Persephone, Hades, and the Autumnal Season
In Greek mythology, Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld. She was the daughter of Demeter, who is the Goddess of fertility and bountiful harvests. Persephone’s story is used to explain the shifting of seasons and is known all over the world as one of the most famous Greek goddesses.
The story says that Persephone often enjoyed playing with the Naiads, who were freshwater-dwelling nymphs. One day, while Demeter was harvesting her bounty, and the water nymphs were distracted, Persephone wandered away to pick a narcissus flower. When she plucked the flower from the earth, the ground split open beneath her and Hades came thundering through with his chariot and horses. The capture happened so swiftly that no one saw where she went.
When Demeter realized her daughter was gone, she fell into a deep sorrow, as any mother would, and tirelessly searched for her. Some even say that she disguised herself as a haggard, old woman with a lantern on her endeavor.
Meanwhile, in the underworld, Hades wed Persephone. She became the Queen of the Underworld, and there is some dispute as to whether or not she enjoyed her reign. For much of history, experts have said that the entire affair was forced. She was kidnapped, she was forced to be Hades’ bride, and she desperately longed to return to her mother. However, some modern writers suggest that their marriage was a happy one. After all, Hades is one of the only Greek gods who remained faithful to his bride. Unlike his brother Zeus, there are no tumultuous tales that weave their way back to him. Demeter is often portrayed as overprotective, and perhaps her daughter felt smothered. Perhaps Persephone wanted her own life and her own people and sat proudly at her throne.
Either way, when Demeter discovered her daughter’s whereabouts, she demanded that Hades return her. However, while she was in the underworld, Persephone consumed six pomegranate seeds. Some say she was forced or tricked, while others speculate that she willingly ate them so she could safely return to her husband each year. In Greek mythology, when someone accepts food from a captor, they are bound to return to them.
So for part of the year, Persephone stays with Demeter, who tends to the earth and keeps it fertile. For the other part of the year, she is reunited with Hades, and the sorrowful mother neglects to tend to the soil.
This signifies the change in our seasons.
The spring and summer is when Persephone is in the care of her mother. In her joy, Demeter makes flowers bloom and crops flourish. In the autumn, Persephone returns to the underworld, and Demeter lets the world fall under a blanket of snow, once more awaiting her daughter’s springtime arrival.