Goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld
Daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, and Zeus, the king of the gods, Persephone is both the Goddess of Spring, and the Queen of the Underworld. Her story is not a pleasant one. Much of her mythology is centred on her grieving mother, her abduction, and the conspiracy behind it which included her own father. Her significance reaches beyond this myth though, in a narrative that explains the changing seasons.
As the queen of the underworld and a symbol of nature’s cyclical renewal, Persephone’s journey from the sunlit fields to the depths of Hades and back again mirrors the ancient Greeks’ understanding of the natural world and the delicate balance between joy and sorrow, light and darkness.
Persephone’s story actually focuses more on her mother, Demeter, and what happens when Persephone disappears. The young goddess is also the daughter and niece of Zeus, and the wife and niece of Hades when she becomes the queen of the Underworld.
Daughter of Demeter
Persephone is a true nature child, being the daughter of the goddess of the harvest. Her mother is also affectionately known as Mother Nature. Persephone is a living example of youth, beauty, and life, and draws the attention of the king of the dead (Not to be confused with death itself, who is Thanatos).
While picking flowers with her companions, Persephone is lured away from the group by the most interesting, beautiful, and sweet-smelling blooms she has ever encountered. As she attempts to gather them, a great chasm opens in the earth. From the chasm, Hades bears upon her riding his monstrous chariot pulled by magnificent black stallions. He sweeps her away to the depths of the kingdom of the dead.
A Mothers Anguish
Demeter looks everywhere for her child, causing mayhem and destruction as she goes. At first Zeus does not see a need to seek out Hades and confront him about the abduction of Persephone. However, when Demeter’s horrible sadness causes her to neglect her duties as a goddess, the earth begins to suffer. Crops die, animals become barren, and the land becomes cold and lifeless. Zeus appeals to Hades, but finds out that the problem is a lot more complicated than just asking for her release.
The underworld has many rules, one of which is that should a mortal consume anything while in the underworld, that mortal cannot leave it. Supposedly unbeknownst to Hades, Persephone had swallowed several pomegranate seeds. Zeus is usually a stickler for the rules, unless it restricts him from getting something that he truly wants. But it this instance, he has to consider the fate of the world. He decrees that Persephone must be returned to Demeter for everyone’s sake, and that she and Hades must share their time with her. They each get six months of the year with her.
When Hermes guides her out of the underworld and back to her mother, the earth begins to thaw. The earth experiences spring and summer while Persephone and Demeter are together. While she is with Hades, the earth feels Demeter’s lament during autumn and winter. There is also a story about these two seasons that concerns Persephone as the queen of the Underworld.
Persephone – Queen of the Underworld
While Persephone is more reasonable and compassionate than her fierce, but fair husband, she causes conflict when she does a favor for Aphrodite.
Apparently the goddess of love has fallen for the beautiful youth Adonis. When he dies, Aphrodite gives him to Persephone for safekeeping, but the goddess falls in love with him herself.
When she refuses to give him up, Zeus must again intervene with a similar resolution. The two goddesses must share him for six months out of the year. Persephone’s claim on Zeus was during the autumn and the winter.
Facts About Persephone Summarized
- Persephone’s name is often interpreted to mean “she who destroys the light.” Which reflects her role as the queen of the underworld, a realm devoid of sunlight.
- In ancient art, Persephone is frequently depicted holding a pomegranate, the fruit that bound her to the underworld.
- The Eleusinian Mysteries, one of the most important religious rites in ancient Greece, were dedicated to Persephone and her mother Demeter. These secretive ceremonies celebrate the cycle of life and death. Promising initiates a path to a more favorable afterlife.
- While Persephone is often seen as a victim in her abduction, various versions of the myth suggest she grew into her role as queen of the underworld. Displaying wisdom, fairness, and a capacity for mercy and judgment equal to or surpassing that of Hades.
- The ancient Greeks sometimes referred to Persephone by euphemistic titles, such as Kore (meaning “maiden” or “girl”) and Despoina (“mistress”). They did this to avoid invoking the more daunting aspect as the underworld’s queen.
- Persephone’s return from the underworld each year was celebrated during the spring festival of Anthesteria.
- The myth of Persephone is a prime example of the “myth of the eternal return.” Where the events of the myth are reenacted through rituals to ensure the continued cycle of nature’s renewal.
- In some lesser-known myths, Persephone sends spectral visions or dreams to the living. Serving as a bridge between the worlds of the living and the dead, and guiding the souls of the deceased to their rightful place in the underworld.
- Despite her eventual acceptance of her role as queen of the underworld, Persephone’s heart remained tied to the living world.
Link/cite this page
If you use any of the content on this page in your own work, please use the code below to cite this page as the source of the content.
Link will appear as Persephone: https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net - Greek Gods & Goddesses, February 13, 2017