Maiden, young woman, innocent child, sprinting haltingly into life
Poised for unfolding possibilities, Self
From merely a dream, your own creation
Unknowing, unwitting, trusting too much
Awakening, blossoming, glistening, lush
Oh, nubile feminine,
Dance into your life, The Upper and Lower Worlds
The Dark and the light,
Dance in your flowering, embodied delight
Dance in the mystery, becoming, and awakening,
A child in daytime, young woman at night.
- – Sher, 2016
The Myth and Psychology of the Maiden – Eternal Youthfulness, Innocence, Possibility
Persephone is known as the Maiden and Queen of the Underworld in Greek mythology according to Jean Shinoda Bolen, author and Jungian analyst. As the Maiden, Persephone represents a woman who is eternally youthful. She is often compliant and passive. In myth and story, she often appears as a young girl, as a dancer or nymph, helpless to all sorts of dangers, and intrinsically tied to the Mother archetype.
According to Bolen (1985), Persephone represents the woman who does not know who she is and is unaware of her desires or strengths. Many women may go through this phase before marrying or deciding on a career. Others may remain the maiden for much of their lives, uncommitted to a relationship, to work, or a goal. It is an attitude of eternal adolescence, referred to as the puella in Jungian terms (Sharp, 1998).
Culturally, girls have often been conditioned to equate femininity with passivity and dependent behavior which is exemplified by this archetype. Persephone’s innate receptivity makes her mealleable and a target for people’s projections and expectations. It is her pattern to be chameleonlike and try on whatever others expect of her.
Persephone as the Maiden also represents uncertainty, and possibility, the season of Spring. The Maiden archetypal energy can be activated after times of loss and depression to offer warmth, more light, and new green growth. This archetype offers receptivity to change and youthful spirit to women’s lives (Bolen, 1985).
Bolen suggested many women in our culture need to cultivate receptivity. For example, Athena and Artemis women who are in the habit of knowing, focusing, and acting decisively have difficulty when a lack of clarity is encountered or are uncertain about how and when to act. For this, cultivating the ability to wait for the situation to change, for feelings to become clear, to sit in the unknown are aspects of the Persephone archetype.
The ability to be open and flexible can be important to develop and balancing these qualities with the ability to focus and act. The first step may include listening to what others have to say, attempting to see matters from other’s perspectives, and refraining from critical judgments. Receptivity towards one’s self includes self-kindness rather than impatience or self-criticism. Fallow periods are often healing respites that precede a surge of creative activity. This must be learned to be accepted as a phase rather than as laziness or lack of productivity. Receptivity to images that arise and to insights can also be valuable.
Pitfalls of the Maiden Archetype
The relationship of Mother and Daughter may be one of being too close, with the daughter not having a sense of her own independent self. She desires to be a good girl. Often a mother and father will perpetuate this dependence in order to keep her close.
The Maiden may represent a period of unawakened sexuality and lack of passion. She may get “abducted” into marriage without knowing whether she is certain it is what she wants to do. A Persephone woman may defer to the stronger person, be passive rather than active, and not be competitive or pushy.
She may become depressed when she is dominated and limited by people who keep her bound to them. Unassertive, she may bottle up her feelings and feel isolated and inadequate. She may feel guilty, blameworthy, and powerless.
Sometimes her preoccupation with her inner world cuts her off from people and she retreats when the world feels difficult or demeaning. Living in a world of symbolic imagery and esoteric meaning or distorted perceptions, she can slip into psychosis. Although this process can serve as a metamorphosis by generating access to a wider range of feelings and deeper self-awareness, the Maiden can also risk being held captive by her inner world to avoid what is really happening when reality is too painful.