Sometimes even crones need a (wrinkled, gnarled) guiding hand when walking through the long, dark hallway of (semi) mortal life. A few brave souls beseeched Persephone, Crone of Crones, Dread Queen of the Dead, BFF of Hekate, Goddess of Witchcraft and the Hearth for her guidance. Here are their pleas and her responses.
Greetings and salutations, mortal petitioners. It seems that while the screaming maw of 2016 has closed, the dimensional hellscape of 2017 opens yet before us, pulling souls into the void. I see that now more than ever, your kind needs my great and terrible wisdom to guide you through yet another series of calamities you unleashed upon yourselves. Heed these words or despair! Heed these words and despair! Despair to your heart’s content; I don’t care, just heed my words to avoid an unnecessary level of it.
Q. Dear Persephone,
Every time I eat a pomegranate, it ISN’T overflowing with the blood of my enemies. What am I doing wrong???
Tired of Blood Oranges
A: Dear Blood Oranges,
Nothing in this world is free — especially not the blood of your enemies, which can only flow freely through your produce if you’re willing to do the hard work of hexing it from their bodies in the first place.
I highly recommend transfiguring one’s enemies into a refreshing herbal mixer before imbibing their physical bodies. I find the acridic combination of blood and pomegranate seeds much less satisfying than the smooth flavors of an extra-minty, vengeance-steeped pomegranate mojito.
Q: Dear Persephone,
How do I ask for a raise? Like, how do I start that conversation and what do I wear?
A: Dear Nine-to-Five,
Capitalism, like ritualistic human sacrifice, is a ravenous cyclops that feasts upon the bones of its supplicants and can never be satiated. You can try to disarm this beast, but all efforts beyond supremacy on the battlefield will end in your own destruction.
My elder sister Athena, the wisest and most valorous of warriors, has some expertise with military strategy. She is normally far too preoccupied with her own interests to humor the whims of mortals but she has miraculously found the time to weigh in on your endeavor.
I’m so glad that my little sister alerted me to your predicament. She is wise in the hearts of mankind, but knows so little of the battlefield. Cast off thoughts of magical intervention because we’re about to talk strategy.
Think of your petition like a war — a war you must prepare for before you engage your enemy (boss) in combat.
Scour your environment for protective armor that enhances your natural defenses and attributes. Wear garments that are comfortable, yet professional and appropriate for your industry. You can’t face down a hungry monster or an irascible supervisor if you’re distracted by tight or itchy fabric. No golden fleece necessary — besides, you don’t want to alert your enemy and initiate combat prematurely through your sartorial choices. In your patriarchal mortal hellscape, some female petitioners may find their requests more easily granted if they garb themselves in cosmetic battle-paint. However, this technique is never guaranteed to turn the tide of battle and may backfire if the petitioner is unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the cosmetic battle-paint application process.
The rest of my advice assumes that you have proven yourself an asset to your employer and have worked hard to hone your craft, whatever it may be. If you have not done this, no Trojan horse can turn the tides of your imminent defeat.
Time your request carefully by petitioning your supervisor after you have achieved a string of victories on the battlefield. Engage your supervisor in single combat, clearly laying out the reasons for your challenge: thank her for her time and tell her you would like to revisit or discuss your current salary. In this skirmish, show evidence of your victories and highlight specific achievements, including awards, certifications, and anything you can quantify. You want to paint a clear picture of how you are an invaluable advantage in the greater war against your competitors.
You can also research your own value by taking a look at what others in your industry earned while working in your role. In many industries, you can safely push for a 3% raise, but depending on your qualifications, role, and industry, you may be able to push for far more (or far less, so proceed with caution).
But at the battle’s end, it may not matter what you have achieved — your company may not have the budget to increase your paycheck, or your management might know they can financially undervalue your work and train a less expensive replacement. But wise employers value employees who make their lives easier. This entire endeavor is an act of supplicating a ravenous monster by appealing to its baser instincts. Show your supervisor how you are a resource to her and you are most likely to achieve your goal. Keep your feelings and desires out of your request as much as possible — does a hungry three-headed dog with blood dripping from its massive fangs care if you’d prefer not to be eaten? No! It only cares that you can feed it snacks even more delicious than your tasty human flesh, or that you can sing a beautiful melody that will soothe its ferocious heart.
Q: Dear Persephone,
Please advise: I think I’m suffering from romantic impostor syndrome. I’m very in love with my girlfriend — she’s so patient and smart and funny and kind and I love her so much, dammit. But I can’t help feeling like she’s going to find out that I’m not the cute, smart, generous lady I’ve tricked her into thinking I am; that I’m actually a petty and miserly crone. All attempts at objective reasoning have led me to believe I’m insecure and overreacting, but somehow that’s not actually comforting.
A Humble Hag
A: Dear Humble Hag,
My gnarled heart beats with the melody of spring when I hear about two lovers supporting each other in these trying times and I am glad to hear of your happiness.
You do not say how long you and your lady-love have been weathering the storm of life together, but from your letter, I can guess that it hasn’t been for very long. Happy lovers are rarely adept at hiding their True Forms beyond the flutter of an initial courtship.
Humble Hag, I am here to confirm your worst fears: you probably are a petty and miserly crone, at least a little bit. But so is every creature with cognitive function and a soul, even the divine among us. And so is your lover. Every being that thinks it is flawed and imperfect. That is part of the charm of being alive.
You might think this is an easy answer for me to give, and it is. But as a daughter of Zeus, I think I can speak to the perils of trying to be something you’re not for love.
So I’m not going to reassure you that you’re not terrible, Hag. Instead, I want you to really understand that everyone else is just as terrible as you are in different ways. I also want to remind you that our flaws and our most shining qualities are inextricably linked together. You call yourself “petty” and “miserly.” Are there times when your thriftiness and shrewd judgment kept you out of harm’s way? When someone respected you for your sharp intellect and resourcefulness? Who’s to say that your lover doesn’t adore some of the parts of you that you’re lamenting to me right now? My wise and beautiful older sister Athena taught me so much about the beauty in this world, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t an insufferable know-it-all from time to time.
And sometimes, our flaws are just flaws. We make mistakes. We feel pain and react — human beings and divine presences alike. But that doesn’t mean we’re all secretly unlovable.
You might be trying to hide the wrinkled, gnarled parts of yourself from your beloved. This is a common temptation, but can only result in one of two outcomes:
- You will fail to hide your true nature quickly, and either lose your lover or grow together as a couple of flawed individuals
- You will fail to hide your true nature after quite a bit of time has passed, and your lover will resent you for the truth, or for needlessly putting up a wall between you.
I encourage you to let your guard down and be yourself. Feel your feelings. Show your lover that petty, miserly interior and see how she reacts. The pain you will feel if she leaves you now is far easier to overcome than the pain and resentment you’ll stew up over years of hiding behind a mask.
Now this doesn’t mean I am giving you permission to be as terrible to your lover as you can be. You should still do your best to treat her with respect and courtesy. But if you need to cry, cry. If you need to curse your enemies to the far side of the river Styx, by Hera, you curse them. You might be surprised to find your lover crying and cursing along with you.
Remember that a love where you are not seen is no love at all. At best, it’s a prison where you and your lover police your best worst self. A lover who only wants you at your Sprightly Young Spring Goddess deserve you at your Dread Queen of Hell. Embrace your warts, Humble Hag, and find love as a free crone.
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Previously, on Ask Persephone: