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Persephone

April 5, 2013
 © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

Persephone and Hades
© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons

The awful British weather that we are experiencing has had only one benefit; I have been reminded of the myth of Persephone. There are other names associated with her but I have chosen to use the one most commonly used.

It would appear that Persephone is a little late leaving the underworld this year and so Demeter continues to hold back the summer growing season (this will all make sense in a minute, I promise).

Persephone, the personification of the growth of vegetation, was the daughter of Demeter (goddess of harvests) and Zeus. Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, with the permission of Zeus, and taken to the underworld to be his queen. Demeter upon discovering Persephone was missing searched to the ends of the earth for her. During her search Demeter neglected her duties over the harvest, nothing would grow and every plant withered and died. Helios had witnessed the kidnap and finally admitted this to Demeter; advising that Persephone was being held in the underworld.

The people of the earth, however, were starving and praying to all the gods for help. Zeus relenting to the prayers and entreaties of the other gods demanded that Hades release Persephone. However, during her period in the underworld Persephone, tricked by Hades, had eaten some seeds from a Pomegranate.

Unfortunately, having tasted the food of the underworld, she had no choice but to spend a portion of the year there. Depending on which version of the myth read this is either four or six months.

During this period, the winter months, Demeter refuses to allow anything to grow upon the earth.

The myth demonstrates two things; the first is the forced marriage of a male god as a means of usurping the female agricultural mysteries of primitive times (Graves 1996:95). The act of forced marriage re-genders the rights restoring male dominance over religious practice. It is likely men were fearful of any aspect of women’s lives they could not control and such a myth provides a justifiable means of gaining this control. The second is the need for explanations for the inexplicable things that exist in nature. The case in point being the winter period when things cease growing. The myth provides comfort and reassurance to the believers, soon it will become time for Persephone to resurface and things will improve. I hope that she resurfaces soon; the weather of the United Kingdom needs to improve!

Bibliography

Graves, R. The Greek Myths Volume I London: Penguin Books, 1996.

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From → Mythical Figures

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