Tuesday, May 8, 2012

TFBT; The Choice of Persephone

“…a snare for the bloom-like girl - a marvelous, radiant flower….. And the girl was amazed and reached out with both hands to take the lovely toy: but the wide-pathed earth yawned there in the plain of Nysa, and the Lord Hades, with his immortal horses sprang out upon her…” Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter

While reading Looking for the Other Side by Sherry Suib Cohen, I ran across a mention of the choice of Persephone to return to Hades as the Queen of the Dead or conversely her choice to spent part of the time as she pleased. “Choice” or “free will” is not mentioned in the primary sources. The Choice of Persephone seems to be the creation of astrologers, new age philosophers and a few modern authors .

We all know about “The Rape of Persephone”. She’s the goddess of spring and her mother’s darling. Her mother is Demeter, goddess of grain and growing things. Her father is Zeus, king of the gods. Her father, without her mother’s knowledge gives her to his brother Hades, god of the underworld. The girl and her playmates are out picking flowers in a field. The ground opens; Hades emerges aboard his chariot, snatches the girl and returns to his kingdom. It takes nine or ten days before Demeter convinces the sun god Helios to reveal what happen. She eventually forces the gods to return the girl. Meanwhile, Hades has forced her or tricked her into eating a couple of pomegranate seeds which forces her to return to him. As part of a compromise Zeus declares she will spend x number of months below and x number of months above with the gods. Persephone wasn’t offered a choice. Usually divine decrees declare how it is going to be “once and for always.”

So let’s see what choice Persephone had;

Seduced by Zeus: "[Zagreus] from Zeus’ high counsels nursed by Persephone, and born the dread of all the powers divine." Persephone was seduced by her father. Her father was the strongest of the gods and King of the Universe. “No!” was not an option. She lost the boy-child Zagreus as a toddler.

Not allowed a lover or husband; It’s nowhere stated, but conceivable that Demeter had no intention of letting her daughter have a lover or a husband. Their inseparability was notorious. In addition Gaia’s role in the conspiracy suggests her great-grandmother’s desire to see her wed, even against Demeter’s will. In additional as an Olympian goddess she’d have great restrictions put on her options of lover or husband. "'You are merciless, you gods, resentful beyond all other beings; you are jealous if without disguise a goddess makes a man her bedfellow, her beloved husband ... So it was when Demeter of the braided tresses followed her heart and lay in love with Iasion in the triple-furrowed field; Zeus was aware of it soon enough and hurled the bright thunderbolt and killed him." - As a daughter in a patriarchal society, Persephone would have little say in whom she wed. Her Olympian sisters Artemis and Athena were allowed neither lovers nor husbands. Her “sister” Aphrodite was “given” to Hephaestus. Her mother was not allowed to marry. Her Aunt Hestia was a virgin. Her niece Hebe was given to Heracles. And her only other aunt, Hera was chosen by Zeus as his own bride.

Tricked or Forced to eat of the Forbidden Fruit; Pluto (Hades) gave her a pomegranate seed to eat, as assurance that she would not remain long with her mother. With no foreknowledge of the outcome of her act, she consumed it or “But he on his part secretly gave her sweet pomegranate seed to eat, taking care for himself that she might not remain continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter… but he secretly put in my mouth sweet food, a pomegranate seed, and forced me to taste against my will." Persephone claims to have no choice in the eating of the forbidden fruit and no ancient author claims she had any choice in the matter of how much time she spent in the world above and the world below.

No Choice in Friends; "The Sirens, daughters of the River Achelous and the Muse Melpomene, wandering away after the rape of Proserpina [Persephone], came to the land of Apollo, and there were made flying creatures by the will of Ceres [Demeter] because they had not brought help to her daughter. It was predicted that they would live only until someone who heard their singing would pass by "On through deep lakes he [Hades' with the abducted Persephone in his arms] drove …. And there lived Cyane, the most renowned of all the nymphs of Sicily, who gave her pool its name. Out of her waters’ midst she rose waist-high and recognized the goddess. `Stop, stop!’ she cried. She had no choice in friends. The old ones were take from her and she had no say in what happen to them. And her new “best friend” Hecate was part of the compromise. “and from that time the lady Hecate was minister and companion to Persephone."

She had no choice in whether to have children. Zagreus was dead (in a manner of speaking) and few ancient authors give Hades credit for fathering any deities.

She had a choice to scream. “Then she cried out shrilly with her voice, calling upon her father, [Zeus] the Son of Cronus.”. Persephone’s sole choice was whether to scream or not. She did. She called to her father in Heaven. The same cry alerted the Sun from whom her hope of rescue came. Maybe that’s the only choice that any of us have.

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