March - Following in Persephone's Footsteps

March 9, 2019

The story of Persephone and Hades is one of the best known Greek myths that explains the changing of the seasons. Hades was the brother of Zeus and ruler of the underworld, and Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of nature.

Demeter went to the field to survey her bountiful crops as Persephone engaged in play with water nymphs down by the river. Persephone's eye was drawn to a beautiful yellow flower, the Narcissus and she strayed from the river to go and examine it. She tried to get her playmates to join her, but they could not leave the water. The Narcissus had been planted there by Gaia, who was following the orders of Zeus, to distract Persephone and draw her away from her friends.

Persephone ran to the plant and tried to pick it, but to her horror a giant hole opened up in the ground and from this came galloping Hades in his chariot and stole Persephone away. The only nymph who tried to help Persephone was Cyane but she was no match for the powerful Hades. Devastated at her friend's abduction, she melted into a pool of tears which formed the river Cyane at that spot.

When Demeter returned she found only the Cyane river and other nymphs weeping. Nobody could tell her anything and furious that they hadn't protected Persephone, she cursed all the nymphs to become hideous and terrifying monsters, known as the sirens who led sailors to their deaths.

Demeter lost her mind in the search for Persephone, roaming the earth for nine long days and nights. Finally on the 10th day she met Hekate who took pity on her and told her to seek answers from Helios, the sun god. Helios told Demeter that Hades had dragged Persephone down into the underworld and she begged him to allow Persephone to come back to the living. Hades reconsidered and decided with Zeus to allow Persephone to live on earth for six months each year, while the rest of the time she would be with him in the Underworld. Unfortunately Persephone had been persuaded to eat four seeds of a pomegranate while in the underworld and in ancient mythology, to eat the fruit of one’s captor meant that one would have to return to them. Persephone was doomed to return to the underworld for four months each year, but she was allowed to spend the remaining two-thirds of the year with her mother, Demeter.

The myth of Hades and Persephone is associated with the coming of Spring and Winter: Every time Persephone had to return to Hades, Demeter mourned, which is why for a part of each year the plants and crops stop growing. When Persephone returns to her mother, the land once again bursts with life.

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