Demeter and Persephone

December 12, 2009

The changing of the seasons, from darkness to the light, from death to life.

The ancients believed that there was a time when the earth enjoyed an unending season of temperate weather.  Because trees were always green and flowers always bloomed, the world was filled with life and beauty.  Crops also grew in abundance and humans were blissfully happy in this earthly paradise.

The goddess responsible for the earth’s bounty was Demeter (DEM-eh-ter), the Goddess of grain and the harvest.  Tall, statuesque and bountiful, it is said her breasts are always full of milk and the river of stars from the Milky Way flows through her.  Demeter is the mother of both the present and the future; she holds dominion over the earth and everything upon it and under it, just as in our prayer to Pachamamma,

Mother Earth.

We’ve gathered for the healing of all your children.

The Stone People, the Plant People. 
The four-legged, the two-legged, the creepy crawlers.

The finned, the furred, and the winged ones.

All our relations.

Therefore she is almost always pregnant, the children she delivers are many and beautiful, she is rich in her potential for future endeavours and holds the gift of nurturing of what is yet to become, what is in the process of becoming a something out of a nothing

Her beautiful daughter Persephone (Per-SEH-fo-nee) Queen of the Underworld, Goddess of spring gladdened Demeter’s heart; Demeter’s unbreakable bond and love for her daughter kept the earth forever in bloom.

Demeter and Persephone were seldom far from each other, but occasionally Persephone would wander out of her mother’s sight. One day as Hades, Lord of the Underworld, watched the lovely maiden picking flowers in a meadow, he immediately fell in love with her and determined that she must marry him and become queen of the Underworld.

As Persephone bent to gather more flowers, the ground beside her opened wide. Out from the gaping hole in the ground came Hades in a chariot drawn by a team of mighty black horses. He seized the terrified girl , dragged her into his chariot, and took her off to the Underworld.

Demeter is distraught.  Beside herself with grief she becomes infertile, unable to respond, she lost all emotion, power, passion, no nurturance of self and with no sense of her future self she became barren, dry and withered.  Every growing thing wilted and died; the once green earth turned brown.  All over the world people starved as the crops failed.  Demeter was inconsolable, not only was she barren and unable to give birth anymore but she was barren because she was separated from what her daughter represents, the side of human nature that is invested with potential.

Persephone personifies that first creative spark, she comes out of the void and begins to create and differentiate matter, symbolic of the idea and manifestation of that idea.  When she is in the world all seems possible, when below and in the dark this is cut off.

Concerned that the mortals would all die out, the other gods begged Zeus to talk to Demeter and recall her to her duties. But his efforts were unavailing.  Demeter roamed far and wide in search for her daughter and vowed until she was returned to her, the earth would never bloom again, it would remain infertile and dark.

Finally word was sent to demand that Hades return Persephone to her mother.  Hades as you can imagine did not want to relinquish his bride even though she would not make love, eat, drink or dance, However under great pressure from Zeus Hades agreed that he would bring her back but if he could make her eat then she would stay.  On her ascent in the carriage riding to the world, Hades tricked her, he pushed a cut pomegranate to her lips and the bright red juice ran down her lips and down onto her white breasts, she swallowed and did indeed ingest six seeds in the process, resulting in Hades keeping her with him for six months of every year.

So each year, in the spring, Persephone returns.  It is said that as she steps forth onto the land, lush verdant greenness spreads far and wide with each step.  As for Demeter as she runs to greet her, every footprint leaves behind a flower and scatters seeds far and wide.  The creativity begins, flowers spring forth, trees burst into bud and fruit, animals procreate, ideas percolating over the incubation period manifest and life forges headlong into abundance.  Persephone is free to play in the fields, sing and enjoy the richness she and her mother provide for us all.

As the green turns into brown, and life begins to retract we know that Demeter is grieving, she cannot live without her daughter and the cycle of dark and light continues.

This dark period is now upon us all, however we don’t literally have to “grieve” but it is a time of quiet contemplation, a time for rest, it gives us the opportunity to wander into that dark place and find out what no longer is serving us and let it go.  It’s also an incubation period where many ideas percolate and can spring forth as Persephone bestows upon us her inspiring gifts in the coming weeks.

With the Solstice upon us heralding the coming of spring, in a few weeks we will start to see the union of mother and daughter again, for me this fills me with great excitement, gratitude and a deep love of the world, my family and friends and my chosen path.