Did she go willingly or was she taken? The story goes, at least the one version we’ve all heard, the one we tell and retell, that she was kidnapped… that the maiden Persephone was out in a field picking flowers, narcissus blooms as it is told, when the earth opened up and she fell into a pit, led into the Underworld by Hades, the King of the Dead and forced to stay there against her will.
|Déméter, by Jean Arp|
Did I say she was raped? That’s part of the story too and that her mother, Demeter, so sad and distraught by her daughter’s disappearance, takes to her bed after searching the four corners of the earth and stops doing her work as Goddess of the Harvest plunging the earth into famine. So desperate is the plight of the hungry mortals that they call upon Zeus to intercede, who sends Hermes into Hades to bring Persephone back to her mother.
But this story means so much more than that. To reduce this powerful myth to a simple explanation of the seasons is to miss the deeper meanings, mysteries and archetypes embedded here. There are those who believe that the myth of Demeter and Persephone is as pertinent to female psychological development as the myth of Oedipus is to the male.
|with Diane Waff and Cozette Ferron|
What do our own Persephones know?
But that’s not what myths are all about anyway. They aren’t prescriptions or even explanations of things like why we have the seasons. They are far more mysterious than that – more elusive and more evocative, more fluid and multi-dimensional, like the stories of our lives.