Tis thine in earth’s profundities to dwell, fast by the wide and dismal gates of hell
In the ancient myths Persephone was abducted by Hades and forced to live with him in his palace in the Underworld as his Queen. This version of the story is so infamous that it is commonly known as the ‘Rape of Persephone’. According to legend, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, Goddess of the Earth. 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, forces the Gods of Olympus to act. They intervene, rescuing Persephone from her husband. However, Hades is clever, and he tricks the Goddess into eating seeds from a Pomegranate. When one consumes food of the Underworld, they will be trapped there for eternity. However, Persephone only eats four seeds, and thus spends only four months out of the year in her husband’s domain. These months correspond to winter on the mortal realm. When Persephone is returned to her mother’s household, the land turns to spring and eventually summer, and while her descent draws closer, the land gradually grows barren and cold.
Tell me you need me. Please. You are the bones of my spine. You are the ground beneath my feet. You are made of deeper stuff than the earth can give. Admit it: you are lost without the waiting. Can you even imagine yourself in paradise? Even the daughter of the gods must know loneliness, must sometimes want nothing more than to be trapped in a hell of forevers. Thank you, you queen. I've given you forever.
However, the ancient myths do not tell the whole story. 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 stately bearing, and his impressive power. However, relations between Hades’ and Zeus’ kingdoms were strained, 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. 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 just 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 with each other.
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.