November 8, 2012

Persephone – Queen of the Underworld

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , at 8:32 am by Babs

Persephone (pronounced: Purr-sef-foni) was the innocent daughter of Demeter and was abducted by the Greek God Hades and taken to the underworld where she took on a dark and mysterious persona as his new wife.  Although found by her mother and freed on the condition that she had eaten nothing whilst imprisoned, it  transpired that she had indeed eaten some pomegranate seeds.  She was obliged thereafter to return to the underworld thereby dividing her time between her mother and her husband (Hades) but later chose to return of her own volition.  But let’s get to the details of the story…

Persephone, a Greek goddess known in her childhood by the name Kore (or Cora, meaning young maiden), was the only child of the union of Demeter (Goddess of the bountiful harvest) and Zeus (king of the Olympians).  The Greek Goddess Persephone was born when Demeter was Zeus’ consort, long before his marriage to Goddess Hera.  By all accounts Persephone had an idyllic childhood, raised by her nurturing mother and played with her father’s other daughters, the Greek Goddesses Athena and Aphrodite.  Always a cheerful and compliant child, the little Goddess Persephone was a parent’s dream.

According to Greek mythology Persephone’s life was soon to change.  As signs of womanly beauty began to shine along side her childlike innocence, the adolescent Persephone unwittingly attracted the attention of Hades, brother of Zeus and ruler of the underworld.  One can hardly blame Hades because the underworld, in Greek mythology, was the realm of the sleeping and the dead.  It probably needed some “brightening up”, and the young Persephone’s radiance would assuredly liven up the place.

Hades, however, did not bother to woo the young Persephone, traditional goddess protocol notwithstanding.  After asking for (and receiving) her father’s approval for Persephone’s hand in marriage, Hades simply abducted her one bright sunny day when she stooped to pluck a narcissus from a field of wildflowers near her home.  The meadow was suddenly rent open and Hades simply reached out and snatched Persephone away, taking her to his underworld kingdom and making her his queen.  Although the young Persephone grew to love Hades, she remained lonely for her mother and the life she’d known on earth.

Her mother, Demeter, had heard Persephone’s screams when Hades grabbed her.  She began an intensive search for Persephone.  After learning how Zeus had betrayed their daughter, and consumed by grief and sorrow.  Demeter demonstrated her outrage by withholding her blessing by withholding her blessing from the earth until Persephone was returned to her.  Droughts ensued, and the earth lay barren.  Mankind was facing a major famine.  Zeus finally relented and sent the god Hermes to bring the young Persephone back to her mother.  Part of Persephone missed her mother horribly, but another part had grown rather fond of the god.  Preparing to return to the earth with Hermes, Persephone accepted a pomegranate offered to her by Hades.  She knew full well that anyone who had eaten while in the underworld would not be allowed to return, even a goddess.  Persephone went ahead and ate seven of the seeds.  Her choice prevented her from ever being fully restored to Demeter, but did open up the possibility of a compromise.  Hermes was able to negotiate an agreement on her behalf between Hades, a god who was usually rather cold-natured and self-centered, and Demeter.  Persephone would be allowed to stay with Hades in the underworld for four months each year (winter) and would return to the earth and her mother the remaining months.  Persephone was soon reunited joyfully with her mother.  Each year as Persephone left to join her husband in the underworld, Greek mythology tells us that Demeter would begin to grieve, bringing on the cold, barren winters.  But a few months later Persephone, the goddess associated with awakening, would return to bring spring and its verdant growth in her wake… thus were the seasons established.

Not that Persephone sloughed off any of her responsibilities as the Queen of the Underworld.  Apparently Persephone didn’t spend all her time “going home to momma”.  Having made the decision to consume the seeds of the pomegranate while in the underworld, Persephone managed to somehow always be there when others came visiting, ready to receive them into the underworld and to serve as their hostess and guide.

Persephone was willing to help Psyche pass Aphrodite’s tests so that Psyche could be reunited with her beloved husband.  Psyche had been assigned to go to the underworld and return with some of Persephone’s famous youth serum/ beauty ointment (actually it was a sleeping potion, but hey, we all know what a bad night’s sleep can do to our appearance!) While Psyche was in the underworld, she found Persephone to be both a gracious and generous hostess.

Persephone also helped Heracles (Hercules) by loaning him Cerberus, the ferocious three-headed dog that guarded the entrance of the underworld so that he could complete the Twelve Labors he’d been assigned to make reparation for the death of his wife.  Persephone was also at home in the underworld when Odysseus (Ulysses) arrived.  she rewarded him with a legendary tour of the souls of women of great renown.

In another intriguing story, the Goddess agreed to hide Adonis, a mortal youth who was Aphrodite’s lover, from Aphrodite’s suspicious husband.  But upon seeing the beautiful Adonis, Persephone, receptive goddess that she was, also fell for his charms and refused to give him back to Aphrodite.  (Remember, these Greek goddesses were the original “wild women”, refusing to yield to convention!)

Eventually, Zeus had to step in to settle the argument.  He ruled that Adonis should spend a third of the year with each of the goddesses, Persephone and Aphrodite, and he left to his own pursuits the remainder of the year.  Unfortunately, Adonis chose to spend his free time hunting and was killed in a hunting accident a few years later.

Persephone represents both the youthful, innocent, and joyous maiden aspect of a woman as well as the more womanly self who, innocence lost and family attachments loosened, can begin to consciously decide for herself.  In Greek mythology Persephone, Goddess of the soul,  is the possessor of its dark and frightening wisdom.  But the Goddess Persephone is also the harbinger of spring… and a reminder of all the growth and hope that it brings.

Symbols & Sacred Objects of Persephone:

Goddess symbols, individualized for each goddess, incorporated into the worship of the ancient goddesses, were often worn as jewelry and also used in the household decor as talismans to seek the goddesses special gifts, blessings, or protection.  A large number of goddess symbols have survived in statuary and other works of art.

Many of the goddess symbols came from theologians surrounding a specific goddess and were “characters” in her story.  Other goddess symbols were derived from the rituals used in the ancient rites of worship of these pagan goddesses.  Persephone (also known in her youth as Kore and the Roman Goddess Prosperina) is often represented by symbols associated with the coming of spring.  It is not surprising that many of our icons representing the mysteries of rebirth are derived from the ancient goddess symbols of Persephone.

General: Spring, Wreath of Flowers, Torch, Reeds, Waterfalls, Rivers and Springs.

Animals: Bat, Ram, Parrots (and all talking birds), and Monkeys.

Plants: Pomegranate, Narcissus, Willow Tree, Lily, Ivy, Lily of the Valley, Oriental Lilly, Maidenhair Fern, Daisy, and Lavender.

Perfume/ Scents: Floral scents, especially Narcissus and Hyacinth, Almond, Vanilla, and Bergamot.

Gems/ Metals: Crystal, Quartz, Agate, Black Onyx, Pink Tourmaline, Sapphire, Obsidian, Mercury, Coral, Carnelian, and Brown Jasper.

Colors: Green, Black, Light Blue, Purple, Magenta, Indigo, and Yellow.

Sacred Mantra: Empowerment

Suggested Affirmations:

  • I am as free as a bird.
  • I am free to be myself.
  • I accept myself as I am.
  • I am good and I know it.
  • I believe in my gifts and abilities.
  • I release my need to be humiliated.
  • I release my habit of self – criticism.

Persephone’s Modern Energy:

It is usually “victims” who identify the strongest with Persephone – the maiden goddess symbolizing vulnerability – especially those who secretly enjoy adverse circumstances which have been thrust upon (or did they seek them out?).

Just as Persephone came to secretly enjoy her life in the world of darkness, so do her followers chase the trail of temptation amidst cries of protestation – they’re really quite enjoying much of the drama and intrigue that’s throwing their life into turmoil.  They know they should escape their destructive cycle, but do they really want to?  After all, the bad things happening to them are always someone else’s fault; why do they always find themselves in a bind?  It is because they are allowing themselves to be seduced by the Dark Queen Persephone – they are CHOOSING it to be so.

If Persephone’s message is striking a chord with you, prepare to do something constructive about taking responsibility for yourself and your life.  It is time to stop luxuriating in guilt and empower yourself thorough honest.  Spend today acknowledging truths, honoring those who are trying to help you, and showing gratitude for all the “good” in your life.  Come out from the darkness and turn your face to the light.

Try this: Today, write down five things you are grateful for.  It could be the sunrise you caught this morning, the toast your partner made you or seeing children skipping to school – whatever it is that makes you feel glad to be alive.

When you wake up tomorrow, add to the list another five things.  Keep adding to the list everyday until your heart is glowing with gratitude and joy.  Let the healing energy empower you in your new life.

Goddess Persephone – In Summary:

Persephone, daughter of Demeter, was a young and beautiful Greek Goddess.  Her innocence of the world grew from the love and protection her Mother surrounded her in.  Persephone lived in eternal spring, unaware of any existence outside her mother’s realm.

One day as Persephone was walking in a meadow she sees a flower, the beautiful narcissus – the flower of death.  As she reaches down to pluck the flower the earth trembles and opens up releasing Hades from the underworld.  His desire aroused by Her light of innocence and her seeing the beauty in the flower of death.  Persephone had never seen anything like Hades and His shadow, the youthful maiden was equally drawn to him.  As they danced around each other, the shadow and the light began to spiral around them – first in then out again.

Persephone’s Spiral Dance into the shadows of the underworld filled her with the wisdom and knowledge of existence outside of her Mother’s realm.  So bright was Goddess Persephone’s light that Hades himself fell in love and shared the pomegranate Hades shared the food of the dead that sustains lost souls as they wait on the Spiral Dance that is life.  Goddess Persephone grew from a child into a woman, from a daughter of a Goddess into Goddess of her own kingdom.  Her kingdom being the sanctuary to the souls that travels between the realms as one must die to be reborn.

Goddess Persephone returned to Goddess Demeter, but as a deity unto herself, Goddess Demeter’s joy at the return of her daughter filled her with creativity and spring was granted.  All seeds sprang forth life new beginnings and grew into the summer.  As with our sacred circle, the wheel turns endlessly, bringing with it the seasons.  With harvest at end, Goddess Persephone grows restless for her own time and path.  Goddess Demeter’s own need for renewal brings winter and once again we celebrate what past and what has yet to come.

From an astrology point, the story of Persephone is fascinating.  As Hades is representation of our planet Pluto, change is inevitable for Persephone.  Pluto removes all that is necessary for one’s life to progress.  One can not see the loss is in the best interest, but Pluto promises a brighter path with the change.  One can “swim upstream” in the mist of Pluto but it will be wasted energy as change will come.  Pluto is also the season of Scorpio, great passion, sexuality and death.  All associated with Persephone.

Persephone our Goddess of Death and transformation is the gate of endings and beginnings that come with Samhain – our “New Year”.  Seek her wisdom by seeking her visions.  To seek Persephone is to take time to look inside, to contemplate in stillness and seek inner peace.  Persephone shows a woman that she needs to find an inner sanctuary to seek and understand deep feminine power within to manifest or accept changes need to dance the Spiral Dance that is her path.

From the Goddess Gift Ezine (subscribe@goddessgift.com) here is Persephone’s Pomegranate Punch!

You will need:

  • 1 Gallon Pomegranate Juice
  • 1 Quart Apple Juice
  • 1 Cup Honey
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 20 Cloves (whole)
  • 20 Cardamom Seeds
  • 1 Cup Almond Slivers
  • 1 Cup Dried Cranberries

What to do:

Place cardamom seeds, cloves and cinnamon in a cheesecloth bag and tie tightly.  Bring juices, honey, and water boiling point and then add spice bag.  Simmer for 20 minutes on medium low heat.  Add almonds and cranberries.  Simmer for an additional 20 minutes.  Best served warm like mulled cider.  This recipe can be refrigerated and then warmed in the microwave.

(Optional: Add vodka or Courvoisier to taste)

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