With the days getting shorter and the dark days encroaching in this time of year, I can’t help but think about Persephone. I think about the way she has been portrayed throughout history, her symbolism, her abduction, her husband, her part in the changing of the seasons, and especially about…
This is something EVERY woman knows a little something about.
The story of Persephone is of her abduction by her mother’s brother – uncle Hades. What’s amazing, is that she power she gains through this rape, becoming more than merely his consort.
Talk about a woman taking charge of her own story.
“In Classical Greek art, Persephone was portrayed as a venerable queen, almost invariably thoroughly robbed and carrying a scepter and a sheaf of wheat. When she is depicted with her mother (as it often happens), it is Demeter who typically carries the scepter and the sheaf, while Persephone is holding a special type of a four-tipped torch[…] In some representations, she is holding a pomegranate.”
Persephone and her mother’s symbolism and roles seem to be interchangeable. Sometimes Persephone is the horn of plenty, but Demter is always the goddess of fertility. Persephone also becomes queen of the Underworld, making her a yin and yang of light and dark – life and death. She is the tragedy and the victory.
Persephone & Demeter
The story of eternal life & triumph over death
With the myth of Persephone’s abduction and the extreme grief her mother feels at her loss, the world becomes barren – so starts the changing of the seasons.
In the Fall, when we feel a seasonal depression, the leaves die off, and many living plants and creatures go dormant for the winter, Demeter searches for her daughter in despair.
In the Spring Persephone returns, upon Zeus’ orders, and the world comes back to life.
“The myth reflected the concept of transformation and the cyclical nature of life. One’s existence did not end with death because there was no death; there was only change from one state of being to another.”
Like a seed, Persephone spends months below the ground, during which time her mother grieves and the world is in a cold darkness. Then, when mother and daughter can again be together the earth is warmed and so springs forth life from the soil.
It is with this changing of seasons that a belief and ritual of self-discovery is born.
The Eleusinian Mysteries.
When Demeter was searching for her daughter she came to a fountain in Eleusis, Greece. Many made this pilgrimage to reenact Demeter’s sad journey and the 3 phase cycle of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
- The descent – Demeter’s loss of her daughter as she descends to the Underworld
- The search – Demeter searches in vain and finally comes to rest at the fountain in Eleusis
- The ascent – Demeter and Persephone are reunited
Many deep thinkers were a part of this initiation, which still remains a secret. All we know is that they journeyed from Athens to Eleusis, where they fasted by the fountain and then partook of a possibly hallucinogenic barley and mint beverage, Kykeon. Then, they congregated in a Telesterion (underground theatre) to go about these secret rituals, which connected the worshiper with the gods, giving them promise of a spiritual gift in the afterlife.
“The mysteries celebrated the story of Demeter and Persephone but, as the initiated were sworn to secrecy on pain of death as to the details of the ritual, we do not know what form these rituals took. We do know, though, that those who participated in the mysteries were forever changed for the better and that they no longer feared death.”
Between these rituals and the very powerful and important mother daughter relationship between Demeter and Persephone, it makes me wonderful if this isn’t the real triumph over death – to carry on through our children and the legacy of our children.
Thinking about this pertaining to my own life – I walked by a window the other day and caught my reflection and, for a split second, I thought my mother was at my work. My looks, my mannerisms, my humor and my spirit are all a part of my mother’s. We all become our parents.
We are all immortal souls in the casings of our temporary bodies, just waiting for an afterlife full of the promise of power and eternity through the souls of our children.