[Contents]
CHAPTER EIGHT ~ Better Left Unsaid

Other deliberate decisions incorporated into the Pomegranate Flesh manuscript include the omission of certain topics and characteristics. Examples of these include incest, an answer to the questions posed about destiny versus free will and the presence of an easily identifiable villain. Rationales for these particular omissions are outlined below to illustrate the kind of thinking that was involved in the writing process, particularly in relation to aspects of the old stories that sit awkwardly in a modern context, or simply don’t fit at all.

Incest

According to Hesiod, cited in Guirand (1982) the Gods of Olympus had their own society and hierarchy. Among their number were the twelve great Gods and Goddesses ~ Zeus, Poseidon. Hephasteus, Hermes, Ares, Apollo, Hera, Athene, Artemis, Hestia, Aphrodite and Demeter. Many of these were the children of Rhea and Cronus, who were in turn children of Gaia and Uranus. Rhea and Cronus were siblings who married and had children. Their children, Zeus and Hera, in turn married and had children and Zeus also impregnated his sister Demeter. Zeus and Demeter’s brother Hades later married their daughter, his niece Core/Persephone.

Given this background it would have been relatively easy to work the issue of incest into the Pomegranate Flesh manuscript. The issue was avoided though, to the extent that Hades was removed from the status of brother to Demeter to the more distant station of cousin. To have included the issue would have complicated the notion of pure and honest love between Hades and Kora and layered it with contemporary social taboos and implications of coersion and secrecy. To condone the incest would have been socially inappropriate in a modern context and to have pushed against it would have been to tackle an entirely different subject.

While Levi-Strauss (1972) comments on the prevalance of incest taboos in most cultures, they are interestingly absent from the Greek mythology. Although Levi-Strauss cites the Oedipus myth as evidence of the existence of the taboo is early Greek culture, Graves (2001, p. 347) discounts the story of Oedipus and his doomed marriage to his mother as a anecdote by a Greek fabulist “deduced from a set of sacred icons by a deliberate perversion of their meaning”. One could posit that the writing of the tale by the ‘fabulist’ in question, suggests that the taboo existed within the culture that he came from. If this is the case then the story of Oedipus is significant in its breaking with tradition and its expression of a new cultural mores.

Destiny

Hecate mentioned destiny and the phrase danced in the air above the table ~ even the cat, Galinthias, seemed to notice it lingering.

To say that the question of destiny versus free will is an intriguing issue that enters almost every human psyche at some stage of its development is probably close to being true. But while it is often thought about, destiny is a difficult concept to firmly grasp. Illustrating this slipperiness, philosopher John Ralston Saul defines destiny in The Doubter’s Companion (1995) as: “The product of mysterious inevitability and human passivity, both presented as unshakable tenets of something that can’t quite be identified” (p. 102).

The ‘something that can’t quite be identified’ is often the source or the author of destiny. Many people who reject the idea of an omnipotent god, still console themselves in moments of grief with words such as “it was meant to happen” or “we weren’t meant for each other”. This conflicted thinking can perhaps be explained by the emergence of Chaos Theory in the realm of physics over the last few decades, which has enabled consideration of a cosmic scale mathematical formula that is guiding the unfolding of the universe on both macro and micro scales, giving rise to the possibility of belief in destiny, free from belief in omnipotent gods.

But despite the many mentions of destiny in the Pomegranate Flesh, it is not clearly said to exist and its author is not clearly outlined in the novel. While the Gods are present, they are not presented as being omnipotent and while the Fates are described as having power over the cycle of birth and death they are not portrayed as cosmic scriptwriters with a clear agenda. The uncertainty that this presents is intended to mirror the uncertainty that people who are not firm followers of particular religious doctrines live with.

Another big question raised by the word destiny is highlighted by Ralston Saul’s use of the phrase “human passivity” (p. 102). The Chambers 20th Century Dictionary (1965) defines destiny as “the purpose or end to which a person of thing is appointed; unavoidable fate; necessity”. Standing in contrast with this is the use of the word destiny is the Upanishads quote used at the front of the novel (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.4.5, from Easwaran, 1987) which states “You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” The distinction between these two definitions is that if destiny exists as described by Chambers then there is no point to human effort, as everything that is meant to happen will happen anyway. This gives rise to human passivity. The Upanishads quote, on the other hand, presents the idea of a mutable destiny, dependent upon action by the individual. This has more in common with the concept of unfolding potential, or entelechy, which Hecate raises in Pomegranate Flesh, and which the Chambers (1965) defines as: “actuality, distinctness of realised existence, a vital principle supposed by vitalists who direct processes in an organism towards realisation of a certain end.”

Throughout Pomegranate Flesh there are many mentions of destiny such as “baffled, and slightly excited at the whiff of destiny that seemed to be in the air” (p. 57); “She felt as if she was completely alone with her destiny in her hands” (p. 59) and “they were both sure that her departure was a step towards her destiny” (p. 105). Destiny arises in the novel at moments when life-changing decisions are being made, presenting a sense that there are potent moments in life, in which one has the power to decide to take, or not take, a path to a particular destination. This is more in keeping with the Upanishad notion of a mutable destiny than with the Chambers definition of destiny as unavoidable fate. This perspective was chosen because it is the more empowering of the two versions of destiny and it was thought to be more likely to encourage readers to make pro-active life decisions.

While no clear definition or explanation of the processes involved in the manifestation of destiny is given in Pomegranate Flesh, as an issue that occupies the minds of adolescents, it is raised early in the novel. Hecate mentions the word to Kora but then slyly declines to fully explain what she means by it. While Hecate’s comment about destiny could be taken literally, to mean that Kora’s destiny is already fore ordained, her wicked grin suggests that it could have been one of her counselling techniques (which I modeled on the work of Milton Erickson). It could have been a story told to provoke Kora out of her static state (boredom) and to encourage her to start making her own decisions and exercising her own free will.

Destiny is also mentioned in regard to Narcissus and the text suggests that it he could have been destined to become the flower that changes the Underworld landscape from something harsh and ugly into something soft and beautiful. As with Kora, however, the mutability of destiny is suggested in that he is responsible for the series of decisions that led to his end point.

There is a precedent for the inclusion of comments about destiny being woven into to tellings of the Persephone/Demeter myth. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter (Evelyn-White, 1954, p. 289) speaks about the “trim-ankled daughter” of Demeter picking flowers with the words: “the narcissus, which Earth made to grow at the will of Zeus and to please the Host of Many [Hades], to be a snare for the bloom-like girl ~ a marvellous and radiant flower.” Berry (1982) takes Earth in this line to mean the goddess Gaia and suggests that as an older earth goddess Gaia “understands the rape as necessary” for Persephone’s growth. While she is working with the rape-version of the story rather than the pre-rape version offered by Spretnack (1978), Berry is saying that there is an old pattern at work under the terms of which it is necessary for the maiden to depart to the Underworld. It is a pattern that Berry’s Gaia and Hecate in Pomegranate Flesh both understand. In Pomegranate Flesh Kora feels drawn to the Underworld but makes her own decision to go there rather than being abducted. This leaves the question of destiny more open for readers to interpret, while still suggesting that whether or not she was destined to go, she still had to make a decision and act upon it.

Standing in contrast to Kora and Narcissus in the text are the characters of Echo and Ameni who make decisions about love and life that lead them to less satisfying conclusions. Their roles in the story also raise issues about the destiny question and their stories are intended to provoke thought about the danger of allowing one’s heart to rule one head in too reckless a manner. While Kora and Narcissus are searching for their own true paths, Ameni and Echo lose contact with themselves in their delirious love. In doing this they serve to highlight the difficulty many people experience in determining their destinies, or the paths that best fit their characters, from passionate romantic whims. It is hoped that illustrating these patterns of behaviour will make it possible for readers to recognise them, to see when they themselves are falling into them and to make decisions that will lead them to happier outcomes.

In writing Pomegranate Flesh it was seen as important to provide a series of scenarios about destiny that might prompt readers to consider their own beliefs and to question whether thought and action is required, whether or not destiny exists. The presentation of destiny as mutable, via the inclusion of the Upanishads quote at the beginning and through the juxtaposition of thoughts about destiny and decision-making moments was intended to encourage readers to feel empowered about directing the courses of their lives. This position was not overtly stated however because I believe (in accordance with the counselling techniques of Milton Erikson, [Rosen, 1991] ) that it is more powerfully conveyed as an understatement than as a didactic claim. In addition, to have created a world in which destiny was clearly understood would have been to make it too different from the one we live in, in which destiny is an issue that rests on “something that can’t quite be identified” (Ralston Saul, 1995, p. 102).

Absence of a villain

The notion that each character must face and overcome his or her own challenges is central to the structure of Pomegranate Flesh. Kora needs to find her place in the world, Narcissus a sense of meaning and Demeter, joy in life beyond parenting. It is more usual however, for a story to have heroes and villains. In declining to comply with this convention Pomegranate Flesh posits a more Jungian idea that the real demons are found within our own shadows (Hall and Nordby, 1973).

Interestingly the absence of a villain has been shown to be a provocative feature of the book with two separate literary agents who have read the manuscript each highlighting it. One suggested that the text should be amended to vilify Narcissus as a drug dealer, (C. Nagel, private correspondence, August 17, 2001) the other suggested that Hecate be made into the villain (G. Mayne, private correspondence, February 28, 2002).

Neville however, provides a supporting argument saying:

The Greeks did not have a sense of a cosmic conflict between good and evil. They had nothing in their mythology that approximates Satan. The destructive or nasty or pathological aspects of behaviour were shared out amongst all the Gods. Zeus is both punitive and benevolent. Ares engages in passionate activism as well as mindless violence. Prometheus is the arrogant and sexist savior of humanity and Gaia nurtures and devours her children.
(Neville, 2000, p.58)

In saying this he illustrates the extent to which the Christian polarisation of good and evil has pervaded our expectations of literature. This may have resulted in a loss, or a diminishment of interest in, stories more potent in a Jungian sense, that are about characters with conflicted natures and who must wrestle with the polarities within themselves in order to decide which actions to take. In Pomegranate Flesh while Narcissus is seen as a villain through the eyes of Adele and initially by Demeter, he is also presented in a positive light. Hades and Hecate are also at times despised but are also presented as noble figures. The characters were presented in this way in order to express the Jungian idea that all people contain both good and evil, light and shadow. It was also intended to serve as a warning about the danger inherent in jumping to conclusions about the complete darkness of people, as Adele did about Narcissus and Demeter about Hades.

Explaining Jung’s concept that each person has a shadow that must be reckoned with, Hall and Nordby (1973. p.48) write: “In order for a person to become an integral member of the community it is necessary to tame his animal spirits contained in the shadow.” In Pomegranate Flesh Hecate’s three large dogs and her wise old cat can be seen as metaphors for her own tamed animal spirits, the clearing of the temple garden by Narcissus can be seen as his attempt to understand his own wild nature and Kora’s walk into the wild woods as an exploration of new parts of herself. This is another example of the way in which landscape and setting are used in the story to reinforce the key themes. In this case, the extent to which the characters, and each of us, are free to choose how we perceive and use our shadow sides.

Hall and Nordby (1973, p. 48) go on to say: “The person who suppresses the animal side of his nature does so at the expense of decreasing the motive power for spontaneity, creativity, strong emotions, and deep insights.” Hecate is accepting of shadows and facilitates their exploration. Early in the story she asks Kora “Who should you obey, your mother or your curiosity?” This could be seen as an evil act, tempting the child into disobedience, but it is also an invitation to Kora to commence a creative exploration of her own psyche. It prompts a number of spontaneous acts (visiting Narcissus, jumping into the pool) and in time it deepens her insight into her own and her mother’s conditions.

By presenting the challenges as internal Pomegranate Flesh remains true to the Greek mythic tradition (as explained by Neville, 2000). Whilst it may perplex modern readers seeking a more simplistic or Christian good versus evil tale, it is hoped that it will inspire them to greater appreciation of the paradoxical nature of their own personalities and those of the people around them.

[Conclusion]