his source.

The name was shortened, however, to Ameni to make it less cumbersome, easier for modern readers to grasp and more descriptive of his boisterous character. The inclusion of the final ‘i’ in the shortened version of the name represents a deliberate distancing from religious connotations associated with the word Amen. Although the similarity of words Amen and Ameni was noted during the decision-making process and considered to be artistically appropriate given the way Ameni’s life ends.

Adele ~ Adele was the only name entirely made up in the process of writing Pomegranate Flesh. Various library searches failed to reveal the name of Amenius’s mother and no reference was found to a relationship existing between Demeter and Amenius’s mother. She was created to illustrate the caring role played by Demeter and in order to make the experience of difficulty in the process of mothering teenagers appear more universal.

Triptolemus ~ Tucked into the middle of the Demeter/Persephone saga is a story about what Demeter does while she is wandering in search of Persephone. Graves (2001) related the story that, in brief, includes Demeter being invited by King Celeus of Eleusis to wet nurse the child Demophoon. Demeter decided to bestow immortality on the child by holding him over a fire. She was caught in the act by the child’s mother who screamed and distracted the Goddess, resulting in the death of the child. To make amends Demeter bestowed gifts upon the family including teaching the King’s other son Triptolemus the gift of agriculture. In the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis there is a similar scene in which Isis, while searching for Osiris, agrees to wet nurse a royal child, decides to bestow immortality upon it by holding it over flames and is disturbed by the shrieks of the mother, resulting in the death of the child. (Viaud, 1982, p.18).

The appearance of this story in both the Egyptian and the Greek mythologies suggested to me that it may not have been part of the logical psychological progression through the process that is central to the Demeter/Persephone story, and that it could be an import from elsewhere, somewhat randomly inserted into the tale. Viaud (1982) admits that Isis is associated with Demeter and that crossovers between their stories have occurred. Guirand (1982, p. 152) refers to entanglement and changes in the myths saying that in later versions “Triptolemus was identified with Demophoon and attributed with the marvellous adventure in infancy [being held over the fire by the Goddess] of which Demaphoon was originally the hero.”

Graves (1982) comments on the myth of Demeter and Triptolemus in his argument that myth is a dramatic shorthand record of such matters as invasions, migrations, dynastic changes admission of foreign cults and social reforms. He says “When bread was first introduced into Greece where only beans, poppy seeds, acorns and asphodel roots had hitherto been known ~ the myth of Demeter and Triptolemus sanctified its use” (1982, p. VII).

In Pomegranate Flesh Triptolemus was included as a vehicle for Demeter’s act of giving agriculture as a means of obtaining her own freedom. His name was included for the sake of reference back to the larger story, should any readers wish to read more, but it was also shortened to the less cumbersome name Trip.

Hades ~ Most recent tellings of the Persephone story use the name Hades to describe the God of the Underworld (Lewis, 1987; Lancelyn Green, 1958; Coolidge, 1967; Richardson, 1983; Birrer & Birrer, 1987; Oldfield, 1988). While this is the name he is given by Hesiod in Theogony (Evelyn-White, 1954), in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Evelyn-White, 1954) he is referred to as Aidoneus, “the Host of Many” and “He who has many names”. While some confusion was possible between Hades being the name of the person and the name of the place in which he resides, the name Hades was chosen on aesthetic grounds and because it seemed less cumbersome than Aidoneus. Names that were difficult to pronounce or for readers unfamiliar with Greek mythology to remember were avoided in order to give the manuscript a modern reader-friendly tone. To minimise the confusion care was taken to refer to Hades, the place, by other names such as The Underworld and Tartarus.

Hermes and Zeus ~ Both appear in cameo roles in Pomegranate Flesh, their presence framing the dramas that the others play out. They appear as they are presented in Guirand’s (1982) text, which is drawn from Hesiod’s Theogony.

Dionysis ~ Standing opposed to Hesiod’s Theogony as a source of information about the early Greek cosmology is the Orphic doctrine. According to Guirand (1982, p.90) the followers of Orphism “claimed as their authority the apocryphal writings attributed to Orpheus, which seem actually to have been written by a priest named Onomacritus.” In brief the Orphic view involved the formation of a cosmic egg whose upper section formed the vault of the sky and whose lower section was the earth. In the centre of the egg was Phanes (light) the first born being, who by union with Night, created heaven and earth, and engendered Zeus. It was Dionysis, however, who ultimately became the supreme God, according to Orphic conceptions.

Guirand (1982) also links Dionysis with the Vedic god Soma, the Cretan God Zagreus, the Phygrian god Sabazius and the Lydian god Bassareus. He appears to have been well travelled and well celebrated. He was hard to pin down, though, as he seems to have changed names and faces as he went. According to Guirand (1982) he was initially a god of wine but he later became the god of pleasures and of civilisation. Many stories are told about Dionysis that dance between the dynasties. At times he is ancient, one of the first born, and at other times a late comer with Persephone present at his birth. He appears in many forms, born over and over again, so that it seemed natural to write him into Pomegranate Flesh as an ancient god, still in a vibrant and lively form. His temple in the valley is old and abandoned, suggesting that he has moved on, although he still appreciates being worshipped.

As a god of inebriation he is suggestive of the process of letting go and looking at issues from other perspectives and as Guirand claims that Orphic Doctrines with which he was associated “were known only to the initiated [and] were never popular” (1982, p.87), his presence also implies that there is more to the story than initially meets the eye.

Nemesis and Fortuna ~ The formulation of Nemesis and Fortuna as two sisters who love to compete with each other, Fortuna giving excessive luck and Nemesis averting disaster by countering with balance, is loosely drawn from other sources but largely an act of creative writing.

Fortuna is often referred to as a Roman Goddess responsible for dispensing good fortune (Guirand, 1982; Crompton, 1999). Nemesis on the other hand has a proper Greek pedigree, attributed by Hesiod (cited in Guirand, 1982) as being a daughter of Night, one of the children of the primal Chaos in the days before the Titans or the Olympians.

Describing Nemesis, Guirand includes her in a list of goddesses with moral functions saying that she was “at first a moral idea, that of the inexorable equilibrium of the human condition … or the divine anger” who later became a goddess. Behind her on the list is Tyche, the Greek Goddess of Fortune.

Linking Nemesis and Tyche together is a footnote from Graves, which says:

Tyche is a daughter of Zeus, to whom he has given power to decide what the fortune of this or that mortal shall be. … But if it ever happens that a man, whom she has favoured, boasts of his abundant riches and neither sacrifices a part of them to the gods, nor alleviates the poverty of his fellow-citizens, then the ancient Goddess Nemesis steps in to humiliate him.
(2001, p. 124)

In the footnote Graves explains that Tyche was an artificial deity invented by the early philosophers. Whereas Nemesis had been the nymph-goddess of death-in-life, whom they now redefined as a moral control on Tyche. He then goes on to refer to Fortuna as the Roman counterpart of Nemesis, both being associated with turning the wheel of the year, and the turning of seasons.

In Pomegranate Flesh the name Fortuna is used rather than Tyche, because it is more readily associated with the giving of luck, and it is therefore less distracting from the principal dramas. Fortuna and Nemesis are portrayed as being equals, somewhat evocative of Yin and Yang. The measure of good and evil that comes from their actions is ambiguous, encouraging consideration of whether a gift is really a gift, and a misfortune really a misfortune.

The Landscape

Every novel occurs in a landscape. The landscape constructed for Pomegranante Flesh comprises a village nestled between two hills. On one hillside, that is one of the foothills of Mount Olympus, Demeter lives in a cottage with Kora. Not far away on the other hillside, a foothill of Mt Helicon, there is another cottage occupied by Hecate. There is a stream that runs through the valley and Echo, the nymph, lives in one of its pools. Upstream from Echo’s pool on the Mt Helicon hillside, there is an old Dionysian temple frequented by Narcissus. Beyond this there is a forest with a stream running through it. Mount Olympus reaches up into the clouds and on its peak is the Olympus of the Gods. Below them is the Underworld. When Demeter wanders away from the valley she comes eventually to the village of Eleusis, where her contributions are honoured and her first temple is built.

The landscape was created as a stage for the drama to unfold in and as a backdrop for interactions between the characters. While towns and mountains are named, the landscape was not based on a known geographical location and apart from the essential geography, that remains consistent throughout the story, descriptions of it were usually metaphors for the characters moods or psychological states. For example the rampant flowers on the hillside in the opening scene can be seen as a way of expressing that Kora and Echo were in the springtime of their lives, yet to face the hardships of winter.

Mt Olympus was included because most sources (Guirand, 1982; Graves, 2001; Crompton, 1999) refer to it as the place from which the gods reigned. The name Mt Helicon is used because it features in the opening line of Hesiod’s Theogony (Evelyn-White, 1954, p. 79) that reads “From the Heliconician Muses let us begin to sing, who hold the great and holy mount of Helicon, and dance on soft feet about the deep-blue spring…” Mt Helicon also appears in Conon’s story about Narcissus (cited in Bremmer, 1988, p.107) which begins with “There is in the region of Boeotia a town called Thespiae, not far from Mt Helicon, where the child Narcissus was born.” While Mt Helicon in Pomegranate Flesh is not the birthplace of Narcissus it is his soul’s home.

Both Graves (2001) and Guirand (1982) comment that the mysteries of Demeter and Persephone were celebrated primarily at Eleusis (and called the Eleusinia) because that is where her first temple was built. Guirand writes that it was in Eleusis that King Celeus, father of Triptolemus, reigned.

Clues as to the nature and structure of the Underworld, with the bronze gates of Tartarus guarded by Aeacus and the various rivers were drawn from Guirand (1982), and yet altered and simplified to avoid tangents from the central story and to accommodate the Fates and Hecate’s former presence. It is common throughout the Greek mythology for stories and places to be linked. Therefore the inclusion of features not essential to the plot of the novel, could in many cases involve the introduction of other stories or subplots. For example to have used the white poplars said by Guirand to have grown in the Underworld would have been a reference to the character Leuce, one of Hades other lovers, who died of natural causes and was then transformed into a poplar. Introducing this subplot would have represented a major diversion from the central issue of mother/daughter relationships.

While this particular landscape was constructed specifically for Pomegranate Flesh the approach to landscaping Greek myths ~ involving the incorporation of illogical quirks and a broad disregard for topography ~ is not unique. Introducing a collection of myths Zeitlin made the following observation about landscaping mythic terrain, that resonates with the psychological perspective on mythology:

The landscape of Greece is a territory of a special kind. It ranges across mountains, rivers and cultivated fields down to marshlands and the seas.… The territory also extends into zones of the mythic imagination: the emerging features of the physical world of Hesiod’s Theogony, the ends of the earth visited by Perseus in his quest for the Gorgon, and the regions of Olympos, Hades, and Tartaros, above and below the solid foundations of mundane life.... The spaces… have boundaries and limits, levels and planes, and paths that bifurcate, leading now in one direction and now in another, and often against all expectation, converging or shifting elevation into other domains or fields. Along the way some paths may veer off to take a different course without ever obscuring entirely the familiar landmarks that link them, in part to more ancient or parallel routes. And then there are indications of potential highways, still only dimly glimpsed, roads ~ as we know from our later vantage ~ that have not yet been taken, to stopping points not yet imagined, not in this era, not in this place. Above all, routes that at first seemed to be trivial or to wander off in random confusion turn out to have a broad and sure destination. The intricate journey is bound to end in perceptions of structure, coherence and order, and for all the detours, all the subtle gradations, the result is a map of crisscrossing lines that makeup a network of intelligible signs for those who know how to read them.
It is, finally this map that commands our attention, this translation into and out of the region of the mind that configures the territory of an ancient culture in both space and time, through a wide-angled prospect over new frontiers and a gift of unsuspected layers and levels of meaning in familiar ground. It thus reshapes the topography we are used to thinking of as Greece and, in so doing, gives us a guide that passes beyond the diagram and chart bring a society vividly to life ~ dynamic, inventive, dialectically articulated, haunted by questions of its own morality, and addicted to building structures, both of institutions and of the mind itself.”

(1991, p. 3)

The physical features of the landscape of Pomegranate Flesh follow this style; crossroads symbolise turning points in the lives of the characters, who at times walk along well worn paths and at other times break new ground, simultaneously psychologically and physically. In the telling of the story the outer world is of secondary importance and it is not topographically or historically accurate in any sense. Instead it is a tool, a mirror, used to reflect the inner world of the characters’ minds and hearts.

Life after Death

Pomegranate Flesh presents a view of life after death involving the descent of the soul or shade to the Underworld, travel across the rivers in Charon’s boat, arrival in the great hall where Hades performs a magical act that transforms the shade into a ball of light that returns to its source, a great ball of light in the west before arriving back in Clotho’s basket to be woven into a new life. This scenario draws in part from descriptions given by Graves (2001) and Guirand (1982) but it also includes omissions.

According to Guirand (1982, p.165), while accounts about the location and geography of the Underworld vary between classical sources, there is a degree of consistency on the notion of there being many rivers including Acheron, Cocytus, Phlegethon, Lethe and the Styx. Other common features mentioned by Guirand included the Grove of Persephone and the gate of the Kingdom of Hades. Guirand also listed generations of deities preceeding and following Hades which were not seen as relevant to the storyline of Pomegranate Flesh.

In the novel, the geography of the Underworld is simplified and shown only through the eyes of Kora/Persephone. This was done in order to avoid taxing the readers with the task of remembering a complex geography that adds little to the central psychological themes of the Persephone/Demeter and Narcissus myths and in order to avoid the introduction of other myths into the story. Some elements of the classic Greek Underworld were retained, however, including the Bronze gates, the existence of a network of rivers and the general bleakness.

Mention of the Elysian Fields, which Guirand (1982) and Graves (2001) both list as part of the Underworld landscape, was omitted because of the potential for confusion in the readers’minds between the town of Eleusis and the Elysian fields (also called Elysium). As with the names of characters the names of places in Greek mythology are often entangled between various scholars and authors. While neither Graves (2001) nor Guirand (1982) offer a concrete link between the two places in their comprehensive tomes on Greek mythology, links are hinted at. For example, Guirand (1982, p.144) writing about the wind Zephyrus said that he “gently fanned the blessed regions of Elysium …[and] the Athenians consecrated an alter to him on the road to Eleusis.”

Despite a lack of supportive evidence, the similarity of the words inspired the incorporation into the conclusion of Pomegranate Flesh of the idea that Persephone, as Queen of the Underworld, could set about creating the Elysian Fields, or areas of beauty, inspired by the beauty of the Eleusian Fields. This process, while gently understated in the text, signifies the acceptance by Persephone of her kinship with her mother.

The idea that soul’s needed to pay the ferryman before being allowed into the Underworld was discarded because the idea of payment, as a bribe or attonement, brings other issues into process of the life/death cycle. The cycle is presented in an egalitarian manner in the novel and it would not have served the story to say that people who could not pay the ferryman would be left to wander as ghosts. It would have shown a meanness in Hades and Charon that, in turn, would have diluted their potency as archetypal figures. In this retelling Hades is presented as a character more closely aligned with the benevolent Egyptian God of the Dead, Osiris, than with the Christian Satan or Lucifer.

The theme of rebirth, via return to the basket can be seen as linked with the Buddhist notion of reincarnation, but it also sits with the Greek vision of rebirth given in Plato’s Republic which speaks about the souls of the dead:

Encamped by the forgetful river whose water no pitcher can hold. And all were compelled to drink a certain measure of its water; and those who had no wisdom to save them drank more than the measure. And as each man drank he forgot everything. Then they went to sleep and when midnight came there was an earthquake and thunder, and like shooting stars they were all swept suddenly up and away to be born.
(1958, p. 400)

Graves (1982, p. V.) states that the first function of myth is to “answer the sort of awkward questions that children ask, such as “Who made the world? How will it end? Who was the first man? Where do souls go after death?” He then speaks about the second function being the maintenance of social order and a sense of morality. The two are entangled though because mythic accounts of the fate of souls after death often include details of rewards and punishments that act as incentives and deterrents and can impact upon the moral behaviour of the living.

To say that myths explain what happens to souls after death, either implies that they contain religious knowledge, or that they were invented to pacify human curiosity. To say that they maintain social order also implies a sense of invention and manipulation.

Campbell presents a different view however saying: “Heaven and hell are within us”, explaining that afterlife repercussions are metaphors for different ways of being alive, that flow from one’s actions (Campbell & Moyers, 1988). This brings myths into the realm of immediate relevance, in from the sphere of pseudo-science and social control mechanisms.
From a Jungian perspective there is much to be gained from the exploration of deep inner spaces, and the story suggests that rewards follow this kind of endeavour. From this perspective being Queen of the Underworld can be seen as being able to manage one’s own deepest nature.

The inclusion of frightening elements such as savage monster-like dogs and hard hearted ferryman in other myths may be meant to illustrate the point that facing one’s own deepest nature often requires courage and sacrifice. In Pomegranate Flesh Kora’s act of courage and sacrifice was the walking away from her mother and her childhood security. I felt that including other challenges, such as facing monsters, would have overshadowed the importance of the universal human sacrifice involved in the simple, normal act of growing up.

This chapter has presented some of the rationales behind the selection of the characters, their names, the landscape and the position the manuscript takes on life after death. Writing a manuscript is a process that involves countless decisions. This chapter has attempted to illustrate some of the reasons behind the decisions, that in some sense are separate from each other but that in another sense flow together to form a harmonious whole.

In maintaining awareness of the whole while writing the details, irregularities and diversions from the old mythic data, were sometimes permitted into the text. Details that seemed distracting, such as the traditional payment of the ferryman, were dropped. My own personal views on the passage of the soul after death seemed irrelevant to the text and were not included. The Underworld scenario was instead constructed to support Kora’s process of maturation, both in her relationships with her mother and with Hades and in her acceptance of the harsh realities represented by the three fates. In the next two chapters some of the social issues the manuscript touches on are discussed and reference is made to deliberate inclusions and exclusions of themes.

[Chapter Seven ~ Touchy Subjects]