The Greek myth of Persephone centers on the relationship between Persephone and her mother, Demeter.
Demeter loved her daughter, Persephone very much. The story goes that the Greek God, Apollo, fathered Persephone by Demeter, Apollo’s sister.
When Persephone goes missing Demeter, quite distraught, searches every hill and valley to find her daughter and only child.
One can only imagine the multitude of emotions that flowed through Demeter.
The goddess of harvest and motherhood, marriage and the crone stage of female wisdom that comes with aging, Demeter led a life of holding her own amid her brothers Apollo (Zeus), Poseidon (Neptune), and Hades (Pluto).
Both Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, stand at the center of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Initiation into the cult of Demeter and Persephone was said to prepare the participant to receive goodness and bounty in the afterlife that followed death.
Other beliefs held that those who underwent initiation would be elevated to the life of the gods, receive immortality.
The basis of the process of initiation into the Eleusinian Mysteries centered on the Demeter’s experience of losing of Persephone.
Demeter traveled great distances, often sharing her knowledge of planting and fertility with those she encountered.
Unable to gain any knowledge of where Persephone had gone, or perhaps who had taken her, Demeter, angry and hurt, allowed the land to die.
Drought set it, crops refused to grow, the people began to starve.
The people on the edge of starving and all life threatened, Demeter finally learned that her brother and god of the underworld, Hades (Pluto), had abducted Persephone while she as gathered flowers while playing with friends. On reaching the Underworld over which he ruled, Hades raped his niece, Demeter’s daughter.
Throughout her life Demeter had spurned Pluto’s advances.
To have this happen must have sent her into despair and rage.
She immediately seeks the help of her other brother, Zeus.
Unable to suppress the cries of his supplicants, Zeus sends his messenger Hermes to secure Persephone’s release from Hades.
On reaching her Hermes is about to take Persephone home, but she does something that must have sent her mother, Demeter spinning with even greater misery and desolation.
Persephone eats seeds from a pomegranate. Some versions of the myth show her eating four, others six. I have read accounts where she ate as many as seven.
Whatever the case, The Fates had decreed that anyone who ate or drank of food within the Underworld was destined to spend eternity there with Hades.
Some versions of the myth accord Hades with having tricked Persephone into eating the pomegranate seeds. Other versions allude to her making the choice directly.
One only knows what vulnerability of Persephone that Hades manipulated and coerced her to eat while in the Underworld. And yet one wonders how Persephone could have missed learning, or Demeter overlooked teaching her daughter this one and important rule of the Underworld.
And yet grace would enter in the form of an agreement reached between Demeter and Pluto. Persephone, who in having been raped by Pluto and then eating the pomegranate seeds had become the Queen of the Underworld, would spend six months of the year with her uncle and consort in the Underworld over which she ruled with him. The remaining six she would spend above ground with her mother, Demeter.
And thus, the myth goes, is how we came to have the seasons, autumn and winter serving as the months that Persephone, the goddess of vegetation, retreats to her kingdom below ground, spring and summer marking her return to the land.
And yet this story is about so much more.
As with any story or myth the reader has as many ways to observe and read the events as there exist characters that tell the tale.
For the purposes of the mother-daughter relationship, examination of the actions and interactions between Demeter and Persephone offer a wealth and bounty of analysis and understanding.
All mothers fear the loss of any child.
The loss of a daughter strikes a chord unique for women in that a daughter is of the same gender. We worry about the safety of our daughters most particularly with regards to rape.
This is not to say that no danger exists of young boys being raped. But generally speaking parents do not hold this concern, instead others involving other violent crimes being committed against them.
By the very nature of our gender the history of humanity the threat of rape follows a girl into womanhood.
And yet from her experience of rape, or what some might call molestation by a family member, Persephone rises to become Queen of the Underworld.
Her actions of eating while there provokes much thought. How often do humans perform or exact functions that seal our Fate, take us into a direction that no one, least of all us, would wish upon us.
The myths tell us that as Queen of Hades Persephone helped others making their way through the Underworld. Persephone helped Psyche as she struggled to pass Aphrodite’s tests in order to be reunited with her lover and husband, Eros.
Persephone made available the three-headed dog, The Cerebus, to Hercules (Heracles) in his efforts to complete the Twelve-Labors demanded of him in retribution for the death of his wife.
Persephone also received and welcomed Odysseus (Ulysses) into the Underworld. While there she guided him on a tour wherein he saw the souls of famous and great women.
Life acquires meaning and significance in the face of loss and tragedy.
In the wake of someone’s death we are provoked to recall and see their goodness. In our moments of mourning and grief we contemplate the coming of our own demise.
What activities and tasks are we yet to complete?
Who in our lives have we yet expressed our gratitude for being present?
Who means the most to us?
What is it we need to say to them before our time of parting arrives?
For mothers and daughters these questions become more profound for mothers and daughters when we consider the roles that Demeter and Persephone filled regarding life and living.
Demeter was the goddess of harvest, fertility, and wisdom that comes with age and experience.
Persephone was the goddess of nature and vegetation.
Their roles exude life, living and all that supports the two processes.
That Persephone came into her role through Demeter’s loss and Persephone’s abduction into the land of death, Hades, and subsequent rape speaks to paradox of emotional bonds rooted in and rising out of separation, and death serving often times as the author of life.
With awareness, supported by the ability to self-reflect, as the catalyst, we mothers, like the those initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, can enter the time of when our daughters will separate from us, ideally not to be physically raped, but to enter life as deemed by the Fate and/or bounty of their incarnation, knowing that through our love they will return, as the Queen of Their World, the life they have created on the basis of their choices held in the pomegranate seeds of their experiences.
Tags: and Pomegranate Seeds, Aphrodite, Apollo, autumn, by msxa13, Cerebus, crone, daughter, daughters, death, Demeter, Eleusinian Mysteries, Eros, fertility, goddesses, gods, Greek Goddess Myths, Greek myths, Hades, Heracles, Hercules, immortality, incarnation, initiation, land, life, life experience, living, mother, Neptune, Odysseus, Of Mothers, Persephone, Pluto, pomegranate seeds, Poseidon, psyche, rape, seasons, separation, soul, spring, summer, The Fates, Twelve-Labors, Ulysses, underworld, vegetation, winter, wisdom, Zeus