What’s Love Got to Do with It?
For Part I
In mythology, it is not unusual for brothers and sisters to mate. If the gods are all symbolic of fragments of an individual’s psyche, then interrelating of all kinds makes sense. Although Ceres tended the earth and was a goddess without a consort, she and Jupiter had been the biological parents of Persephone. Jupiter was known as the “Great Inseminator”, useful for seeding a concept or a child, but with no interest in nurturing it. He fathered hundreds of children, so he harbored no attachment to Persephone. He had sanctioned the union of Pluto with her. In his opinion, to be Queen of the Underworld was an honored position for one of his progeny.
Unaware of Jupter’s complicity, Ceres walked the earth, leaving waste in her wake. Although she looked to the heavens to appeal to Jupiter, it never occurred to her that under her feet her brother Pluto held her daughter captive.
Finally Hecate, the farsighted one, revealed to Ceres the location of her lost child. Had it been anywhere other than the Underworld, Ceres would have traveled there in a heartbeat. But as a goddess, she could not enter the realm of Death. Her heart grew cold and she despaired. Winter blew in with a ferocity never before witnessed. Finally Jupiter intervened.
This was awkward for the king god, because he did not want to infuriate his brother (or admit to any mistake on his part). Yet he could see that Ceres’ mourning would lead to the starvation of all mortals. He tried to reason with her, which only increased her sadness and fury and caused icy stillness and devastation. Jupiter could see he had to act quickly.
Mercury flew to explain to Pluto the dilemma. If Persephone did not return, all mortals would die which would create massive overcrowding in the Underworld. Jupiter offered Pluto any other maiden (or more!) that he fancied. The problem was that Pluto was not hardwired like his brother Jupiter.
Unlike the sky god, Pluto was intense, unrelenting and tenacious. He was deeply in love and it had changed him. He had no intention of releasing his wife. Nonetheless, he recognized the predicament: keeping Persephone in the Underworld would lead to the absolute termination of life.
Persephone had been Queen of the Underworld for months. She accepted her role of welcoming the dead, but she missed the sun and flowers. She developed an appreciation for the fecund smell of the deep earth, yet she continually refused to eat. As Ceres’ daughter, her mouth had only sampled the freshest fruits, the sharpest herbs and the most substantial harvest. To eat food in the cold, sunless Underworld held no appeal.
When Pluto tells her she is to return to Ceres and he will not stop her, he invites her to eat a pomegranate. This time she accepts and slips 6 seeds between her lips. This myth uses the pomegranate as a metaphor for sexual union which again, is her choice.
Some versions of the myth claim he tricked her, yet Persephone was a goddess herself, not a clueless nymph. She had stretched into her role as Queen of the Underworld. She glowed in the appreciation apparent in her husband’s eyes.
Much as she missed her mother and the fragrant earth above, she had grown to love the cool womb of the earth and her growing power.
She ate the pomegranate with her husband before they parted. She knew full well, that when one eats the food of the Underworld, they are part of it.
She then traveled with Mercury above ground where she celebrated a reunion with her mother and friends. She eventually admitted she ate the food of the Underworld, much to her mother’s horror and regret. Jupiter established an agreement where Persephone lives above ground with her mother for half the year then travels to her kingdom in the Underworld for the other half. When she is gone, Ceres mourns and the vegetation dies. When she returns, Ceres flowers into spring for all to share her happiness.
Persephone had been a perpetual child watched by a hovering mother. Then she entered the Underworld by force. Jupiter then decreed that she would return to her mother. When she ate the pomegranate of her own volition, Persephone made a choice. She would not comply exactly to her remote father’s bidding. She would no longer be a child under her mother’s wing, nor would she constantly be at her husband’s side. Pluto told her she had to go, but invited her to eat with him so that she could return.
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Ceres- Pluto conjunction: 10/19/2010