“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”—Joseph Campbell

The goddess Persephone, according to myth, was the epitome of innocence and all things lovely. One day, while frolicking through the meadow chasing butterflies and cartwheeling amid the wildflowers, she was seized by the captivating aroma of the narcissus. As the prepubescent maiden beheld the flower’s snow-white petals, she breathed in the mysterious scent and caught her first whiff of self-awareness. To document the moment, she whipped out her phone, feeling inexplicably compelled to pose for her first selfie. 

At this exact time, Hades, god of the underworld, who’d been stalking Persephone like an obsessed paparazzo, seized the window of opportunity caused by the flower’s narcotic roofie-esque effect on the young goddess. The dark king reached his scaly hand from his shadowy lair and clutched Persephone’s ankle. Before she could reach for her pepper spray or utter a single “OMG,” she was abducted from the life she’d known and became a missing person. 

Persephone kicked, screamed, and prayed to be rescued by her helicopter parent, Demeter, goddess of the harvest. But the earth swallowed her wailing, and her mother could not hear her cries. 

Exhausted, eventually Persephone realized she could not outrun or outsmart her captor. Surrendering to Stockholm syndrome, she relented to becoming Hades’s bride, and thus queen of the underworld. To mark the occasion, she got a tattoo, dyed her dress black, and painted her nails goth blue. A sudden student of the dark arts, she learned to use the Thoth Crowley Tarot to understand the past, the Ouija board to forecast the future, and alchemy to transform dense matter into gold.

Six months later, just as Persephone was finding the bright side of perpetual darkness, Zeus sent Apollo on his winged chariot to save her and the earth due to Demeter having turned the world to ice from the heartbreak of her daughter’s dissappearance. Before Persephone was escorted back to the world above, clever Hades offered her a few parting gifts: six pomegranate seeds, one for each month she’d been with him. Famished after not having eaten since she’d been there, she gobbled them up. As she licked the crimson, blood-like juice from the back of her hand, she flipped Hades the finger and wished him a not-so-fond adieu.

Apparently, everyone but Persephone read the memo clearly stating never to eat food in the underworld. Because she consumed this Hadean snack, she’d have to return to Hades for six months of every year. Once Persephone arrived back upon the soil of upper earth, reunited with her mother, the sun peeked from behind the frosty clouds, and life on earth resumed: birds chirped, butterflies fluttered, and humans boasted on social media about how the offerings they made to the gods contributed to the rescue of their beloved Persephone.

While the world celebrated, Persephone was standoffish and discombobulated. No longer the virginal girl and no longer queen of shadows, she wondered, “Who am I? Will the real Persephone please stand up?”

In time, Persephone did stand up as she came to see that because of what she’d endured, she’d earned dual citizenship, being granted access to the realms of darkness and light. With the ability to live boldly, powerfully, and fearlessly in both worlds, she became heralded as a healer/alchemist/dreamer/goddess, a bridge being, and thus a force to be reckoned with.

No matter how charmed our lives may be, we all take our tour of duty in the Hadean realm via a dark night of the soul (or several of them). It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Because of my unexpected sojourns to the dark side and back, having taken in more than my share of pomegranate seeds, I know the terrain. Through this book I’ll take you on a journey back and forth, across the alchemy bridge, so maybe you, like Persephone and me, will not only unpack the precious wisdom you’ve earned and learned from your dark nights, but milk them for all they’re worth.

Excerpt from A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste: The Art of Transforming the Tragic into Magic, by Kelly Sullivan Walden releasing this January 2023

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