After reading some work by Jung and Kerenyi on the Maiden, Kore, and discussing it briefly with a friend, I thought I'd try to formulate my own ideas.
What intrigued me and frustrated me about reading this book ("Essays on a Science of Mythology: The Myth of the Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis") was that it touched upon these very interesting pathways but either didn't go further, or framed gender roles in such a way as to make some of their assumptions irrelevant or feel wrong for me.
I have been attracted to the Persephone myth for a while, and other Beauty and the Beast type tales for even longer. I watched Beauty and the Beast when it first came out in theaters, the Disney version, as a small child. As a preteen I read the Forbidden Game Trilogy, a beautiful blend of pop culture and old mythology, which centers on a demon in love with an innocent, brave, beautiful girl named Jenny. Later in my life I saw Labyrinth, with the dance scene between the goblin-king Jareth and the young, innocent, brave heroine who's out to save her brother. And even later I saw the scene in Legend where the Princess Lily dances with the Lord of Darkness and the ensuing transformation.
So there must be something these stories have in common that speak to a deeper psychological or spiritual truth in me.
The main elements I can see are demon prince or beast, innocent, brave compassionate maiden, some kind of seduction or temptation, and the ultimate triumph of "good" - but these take different forms for each story, and often involve some bittersweetness.
But what of the story? Perhaps the story is a psychological story that needs to be interpreted, like a dream.
In the story, the beautiful maiden is minding her own business, safe in her maidenly activities, perhaps longing for something more. A disruption in her life occurs: her father runs into a dangerous beast that demands his life in exchange for a rose he has stolen for his daughter. In the heat of adolescent passion, she makes a wish she later regrets. She may see a strangely compelling flower (interesting, that flowers serve as the gateway). It could be a gift of food and beautiful jewelry. Or a simple game, a gift for the earthly boyfriend.
These are the catalysts that force the maiden's interaction with the demon. A choice that is not really a choice. Bur there are options even when the maiden is ensnared.
Persephone chooses to eat the seeds of the land of the dead. Does she know the consequences? Most retellings that I see imply she was ignorant. But I wonder if she knew - if the land of the dead, the splendor of being queen - held an irresistable attraction. Something she had waited for a long time. No longer one of Artemis's companions - as the Queen of the Dead she now held power, influence, awe. And perhaps there is another side of this: she was always the compassionate maiden, and as Queen of the Dead she could help those who had no other hope - or at least keep order in their final home.