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.
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.