Is your love life a bit bumpy? Do other people seem to be on a happier romantic level than you? Here’s a love story that will make you feel better about your situation because it’s about people who had a bad time in love. Go waltzing with Matilda down Greek Mythology Lane. Let’s visit our old friends Hades and Persephone, who had a rough trip on the rocky road of love. Your love life compared to that of Hades and Persephone won’t seem half bad after reading today’s contribution to world literature.
Once upon a time, Hades was the god of the Underworld. Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, who was the Goddess of Nature. Hades was a bachelor looking for a bride. It was hard for Hades to meet nice women because he lived in the Underworld with the dead folks. He didn’t get out much because being in charge of dead people was a full-time job.
As luck would have it, one day while Hades was up above ground, he happened to spot the beauteous Persephone. Lovestruck, Hades had to have her for his bride. He foreshadowed Andy Griffith’s ode to love: “Sure as the vine twines round the stump / You are my darling, Sugar Lump.”
Hades wasn’t much to look at, so he cyphered that he would have to trick her into marrying him. Fortunately for Hades, his brother was Zeus. Zeus, as king of the gods, was a smart dude and cooked up a plan to twine the sugar lump Persephone’s heart around Hades.
On Take Your Daughter to Work Day, Demeter brought her daughter Persephone to Earth so Demeter could check out Nature. Demeter left Persephone to play with some sea and freshwater nymphs while she oversaw the forests. Persephone was supposed to stay with the nymphs, but she saw a real pretty flower called a narcissus in a distant field. Persephone left her nymph friends to pick the narcissus. This was a mistake. Zeus had gotten Gaia, the earth goddess, to plant the narcissus to draw Persephone away from her friends.
Persephone started yanking on the narcissus. The narcissus put up a real fight but finally came loose, leaving a small hole in the ground. The hole didn’t stay small. The hole became as big as the U.S. deficit. It was gigantic. Hades popped up out of the hole and grabbed poor Persephone, dragging her down to live in the underworld with him. This is not a good start for a long-lasting marriage.
Demeter looked all over for her daughter. Milk cartons had not yet been invented, so Demeter put Persephone’s picture on Greek urns to try to find her. Eventually, Helios the Sun god told her that Hades had shanghaied Persephone into the Underworld to hang out with the dead. Hades is Demeter’s brother, which makes him Persephone’s creepy uncle.
Demeter begged Hades to let Persephone come back to the land of the living, but Hades didn’t want to let her go. Finally, Hades had a sit-down with Zeus over whether to let Persephone come back to the land of the living. They agreed to let Persephone come above ground for six months out of the year, spending the rest of the year in the Underworld.
The story gets complicated when Persephone eats four seeds of a pomegranate before leaving the Underworld. Chowing down on the pomegranate seeds means she will always have to return to the Underworld, but only for four months instead of six.
Greek mythology is not always internally consistent as there are many different versions of most stories. However, I like the pomegranate seed version so I include it here.
Persephone’s leaving and returning to the Underworld is mythology’s explanation for the change of the seasons. When Persephone returns to the land of the living for six months, she brings spring. When she leaves for the Underworld six months later, she brings winter.
This explanation for the changing of the season makes as much sense as the Ground Hog’s Day’s version of climate change, although it lacks Bill Murray for comic relief. Perhaps if Punxsutawney Phil ate four pomegranate seeds before looking for his shadow, that would allow Persephone to leave the Underworld and return to the Land of the Living earlier, thereby cutting off winter by six weeks.
If you see a ground hog in late January 2018, kindly feed him four pomegranate seeds. The spring you save may be your own.