Mythology Monday… Persephone

It’s February !!!


Since we’ve entered into the commercial month of love, I thought for this round of Mythology Monday, I would focus on Persephone. Now, as with all mythology, there are different versions of her story. The abduction of Persephone. The rape of Persephone. I confess, I’m a bit of a hopeless romantic, so I favour the happier version over The rape of Persephone. And again, since we’re less than a week away from Valentine’s Day, let’s try to keep things cheerful.


Daughter of Zeus and Demeter, I find Persephone to be a rather interesting goddess. Technically, she resides over both life and death. First, she was goddess of spring—the season of renewal and life. Not even summer can compete with the abundance of fresh beginnings that take place during spring. Then, she was abducted by none other than Hades, keeper of the Underworld, where he presides over the dead. Uh, talk about star-crossed.


The story goes…


Hades fell in love with Persephone and conspired to steal her away from her mother. While the young Persephone was wandering a field, gathering wild flowers, she was abducted by Hades. Demeter was not paying enough attention to her daughter—as she was a grown woman by then—and Hades swept her away into the Underworld.


Demeter discovered her daughter was missing and went in a frantic search for her. The goddess even disguised herself as an ugly old hag before she found where Persephone had been taken. Furious, she goes to Zeus to ask for his help. Little did Demeter know that it was in fact Persephone’s father, Zeus, who gave the young goddess to his brother, Hades, as a bride.


When Zeus refused to help, Demeter withdrew her role as goddess (residing over the harvest and agriculture) and buried herself in her grief. The world was plunged into famine, forcing Zeus to step in and save the day. Zeus convinced Hades to let Persephone go so that she could return to her mother on Olympus.


However, Hades offers Persephone a meal before she leaves and the young goddess relents enough to eat a few pomegranate seeds. Up to this point, she had fasted. You see, if she ate anything, she would have to return to the Underworld and, as such, to Hades. Thus, Persephone would spend two-thirds of the year with her mother and the remainder of the year with her husband, Hades, in the Underworld. As a result of her mourning, Demeter refused to let crops grow during the part of the year Persephone is with Hades.


The obvious correlation with this myth is the change of season, where part of the year is barren and the other full of new life. Some, however, relate it to a young girl becoming a woman. I mean, you have to wonder. After all the time Persephone spent with Hades, refusing to eat a scrap of food, why, oh why, would she relent just before she makes her escape?


I think, perhaps she grew fond of her husband-to-be and knew she would never be able to return if she didn’t take a little bite of some fruit. Look back carefully, it is the only choice the young goddess makes in the entire sordid tale.


Zeus basically gives her away in an arranged marriage and Demeter refuses to part with her daughter. While you could argue that she was looking out for her as any good mother would, I find myself wondering if it wasn’t for her own selfish purposes. Would she have let Persephone stay with Hades if the young goddess chose to remain with him? Would she have given her daughter a choice in the matter? Maybe Persephone knew she would never have a choice. Either her father would force her to marry Hades or her mother would force her to remain by her side forever. Eating those pomegranate seeds was her way of choosing for herself.


What do you think? Choice, coincidence, or was it merely that Persephone was hungry? Either way, it certainly makes for an interesting tale.