A Visit From Persephone

Prosperpine (1874) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Prosperpine (1874) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

After the unusual spring weather we’ve been having, a little taste of winter seems to have returned if only for a little while.  It brings to mind the myth of Persephone.

Persephone (called Prosperpine by the Romans) was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.  Hades, the god of the underworld, was captivated by her beauty and one day abducted her taking her to the underworld to be his bride. Her mother was heartbroken and searched far and wide for her daughter. While doing so she neglected her tending of the earth. This resulted in the end of spring and growth on the earth. Seeing that this was causing problems (people were growing hungry) Zeus demanded that Hades return Persephone to her mother. Before doing so, Hades tricked Persephone into eating four pomegranate seeds knowing that anyone who ate or drank in the underworld would be destined to stay there forever. And so Persephone was allowed to spend two-thirds of the year with her mother above so the earth would produce, but was forced to return to Hades for four months of the year – the duration of our winter.

Some time ago, I dreamed of Persephone. She came and offered me pomegranate seeds only these seeds weren’t fresh – they were dried and shriveled up like raisins. It was unfortunate that something woke me up too soon. The dream seemed unfinished. Something was about to happen and I’ve been wondering ever since what it could have been. Would I have taken the pomegranate seeds she offered? What then? And what did it mean that the seeds were desiccated and not fresh?

In my dream, because I woke up, Persephone went away.  Just as now, with the return of the chill,  she seems to have stepped away again. But her story reminds us always that spring will return. Like Demeter, the good mother earth longs to see her daughter – young and fertile – the season that brings new life.

Pomegranates (1885) by Otto Wilhelm Thome

A Visit From Persephone

Persephone came to me one night
Offering seeds in the waning light
Is it a vision of the past that I see
Or a hint of what is yet to be?

If I refuse these gifts you bring,
Will my life return to spring?
Or, since they’ve withered, in a backwards way,
Would I see spring begin to decay?

If my dreams do foretell
But in waking I break the spell
With waking conscience I must choose.
The dawning spring is mine to lose.

With no guidance from slumber deep
(Or have I been given a gift from sleep?)
I feel the choice is up to me
Let winter hold me or set myself free.

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26 Responses to A Visit From Persephone

  1. How interesting. It is such great story. Believe me or not I just read it in ‘Shapeshifters, tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses’ retold by Adrian Mitchell, to my daughter today.
    Good poem & enjoyable illustrations.

    • It certainly is a good time of year to read this story. It’s great that you are reading these to your daughter. I haven’t seen Adrian Mitchell’s retelling. I will have to check it out. Thanks!

  2. It is a treasure of a children’s-teen book. I would advise it for age 10 and up depending on whether a teen can handle the skilful, wonderful but not always delightful illustrations.

    • Also, Mary Pope Osborne wrote Tales From The Odyssey and I thought she did a very nice job. I can’t wait to take a look at Shapeshifters. I think it’s so important to give kids these stories.

      • Me too. They are classic and universal stories. Children and teens understand them instantly, because their minds are susceptible for metaphors and fantasies.
        I’m glad to have found your wonderful blog.

        I hope Persephone will finally leave the underworld and start celebrating being with Ceres again. (It was still pretty cold here in Belgium).

        Have a lovely weekend. Paula

  3. Jennifer says:

    Maybe the seeds are shriveled because they’ve traveled so long (in terms of time) and so far (in terms of space) to get to you. In the dream world I tend to go for things — where else can you explore all possibility? Beautiful post. Thank you. Can’t wait to move on to Wallace!

  4. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    What a fantastic legend, a very enjoyable read. I loved your poem as well, I loved the last verse, a very good ending, well written. :)

  5. mairmusic says:

    A lovely story to begin my weekend. We all have our fingers crossed that spring will resume following its chilly break here in New England.

  6. milenanik3 says:

    Amazing story and beautiful poem as well.Thank You for sharing with us.

  7. munchow says:

    Persephone seems to have left here too. We have had snow showers and freezing cold wind. It’s a beautiful story, thanks for sharing. And now I know that I should never eat whenever I visit the underworld.

  8. Subhan Zein says:

    Hi there,

    I like your blog and I enjoy what I’ve been reading so far. Now I’d like to kindly invite you to visit my blog and have a joyful ride there. :-)
    Have a wonderful day, my lovely friend! :-)

    Subhan Zein

  9. Virginia says:

    That poem is beautiful. Truly beautiful :)

  10. Great post! I have been (and am still) OBSESSED with Mythology of all stripes…Thanks for the like and I am following you…Can’t wait to see what else you have in store…

    • Thank you! I think you’ll find a lot of mythology here. :) I’d be curious to know what your favorite myths are.

      • I love a lot of mythology…Greek is my favorite, but also love Norse, Egyptian, and others! A couple of my favorite myths are the various stories about denizens of Hades (Tantalus, Sisyphos, etc.) because some of our English words come from them. I also love the story of Persephone, and love that I learned more about her from your poem! Arachne and Orpheus and Eurydice are also faves! Have you read the book “Gods Behaving Badly”?

        • So far I’ve written about Greek and Roman myths, but would like to branch out a bit – there is so much out there and it’s all good! I’ve had a request to write about Orpheus and Eurydice so that will be coming soon. :) I have not read the book, but I think I’ve heard of it. You recommend it, I’m guessing? Hmm… maybe I’ll write about the denizens of Hades in October in time for Halloween. Arachne is a favorite of mine, too, so she’ll be here eventually. Thanks for reading!

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