radical symbol for peace

(between men)

". . . since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed"
(from the preamble to the UNESCO Constitution)


While there are several symbols that signify peace in any language, a new one has emerged from the collective unconscious to link them all. This new symbol -- identified here as Persephone -- comprises the radical, or morpheme, in the visual grammar of peace symbolism. At a subconscious level, archetypal Persephone -- the radical symbol for world peace -- forms the creative radix from which the designs of the peace symbols have been tapped. . .

Three linear elements themselves make up the symmetrical Persephone symbol: the enclosed or solid curved line (circle or dot), the open curved line (arc or crescent) and three intersecting straight lines (arrow). When the dimensions of these elements are warped, the Persephone pictograph can be seen to represent each of the abstract symbols that hold hieroglyphic, emblematic, or synecdochic associations with peace. These symbols include the crane and dove (with or without olive branch), the triad-in-circle peace sign, rings for friendship and marriage, the pink triangle for gay rights, the illuminative torch or candle, the anchor of stability, and the scales of justice and balance.

peace sign

Mars & Persephone
Of course, Persephone, the radical sign for peace, is itself an inverted and elaborated version of the Mars/Warrior or "male symbol." As such, Persephone is formed by adding a curved line (crescent or arc) to the enclosed or solid line (circle or dot) and intersecting straight lines (arrow) that configure the Mars symbol, and turning it upside down. Yet, the circle and arrow of the Mars/Warrior symbol respectively represent the testicles and penis of the male reproductive genital system, so what does the added curve stand for in this system?

Several objects. Anatomically, the curve represents the foreskin or prepuce of the uncircumcised penis (as a reminder that we must peacefully oppose all unnecessary mutilations of the penises of male babies as a practical step toward eliminating all violence among males). The curve can also be seen as the outline of the buttocks or bowed legs, when Persephone is seen as a male figure bending over from the rear. In this case, the circle represents the elevated prostate (or anus) and the arrow represents the hanging penis/scrotum. As such this symbol of the male body raises awareness about the prostate gland as both an erogenous zone (or sexy G-Spot) and potential locus of diseases, particularly cancer.

penises with foreskins

man with prostate
While the upright Mars symbol represents hetero-patriarchal (penetrating, active, phallic, tight-arsed) cultures, that for Persephone (which includes the feminine Lunar crescent) represents different (penetrated, passive, phallo-eccentric, loose) gay-acting forms of masculinity. As such, Persephone stands not just for Equality, Harmony and Peace between men (in their social 'body politics') but for the attainment of these qualities within each man's body itself (through healthy, balanced use of his sexual organs).

Persephone's curve can also be seen as representing a condom, when the arrow is seen as the erect penis and the circle as the orifice to be penetrated. The condom-covered penis contributes to world peace through the prevention of traumas associated with sexually-transmitted diseases (including AIDS) and unwanted pregnancies.

condomed penis

While the Persephone glyph is obviously a male symbol that delineates both male 'pink bits' and a male stick figure, he is named after a female goddess. Most people would know Persephone (or Proserpine) as the female figure from ancient Greek myth. She became Queen of the Underworld, after she was carried off by Pluto (or Hades) and raped. Then, because she ate the seed of a pomegranate in the Underworld she was forced to divide her time between the lower and the upper worlds.

However, the Persephone pictograph that has now surfaced symbolically represents a different type of 'queen:' the gay man. And a different type of brutalised person: the raped male. Until we can envision males as peaceful people that can also be raped or otherwise brutalised, there will be no resolution of the injustices between men and no peace. Where are the male equivalents to Justice with her sword and scales, and Liberty with her book and torch? They are here, they are embodied in Persephone.

dancing queen

ballet dancer
As a pictograph of a gay-acting feminine man, the Persephone symbol represents iconic figures of peace, grace, beauty and balance perhaps epitomised in the physical incarnation of the ballet dancer (Rudolph Nureyev, Robert Helpmann, Kelvin Coe). Ultimately and more abstractly, Persephone signifies the tightrope walker that each gay man must figuratively become on his journey, in order to avoid verbal and physical homophobic violence and to be 'out' about his relationships and sexuality.

Moreover, the Persephone Peace symbol is a reminder of all the people who have actually or figuratively been crucified as the result of hate crimes, particularly those against males from minority groups. Some of the more horrific of these hate crimes that have come to the public's attention in recent years, have occurred against people such as the gay man (Matthew Shepard) who was left for dead on a fence (and later died) after being bashed by two male homophobes; the black man (James Byrd, Jnr) who was dragged to death on a chain behind a pickup truck by white male racists; and the female-to-male transman (Brandon Teena) who was raped and murdered by two male transphobic misogynists after they discovered the secret about his anatomy.

pink triangle

Persephone also reminds us of other shocking and tragic male issues. Of the American baby boy who was raised as a girl after his penis was destroyed during a botched circumcision, and who had reconstructive surgery in his mid-teens in order to re-build his male genitals and male psyche. Of the English male infant who was bashed to death by two ten-year-old boys. Of the six-year-old Australian boy who drowned after a ten-year-old boy pushed him into a river and left him to die.

As long as we live in a world where television and film images glamorise inter-male violence and murder (Fight Club, Gladiator), while images of inter-male love and affection are ridiculed or banned, then we will live in a severely unbalanced world where the dark hyper-masculine side of Mars will rule, rather than the light and love of peace between men symbolised by Persephone. We must remain vigilant in our opposition to film, television, media and other productions which valorize cultures of violence between males. And we should campaign for more positive gay male characters on television.


diamond ring
If we are serious about constructing "the defences of peace in the minds of men" then we must campaign throughout the world for anti-hate crimes legislation, for the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex acts for adults, for gay and lesbian marriage and property rights, and for legal rights for gays who want children. Persephone's message could not be simpler or more symbolic: There will never be peace between men (and by extension among all people) until we bring about an end to hatred among males. There should be no place in the world for fear of love between men. Amen.

2000 Simon-Astley Scholfield