It’s spring. At least the vernal equinox announcing the change of seasons arrived on March 20. Despite the frost and snow that hit us in New York and New Jersey a few days ago, I have faith spring is about to pop in full blast. Hopefully, it will hang long enough before we are slam-dunked into a 100- degree heat wave. (The ironic joke of this obstreperous winter.)
Meanwhile, according to Greek mythology, the only reason we have spring is due to devoted mother love. One day, the goddess Persephone, daughter of Demeter, goddess of corn, grain and the harvest, was playing with her Nymph pals in a field. Hades, the god that ruled the underworld, abducted her.
Bernini’s sculpture “The Rape of Persephone,” in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, depicts the massive strength of Hades, known as Pluto in Roman mythology, as he digs his hands into the goddess’s flesh. (Even in the hard marble, you can see the tenderness of her skin.):
After Persephone is carried off, her mother searches all the world for her, but to no avail, and in so doing, neglects her duties:
‘Ungrateful soil, said she, ‘which I have endowed with fertility and clothed with herbage and nourishing grain, no more shall you enjoy my favours.’ Then the cattle died, the plough broke in the furrow, the seed failed to come up, there was too much sun, there was too much rain, the birds stole the seeds-thistles and brambles were the only growth.
~ The Age of Fable in Bulfinch’s Mythology.
Demeter finally learns that Persephone is alive but stuck down below. She begs Zeus, the most powerful god on Mount Olympus, to allow Persephone to return to the earth. He agrees on one condition. Her daughter must not consume a single morsel of food. But Hades is a trickster, and through wily self-preservation presents his wife with a delectable piece of fruit – the pomegranate. She eats a few of the seeds, and as a result, can never be completely free.
Instead she is allowed to return for six months of the year, and as her daughter comes back, Demeter does her job. Flowers bloom and vegetables grow, and we revel in the beauty of spring.
So let’s tell Perspehone to stop playing hide and seek. We are so ready for her!