The Greek myth of Hades and Persephone is one of the best to present a combination of things: Love, mother’s love, lust, creation, rule of opposites, and… change of seasons. Almost all of Greek myths had the latter as their common denominator.
People of each era were struggling to explain nature and their perception of divinity, so they used the most common thing present: Themselves. Their emotions and senses were the “judge” to be able to interpret everything that they couldn’t understand.
To learn and understand Greek myths will help many to understand the underlying culture of Greece during the ages.
That is one common thing in almost all myths around the world.
Also read this about contemporary Gates of Hades all over Greece.
Hades and Persephone
Who was Hades?
Infamous king of the Underworld. Brother of Zeus and of Poseidon; Son of Cronus and Rhea. He was also called as Underworld Zeus (as the opposite of the well known Zeus).
He abducted (according to mythology) Persephone and made her his queen. Her abduction was the main theme in the Eleusinian Mysteries (sacred ceremonies taking place near Athens).
Hades was not just a fierce and fearful god. He was also a god of agriculture, since earth was -at the same time- the root of all things man would use to eat and use, along with a prison to the dead. For that particular quality he was also named as Pluto, which means “he who provides wealth”.
Who was Persephone?
The daughter of Zeus and of Demetra. She was abducted by Hades and was brought to the Underworld. Allegedly, she was dark and dreadful when she was in the underworld, but gentle and a benefactor to humanity when she surfaced.
Variations of the myth mention that she was abducted with the help of Zeus too, while others mention different scenarios which involve nymphs.
After her capture Persefone -with the contribution of Demetra- made an agreement with Hades to be free on earth for 6 months per year. This is highly related to seasons and crops (at least).
What Hades and Persephone myth means?
There are 3 different theories that relate to the myth of Hades and Persephone.
The first theory claims that it relates to the natural theory of growth of plants and of crops. Under that theory, Persephone’s presence on earth is related with cereals, while her absence is related to storing the cereals. You need to know that the Greek word for cereals is: Demetriaka. This relates to the name of Demetra, her mother. So, her abduction is an allegory for seasons and the agriculture cycle.
However there are scriptures that mention different time frames for which Persephone was allowed to surface, thus the relation to the agriculture cycle seems not right.
The second theory is related to rejuvenation and the eternity of life, which relates to succeeding generations. That was the essence of Eleusenian Mysteries. Persephone was coming up from the underworld and thus the mysteries were celebrated with Autumn sowing.
Pluto symbolizes the wealth of wheat, stored in underground repositories, during summer time. The same “repositories” concept, resemble burials. Pluto relates to Hades, lord of the underworld. Burial and re-generation symbolize the cycle of life and of growth of things.
For the ones initiated in the ancient mysteries, this was a symbolical representation of the eternity of human life; each sprung from each other.
The third theory relates to the anthropological elements of humans. These are: marriage and death, the separation (of mother from her daughter), sorrow and anger and of reconciliation.
Another factor, many times neglected, is the role of Demetra in the plot of this myth. Allegedly, Persephone was allowed to surface after Demetra had gone through mourning and then begging Hades to let her go.
During Demetra’s mourning period everything on earth died; crops, animals, earth became barren. That is another intriguing point to consider for the myth.
Here is a nice video for this myth.
Conclusion (?) on Hades and Persephone myth
This myth inspired numerous famous artists in all eras to create art masterpieces. Many of them represent an abduction, but others represent a romantic engagement between Hades and Persephone.
What a fantastic food for thought is the myth of Hades and Persephone? Don’t you agree? Have you ever studied this Greek myth and what it may mean for nature and humans?
Thanks for reading.
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