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Supplemental Essay: The Maiden

This supplemental essay contains quotes and expanded explanations as background for the material in the main essay. You can skip this supplemental essay if you're not interested in the details.

In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious Carl Jung proposes an N-level archetype that he repeatedly encounters in his practice in the dreams and fantasies of patients. He describes it as an early variation of the myth of Persephone and Demeter matching the cultural level of the early N-level fertility religions. It differs substantially from the later classic Greek and Roman version of the same Persephone myth (which I will describe in the chapter on Sensing). This N-level archetypal story has three main characters:


Demeter is a Great Mother figure, a punishing fertility goddess in the N-level style, who tortures and torments Persephone.


Jung describes Demeter as an "Earth Mother" figure who is "always chthonic and is occasionally related to the moon, either through the blood-sacrifice already mentioned, or through a child-sacrifice..."[1]


Jung associates Demeter with Hecate, an underworld goddess: "[T]he Earth Mother is a divine being--in the classical sense. [...S]he is invariably heavy with destiny. [...] The underworld nature of Hecate, who is closely connected with Demeter, and Persephone's fate both point nevertheless to the dark side of the human psyche..."[2]


Persephone is Demeter's daughter. Jung speaks of Persephone as a "Kore" (archetypal maiden) in thrall to the Great Mother and subjected to cruel victimization by her. Like the Son-lover, Persephone exists at the whim and command of the punishing mother figure and never seems to make it out of childhood.


Jung describes Persephone as "an unknown young girl, not infrequently as Gretchen or the unmarried mother. [...] The maiden's helplessness exposes her to all sorts of dangers, for instance of being devoured by reptiles or ritually slaughtered like a beast of sacrifice. Often there are bloody, cruel, and even obscene orgies to which the innocent child falls victim. Sometimes it is a true nekyia, a descent into Hades and a quest for the 'treasure hard to attain,' occasionally connected with orgiastic sexual rites or offerings of menstrual blood to the moon. Oddly enough, the various tortures and obscenities are carried out by an 'Earth Mother.' There are drinkings of blood and bathings in blood, also crucifixions."[3]


Jung says that the maiden is "often described as not altogether human in the usual sense; she is either of unknown or peculiar origin, or she looks strange or undergoes strange experiences, from which one is forced to infer the maiden's extraordinary, myth-like nature."[4]


Hades is the god of the underworld, and one day he abducts and rapes Persephone and takes her down to the underworld to be his wife. However he is a relative non-entity in the story, which suggests that he is an Antagonist, that is, a companion for the Great Mother carrying out her commands. In fact in Greek mythology Hades and Demeter were brother and sister; Neumann points out in The Origins and History of Consciousness that the Antagonist in the old fertility myths was often a brother of the Great Mother.[5]


Jung says, "From this I would conclude, for a start, that in the formation of the Demeter-Kore myth the feminine influence so far outweighed the masculine that the latter had practically no significance. The man's role in the Demeter myth is really only that of seducer or conqueror."[6]


Eventually Hades returns Persephone to Demeter, but thereafter Persephone is fated to spend six months of each year with Demeter and the other six months ruling over the underworld with Hades. In other words Persephone eternally cycles through life and death (a symbolic murder and resurrection under the baleful eye of the Great Mother) like the Son-lover.


All in all, this archetype of the Maiden seems to revolve around N-level sadomasochism, which is a hallmark of the Son-lover as well.

Link: Return to Intuition (N)

~Posted January 27, 2024


[1] C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9, part 1), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1959), p. 185, par. 312.

[2] Ibid., p. 186, par. 313.

[3] Ibid., pp. 184-185, par. 311.

[4] Ibid., p. 186, par. 313.

[5] Erich Neumann, The Origins and History of Consciousness, trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XLII (Princeton University Press, 1954, First Princeton Classics edition, 2014), pp. 182-183.

[6] C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 9, part 1), trans. R.F.C. Hull, with a forward by C.G. Jung, Bollingen Series XX (Bollingen Foundation Inc., 1959), p. 184, par. 310.

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