As we approach that season where spring and summer collide, life always seems rich with possibilities. School will be letting out soon and children will be free to roam and allow the warm summer haze to surround them and their dreams. Flowers are blooming and the world presents its prettiest face as Persephone rises from the Underworld. It is a time of rebirth and of new beginnings. For me, it is a time of magic and for some reason, I always feel anything is achievable.
Beltane is a celtic summer ritual where the people give thanks to the gods and offer up gifts to ensure a bountiful harvest. This was seen as one of the four special holidays and it is all bound in equality. They trusted the fate of their futures and made promises to god’s based on the acts of both male and female. They saw that they are equal and in fact one would suffer without the other.
According to the White Goddess:
“This is a holiday of Union–both between the Goddess and the God and between man and woman… This is a time to celebrate the coming together of the masculine and feminine creative energies” (1).
I am hard pressed today to come up with a celebration where we offer any sort of celebration to the male and female powers or energies. I can think of a whole lot that concern a man… and yet for a season that surrounds birth and new beginnings you would think that women would be revered as the bringers of life.
Persephone is one such bringer of joy, according to the Greeks. Persephone is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter (the Goddess of Agriculture and Fertility) and she is entitled the goddess of Spring’s Bounty. However, she definitely had to go through some crazy stuff to earn that beautiful title. Legend has it that Hades fell in love with her and stole her into the Underworld and made her his wife.
Her mother, Demeter, was so distraught that she searched the ends of the earth until she discovered her daughter’s whereabouts.
“When she learned that Zeus had conspired [and advised] in [their] daughter’s abduction she was furious, and refused to let the earth fruit until Persephone was returned” (2)
However, because Persephone had tasted Hades food, she must remain below for part of the year with her husband. Zeus consented that for half the year, Hades must send Persephone above to be with her mother.
This is a whole hock of male chauvinistic behavior and attitude. Not only does her own father sell her out, but she has to still remain married to the schuck just for eating some of his pomegranate seeds! She was supposed to starve? Come on Zeus, how would that have helped anyone?
However, the lore behind the two women is beautiful. Demeter, the Goddess of Agriculture, had the tubes to stand up to the King of the Gods out of love for her daughter. She threatened him with the death of the planet and had the power to back up that threat! I love Greek culture with all its poetry, but additionally, they allow their women to be strong and have a daring and cunning backbone! Demeter still wasn’t appeasde by Zeus’ offer and followed through with her threat. When her daughter is away for half the year, the world is engulfed in autumn and winter and no plants thrive. But as soon as Persephone starts her assent from the Underworld, the earth comes alive in it’s joy of her return. In Greek culture, women are responsible for the joy and beauty that spring brings. We are what’s right in the world.
It’s beautiful stories like these, cultures from long ago, that help lift me up. That once we were revered and were what legends were made on. We still are today, only we are the writers and keepers of our legends.
- “Beltane.” The White Goddess. 21 August 2012. Web. 21 April, 2016. <http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/the_wheel_of_the_year/beltane.asp>.
- “Persephone.” Theoi Projects. 2005. Web. 21 April 2016. <http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Persephone.html>.
IMAGE SOURCES: MRawson