At the beginning of the world, there were no winters. So all year round was perfect for farming and harvesting. The rain fell, the sun shone, flowers blossomed, the crop grew, and fruits dropped ripe and luscious from the trees.
Tending them all was Demeter, goddess of the harvest. At her side, as beautiful as a wildflower, was her daughter, Persephone. She was beloved by all and adored by her mother.
Persephone was so beautiful that she caught the eye of another god, Hades. The beautiful Persephone enchanted Hades, the god of the underworld. He used to look at Persephone working on the Earth and was mesmerized by her.
Hades went to Zeus, king of the gods, to seek permission to marry Persephone, and to his delight, Zeus agreed to his plan. As long as he could snatch her away, Persephone would be his.
Hades watched and waited until Persephone was out alone one day in a field of golden corn. As she walked among their shining stems, she felt the ground tremble beneath her feet. Then, with a great crack, the Earth opened before her, revealing a dark chasm.
And out of it, on a horse-drawn chariot of black and gold, swept Hades. He plucked Persephone from the field as quickly as if she were a flower herself and then swept her down, down, down into the underworld. The chasm closed over their heads, and all was quiet again.
When Demeter discovered her daughter was missing, she was inconsolable. She began to search the world for her, neglecting the Earth she so loved. Flowers died, crops withered, fruit failed to ripen, and the soil turned to chalky dust. People and animals starved, but Demeter didn’t notice.
At last, Helios, the sun god, took pity on her. “Demeter,” he said, “I saw that Hades had taken your daughter to the underworld.”
“So she’s in the Land of the Dead!” wailed Demeter.
“How can Zeus let this happen?”
“Zeus knew this all along..” confessed Helios
In a fury, Demeter stormed Zeus’ palace on Olympus. “How could you let my daughter be taken away from me by Hades?’ she raged.
Zeus looked down at the withered Earth, the starving people, and dying plants and admitted something had to be done. So he called for Hermes, the winged messenger, and sent him down to the underworld. “bring back Persephone,” he commanded, “or all is lost.”
Down in the underworld, Persephone missed the sunlight, warmth, and flowers of the world above, but most of all, she missed her dear mother.
Hades, however, treated her well with kindness and gentleness. She was intrigued by the dark caverns of this new realm, its glittering gemstones and how hades handle souls of the dead. Could she, after all, become the Queen of the underworld?
Hades sat beside her, day after day, urging her to be happy and tempting her to eat the delicious food. Finally, the red seeds of pomegranate caught her eye. They were like glinting jewels. She looked down at the juicy red seeds. Then she popped one, two, three, four, five — six into her mouth. Hades watched her eat each one with glowing satisfaction.
Just as Persephone popped her sixth pomegranate seed on her mouth, Hermes came rushing like a wind.
“Ah, a visitor,” said Hades. “I have been expecting you.”
“I come from Zeus,” replied Hermes. “Hades, you must let Persephone return to the Earth. The king of the gods demands it.”
“Of course, I obey Zeus in all things,” said Hades. “But in this, I can’t!” He held up his hands in mock sorrow. “There is a law, is there not, that it is only possible to leave the underworld if no food has passed your lips?”
“That is so,” said Hermes.
Persephone gasped. “Yes, my love,” said Hades. “You have just eaten six seeds of pomegranate…”
Hermes paused, There was a deal to be done here, and he loved nothing more than an agreement. If he returned without Persephone, the Earth would die, and Zeus would never forgive him. But nor could he break the law the Fates has made at the dawn of time.
Hermes requested Hades to consider because the Earth would suffer if he didn’t. “six seeds shall equal to six months,” said Hermes. “For six months of the year, Persephone shall live down here in the underworld with Hades as a queen. For the other six, she may return to the Earth and tend to the flowers, fruit, and the soul with her mother.”
Persephone smiled. “It is a fair plan,” she said. Hades looked at smiling Persephone and agreed to let her go to the Earth for six months if that made her happy.
And so, for six months of the year, when Persephone reigned in darkness, Demeter wept. The leaves fell from the trees, The cold wind whipped the land, and her tears fell as rain and snow. Then in the spring, when Persephone returned, the Earth burst unto life with Demeter’s joy. New shoots appeared, flowers blossomed and crops ripened under a golden sun. So it went, year after year, cycle after cycle. And this is how the season came to be.
The story of Persephone, the loved daughter of goddess Demeter who was kidnapped by Hades, the king of the underworld, and later became the Queen of the Underworld, is renowned in greek mythology. It is the way of the ancient Greeks to explain the change of the seasons, the eternal cycle of Nature’s death and rebirth.