Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Demeter-Persephone Complex, Entangled Aerials of the Psyche, and Sylvia Path

Academic journal article English Studies in Canada

Demeter-Persephone Complex, Entangled Aerials of the Psyche, and Sylvia Path

Article excerpt

When Orpheus said the name of love, Persephone, the queen of the dead, bowed her young head, and bearded Hades, the king, bowed his head also. Persephone remembered how Demeter, her mother, had sought her all through the world, and she remembered the touch of her mother's tears upon her face. And Hades remembered how his love for Persephone had led him to carry her away from the valley where she had been gathering flowers. Then Hades and Persephone stood aside, and Orpheus went through the gate and came amongst the dead.

Myths of the World

Padraic Colum


Rethinking the feminine in terms of the Demeter-Persephone complex and bringing the shocks of maternality and the Eros of borderlinking into account is part of my project to rethink the human subject as infused by the transubjective dimension. Entangled psychic aerials of the psyche, transconnected kernels, inform the individual subject throughout life, starting with the most archaic phase in a psychic dimension shared with a female body and maternal figure.

Women suffered and still suffer from interpretations concerning penis lack and penis envy and the foreclosure of the maternal (archaic motherhood) in the process of subjectivization in our culture. Axes offered for meaning by the Oedipus as myth, as well as the Anti-Oedipus fragmentation, are insufficient for giving meaning to the woman-to-woman (and, more generally, same sex) difference and for the difference (of males and females) from the mother. We have to ask what kind of human subject and society was shaped in view of man's lack of womb not as organ but in terms of lack of a whole symbolic universe of meaning and value stemming from the matrixial sphere where the containing of and the proximating to the Other occur on a subsubjective and pre-subjective level, and the passage from non-life to life and sometimes from non-life to death, as well as birth and birthing, enter the unconscious in the feminine.

The expanse of the psychic foreclosure of the mother (discussed in terms of a Jocaste Complex, in Ettinger, "Antigone with(out) Jocaste," 217) and the psychic matricide offered by the cultural symbolization in patriarchal society for the subjectivization processes affect a matrixial Thanatos that turns against the self (Ettinger, 216 onward). Possible fields and lanes in the myth of Demeter and Persephone treasure potential trajectories through which to fish and draw out the seduction into life offered by the maternal-matrixial Eros and make room for recognition of the desire of the mother in the metramorphic quest and the cognition of its anamnesis.


Persephone the daughter disappeared. Demeter the mother turns heaven and earth in her agony, trying to find her. She will be discovered in the Underworld, with Hades.

In one version of the Demeter-Persephone myth, Persephone enables the meeting between two lovers, Orpheus and Eurydice, in the Underworld, as she remembers the kind of love through which mother-Demeter was looking for her, lamenting her loss. Identification takes place here with the primordial mother as Love, an Eros beyond sexuality. This Eros of borderlinking stretches along resonating strings or aerials of the psyche from kernel to kernel (between different subjects), first in physical proximity and then even at great distance and even beyond loss.

A third kind of love, neither narcissistic nor anaclitic (Freud, "On Narcissism" 90), is born in the archaic transconnectedness with the m/Other. The infant's primary compassion is infused with the maternal-matrixial Eros of borderlinking. When Freud remarks that "we also failed to discover why it [separation] should be such a painful thing" (Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety, 131), he is surely aware of the profoundness of some lacuna in his theory. This lacuna is related to archaic maternality and to pre-birth (Inhibitions, Symptoms, and Anxiety 130); it is concerned with the riddle of love and the pain of its loss. …

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