Contemporary society says, “Pain is bad. Run from it.” However, closing our eyes to our suffering, and that of others, only serves to render us the helpless victim. Through practice we can learn to be a conquering sovereign of our pain. Following Persephone’s example, we can become a Queen of Pain.
Staring Pain in the Eyes
Opening our eyes to our personal pain, and that of others, is a part of our personal development. I think it’s particularly vital for those of us with a witchy persuasion to stare pain right in the eyes. This is in direct contrast to the popular cultural belief that pain is to be avoided at all costs. There is no more potent example that in the widespread use of pharmaceuticals for psychological distress and physical discomfort. To be clear, I am not referring to genuine psychiatric disorders or severe pain. I am talking about anxiety and sadness that is a normal byproduct of life. Regarding pain, I’m focusing on the aches many of us deal with it.
Becoming Queen of Pain
I’ve had my share of the former and live with the latter every day. While I have written previously about one painful experience, I haven’t discussed other events or ongoing chronic back and shoulder pain. Without getting into details, I have had chronic pain since my early twenties as a result of a very traumatic event. I’ve had more procedures and tried more treatments than I care to think about. A couple of years ago, I decided the pain was not going anywhere. It was up to me to figure out how to manage it. To become Queen of My Pain.
Persephone made this choice, as well. As a Goddess of Adaptation, she made a choice to lean into her marriage to Hades. Through radical acceptance, we can make the same choice. Perhaps she re-imagined her story as a way of coping with life in the Under World, coming to view Hades’ as her sweetest pain.
As she transformed into the fierce Under World Queen that she became, her original trauma appears to have become her source of strength. Persephone as the Queen of Pain was nobody’s victim, but she didn’t seek out trouble, either. Her reputation as Brimo, a merciless fearsome goddess, was tempered by her demonstrations of kindness.
Reigning Over a River of Pain
As Queen of the Under World, she reigned over Acheron, the River of Pain, that souls had to cross over as they journeyed to the after life. While some versions of this river as horrific, other writers have interpreted it as healing. Our personal pain can be viewed along parallel lines: as a horror to turn from or as a place to be reborn. The choice is whether we become Queen of Pain or let it rule over us.
Reigning over our pain is a process that takes time. There’s no “easy button” that will transform us from being a victim to conquerer. The first step is to accept the pain. Struggling against the existence of pain is a waste of time. Persephone negotiated the terms of her Under World existence and then got busy adapting to it. She became the storm:
Wearing Our Pain Proudly
Another lesson we can take from Persephone’s story is to wear our pain proudly. Let it be a badge of honor rather than something we are ashamed of. Most times, the things that cause us the most pain – like heartbreak and grief – are the result of taking a chance. There are examples in the various myths about Persephone when she did just that, although her story begins with choice being taken from her. If we had never taken that risk to love someone or pursue that dream, we may not have ended up saddened by the loss, but we wouldn’t have had the experience of being alive. Isn’t it in our darkest hours that we prove how strong we are? Why shouldn’t we be proud of that?
Walk the Walk
Self-discipline is also inherent in Persephone’s approach to being Queen of Pain. She dutifully completed her return trip to and from the Under World each year so that human existence could continue. Personally, learning to control my feelings and thoughts regarding my private pain has been the greatest tool in the transition from victim to sovereign.
I get tired of hearing me say – or watching my fingers write – about the importance of meditation. But, here I go again. I don’t know if Persephone meditated, but she certainly appears contemplative in some of the classical images of her.
Learning to sit quietly without any external distractions is the best way to develop self-discipline. I’m a huge fan of Pema Chodron’s How to Meditate. A basic recommendation is to start by sitting comfortable for about five minutes with no external distractions. When your thoughts come up, gently let them go. Getting through the first five minutes is a huge victory.
Another practice that increases self-control is to resist self-judgment. You’ll need a black fine point marker and plain paper. This one works very well, but it’s a bit weird to do at first. Set aside a time – usually thirty minutes to start. Continue with your normal activities. However, every time you have a judgmental thought about yourself, you have to stop what you’re doing and write it in black marker on the plain paper. Every. Time. If self-criticism is a problem of yours, you’ll see how much time you waste on it. The practice also teaches self-control by successfully completing the activity.
Turn the Struggle into Hustle
The annual trip of Persephone’s can also teach us we can turn our struggle into hustle. Shifting the energy away from fighting against the existence of a problem towards hustling to overcome the obstacles in our path changes the energy of our pain.
I think I’ve talked and wrote about acceptance only slightly less than meditating. Short of screaming in the mirror “I can’t change the past!” repeatedly, there are many ways to practice acceptance. An easy technique is through connecting with the energetic properties of crystals and rocks. Although there are many stones that can facilitate acceptance, blue agate is a favorite of mine because it can achieve an energy exchange. Sit quietly with a piece while envisioning your resistance being accepted into the stone, while the stone sends back acceptance.
A Mighty Queen Needs Her Rest
Hustling isn’t always the best approach to overcoming pain. Periods of rest are often necessary for physical, psychological and spiritual recovery from trauma. Our journey both too and from the personal Under World can be exhausting. Taking time to rest on either side like Persephone did, gives us the space for much needed healing.
Practice: Taking a Spiritual Rest
Personal meditative journeying is a great way to contemplate the idea of spiritual rest. Envision your life as a vast shoreline encircling an island. The past is on one coast and the future on the other. Since this is a mucky area where you can grow tired easily, envision a big rock where you can sit to process all that’s happened and where you want to go. Using this imagery, open yourself up to messages from your spirit companions and entities that you work with. Calling upon Persephone for guidance while you are on your rock is highly useful in my experience. Receive the messages, take stock of your life and turn that rock into your throne. Honestly, I did this exercise almost daily for the better part of a year. One day, a boat showed up on the shore and off I sailed into the future.
Transforming into a Queen of Pain
One way that we can use magick to help us become Queen of Our Personal Pain is through transmutation. The basic idea in a transmuting spell is to take the original energy of something that is harmful and change it into beneficial energy. We can use this technique to let our pain make us “better, not bitter” which moves us from victim to conquering sovereign.
Envision your pain – whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual – as an actual tangible object. You can think of it as a black globe if you like. Concentrate on putting all of it into the sphere. Once everything is in there, see the color of the globe begin to change from black to crystal clear. Inside you can examine all your sources of suffering with detachment. For each item, concentrate on the good that came out of it. Finish by seeing the crystal ball as a source of your power. Repeat as often as necessary.
Being a Clear-Eyed Queen of Pain
Reigning over our pain like Persephone did requires intentional practice far beyond the few techniques that I’ve discussed. I think the most important factor is to face our suffering with open eyes, then the real work of becoming a conquering sovereign can begin.