As I await the return of Spring with its riot of colour and warmer weather I came across the tale of Persephone. While some would view the legend and myth of Persephone as a dark one, I find it to be interesting and appropriate for this time of year. It is a story filled with passion, deep love, and balance between light and dark. It also shows the cycle of life - birth, death, rebirth and our perception of good and evil. If you are not familiar with this Greek Goddess she was the daughter of Zeus; sky and thunder god, and Demeter; harvest and agriculture goddess.
With some creative license, here is the story of Persephone;
Hades, God of the Underworld was all but invisible to his fellow Gods who resided in the upper realms. Olympus was where it was at, and Hades for all intents and purpose the forgotten one below. Leading to a lonely life which had him going to the land of the living, if only to see others and have some semblance of normalcy. Upon seeing Persephone in the woods one spring morning, Hades was intrigued by her beauty. As he was the dark God of the underworld he decided that nothing as fair and beautiful as this maiden would give him the time of day. Quietly, so as not to disturb Persephone and draw attention to himself, he crept away but promised himself he would return to this spot often in the hopes of seeing her again. For many moons Hades watched Persephone from afar, enthralled by her beauty, warmth and kindness. One day while he was slipping away a branch snapped under his step, causing Persephone to call out “who is there?” Hades quickened his step. However, Persephone called out to him “Wait don’t run away, I would at least know your name.” Not turning towards her he said, “My name is Hades.” “Hello Hades, my name is Persephone.” She replied, “please turn around so I may see you.” Slowly Hades turned towards her, expecting Persephone to run off screaming. However, her reaction surprises him; she is more curious than alarmed. They agreed to meet at that very spot each morning, and their friendship blossomed. Hades beseeches Zeus to allow him to bring Persephone to his world to ease his loneliness and Zeus agrees. Hades brings her to his world, and once there gifts her with a pomegranate, of which Persephone finds delicious and proceeds to feast upon the arils.
Meanwhile, Demeter distraught that her daughter has not returned home from her daily walk, roams the earth searching for her. Her grief becomes more intense as the days’ pass causing the earth she walks upon to become barren from her tears. Nothing grows, all is in a suspended state. The Gods soon realise that without crops, humans will not be able to survive and decided they should intervene. After all what good is it being a God if you have no followers. Zeus seeing the error in his ways decides to send Mercury; the messenger God, to persuade Hades to allow Persephone to return. Persephone could not return however because she had eaten the seeds of the pomegranate. After some negotiations, and because Hades so loved Persephone, it was decided Persephone would reside with Hades for 1/3 of the year and return to earth for the remaining 2/3's to spend it with her mother. Persephone’s time with Hades is known as winter. Demeter misses her daughter so much she allows nothing to grow until her return in Spring.
I love the Persephone myth, which, like all myths holds some truths, if only marginally. I understand we can perceive whatever we wish into all the myths from long ago. However, if one takes the time to read them, they can’t help but realise how our modern times still acknowledge these tales.
Here we have Hades, LORD of the Underworld, a GOD, yet unseen by his peers – they know he is there. I wonder if it is the out of sight out of mind theory. We are talking about Gods here, so I am not sure. Today many people go unseen by many of us, and each person who does not see them has their reasons. Hades personifies the ignoring of our shadows, our secrets, things that we hide from others so as not to be seen, acknowledged, or spoken of by others. This also speaks of how we ignore those who don’t align with our beliefs or because of fear. This is where we perceive good and evil; if we believe something to be evil we avoid.
Demeter speaks of the depth of love we share with those around us. I know of no mother today who would not grieve as passionately as Demeter did when she could not find her daughter. It does not matter if the child is male or female, a mother’s love knows no bounds. All of us – male and female – have the capacity to love deeply. When a loss is experienced, we all grieve deeply, and our lives become barren during our grieving. The story of Persephone sees her reunited with her mother, the light at the end of the tunnel. There is balance in the “story” of life; all things return to the earth; plants go dormant in the winter and are renewed in the spring. Humans and animals are borne, live and then experience death, which speaks or should, to all of us to live fully. While we can’t be reunited, per se, with loved ones when they die, our grief eventually becomes less, and colour returns to our life. I believe that we will be reunited with our loved ones when it is our time to go, and I also believe they never truly leave us, they are part of our unseen.
Persephone personifies radiance, warmth, love, beauty, and life. She brings light to the shadows – Hades – rebirth occurs. Hade's life, for part of the year, is a little brighter by her presence. She brought life and beauty to his world. He in return brings her to the darkness – equal balance between light and dark. Think Yin and Yang. Balance also occurred in the upper world, (as above, so below) love has transformative powers and perhaps Persephone’s message to all of us is to journey within to our shadows. Bring our light, radiance, warmth, and love to our shadow self, then healing or accepting it as part of what makes us whole.
Winter is the best time to have this inner reflection, we typically slow down, stay indoors more, seeking comfort and warmth. Think of it as going to the underworld, explore the deep dark caverns hidden away from not only the world but perhaps yourself. Where can you bring about changes, so you don't have to cover up these beautiful aspects of yourself from the world? Do not make this a journey of self-battery, rather acknowledge they belong to you, every single shadow aspect makes you unique, whole and real. Rebirth yourself with the coming Spring. Refresh and recharge yourself with the last breaths of Winter so that you feel renewed, ready to welcome life with open arms. Confident in yourself, your whole self, and accepting of each person's struggle with their shadows. Be the light that shines the way, like Persephone to Hade's, so that others may see their radiance in you.
Copyright (c) 2017 by Marlene Cobb. All rights reserved. You may quote, copy, translate and link to this article, in its entirety, on free, non-donation based websites only, as long as you include the author’s name and a working link to http://www.merrlina.com All other uses are strictly prohibited.