To some, myths are stories. To others they are facts as real as any figure or number in a text book. To others still they are allegories or intuitive attempts to make sense of humanity. I belong to the latter category and I’ve long had an obsessive interest in religion and mystery cults largely inspired by the nightly reading of Greek mythology was blessed indeed to receive as a young child. It filled my imagination and did provide a guide to making sense of the confusing and conflicting acts of those around me and the confusion of my own consciousness.
The story of Persephone has been running through my mind as of late. Most know of it as an agrarian allegory. To the uninitiated, I shall summarize though bear in mind that her tale varies from tradition to tradition, time to time, and place to place. Greek mythology holds a stronghold in the imagination but this tale predates their dominance in the historical record. Most commonly, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus and she is often know simply as “The Maiden.”
Persephone was a gorgeous little hippie baby, totally raised on organic food with lots of time in the company of nymphs and her mother Demeter who was a great goddess of fertility. Things were working out for them as the fields were vast as the sky and the world was warm and fruitful. Persephone had been gathering flowers and singing songs when she came across one she’d never seen before: a narcissus. When she plucked it from the ground a cavernous hole emerged with the thunder of a great chariot pulled by four terrible and beautiful black stallions driven by Hades, the god of the underworld. He had struck a deal with Zeus pointing out that someone had to be the keeper of the place where souls go and this was a shitty job, so far as godly duties go.
Hades wasn’t evil, he just tended to the more unpleasant part of life. There were no blue skies, golden rays of sunlight, or pretty little singing maidens for him to be sure. Moreover, his social life sucked. Everyone was polite when he made an appearance but no one really wants the god of the dead to arrive at their parties. He asked for a wife and Zeus, the patriarch that he was, told him to plant the Narcissus and to snatch his daughter Persephone when her mother wasn’t looking.