One of the most interesting myths in Greek mythology is the myth of Demeter (Demetra) and Persephone. This myth not only shows the strong bond between mothers and daughters but it most importantly tries to explain, through mythology, the origin of the seasons. At its core, this is a dark mythological story involving an abduction and most likely a rape.
Who is Persephone?
Persephone is the goddess of spring (the season) and also the Queen of the underworld. She is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, goddess of the earth. Persephone, much like her mother Demeter, is also associated with vegetation and grain and they were were the central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which promised the initiated a beter life after death.
Who is Hades?
Hades is the god of the underworld, also known as Pluto or Pluton (meaning the “wealthy one”). Hades means the “unseen”. He is the son of the titans Cronus and Rhea and the brother of Zeus.
What did Hades do to Persephone?
Myth has it that Hades abducted Persephone as she was gathering flowers by a stream. Demeter went in search of her daughter, but she was unable to find her. Demeter’s grief causes the earth to die – crops fail, and famine comes upon the land. Zeus intervenes and commands Hades to return Persephone. Hades did not want to let Persephone go, so he forced Persephone to eat a pomegranate seed, the food of the dead in ancient Greek mythology. Because Persephone ate the pomegranate seeds she had to spend some of her time in the underworld, so from that moment on she can spend only six months out of the year with her mother on earth and the other six months she is destined to spend in the realm of Hades, in the underworld.
To ancient Greeks, the return of Persephone from the underworld symbolized the return of life in the spring. Each spring, as the earth returned to life, some Greeks observed a sacred ritual in which the story of Demeter and Persephone was enacted.