2015: Persephone

Persephone portrait

From Mount Olympus, Zeus, the King of the Gods, rules over the earth and the underworld. His brother, Hades, rules over the souls of the dead. The Goddess of Love, Aphrodite, and the child God of Love, Eros, spy the sad God of the Underworld, Hades. Aphrodite decides to make Hades happy by making him fall in love. She sends Eros to shower Hades with his special magic dust so that he will fall in love with the first maiden he sees. The Goddess, Persephone is playing with her friends when her mother Demeter, the Goddess of the Harvest, asks her to fill a basket of flowers. Hades sees Persephone and falls in love immediately. He captures the beautiful maiden and carries her back to the Underworld to be his queen.

Demeter becomes concerned when Persephone does not come home. She goes to the well but finds only an empty basket and flowers strewn around the well. Becoming distressed and confused she beckons the children of Elyousis to help her find her daughter Persephone. They bring people from the village to see if they know something about Persephone’s disappearance. When no one can help, Demeter becomes enraged and vows the earth will be barren. She will not allow any trees, gardens or fields to grow.

From Mount Olympus, Zeus, sees nature dying and knows the people will starve if he does not intervene. He sends Hermes, the Messenger, to Demeter to help find her daughter. At Hermes’ command the sun summons the four winds to search for Persephone. Not finding Persephone on earth, Hermes takes Demeter to the edge of the Underworld where she sees Persephone. Angered and saddened, Demeter vows to Zeus that she will not let the earth flower again until her daughter is returned. Knowing this is a disaster for the people on earth Zeus sends Hermes to bring Persephone back to her mother.

Hermes and Hades argue, but Hades relents and declares that Persephone may go after he gives her a parting gift. Hades gives Persephone six pomegranate seeds to eat knowing that once she has partaken of the fruit of Hades she must remain. He then allows Persephone to go with Hermes to earth where she is reunited with her mother. Suddenly, Hades appears; he and Demeter struggle over Persephone.

Zeus descends Mount Olympus in order to end their struggle. Demeter pleads with Zeus, exclaiming that he promised her that Persephone could return to earth. Hades scoffs, declaring Persephone is his because she ate the pomegranate seeds. Zeus decrees that since Persephone has eaten six seeds from Hades she must spend six months out of the year in the Underworld and she may be with Demeter the other six months on earth.

All must comply with Zeus’ declaration, but Demeter in her sadness and despair over the loss of her daughter declares that the earth will be barren when Persephone is with Hades. We know this time of year as autumn and winter, when all the plants die and the earth becomes barren. When Persephone is back on earth, Demeter will allow the earth to flourish in celebration of Persephone’s return. We know this time as spring and summer.

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