Tis thine in earth’s profundities to dwell, fast by the wide and dismal gates of hell
The Goddess of Spring
The ancient myths tell that Persephone was abducted by Hades and forced to live with him in the Underworld as his Queen. This version of the story is so infamous that it is commonly told as the ‘Rape of Persephone’.
According to legend, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the Earth and Harvest, was abducted by Hades upon glimpsing her beauty. Demeter is so distraught by her daughter’s kidnapping that the very Earth itself grieves with her, turning barren. The starvation of their peoples, along with Demeter’s pleading, forced Zeus to action. The king of Olympus attempted to rescue Persephone from her forced-upon husband. However, Hades was clever, and he tricked the Goddess into eating seeds from a Pomegranate. When one consumed food of the Underworld, they would be trapped there for eternity, and so he thought to ensnare her. However, Persephone only ate four seeds, and thus was required to only spend four months out of the year in her husband’s domain. These months correspond to winter on the mortal realm. When Persephone returns to her mother’s household, the land turns to spring and eventually summer, and while her annual departure to the Underworld draws closer, the land gradually grows barren and cold again.
In actuality, Hades and Persephone were passionately in love. Hades was drawn to her from the moment he laid eyes on her, as if their threads of fate were intertwined. Persephone was drawn to his darkly handsome features, his kingly bearing, and his impressive power. Zeus had Hera and Poseidon had Amphitrite, but Persephone also observed an empty place at the side of the ruler of the underworld.
However, relations between the Underworld and Olympus were strained to say the least, and the two knew that Zeus and Demeter would never permit for her to leave. Their love was further complicated by Demeter and Persephone’s role in Zeus’ court. The mother and daughter were uncommonly strong with powers of Earth for women, and the two of them operated a special device which encouraged the growth of the crops in Zeus’ realm. Persephone herself was a Singer, whose powers lulled the flowering plants, including the flowering crops, to life.
Without Persephone, Demeter would not be able to use the device to its fullest ability, and the people of Olympus would go hungry. Despite the many factors dooming their relationship, neither of the lovers were willing to abandon the other.
Although Hades was a wise god, Persephone was more crafty and underhanded. She convinced him that if they were to abscond to the Underworld in the dead of night and bind themselves together eternally using their godly abilities, that they would be in a strong enough position to resist Zeus’ wrath. Although the God-King’s power was great, Hades’ icy fortress at the base of the world was neigh impenetrable, and in his dominion lay the Baetylus, stones of power that were mined from the Underworld and powered the Gods’ greatest technologies. And so the lovers carried out their plan, and for a while they were blissfully happy together.
The brink of war
Unfortunately, the two underestimated the insult that they dealt to Hades’ brother and the rage the God would unleash upon them. Zeus claimed that Hades had stolen Persephone from him, and spread the rumor that birthed the story of the Rape of Persephone.
The King of Olympus prepared his forces for war. Hades, however, was clever and knew his brother’s weakness. While Zeus would surely love to kill him for the insult he dealt the God-King, his life was inexorably tied to Persephone’s now. Without her encouraging the growth of his dominion’s crops, Zeus’ people would suffer, and his dominance over the world would be impaired. And so Hades struck a deal with his brother. The peace between their realms – cold peace though it was – would be preserved, and in return Hades would send his Queen to Olympus during the warm months of the year to work with her mother to ensure Zeus’ lands flourished. However, during the winter months when she was not needed, Persephone would reside with her husband in their domain at the base of the world.
Queen of the Underworld
And so, Persephone, a formerly minor goddess known primarily as the daughter of Demeter and having the charge of an agricultural nymph, became Queen of the Underworld. Within the realm of her husband she had her own court, attendants, and absolute dominion, particularly over Elysium, the portion of the underworld reserved for those who were great heroes or particularly beloved by the gods in life. It was seen as an eternal paradise, where warriors, heroes and kings relive their living days by engaging in recreational combat, and Persephone’s devotion curated it into a hidden paradise. Furthermore, she had considerable authority in the Underworld, making vital decisions regarding mortals in particular.
During the portion of the year she stayed in the Underworld, her husband was faithful and devoted, but during the spring and summer months when she journeyed to Olympus, Hades‘ affection reverted to his former consort, Menthe, whom never arose to the place of queen, as he never married her, but retained a portion of his heart (and bed) none the less. Persephone endured this insult for many years, but eventually, she (although some say Demeter) had Menthe killed.
Demeter – the goddess of corn and the harvest, was Persephone’s mother and a member of the court of Olympus.
Dionysus – the god of wine and pleasure was the son of Semele, legends about whom are connected to Persephone and the rumor of another child named Zagreus who was said to have died young. Hera, whom spent many years chasing Dionysus to have him killed, was tricked by Persephone into thinking Zagreus was Dionysus. When Hera thought she had killed the child she sought, this allowed Dionysus time to escape. Persephone also helped Dionysus retrieve Semele from the Underworld, as Hades sternly and rarely allowed anyone in his kingdom to leave it once they entered.
Melinoe – her daughter conceived by darkness when Zeus disguised himself as Hades and entered her bed. He impregnated her as revenge for their sleight to his rule when they absconded to the Underworld. She is not particularly close to her daughter.
Zeus – the king of the gods who sought to abduct her and return her to Olympus prior to the striking of the deal between the Underworld and Olympus. He never forgave her the insult, however, and one night Zeus used his magical abilities to change his appearance to mimic that of Hades, her husband, and came to Persephone in her bed. He impregnated her when he lay with her, and Persephone eventually gave birth to her only child: Melinoe. Hades intended to kill the child, but upon seeing the infant and how alike she was to her mother, his heart was softened and adopted the child as his own.
Menthe – the Underworld minor goddess who was Hades consort when Persephone returned to Olympus every year. Persephone had her killed.
The King and Queen of the Underworld
Currently reincarnated as Evelyn Avalon