Proserpina: a personal view
by: R. Aurelius Orcus
Sometimes is Persephone called Kore (the maiden) but at Eleusis where the Eleusinian mysteries took place, she was called Thea, not Theia, the Titaness of the Sun. Persephone is by far always associated with the deities Hecate and Hades. Sometimes, during her abduction by Hades, with Helios and Zeus. Persephone who didn't play a active role in mythology like her partner Hades, was in fact as important as any deity. A mystery surrounds this Goddess but she is one of the best known deities among modern pagans. Some might say that Kore and Persephone are two different deities but they are the same deity. Persephone is the daughter of the Goddess Demeter and the King of the Gods, Zeus. This relationship also produced the fact that Persephone is also their cousin because Demeter and Zeus were siblings. Many people will ask why pagans worship gods who are incestuous as they are. The answer lies in how the ancients view their Gods. They believed that the Gods could do things mortals can not do. But this doesn't really explain the incestuous relationship that they had. Well, that is because that relationship only shows up in the myths, and we can not literally interpret the myths as they are given to us. It seems that the sibling -and incestuous relationship has no theological value to the ancients.
The name Persephone means something like" speaker of destruction". The most famous myth concerning Persephone is that of the Rape of Persephone. It is one of the most famous myths of all times, and all writers like Ovid, Hesiod and Homer and others wrote about it. But the rape of Persephone doesn't have the same meaning, as it has today. This so-called Rape wasn't any less than a abduction of Persephone because Demeter wouldn't probably approve of a marriage between her daughter and the Lord of the Underworld. One can hardly imagine sending your child to a dark and gloomy place where sunshine is rare. No one does that. So Hades who fell in love with Persephone kidnapped her to make her his bride, but Demeter always warned her daughter never to eat from the food of the Underworld. And when she ate several pomegranates. She had to stay there according to the many pomegranates she ate. The Rape of Persephone kind of explains how the seasons come to existence (when she lives with Demeter, crops grow, when she doesn't, they don't). The ancients explained it through their Gods. Persephone marriage with Hades makes her the Queen of the Dead.
The mint and the pomegranate are devoted to her. Her attributes in iconography include a torch, a crown, a sceptre, and stalks of grain.
The name Proserpina probably means 'to emerge from' which verifies that Persephone as Proserpina had an valuable role in the Roman religion as Goddess of Springtime or just Spring but Maia, the mother of Mercury/Hermes 'defeated' her by having a month named after her. In the Roman religion, Proserpina wasn't that popular as in Hellas as Persephone. The Romans weren't that fond of their Dii Inferi, the Gods of the Underworld. Only private worship of these deities existed but no public worship. There were called upon when they need to bring their revenge on someone through magical purpose. As Proserpina she has little of no worshipers and didn't seem to get the same attention as this Goddess does as Persephone. She is by far more associated with Pluto than with her mother Ceres. Even Wiccans doesn't seem to be called by Proserpina but more to Persephone. There are several hymns for this Goddess and several rituals and invocations/calls to the goddess. As the Goddess of Spring- and springtime she has been overshadowed by the Roman Goddess Maia who's name the month may is derived from so that she is only known as the Queen of the dead, and Goddess of the Underworld. But she has been equated with Libera, a Roman minor goddess who is the consort of Liber who is equated with Bacchus.
Liber is the Old Italian God of fertility and growth in nature. Later he became equated with Bacchus and Dionysus and became the god of viniculture. His feminine counterpart is Libera, to whom he is married.
I see Persephone (Proserpina, Thea, Kore) as an powerful Goddess who quells Hades' power like Hera does with Zeus but is quelled in her own power by her own husband, the mighty and patient Hades. She represents the rebirth and reincarnation and is a goddess that acts out this duty. Iksios says about this goddess that is worth quoting:
This is probably just personal opinion on my part, but in spite of her manifestation as a child (Kore is not a name) I do not think Persephone is a goddess who quells the power of Hades. I have always perceived her as being a magnificently powerful entity who, herself, needed to be quelled, and that it is the patient and vigilant Hades who can and does do that, allowing her role as destroyer and benefactress of rebirth to have a balance in him as watcher/guardian of the realms of death. Imagine a power, enormous in its fundamental effect on the universe, infringing on another very very powerful realm, that of Hades. That, is Persephone, she of sacred name.
Persephone, Goddess of the Harvest, Spring and the Underworld,
Mighty goddess who rules jointly with Hades and Hecate over the dead
She who gentles the mighty Hades with her touch
But remains alpowerful like Hades.
She has been called Kore, the maiden, daughter of the almighty Goddess Demeter
Who denies the earth of its gifts when she returns to Hades,
But let it flourish again when she comes back to her mother
She has been called Thea, bride of Theos
She who is best known under the name Persephone
Persephone, allow us to be blessed by you
Help those who are in need of help because you are
Chthonian Hera who protects married women and marriage
Chthonian Artemis, who protects young women and children
There are two versions of the parentage of Persephone/Proserpina. The one says that Zeus/Jupiter is the father is Demeter/Ceres is the mother. Another versions tell us that Zeus/Jupiter and Nyx/Nox are the parents of Persephone.
Persephone had two mates and one offspring. He two mates were one her uncle and husband, Hades and her own father, Zeus. As Proserpina, her mates are Pluto/ Orcus/ Dis Pater and Jupiter. Persephone/ Proserpina has one offspring named Zagreus who is connected somehow with Dionysus/Bacchus.
This is odd because with her husband, she doesn't have any offspring but with Zeus she has. Zeus mated with sisters, cousins but never a daughter before until he did with Persephone or was it just used this way of denying Hades any offspring since he was feared for the unknown that comes with death. Who will tell? Only the gods can.
Persephone in her Roman aspect helped many heroes. She helped Herakles/ Hercules, some say, that it was in her favor that Persephone presented Cerberus to the hero in chains and when the herdsman of Hades, Menoetius, wrestled with Herakles and had his own ribs broken, he was let off by Herakles at the request of Persephone.
She allowed Tiresias keeping his understanding when he died and came to the underworld, such is her power to do so.
Pirithous loved her and wanted to marry by a scheme, which didn't get by Hades who trapped him and Theseus in the chair of forgetfulness. She persuaded Hades to let Eurydice go when she was touched by the grief of Orpheus. Since that condition, which Zeus had mentioned, could not be fulfilled, Persephone remained in the underworld, married to its lord Hades. Yet Zeus did not wish to break the balance between his brother and his sister, and that is why he divided the year into two equal parts, so that Persephone spends half of the time with her mother and half with her husband. Others say, however, that he ruled that Persephone should go down to the Underworld for the third part of the year, but for the two parts should live with her mother and the other gods in Heaven, in a similar way as it was later ruled in Adonis' case.
For when Adonis was still a child, Aphrodite hid him in a chest because of his beauty, entrusting it to Persephone. But when Persephone saw him, she would not give him back; such was his beauty. Also this case was tried before Zeus, who divided the year into three parts, so that Adonis should stay by himself for one part, with Persephone for another part, and with Aphrodite for the remainder. This was done as the lord of heaven ruled, but Adonis gave to Aphrodite, whom he loved, his own share in addition but was eventually killed by an animal, which was said to be Ares, Aphrodite' s lover.
Persephone as Proserpina is being worshipped in modern times but not as much as Hecate. Their worshippers exist of Wiccans, Hellenists and Roman polytheists (For them it's Proserpina and Trivia). But the Wiccans worship Persephone as an aspect of the goddess Hecate as the aspect of the maiden. While Demeter is the crone, Hecate is the woman. But they tend to give Hecate a fourth aspect, that of the unknown when someone dies, that didn't exist in ancient times nor that, at least to my knowledge, Demeter nor Persephone were seen as aspects of Hecate. Hecate did have an aspect called Triformus but it were the Wiccans who added maiden, woman and the crone and the unknown to Hecate' s aspect.
Even though they have a lot of resources and information regarding Hecate, they don't really have much about Persephone or about the Roman aspects of Hecate and Persephone. Except for the Eleusinian mysteries where the two goddesses were important. But in the Religio Romana, the Roman State worship, they weren't that important and only called upon to bind or to curse someone. Which was a sad thing because they were as important as Mars and Jupiter were to the Romans, and Athena and Zeus to the Hellenes/ Greeks.
The Illiad and the Odyssey (11,210), by Homer wrote of Persephone.
Pausinias in his "Description of Greece/ Hellas."(9.23.3)
Plato, Meno 81b: "They say that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time comes to an end, which is called dying, and at another is born again, but never perishes. Consequently one ought to live all one's life in the utmost holiness. For from whomsoever Persephone shall accept requital for ancient wrong, the souls of these she restores in the ninth year to the upper sun again..."
Algernon, Charles Swinburne, 1837-1908, The Garden of Proserpina:
Pale, beyond porch and portal,
Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love's who fears to greet her
To men that mix and meet her
From many times and lands.
Ovid wrote about Proserpina in his Metamorphoses in line 5.414 as in his other works: Fasti(4.447, 4.452)
"...If only we are willing to give right names to things, this is no harm that has been done, but only love... But if you so greatly desire to separate them, Persephone shall return to heaven, but on one condition only: if in the lower-world no food has as yet touched her lips. For so have the Moerae decreed." Zeus to Demeter Ovid, Metamorphoses 5.524
"...That she has been stolen, I will bear, if only he will bring her back; for your daughter does not deserve to have a robber for a husband." Demeter to Zeus Ovid, Metamorphoses 5.520
Some say that Aphrodite, Athena or Artemis accompanied Persephone, when se was abducted by Hades while others say that it were Oceanids who accompanied her.