Persephone Myth Retold

Retold by Dr. Tracy

In the time of the Olympians, Demeter lived in eternal sunshine with her daughter, Persephone. Demeter, goddess of agriculture, was an important and beloved goddess to the Greeks and nothing was more precious to Demeter than Persephone.

Persephone was fathered by Zeus, but she was entirely Demeter’s daughter and Demeter guarded her child from anyone who would wish to take Persephone from her. Hades, the god of the Underworld, fell in love with the beautiful maiden and approached Zeus to find a way to make her his own.

Demeter did not want anyone to take Persephone, but the thought of her graceful, sun-loving girl living in the land of the dead would be especially unsettling for the goddess. Zeus and Hades knew Demeter would never consent to the marriage, so they decided it would be best if Hades just kidnapped the girl.

Hades waited until Persephone was away from her mother with only her Nymphs to attend to her. He disguised himself as the most beautiful, fragrant flower and set himself where Persephone would see him – just out of reach of the others.

When Persephone knelt for the flower, the ground opened, and she fell into the Underworld. Once Persephone was below, the ground closed, and no sign was left of Demeter’s daughter.

The Nymphs had no idea where Persephone had gone and when Demeter returned, she was beside herself with the loss.

Demeter searched the earth for her daughter and with her sorrow, came famine. The plants stopped growing and people were dying. Zeus realized he had to do something, so he sent his messenger to negotiate with Hades.

Meanwhile, Persephone had been living in the Underworld with Hades. We do not know her thoughts through any part of the story. What we do know, is that while she is in the Underworld, Persephone ate 6 pomegranate seeds.

In Greece, EVERYONE knows that you don’t eat anything in the Underworld, yet Persephone does and when Mercury attempts to negotiate her return to Demeter and the land of the living, those seeds become a big problem.

In fact, eating six seeds almost got Persephone to be trapped in the Underworld forever, but Demeter was too powerful. Zeus had to appease the goddess or all of mankind would die.

To be fair to Hades and to calm Demeter’s sadness, Zeus declared that Persephone would spend one month for each seed eaten in the Underworld every year and would spend the other 6 months with Demeter.

This is the reason we have seasons today. When Persephone leaves her mother, the plants stop producing and begin to die off. However, in Spring, when Persephone returns, all the plants burst to life, and we have spring and summer.

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