The maiden, Persephone, daughter of the Earth Goddess, Demeter, is out picking flowers in a meadow when the earth opens up and out charges Hades, God of the Underworld. He scoops Persephone up, and the Lord of the Dead (not the devil or Satan mind you) plunges back down into the Underworld. When Persephone is late, Demeter goes out searching but can find her lovely daughter nowhere. Demeter, the great Goddess of grain, harvest, and fertility lights a torch and scours the earth into the night. After nine futile days of searching, she comes across an old lady, the quintessential Hecate, a crone of great knowledge of the earth and its going-ons (the harbinger of bad news and good) and the Goddess of the dark moon, the crossroads of life. She explains to Demeter that Persephone has been abducted.
Demeter grows full of rage and gives up her divine earthly duties, allowing the crops to dry up and wither, the earth to become a cold wasteland. She disguises herself as and old woman and travels to the town of Eleusis where she wallows in despair. Zeus, the great God, notices this and tries to talk some sense into Demeter. Hades will make a nice son-in-law, he says. She needs to lighten up and let the crops grow. Demeter will not budge.
The earth becomes so desolate and wasted Zeus has no choice but to consult with his dark brother of the underworld and orders Hades to give up Persephone. Persephone prepares to leave, but Hades loves her and does not want to give her up completely. They have one last meal together, and the Lord of the Dead slips some enchanted pomegranate seeds into Persephone’s food. She swallows the seeds, which ensures her return to Hades domain for a third of each year.
Persephone and her mother are reunited on the first day of Spring. Demeter can sense some changes in her young daughter. Demeter is not happy when she learns about the pomegranate seeds, but Persephone insists she did not know and that she does not mind in any case to go back to see Hades. Demeter stops her mourning and allows the earth to flourish again. After all, her daughter is back. Not the same innocent girl who picked flowers without a care in the world, but a woman transfigured by her experience.
This is my favorite mythological story about a mother and daughter reunion, about a daughter’s growth and change, about the seasons of the earth as they were formed by the mythic gods.
Story is inspired by an excerpt of Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd