Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Persephone Myth

There are many variations of the myth surrounding Persephone, so I have taken the common elements and created a summary that feels a little more 'whole' than any individual stories I've read. I'm sure you would be able to find a large number of variations in different aspects of this tale but this is just my interpretation from my own research and feelings.

Persephone was the only child of the union between Zeus, the King of the Gods, and Demeter, the Goddess of Agriculture. Demeter doted on Persephone and she grew up knowing the love, nurturing and tender care of her mother as well as the playful sisterhood of her half-siblings, Athena and Aphrodite.

As Persephone grew, Hades, King of the Underworld, who was also her father’s brother, fell in love with her. Hades was often jealous of Zeus’ power and appealed to Zeus for Persephone’s hand in marriage. Zeus, wanting to appease his brother, agreed, but neither Zeus nor Hades shared their plans with Demeter or Persephone.

In order to make Persephone fall in love with him, Hades planted a beautiful narcissus flower in Demeter’s garden. As the lovely Persephone amused herself picking flowers one day, she noticed the narcissus flower and while she was distracted by it, Hades took the opportunity to abduct her and take her to the Underworld.

When Demeter discovered that her daughter was missing, she was distraught. She neglected her duties in her grief and all that grew began to die. She searched everywhere on earth for her daughter but when she could not find her she appealed to Helios, the God of the Sun, who could see everything. Helios told Demeter of Persephone’s abduction by Hades and of the agreement with Zeus.

Demeter was furious and confronted Zeus. Zeus saw the crops dying and knew that he needed to take action so that Demeter could return to her duties. He agreed to negotiate with Hades for the return of Persephone.

With Persephone’s great capacity for love, she came to know Hades not just as her abductor and saw that the actions he had taken were motivated by love for her. She came to understand Hades and accepted from him a pomegranate, eating six of the seeds and thus binding her to Hades in marriage. Through this marriage she also took the title, and accepted the responsibilities, of Queen of the Underworld.

Persephone enjoyed the responsibility and the power of her new role and began assisting those who were having difficulty transitioning from the land of the living to the land of the dead. She often gained their confidences and through their confessions and her powers of insight and empathy, she became the keeper of much secret knowledge.

Knowing that he was breaking his agreement with Hades, Zeus sent Hermes as the messenger to demand Hades return Persephone. When Hades explained that Persephone had become his wife, through the symbolic eating of the pomegranate seeds, Zeus ordered a compromise, declaring that Persephone should spend six months of each year in the Underworld with Hades and the remaining six months should be spent with her mother, Demeter, assisting each with their respective duties during the time she was with them.

This is a multi-layered story. It gives us the myth of the seasons as Persephone’s return to her mother is reflected in the spring as Demeter then tends to her responsibilities and things begin to grow again. The fertility of the land continues to grow into summer but when Persephone returns to Hades, Demeter again begins to mourn and neglects her duties so things begin to die in the autumn and winter months. In this way, Persephone is the goddess of life, death and rebirth.

Another aspect to this story is of Persephone as The High Priestess with her role as the Queen of the Underworld. This is reflective of our subconscious and the secret knowledge that she holds as obtained from the information passed on to her through her communications with those entering the spirit world. The idea that we can learn more and develop our psychic abilities through times of physical hibernation thereby allowing us to be guided from within is also represented here. The importance and relevance of our dreams is pertinent as well.

The link to Persephone as the Queen of the Underworld is also a comment on the connection to the spirit world; sometimes it is an indication that we need to explore our fears and learn what is haunting us or what our own personal demons are. This is an acknowledgement of the darker side of life as being necessary to the light that we would otherwise hope to move in each day.

One of Persephone’s great strengths is that she did not dwell in the tragic situation that befell her. She was abducted as a Maiden Goddess and taken from her family in the midst of her innocence but instead of taking on the role of victim, she embraced the necessary aspects of this and rose to be queen over it all. This is a wonderful inspiration to those who have experienced pain, suffering or seeming injustice and Persephone can be a powerful ally to regaining your own personal strength. The point in the story where Persephone willingly (although in most versions of the story, unknowingly) partakes of the pomegranate seeds and then accepts her responsibilities and the consequences of her actions through upholding her marriage to Hades is another lesson that has great relevance and power. Her transition between Maiden and Queen of the Underworld symbolises power born from vulnerability and her message to us all is to accept all aspects of yourself.


Jewell said...

wow this is amazing Kora...i love how you have peasonalized it, just love it

Shadow said...

thank you for this 'story'. it's sad, it's beautiful, imparting so much wisdom...