Greek Gods

An Introduction to Persephone

Persephone is known in myth (and to some extent in her worship) primarily for her relationships with other gods–as the daughter of Demeter, and as the wife and consort of Hades. She therefore can be associated with the spring, and with the turning of the seasons, as well as being one to pray to on behalf of the dead. As goddess of spring she is known by the name Kore, or “maiden.”

Myths and Stories

Persephone’s best-known myth is the story of her abduction by Hades. In Demeter’s anguish she caused the earth to become barren, and would not return its fertility until Persephone was returned; however, while in the underworld Persephone had eaten several pomegranate seedsÑand, having eaten in the underworld, she had to stay there for some months of the year. Each year, while Persephone was with her mother, the earth was fruitful; but when she went to be with her husband, Demeter’s mourning caused the infertile season of the year.

Another story of Persephone concerns her anger at Minthe, a lover of Hades, who is transformed into the fragrant plant that bears her name.

Names and Epithets

Like many of the gods, Persephone was addressed under different names or epithets at different times and under different circumstances.

Kore (Maiden). Persephone was known by this name in the context of her journey from surface to underworld.

Persephone Chthonia (Persephone of the Earth). This epithet refers both to her power over the earth’s fertility and her might as queen of the underworld.

Festivals

Persephone, along with her mother Demeter, was celebrated in a number of festivals, including the following:

The Eleusian Mysteries, easily the most important of Demeter’s festivals, was as much a festival of Persephone and drew men and women from all over Greece. The rituals were secret, and the participants kept these secrets so well that we know almost nothing about them; however, they seem to have had something to do with guaranteeing initiates a better place in the afterlife.

Thesmophoria, a women’s fertility festival of which little is known.

Symbols

Persephone is often depicted in art holding a sheaf of grain, or a lit torch (appropriate enough for the queen of the dark underworld). She is also associated, naturally, with the pomegranate. The asphodel, a plant associated with the dead, is sacred to her.

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