Persephone Demeter, and Hekate: The Story of the Seasons.
Article ID: 12191
Age Group: Adult
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Posted: January 13th. 2008
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Ever hear the story of where lightning and thunder come from?
You may have been blessed enough to hear the Cherokee version of the Ani Yuntikwalaski, Thunder Beings. Or that is was “GOD” bowling up in heaven, or taking pictures of us down here to create that magnificent flash of light; Or that, Gods crying when it rains.
Simple mythologies, told by those of wisdom, to the younger more naďve, to help you to understand a lesson in life through subtle association, a skill long since forgotten. Now we have Science class were we learn facts about this that and the other, But we lose the connection and the emotion.
That’s why I am trying to bring those “Old tales” back to life.
I chose to write my initial article on something from Greek Mythology and to introduce you to one of my personal favorite myths, the myth of Persephone, Demeter, and Hekate. This story caught my attention as one of the more entertaining explanations of the changing of the seasons.
In the Olympian pantheon, Persephone is given a father: according to Hesiod's Theogony, (which I am currently reading) Persephone was the daughter produced by the union of Zeus and Demeter. "And he (Zeus) came to the bed of bountiful Demeter, who bore white-armed Persephone, stolen by Hades (not Lucifer) from her mother's side".
Unlike every other offspring of an Olympian pairing, Persephone has no stable position at Olympus. Persephone used to live far away from the other gods, a goddess within Nature before the days of planting seeds and nurturing plants, or the maiden. In the Olympian telling, the gods Hermes, Ares, Apollo and Hephaestus, had all wooed Persephone, but Demeter rejected all their gifts and hid her daughter away from the company of the gods.
Thus, Persephone lived a peaceful life before she became the goddess of the underworld, which, according to Olympian mythographers, did not occur until Hades abducted her and brought her into the underworld. She was innocently picking flowers with some nymphs, in a field in Enna when he came, bursting up through a cleft in the earth; the nymphs were changed by Demeter into the Sirens for not having interfered.
Life came to a standstill on Earth as the devastated Demeter searched everywhere for her lost daughter. (Demeter is easily confused with Gaia or Rhea, and with Cybele. The goddess's epithets reveal the span of her functions in Greek life.)
Winter then came for the first time.
Helios, the sun, who sees everything, eventually told the devastated Demeter what had happened. Finally, Zeus, pressured by the cries of the hungry people and by the other gods who also heard their anguish, could not put up with the dying Earth and forced Hades to return Persephone.
But before she was released to Hekate, who was waiting impatiently to retrieve her, Hades tricked her into eating three pomegranate seeds, which forced her to return to the underworld for one month each year for every seed that she ate.
In some versions, Ascalaphus informed the other gods that Persephone had eaten the pomegranate seeds. When Demeter and her daughter were together, the Earth flourished with vegetation and color, but for three months each year, when Persephone returned to the underworld, the earth once again became a barren realm of darkness. This is my favorite origin story to explain the coming of winter.
In the earliest version the dread goddess Persephone was herself Queen of the Underworld (Burkert, Kerenyi) .In some versions, Demeter forbids the earth to produce, she is so busy looking for Persephone that she neglects the earth, and in some the depth of her despair causes nothing to grow. The number of pomegranate seeds varies in different versions of the story, corresponding with the number of months considered as winter months.
This myth can also be interpreted as an allegory of ancient Greek marriage rituals. The Greeks felt that marriage was a sort of abduction of the bride by the groom from the bride's family, and this myth may have explained the origins of the marriage ritual. The more popular etiological explanation of the seasons may have been a later interpretation.
Hekate has been called tender-hearted, probably because she was concerned with the disappearance of Persephone, and addressed Demeter with sweet words when the latter was distressed: "Demeter, bringer of seasons, what god of heaven or what mortal man has taken away Persephone and pierced with sorrow your heart? For I heard her voice, yet saw not with my eyes who it was." [Hecate to Demeter. Homeric Hymn to Demeter 55] And when Demeter finally found her daughter, Hekate embraced Persephone, becoming, from that time on, her companion.
All three are seen with torches, but only Hekate is accompanied by her dogs. Becoming the triple faced version we see today.
Hekate ultimately achieved her connotations as a goddess of Magick and her role as the 'Queen of Ghosts', in which guise she was transmitted to post-Renaissance culture. Originally a goddess of the wilderness and childbirth, naturalized early in Thrace, but originating among the Carians of Anatolia,
Today she is often seen as a goddess of Witchcraft and Wicca. Hekate would be the Crone in this trinity. Maiden, Mother and Crone, separate in their appointments, together as a whole.
The essence of this story: A distraught mother expresses deep sorrow and emotion for the temporary loss of her child, by seizing to live and breathe and thus the world, while her child is gone. That’s the kind of story a child could benefit from hearing.
The love that was exchanged in stories… It’s still there…waiting for those who wish to keep some good ol’ traditions alive, to set it free.
Before the age of Science, there were nothing but stories; …stories to explain the thunder and lightning, or the changing of the seasons… even the afterlife. These stories were told around the campfires and to little children before they drifted off to sleep…
The stories are being forgotten… replaced by scientific explanations that children don’t care to hear.
I will try to keep them alive, to tell these stories to the next generation of Pagans.
Location: Belen, New Mexico
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