As the weather is getting warmer (in my geographical location anyway), I thought I’d post today about the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone.
Hades, the god of the underworld, wanted to marry Persephone, daughter of Demeter. Knowing Demeter wasn’t going to like that, he decided, with Zeus’ knowledge (is anyone surprised that Zeus was in on a plan like this?) to just abduct Persephone.
Demeter spent some time searching for her daughter, but the important part of the story happens when she, in her grief, makes the land barren and stops crops from growing. Demeter, of course, was the goddess of agriculture.
The other gods took note when their worshipers started dying and Zeus implored Demeter to let crops grow again. She didn’t, even when asked by the king of the gods. So Zeus, forced into a corner, sent to the underworld to bring Persephone back to her mother.
Only it wasn’t quite that easy. Hades still had another trick up his sleeve, and he managed to get Persephone to eat from a pomegranate; the number of seeds consumed varied depending on the source. Eating the food of the underworld meant that she had to stay. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t solve Zeus’ problem, namely the mass starvation of the mortal population. So he cut a deal. Persephone would stay in the underworld with Hades for either four or six months, again depending on the source. The rest of the year, she would spend with her mother.
When Persephone was in the underworld, Demeter kept the vegetation from growing. And thus the seasons were created. Much of western civilization has come to interpret this as meaning that Persephone was in the underworld during the winter, when crops don’t grow in northern climates. However, it should be noted that this story came from Greece, which has a Mediterranean climate. That makes it likely that Persephone was in the underworld during the summer months, as it was hot and dry during the summer. The winters, on the other hand, wouldn’t have been that bad.