Posts tagged ‘Persephone’

Bumping into the Lost Parts of You || Mary Coday Edwards

Bumping into the Lost Parts of You

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

April 4, 2017

In my 20s I found myself tricked and captured by the mythological Greek bandit Procrustes, known as the stretcher.

According to Greek mythos, Procrustes’ house was near the road between Athens and Eleusis, and he’d invite travelers in for a meal and the promise of a bed that would fit them perfectly.

But as the unsuspecting travelers would soon discover, this perfect bed came with a steep price: Procrustes would stretch short limbs to fit and cut off any overhanging bits.

In today’s world, the Procrustean bed is proverbially defined as a forced conformity to an arbitrary standard, often through violent or ruthless means (1). 

We do this unconsciously to others when we take our own cultural values and beliefs as absolute truths and impose them on the world around us, angrily judging that which doesn’t fit.

I’m part of an online “Freethinker” group – and its more vocal members have no qualms stridently slashing out at others whose thoughts don’t fit the arbitrary Freethinker Procrustean bed.

Family members force this on each other, as do our religious, educational, political, and economic institutions. Without even realizing it, we allow others to chop off vital parts of our beings, our psyches: “This part is acceptable, this is not.”

Thus we regularly empower our egos to brutally damage our true selves to serve what we perceive as society’s norms.

Fitting into the box of conformity

I knew nothing of Procrustes when an image popped into my head more than 30 years ago, leaving its blunt message forever engraved on my psyche: I saw myself stuffed into a box, with limbs sticking out – the pieces that just wouldn’t fit into that box of conformity – but, “Not to worry! We’ll just saw them off at the edges, and look! Now you fit perfectly!”

Some history: Having abandoned my childhood faith when I was 13, I eventually fell into the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, which then morphed into a patriarchal authoritarianism. 

“Jesus will set you free,” I was told by the male leaders, “but only free to be what I tell you.”

Fast forward a few years. Carl Jung writes that within each of us is an innate drive for wholeness (2), and eventually if those parts that we have deemed unacceptable aren’t brought out of the shadows and incorporated into ourselves, lethargy sets in along with a deep sadness that won’t go away, as well as despair and hopelessness.

John of the Cross calls this the Dark Night of the Soul.

And this despair, this deep sadness, this dark night – they are all gifts to us from the deepest part of who we are.

“Wake up!” it’s telling us.

So, when people come to me in despair, dying inside, they soon see the gift in the anguish – and they work with what’s emerging from their soul.  

The Sacred Way

This road by which Procrustes lived is known as the “sacred way,” because it was the route taken by processions when celebrating the sacred rites of the Eleusinian Mysteries. These mysteries relate to the myth of Demeter, mother of Persephone, when Persephone was abducted by the king of the underworld, Hades.

Demeter, goddess of the harvest and agriculture, goes into deep mourning for this lost part of herself – her daughter. While searching for Persephone, she caused a drought during which time people starved and died. These rites describe the descent (loss), the search, and the ascent – and of course, the representation of life restored.

Symbolically speaking, we can see the pattern in our own psyches: how while traveling the sacred path of our life’s journey, we can be tricked into violently rejecting parts of ourselves not acceptable to what might be an arbitrary standard.

We’re hobbled by rejecting these vital pieces of who we are, but we continue on until the wake-up call can no longer be ignored – usually because of emotional, psychological, or physical suffering. 

And it’s here we have a choice: We can give into despair, believing things will never change.

OR, we can begin the descent into our psyches, searching for these lost parts of ourselves – and if we’re fortunate, we find apt guides who aid us in interpreting the signs along the way.

Those at risk for suicide teeter on the edge of hope. People are bumping into this lost part of themselves and don’t know it. Hope sets us off on a journey to find our missing pieces. You might end up down a path with just enough light to see that next step. You will develop new awareness skills through mindfulness practices

Wherever you end up, you won’t be the same. The energy consumed in ensuring that those wiggly pieces wouldn’t reconnect themselves is now set free and you will live your life differently.

So, what’s emerging from your soul? What beautiful fragments of you will you find?

And as always, People House ministers, counselors, therapists, and staff are here to assist you on your Sacred Way. No one can do it for you, but you can’t do it alone!


Notes & Sources:

1.) For Procrustean bed and Eleusinian Mysteries, see online sources, such as Wikipedia and Britannica, Greek mythological figures.

2.) Jung, C.G. Collected Works of C.G. Jung: The First Complete English Edition of the Works of C.G. Jung. Routledge; 2015.


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation


Here is a list of the other blog Mary has written for People House:

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth