The story of Persephone is one of my favourites in Greek mythology. Perhaps because, as many of you with a heart of darkness do too, I relate to her longing for exploring the depths of the macabre, the shadow realm, but she also feels bound to her mother's idea of her as innocent, feminine and pure.
If you missed my retelling of her story on Instagram stories a few days ago you can read the story of the gothic goddess here.
One day Persephone, the daughter of Zeus, King of the Gods, and Demeter, Goddess of the harvest, was out in the meadows picking flowers, as she often did with her friends the nymphs.
As Persephone wandered down into a dark grove following a trail of narcissus flowers she saw a strange opening in the Earth.
Suddenly, with a roar of hooves, a chariot thundered out of the opening.
It was Hades, the god of the Underworld. Hades swept Persephone up in his arms and carried her away into the underworld, the hole in the ground closing up behind them.
Hades had fallen in love with Persephone and asked Zeus for her hand in marriage. Zeus, without telling Demeter, agreed.
When Demeter went to the meadow to find her daughter, she was nowhere to be seen. Demeter looked everywhere for Persephone, but no one would tell her where she was. So, the distraught Demeter disguised herself as an old lady and travelled the earth looking for her beloved daughter.
After 9 days and 9 nights of searching, Demeter still couldn't find her daughter. In her sadness Demeter had neglected her duties as goddess of the harvest - there had been no rains on Earth since Persephone went missing, the soil dried out, no flowers bloomed and crops began to ruin.
Eventually, worried for the future of the humans on Earth, Zeus decided it was best if Persephone returned to her mother and sent Hermes, the messenger god, down to the underworld to retrieve their daughter.
Persephone, meanwhile, had become quite at home in the underworld and Hades had given her a throne next to his so she could rule beside him.
When Hermes arrived with Zeus's command, Hades did not want to give up his wife, and Persephone was torn between her mother and her new husband who she had grown to love.
Hades agreed to Zeus and Demeter's wishes, Persephone could return to her mother, but first, he gave his wife a parting gift. A pomegranate. Persephone, perhaps knowing that consuming any food in the underworld meant she could never leave, ate 6 of the small blood-red seeds...
Now that Persephone had eaten the food of the underworld, the Fates told her she had to remain there for eternity.
Hermes delivered the news to Zeus and Demeter who were awaiting their daughters return and upon hearing the news Demeter became hysterical. Zeus knew he needed to bring Persephone back to her mother for the sake of the Earth so he struck a deal with Hades... Since Persephone had only eaten 6 pomegranate seeds, she would remain in the underworld for one month for each seed she had eaten but then would return to her mother for the rest of the year.
While Persephone remained in the underworld, Demeter refused her duties and the land remained barren, but when her daughter returned to her 6 months later Demeter was so thrilled that the whole Earth bloomed, trees became green again and flowers blossomed.
And so, the seasons came about.
Each Autumn when Persephone returns back to her throne to rule alongside Hades, Demeter grieves her daughters' absence and no plants grow. In spring, on her return, the Flora blooms once again.
With one foot in the spring sunshine and one in the shadows, Persephone walks the line between life and death, between light and dark.