For this week’s Femme Fatale Friday, I have decided to take a look at the Greek Goddess Persephone. In particular, I will be focusing on her role as Queen of the Underworld. In this guise, she is seen as a caretaker of the dead. It is this aspect of her that is very fitting for this month!
Persephone famously began as the Goddess of the Spring, being the daughter of Demeter Goddess of the Harth and Harvest. Mother represented the yielding of crops and the daughter represented the fruitful abundance of Springtime. When Persephone is kidnapped by Hades and taken to be his bride, she begins to become a Goddess of more depth.
In many tellings, Persephone is unwillingly taken by Hades and is joyful when her mother finally finds her and gets her back. She is even more distraught to learn that eating the pomegranate seeds, being the food of the dead, made her permanently part of that world. This is where we get the iconic agreement that Hades would get her for part of the year and her mother for the rest. This particular Greek myth explains the change of the seasons, after all. Spring happened when the Goddess returned to her mother and the world of the living each year. Autumn and Winter happen as a reaction to her leaving her mother and returning to her husband in the Underworld.
Now, I would like to look at the opposing viewpoint on Persephone’s marriage. There are versions where Persephone willingly went with Hades or even planned the idea of leaving her mother. This is certainly the more romantic, and Gothic Romantic, take on the tale, which makes it my favorite! Persephone truly wanted to marry Hades, as much as she wanted to be free of her mother’s obsessive control over her life. While Persephone certainly loved her mother in every telling, this one gives her true agency in her desire to grow up and become her own woman. She chose to marry the King of the Dead to become a woman with personal sovereignty and a Queen in her own right!
When she becomes the Queen of the Dead she gains control of the spirits of the Underworld. She makes choices of who gets sent to which part of the Underworld, the same as her husband. Hades and Persephone have the marriage of most true equality within the Greek Pantheon! She has just as much authority over the rulership of her Kingdom of the Dead as her husband, the King. She becomes the nurturer and caretaker of the Dead during her time in the Underworld. This allowed her to become a mother figure (or sometimes an actual mother), showing her taking over the next phase of womanhood. This is the maiden turned to mother. In early tellings, she is often referred to as Kore (literally meaning maiden) with her mother and Persephone (meaning bringer of death) with her husband. At the end of the day, Persephone’s tale is much the same as the classical faerytale Princess transforming into a woman and Queen. Just as Sleeping Beauty and Snow White go through their transition within sleep until they are finally able to be woken into womanhood, Persephone is the eternal maiden until she is claimed as the wife of her husband and becomes Queen of the Dead!
I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts on this aspect of the Spookiest Queen of the Greek Gods. Which side of this dual Goddess do you prefer, Springtime Maiden or Queen of Death? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a gorgeous illustration I found of Persephone, it also looks like Hades is in the background. I found the image on https://bohemianweasel.com/2013/12/10/of-persephone-and-pomegranates/.
- Queen of the Sacred Way by Bibliotheca Alexandrina
- Persephone’s Pathway: Wisdom, Magick, and Growth by Jennifer Heather
- Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within by Carol S. Pearson
- Hades and Persephone: Curse of the Golden Arrow by Heidi Hastings & Erica Hastings
- Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe