The myth of Demetra, Persephone and Hades

myth of demeter and persephone, hades and persephone, the origin of the seasons in Greek mythology

The myth of Demetra (Demeter) and Persephone is one of the most interesting in Greek mythology, showing the strong bond between mothers and daughters. It's also an effort to explain, through mythology, the origin of the seasons. At its core, this is a rather dark mythological story involving an abduction and most likely a rape.

Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, goddess of the earth. Hades, the brother of Zeus and god of the underworld, abducts the young goddess one day as she is gathering flowers by a stream. Demeter goes in search of her daughter, but is unable to find her. Demeter’s grief causes the earth to die—crops fail, and famine comes upon the land. Zeus intervenes and commands Hades to return Persephone. Reluctant to release her, Hades forces Persephone to eat a pomegranate seed, food of the dead. As a result, she can spend only six months out of the year with her mother; the other six months she is destined to spend in the realm of Hades.

To the Greeks, the return of Persephone from the underworld symbolized the return of life in the spring. Each spring, as the earth returned to life, some Greeks observed a sacred ritual in which the story of Demeter and Persephone was enacted.