It is the time of the Autumn Equinox and our days and nights will be of equal length for a short period; but very soon the night time hours will lengthen and days will be short as the time arrives for Persephone to descend the dark, dark steps into the underworld and join Hades for the long winter months.
As she does so , her mother Demeter, sorrows and withdraws into her grieving time. As goddess of fertility , when she is unhappy fertility fades, the flowers cease to bloom, leaves fall from the trees, darkness is upon the land and we enter the grip of winter cold.
In Greek mythology, Persephone was Demeter’s only child and so beautiful was she that her mother and her father Zeus, kept her hidden from the eyes of would-be suitors, intending that she would be forever chaste like Athena and Artemis. This was not to be however, Hades lord of the underworld and brother to Zeus had laid eyes on her and desired her for his bride. He beseeched his brother for her hand which created quite a dilemma for Zeus lord of the Olympian gods. On the one hand he wanted to please his brother and give him his desired bride but on the other he knew that Demeter would be furious and when Demeter was angry all the earth would suffer! So Zeus did……………….
..…………….. nothing !
He sat on the fence neither accepting nor refusing Hades’ request just prevaricating and blustering, not a very Lord of the Gods thing to do.
Unfortunately Hades was not known for his patience, exasperated he took affairs into his own hands, after all Zeus had not said no, so one morning when Persephone was gamboling about in the meadow, as she was wont to do , he merely opened a chasm in the earth at her feet and pulled her down , the earth closed up again so quickly that no-one was the wiser for quite a while. Demeter was desolate , the earth was plunged into famine and desert as she roamed the world weeping and beseeching everyone she met for news of her missing daughter. Poor little humans, ever the playthings of the gods, endured starvation as their crops and their animals died, they cried out to Zeus and the other Olympians to save them, but no-one knew where Persephone was .
Until one day Helios the Titan lord of the sun, who drove Apollo’s sun chariot across the sky every day , spoke up. No-one had thought to ask him, up in the sky in his chariot he saw everything that took place on the earth and he told of Hades abduction.
Demeter demanded that Zeus order Hades to return her daughter and of course Zeus went down into the underworld to do her bidding. There is a principle of ancient standing in the underworld that anyone who has partaken of food or drink within the realm of Hades must return . Persephone had not eaten since her capture except for one lapse… six pomegranate seeds, which you would have thought did not really count, but they sealed her fate . Zeus decreed that she must return to the underworld for six months of every year . Thus she spends the six months of spring and summer at her mother’s side helping the flowers and fruits to blossom and the six months of autumn and winter at her husband’s court ruling as the Queen of the Underworld.
Persephone’s time in the Underworld doesn’t appear to be one of total sorrow. The Greek myths show her as a loving consort for Hades and a wise Queen of her underworld realm. Her name occurs many times in the stories, as heroes descend into the underworld searching for wives or fulfilling perilous tasks it is often from Persephone that they seek aide and advice.
So winter is on the way and it will be time for Persephone to snuggle up with three-headed Cerberus and the rather gorgeous Adonis who became her lover …( life wasn’t all bad! ) fill the flasks with nectar and ambrosia and settle down for a cozy hibernation in the halls of Hades.
We will see her again at the spring equinox when she will return to fill the earth with blossom and plenty.
Fry.S. (2018) Mythos. Penguin
Souli S. (1995) Greek Mythology. Toubi publications.
Sullivan.KE (1998) Greek Myths and Legends. Flame tree Publications