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Entries in fairy-tale (32)

Tuesday
May052009

Persephone’s pomegranate

Apparently, it’s all Persephone’s fault we have winter. If only she hadn’t been tricked by Hades into eating those six or seven pomegranate seeds! As the embodiment of Earth’s fertility, she was thus forced to go to the Underworld for a few months every year. In her absence, the earth is a cold and barren place, and thus we have the origin of the seasons.

Persephone lived a peaceful life before she became the goddess of the underworld, which, according to Olympian mythographers, did not occur until Hades abducted her and brought her into it. She was innocently picking flowers with some nymphs in a field in Enna when Hades came to abduct her, bursting through a cleft in the earth. Life came to a standstill as the devastated Demeter, goddess of the Earth, searched everywhere for her lost daughter. Helios, the sun, who sees everything, eventually told Demeter what had happened.

Finally, Zeus, pressed by the cries of the hungry people and by the other deities who also heard their anguish, forced Hades to return Persephone. However, it was a rule of the Fates that whoever consumed food or drink in the Underworld was doomed to spend eternity there. Before Persephone was released to Hermes, who had been sent to retrieve her, Hades tricked her into eating pomegranate seeds, (seven, eight, or perhaps four according to the telling) which forced her to return to the underworld for a season each year. When Demeter and her daughter were united, the Earth flourished with vegetation and color, but for some months each year, when Persephone returned to the underworld, the earth once again became a barren realm.1

I can’t blame her for being tempted by the juicy deliciousness of pomegranates as they really are the food of the gods…

‘Proserpine’, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). Oil on canvas, 1874Those Greek gods! They were always misbehaving, causing trouble for us humans. I can’t blame her for being tempted by the juicy deliciousness of pomegranates as they really are the food of the gods, but didn't she know that very important, golden rule about eating in the Underworld? (Or maybe Hades was just really, really hot?)

Some of my readers may be aware I have a slight obsession with pomegranates myself. The one in this picture was in fact one of five, delivered to me by a handsome young man I know, straight from his parents’ farm in the country after he visited them during Easter. There were no bursting-through-the-earth scenes at the time so I’m pretty sure I’m safe from abduction. And I’m going to eat every single last seed.

1. Excerpt from Wikipedia.

Saturday
Feb212009

She, dark angel

She, dark angel lifts her veiled eyes
To the empyrean o’erhead, and sighs,

What sovereign light is that? in thrall
Alas her wings were of glory clipped,
She has no more the strength to soar,
And bitter, rues her untimely fall:
When from the highest perch she slipped.

~

Neither Milton nor Shelley could help me with their notions of angelic beings: they wrote of ministering angels and muses. My poor little dark angel simply finds herself in a plight; no angel of death is she.

So I wrote myself a verse from an epic in the style of these poets. I don’t know the rest of her story, how or why she fell. Perhaps all she needs is a tall mountain to climb, a springboard to launch her back into the heavens from whence she came.

I looked for quotations about angels, and found two lines that intrigued me until I discovered their context. It was interesting to learn that both poets mourn a lost friend, and Shelley was inspired during the writing of his poem by one of Milton’s – the very one I had already considered. I call that a pretty serendipity of sorts.

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