Guest Author - Phyllis Doyle Burns
A mother's love is stronger than the wrath of all mythological gods. When Persephone, goddess of Spring, was kidnapped, her mother, Demeter, goddess of the Harvest, faced two of the most powerful gods in Greek mythology. Demeter's vengeance became too strong for Zeus, Father of gods and men, the god of sky, the god of thunder and lightening -- and his co-conspirator Hades, lord of the underworld and king of the dead.
High on Mount Olympus, Demeter, goddess of the Earth, Agriculture, Harvest, and Forests, reined over all that grew from Earth. Without her blessings and care, no plants, nothing with roots, flourished or even grew -- all would die and cause the mortals to eventually die. Without the mortals, the gods would have no one to worship them or bring offerings to them. In the eyes of the gods, Demeter was all important and necessary for life on Earth to continue.
Yet there were two gods, Zeus, Demeter's husband, and his nephew Hades, who had the audacity to overlook the importance and powers of Demeter.
Although Persephone had no great stability at Olympus, nor did she have a position of power, she was lovely and her beauty enticed other gods to court her and win her love. Demeter would have none of that. She rejected the gifts of these gods and the gods themselves.
To keep Persephone from the gods that pursued her and a life of temptation, Demeter chose to spirit her daughter away where she would be safe. Far from the influence of powerful gods, Persephone lived a peaceful life with only nymphs for companions. However, there existed one god who found the way to Persephone. Hades, Lord of the Underworld and King of the Dead, so desired Persephone that he went to Zeus. Between the two of them, a plan to take Persephone from her mother became a reality. Zeus gave Hades leave to abduct the young beauty for his wife, to reign with him over the underworld.
Persephone's greatest joy was to wander in the meadows in search of lovely flowers. With the company of the nymphs, laughing and dancing, Persephone spent her days of bliss. It was this joy that led her to her downfall. For Hades had contrived to have the most beautiful flower ever there to entice the lovely Persephone.
Upon seeing the profoundly beautiful plant with a hundred blooms, Persephone forgot all else. She reached out with both hands to take hold of the lovely plant and pull it from Earth. When she pulled and the soil lifted, a great yawning gap opened up. From this gap the powerful immortal horses of the King of the Underworld came rushing towards her, pulling the chariot from the Underworld, with Hades driving them. He snatched Persephone up into his chariot and took her back to his kingdom where no Heaven could be seen with stars glowing brightly, no waters of the sea, no shining rays to fall upon her lovely face from the sun, and where she would not see her mother or people she so loved.
When Demeter found out her daughter had gone missing, she roamed the Earth in search of her. Bitter pain seized her heart, and she rent the covering upon her divine hair with her dear hands: her dark cloak she cast down from both her shoulders and sped, like a wild-bird, over the firm land and yielding sea, seeking her child. - from the Homeric Hymn Rape of Persephone.
When Demeter found out what had happened to Persephone, her anger had no limits. She forbade all on Earth to grow and devastation touched the lands. With no foods, the mortals were starving and dying. Demeter was unforgiving and Earth became barren. Finally, Zeus could not put up with the dying Earth and forced Hades to return Persephone by sending Hermes to retrieve her. Hades agreed, but said he could send her up only if she had not eaten any food in the underworld. Before Persephone was released, she had eaten a number of pomegranate seeds. This was yet another way Hades could keep Persephone, if for only part of the year. Because she had eaten of the food of the dead, Persephone must return to Hades and the underworld for four months every year. The rest of the year she was allowed to spend on Earth with her mother. This is when all Earth flourishes -- flowers and all manner of plant life bloom and grow. Demeter did not get her daughter back full time, but she enjoyed most of each year with Persephone.
Not only was Demeter the goddess of the harvest, she also controlled the seasons, and because of that she was capable of destroying all life on earth. Zeus and Hades not just underestimated the powers and potential of Demeter as a goddess, but also the love a mother carries in her heart for her child. Demeter's love for Persephone was strong -- the powers of two mighty gods was no match for the mother's love.
It seems as if Zeus and Hades messed with the wrong woman!
Demeter, Goddess of the Earth, Agriculture, Harvest, and Forests
Artist: Copy after the school of Phidias
Public Domain, Wikipedia