This year on my March 17 birthday (the day of the Celtic green!) I looked out over the expanse of drab lawn uncovered by the recently melted snow and saw that the robins had returned. Spring enfolds very slowly here in central Ontario. The robins touched with red busily foraging and the tiny buds barely visible on the highest branches are the first hopeful signs of renewal and rebirth. Year after year, ravaged by the cold in myriad ways (I don't like winter) it's no wonder that I resonate with Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, and her monumental struggles. In the discovery of Her story and the deep meaning inherent, I found a myth that speaks to my own experiences with hibernation and illness, and my emergence into the light of recovery and transformation.
In Greek mythology, the maiden Persephone, daughter of the harvest Goddess Demeter, is abducted and raped by Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. Facing abuse, adversity, and the bleakness of her new home, she still manages to find her true self and embody the dark and mysterious persona of Hades' new wife and Queen of the Underworld. In the meantime, Demeter searches desperately for her daughter. She neglects to nurture the land in the process, and the earth becomes a wasteland barren of crops or vegetation. Eventually Persephone is rescued by her mother, but because she was tempted by Hades to eat pomegranate seeds, she must return to the Underworld every half-year. Persephone now divides her time between the upper and lower worlds, with an awareness and existence in both the dimensions of the living and the dead. She cannot return to her original innocence, as she has eaten the seeds of death and knowledge and has evolved from Maiden to Queen.
The ancient Greek Demeter-Persephone myth was central to the Eleusinian Mysteries, and represents the dark and the light, two aspects of a single force, two faces and two phases of the same fertility Goddess. The latent power of the Maiden under the surface of the earth causes seeds to germinate, and the quickening power of the Mother above the surface of the earth causes new life to burst forth and blossom. The two fold into each other in the endless cosmic cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.
As Daughters of the Goddess, we can keep the themes of Persephone's story close to our hearts. She is the "green fuse" in our soul, and represents the regenerative energy and potential for growth and transformation. Looking deep into the language of the myth we can develop the skills to transform ourselves as we adapt to all of our experiences, both light and dark, and move toward wholeness and awareness. Persephone teaches us that at our core we are of the highest ultimate value, and have an intrinsic self-worth. No longer afraid of the shadows in the Underworld, we have embraced the holy darkness, and claiming all parts of our soul, emerge into the light with joy and love both for ourselves and others. It is time to bloom, to ripen, to embrace our full power and celebrate our extraordinary triumph after a long and painful struggle.
For me, Persephone ultimately evokes springtime, sunshine and liberation! She symbolizes the recurring patterns and gravitations within my own self. In Her name I acknowledge the healing of the feminine and honour our transitions, the cosmic dance of all life, and the sacred cycles of the seasons. As surely as spring follows winter, and as the richness of the darkness moves creatively into the light, if we can surrender to our transformation nothing is ever lost.
unfurling first - the buds of willow
the grass - a thick carpet of green
the birds - can't stop their joyful singing
Persephone has returned!