Persephone is often seen only as the maiden taken to the Under World against her will, but there is so much more to her than that. In fact, she became the fierce Queen of Hell ruling over her domain very much the equal to Hades while saving humanity by adapting the climate to give us the growing season. To put Persephone’s story into a contemporary context, we can classify her as a Goddess of Adaptation because of how she transformed herself, managed her relationships and turned the wheel of the year.
NOTE: My personal practice includes Hekate and Her Four Sovereign Goddesses: Artemis, Medea, Persephone and Kirke. I employ their archetypes of wild, wounded, warrior, witch and wise one. Read more here.
Putting Persephone into Historical Context
While we can relate to her struggle against the powers-that-be, I fear that the popular version of Persephone is one that is acceptable since it conforms to the long standing gender roles that have followed her since her tale was first told over 2,000 years ago. I know a bit about how the gatekeepers of information influence popular belief about a Goddess, since Hekate has been restricted like Persephone at the hands of the patriarchal writers down through time. In recent decades, our understanding of Hekate has greatly expanded beyond the limited roles of Queen of the Witches and Goddess of the Under World. It’s time for our thinking about Persephone to undergo a similar shift. While Hekate has emerged as a complex goddess with many roles, Persephone’s roles in the ancient texts are a bit more limited, but no less diverse.
Persephone had to adapt to life on earth and in the Under World continually. To me, it’s her transformation from the timid, but beautiful maiden to a tenacious queen that’s fascinating. Persephone’s rise to the Queen of Hell was inevitable as Hades’ wife, so it’s not so much that she had the title, but that she rose to the title. She reigned over the Under World with a ferocity that earned her the ancient epithet of Brimo, but was also tender when Orpheus needed to rescue Eurydice from the Under World. She shows us that we can make the most of wherever we find ourselves and remain kind. At least to those we can relate to. Appeal to her when you are seeking transformation. Persephone is a true warrior, whose victories were not found in the valor of the battlefield but in the depths of her soul. Sound familiar?
Persephone had complex relationships with both Demeter, her mother, and her husband. Here is more evidence supporting Persephone as a Goddess of Adaptation. She had to make her mother happy while also dealing with that husband of hers. In her relationship with Hades, she transforms from the despondent girl crying in the cave about her betrothal to the jealous wife. While enraged over his infidelity she turned the object of his affection, Minthe, into a plant.
Persephone and Hekate had a special relationship in the story of her abduction and subsequent return to earth. Hekate played mediator helping Persephone make her way to and from the Under World. They were also companions, indicating a dual relationship that we can imagine also required some adaptation by Persephone. They reigned as Goddesses of the Under World simultaneously. In addition, they share many epithets including that of Triformis (Three-Formed) and Dadoukhos (Torch-Bearer). However, there is little record of tales beyond Hekate as her guide. The notable exception are the texts from the Eleusinian’s indicating that Demeter, Hekate and Persephone were worshiped together by some cults. In these mysteries, Persephone saved humanity by bringing on the arrival of spring with her return from the Under World.
Adapting the ClimateHer other major role in antiquity was that of a Goddess of Agriculture. Her return from the Under World each spring rendered the land fertile. The importance of honoring Persephone so there would be a bountiful harvest was paramount for those growing crops. In this role, Persephone shows us her power of adaptation by changing the very seasons themselves. To be more accurate, it was her mother, Demeter who was in control of the seasons. However, the world would have remained in winter were it not for Persephone’s annual return.
Persephone Reminds Us that We Can Adapt and Conquer
I’ve written about Persephone before, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I have an enduring fondness for her. Her transformation from the Kore (Maiden) to the Queen of the Under World has inspired me through my own difficult times. Serving as a reminder that I can adapt and conquer.
Persephone: Goddess of Adaptation
I believe the time has come to see Persephone for all that she is. Above everything else, Persephone made the most of a bad situation. She is, without a doubt, a Goddess of Adaptation. Below is a prayer that can be said to Persephone. It’s suitable for use to help us adapt to our own hellish circumstances or with personal transformation.
This article is part of my series on Hekate’s & Her Four Sovereign Goddesses. Read more about all five of them here.
Articles about them as individuals: