Greek Gods and Goddesses - Persephone, Goddess of Spring and The Underworld
Who is Persephone?
Persephone is a complex and mysterious deity, just like her husband, Hades. She is considered a duel goddess, meaning she encompasses both the maiden phase and the mother phase.
As the maiden, Persephone is the goddess of Spring, new beginnings, and new life. She represents virginity, purity, and naivety.
As the mother, Persephone is the Queen of the Underworld and goddess of the dead. She represents primal desire, love, passion, motherhood, and sexuality.
She represents the balance that the earth needs. Through her, the earth has a living season and a death season. Persephone is the embodiment of the spring and fall seasons. She represents the birth of new plant life during spring and the death of the plants during the fall.
In the mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter (Goddess of the Harvest) and Zeus (God of Sky & Thunder). Her husband, who is also her uncle, is Hades, God of the dead and the Underworld.
Hades and Persephone: A Bitter-Sweet Love Story
The story of Hades and Persephone's love affair has been twisted and abused through the passing of time. Hades was once an honored god amongst the Greeks, however, after the rise of Christianity, he was painted as sort of a devil-like creature. With this came the various versions of his and Persephone's love story.
One version claims that Persephone was kidnapped, raped, and forced into marriage by Hades. This story is the most commonly depicted one as it continues with the portrayal of Hades as a demonic creature. This was likely due to Christianity attempting to portray the Greek religion as evil or similar to Christianity (with its depiction of a devil).
Another version of the story paints Hades in a far better light. This story provides a better explanation as to how and why Persephone fell in-love with the god of the dead.
In this version of the story, Persephone desires a dark prince of sorts to come and take her. She wishes to finally grow up and to be free of her overprotective mother. The love god Cupid hears her desires and sends one of his love arrows to the perfect dark prince, Hades.
Hades springs forth from the ground, grabs Persephone, and carries her down to the Underworld with him. At first, Persephone is horrified. She finds him incredibly handsome, but has heard terrible stories about what it is like to live in the Underworld. However, Persephone discovers that the Underworld is nothing like what she had been told.
She falls in-love with Hades and she becomes his queen. But due to her mother's overbearing nature, Persephone must spend the spring and summer seasons away from her husband to be with her mother. If she does not do this, her mother refuses to allow the plants to grow. When Persephone returns to her husband during the fall and winter months, Demeter goes into a depressive state and refuses to allow the plants to grow.
This is an incredibly simplified version of the story, but it holds the basics of what they went through. In this version, Persephone loved being with Hades and enjoyed ruling the Underworld with him. However, she was also aware of her influence on her mother and how it affected the humans on earth if she did not spend some time away from her beloved to be with her mother. With this story, Persephone chose to sacrifice aspects of her happiness in order to bring peace for everyone.
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Symbols Associated with Persephone
- Mabon (day of descent)
- Ostara (day of ascent)
- Black Magic Pansies
- Chocolate Cosmos
- Black Iris
- Burgundy Rose
- Talking Birds
- Willow Tree
- Black Onyx
- Spring Flowers
- Flowers Worn in Hair
An Animated Retelling of Persephone's Story
Ancient Pagan Worship of Persephone
Ancient Pagans worshiped Persephone as a protector of marriages. The early Pagans would call on her to help with issues in their marriage. Persephone and Hades were both considered marriage deities, since neither are recorded as having ever had affairs. They were always depicted as having a strong marriage, therefore making them a prime duo to call upon when one's marriage was in trouble.
She was also worshiped, along with her husband, as the goddess of the dead. Her ancient followers usually incorporated dancing along with their rituals. Persephone would have been called upon to request safe passage for one's loved ones as they entered into the Underworld.
Modern Pagan Worship of Persephone
In today's time, Persephone is not an often sought-out goddess. This is primarily due to the misunderstanding of hers and Hades' love story.
However, there are a few modern Pagans who worship and honor her. She is an excellent goddess for newlyweds, people struggling with marital issues, young women who are coming-of-age, and those who are seeking that dark and handsome gentleman. She can also work with those who are mothers and those who are going through changes in their lives.
When working with her, always remember to present her with an offering (which you should be doing with all the deities you work with). She is a fair goddess and will not help you with what you seek unless you give a little in return.
Surprisingly, she is actually a really good goddess for kitchen witches, especially those kitchen witches who are just starting off in their first home. She is associated with the spring season, plants, and gardening; making her a good choice for kitchen witches with interests in those areas.
Persephone is a wonderful goddess for gardeners to work with. She is associated with springtime and plants, so it would be best to work with her before and during Ostara when planning your garden.
Building an Altar to Persephone
Those who have Persephone as a matron deity tend to have an altar set up for her at all times, but non-Persephonic Pagans can construct altars for her during Ostara and Mabon, which are two sabbats associated with her.
Two of the strongest symbols associated with Persephone are pomegranates and narcissus flowers. In the Underworld, Hades gave her pomegranate arils to eat, which subsequently resulted in the number of months she had to spend in the Underworld. In the lore, she was gathering narcissus flowers when Hades abducted her. So both of these have strong significance to her and her story. Try to have a pomegranate and narcissus flowers, or at least something that represents them, present on a Persephone altar at all times.
Other things that are associated with Persephone include wheat, black flowers, and bodies of water. For the body of water, one could always keep a small bowl filled with water to represent the symbol of rivers and streams that she is associated with. This would be especially ideal if the bowl with water was filled with stream or river water.
One last item that has a strong significance for Persephone is the willow tree. Legend has it that anywhere a willow tree grows is a doorway to the Underworld. Placing a piece of willow bark on the altar is another addition that could be added to honor the goddess of the Underworld.
Had you heard of Persephone before reading this article?
© 2013 Danielle Lopez