Sunday, June 5, 2011

Persephone's Tears...sadness or joy?

I recently took this photo of my Persephone statue up at our land in Western North Carolina.

I always think of the summertime as the hardest time for Persephone.  The underworld is her home and yet she is torn from it and forced to live in the sun, where everyone can see her, for these months.  Persephone is nothing if not resilient.  She not only faces the sun, but it makes her stronger. There are many lessons I have learned from Persephone's journey and one of them is that Happiness Is A Choice. Perhaps it isn't sadness at all that she feels in this half of the year but joy.  The I realize my projections are not really Persephone's problem, but my own.  And isn't that the core of every problem with every relationship?  We simply don't understand one another and we don't talk to find out, even when we think we do. So this summer, rather than recognizing Persephone's sadness being away from her home, I will relish in her joy of being in the sun.


  1. I'm hoping to sit down and write an essay for the upcoming BA devotional for Persephone, about the issue of when exactly She is in the Underworld as opposed to Above (and as a tangent to that, the evidence that some aspect of Her is always below). Most of the reading I've done in ancient sources and Mediterranean agricultural patterns strongly suggests that we are mistaken to think that the winter is Demeter's blight time, but that it is rather the hot, arid summer months. You seem to be of the former mindset - care to elaborate?

  2. I do definitely have a more modern perspective of this myth. You can read more about my ideas on this here:

    I don't believe that Gods can be penned in. I don't live in Ancient Greece and my "dark season" is most definitely winter. Persephone is all around me. If she is a living and breathing God then I believe she can be everywhere. For me, she manifests in the more "traditional" four seasons of the northern hemisphere. This is not necessarily based on scholarship but more on experience. It doesn't really matter to me if I am technically right or wrong, but more of how she presents herself to me. It may have actually be the case that the myths spoke specifically of a different seasonal pattern.

  3. Thanks for the link to the article, which is going to give me plenty of fodder for my own, I think! It's definitely a complicated issue.

    While normally I totally support making one's religion relevant to the here and now of where one lives, I'm not sure if it applies in this case. If one believes in Persephone as a real, independent being, and believes in the descent and ascent as a real phenomenon, then one can't just shift that to a season that makes more sense personally, because that won't change when the actual goddess actually moves between worlds. Unless, I suppose, one believes that She is in some sense always descending and ascending at various times across the world, which would account (for example) for the wide discrepancy in climate in the southern hemisphere. Is that the position you're taking?

    It's something I've considered, although I also consider it a strong possibility that, being a goddess of the Greeks originally and not necessarily a universal deity, Her movements were and are only aligned with the climate of Her origin, not all world climates everywhere. (Which wouldn't have to change how one perceives the myth as metaphor, but would change when one marks Her movements.)

  4. "Unless, I suppose, one believes that She is in some sense always descending and ascending at various times across the world, which would account (for example) for the wide discrepancy in climate in the southern hemisphere."

    In essence this is precisely the positon that I am taking.

    I suppose I can't see her as simply a goddess of the Greeks. If she were, then she would have never spoken to me in the first place because I am as far from Greek as one can get.

    And, as you pointed out and I consider in my article as well, what about the possiblity that she is always in the underworld? Maybe time for the gods is different than time for us? Maybe it is more nebulous.

  5. I don't mean to say She is only a goddess *for* Greeks, but that She may originally belong, in some sense, to that land, and if there is any truth to the myth itself, Her descent/ascent would have been entirely predicated on ancient Mediterranean climate, and therefore would continue to do so from then on. If She is always descending and ascending somewhere in the world, it seems to me to sap the power from that cycle of bounty and barrenness, of union with her husband and union with her mother.

    But, I cannot say for sure, and I admit it's an extremely complex issue with a lot of possible answers. Fortunately for me, my interaction with Her is predominantly underworld-based, and so I don't have to deal too much with this question in my personal practice, which would otherwise tend to frustrate me a great deal. You're right, it's probably different for the gods anyway, and that makes it even less likely we'll ever truly understand.

    My sense, FWIW, is that Persephone is indeed always in the underworld, but that there is an aspect of Her, the Kore, who moves above and below regularly.