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topaz-and-turquoise asked: Yes, I'm officially creeping on you. I just remembered this thing I reblogged a few months ago, and I wanted to see what you thought:. Go to my blog, and after the dot-com part, put in /post/61080490743/i-dont-ship-hades-persephone
I wouldn’t consider this creeping!
Unless you’re outside my home/work right now with binoculars >.> <.< 0.0
Sorry it took a bit to respond— I wanted to make sure I had the right translation in front of me. All love to the publicly available version by Hugh Evelyn-White, but the most straight-forward language translated directly from ancient Greek to modern English is found in The Homeric Hymns, Second Edition by Apostolos Athanassakis (2004), and that requires being at home where the edition sits on my mythology and classics shelf. You can get the book online, much less expensive if it’s used, and I highly recommend it.
Before I go on, I’m going to start out by saying that I don’t have a degree in the classics, but in literature and literary criticism. That being said, my interpretation is going to be different that other people’s and everything written here is only opinion based on several years of study.
Fallacies of Modern Interpretation
I remember reading “I Don’t Ship Hades and Persephone” a few months back when I was reading asphodelon’s blog. Here are my thoughts on the original post and followup comments…
The fact that the original author got her impression of Persephone from the pop psychology book Goddess in Every Woman by Jean Shinoda Bolen is… telling. She uses a lot of very broad archetypes for the goddesses she mentioned in the book, and I feel that her interpretation is jaundiced by a thin understanding of the myths, and a 3,000 year pile-up of later-antiquity, Renaissance, and modern depictions of the gods.
TW: Rape and its Historical Entemology
It’s about to get triggery up in here, because I’m going to talk a bit about abduction and rape. So, fair warning…
The language and the original text should always be the first stop in interpreting myth, and the historical context should follow close behind.
Let’s take the word ‘rape’. I’ll use my preferred translation by Athanassakis. The actual lines from where Hades pulls Kore into his chariot are as follows:
“…Earth with its wide roads gaped
and then over the Nysian field the lord and All-receiver,
the many-named son of Kronos, sprang upon her with his immortal horses
Against her will he seized her and on his golden chariot carried her away as she wailed; and she raised a shrill cry…”
Our definition of rape today is “any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person”. And the language used in the poem, though she was abducted against her will, and though he carried her away does not mean ‘rape’ in the modern sense. Rape was added later during the Italian Renaissance when “rape” depictions were given as wedding gifts to wealthy Venetian newlyweds. This is where we get Bernini’s masterful sculpture, The Rape of Proserpine. The entomology of the word ‘rape’ has changed since the Renaissance. It came from the word ‘rapt’ which means ‘to carry off’, not ‘to force intercourse’.
To a modern audience, though this is rape. The subtlety in the text is furthered when we see the Goddess of Spring and Queen of the Underworld’s name in the poem change from “slender-ankled kore" (maiden) in line 15 to "noble Persephone" near the end of the Hymn in line 336 (Athanassakis, 2004).
But the stretch of time between Kore’s transformation into Persephone is anywhere from a couple months to a year in the hymn— nine days between Demeter’s search and finding out from Hecate and Helios that Aidoneus had carried away her daughter, and the few months to a year she spends in Eleusis at her newly-built temple the Telesterion refusing to speak with the Olympians.
Within this stretch of time, intercourse between Hades and Persephone took place. Whether or not it was forcible rape is impossible to determine. We have no record of the story except through the perspective of Demeter as she searches for her lost daughter.
Context: Marriage in Ancient Greece
Something we’re not taking into account is that we are viewing the story of Hades and Persephone from a great cultural and temporal distance. 2,700 years stand between us and when the Homeric Hymn to Demeter was written down. Many things have changed in that amount of time, most specifically marriage traditions.
The reality was that up until very recently, women were property. In many areas of the world, women still are property, transferred from father to husband. This is why even today Western marriages feature the father walking the bride down the aisle and physically placing her hand on the arm of her husband.
Ancient Athenian wedding preparations began under cover of night with the bride being taken to the groom’s house in a chariot. The groom would give the bride gifts, and the families would feast together, the men easting the first and women joining later. During the ceremony, the bride would eat an apple or pomegranate, or other fruit to signify that her needs were coming from her husband now, not her father. The groom would then forcibly grab the bride by her wrist and take her into his house to consummate the marriage.
Sparta’s rituals were much simpler. The groom would challenge the father or brothers of his intended bride to a fight and simply carry her off over his shoulder once it was over. Usually, these were arranged and the fighting symbolic to show that the new groom would be capable enough to defend his woman.
The civilization that predated classical Greece was the matriarchal Minoan civilization. Persephone and Demeter are archaeological descendants of goddesses that were worshipped in that culture before the Doric ascendancy. But by the time of the Homeric Hymns, that civilization was long gone.
I have no illusions about what sex was in marriage in ancient times. It was done without the clear consent of the bride and that by modern definition is rape. Women were chattel. It is a sad fact in all myths about the gods. Zeus deceived and raped Hera to make her his wife. Cupid had sex with Psyche without her even knowing who was on top of her. Most women in mythology were maidens pursued unwillingly. It was written into every facet of the culture. Hades gets the bad rap in modern society even though he was the only Greek god who remained faithful to his wife because he became a Satan analogue after the rise of Christian monotheism and trinitarianism.
So bear in mind: almost ALL sex within marriage in the heavily patriarchal ancient world, across nearly every culture, was done with at least dubious consent. This was the case until ONLY a couple hundred years ago. The modern practice of having a “best man” goes straight back to ancient Athens when the groomsman would stand guard outside the door of the bridal chamber, not to keep people out, but to make sure the bride didn’t escape her new husband’s sexual appetites.
With all this context in mind, the “abduction” of Persephone to the Underworld by Aidoneus would seem almost common place to the ancient audience.
Hades and Persephone as a Parable for the Ancient Audience…
Zeus had earlier promised Hades his choice of wife since he was given the Underworld as his lot. Hades desires Persephone as his bride and arranges the marriage with Persephone’s father. He presents a gift to her (the narcissus flower in the field of Nysa) and after Persephone accepts it by pulling it from the earth, he takes her into his chariot to bring her with him to her new home. He gives her further honors once she gets to the Underworld to show his commitment and love for her Persephone eats the fruit of the Underworld, signifying that she is bound to Hades as his wife.
But if this is so commonplace, why did Demeter grow so angered and starve all of Hellas to get her daughter back?
The original myth was a warning parable and morality tale of sorts, meant for its ancient audience… a morality parable that doesn’t resonate today because women are no longer the property of their father or husband. The moral of the story is this: you should respect and consult with your wife and speak with your daughter before marrying her off, otherwise life at home will be a living hell, not just for the father, but also the new husband.
Demeter makes Zeus’ life very difficult because he did not consult her in his choice of husband for Persephone. She sends a blight on all of Zeus’ worshippers until he fixes what he did without her consent
Likewise, Persephone unwittingly accepted the marriage proposal of Hades without knowing that she had been given to him, and resisted being taken away to be his wife. She changes his outlook on life so much in the Underworld that he gives her the gift of equality in rule and a portion of his timai (honor) by the time the hymn ends. To go from patriarchal arrangement and carrying her away to saying:
"Persephone go to your dark-robed mother,
with a gentle spirit in your breast,
and in no way be more dispirited than the other gods.
I shall not be an unfitting husband among the immortals,
as I am father Zeus’s own brother. When you are here
you shall be mistress of everything which lives and moves;
your honors among the immortals shall be greatest,
and those who wrong you shall always be punished
if they do not appease your spirit with sacrifices,
performing sacred rites and making due offerings.”
…where he confers upon her the honor of being “mistress of everything that lives and moves” says A LOT.
Persephone then accepts the pomegranate seeds in secret, thereby accepting his offer as a husband. The acceptance of the seeds in myth is tantamount to sexual intercourse, since this was the last gift offering by the groom before consummating his marriage with the bride. For Persephone, being given a pretty flower wasn’t good enough. She wanted to be respected as Hades’ wife. Her interaction with Hades in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter ends with him giving her his fucking chariot to go home in (steered by Hermes because they didn’t trust women to drive back then) and awaiting her inevitable return.
Back in the sunlit world, she lies to her mother about the seeds, saying that Hades forced them on her, when in fact, only several lines up we read that he slipped her the pomegranate and she accepted the seeds in secret before she was about to be taken away. She then changes the subject and calms Demeter down with a lyrical recounting of the Oceanid nymphs she was playing with in the field with before being taken away. She starts her tale by saying to her mother that she is going to tell her the truth, and ends with saying “I am telling you the whole truth” even though we as the reader know that what she is telling her mother is NOT the truth.
Persephone conscientiously accepted the pomegranate seeds and knew exactly what they meant. She didn’t eat them in an air-headed moment and knew that they were not only an acceptance of marriage, but that they would bind her to the Underworld forever. She was given a choice to leave and never see Hades again, but instead chose to come back to him. Eating the seeds was not the action of a victim, but of a wife victorious in getting exactly what she wanted out of her marriage.
And honestly, if you went through a great struggle for equality with your husband, and you enjoyed sex with him enough to make the conscious decision to go back again and again, to leave the sunlit world of your childhood behind and dwell amongst the dead to do so, you probably aren’t going to tell your worried mom all about it.
In conclusion, the abduction of Persephone is a tale about why we have winter. With a quick reading through modern eyes and without context, consent is non-existent. Persephone is carried away and raped in the Underworld until Demeter gets into a strop and gets her released.
The tale is all about consent and hints at a new and revolutionary kind of relationship: that of equality between husband and wife. Persephone doesn’t fully agree to be Hades’ bride until he gives her all due respect and honor. And Zeus learns a valuable lesson about respecting the wishes of and consulting with the mother before giving away the daughter.
With interpretation and context, the myth tells us this: DO NOT FUCK AROUND WITH OR MISTREAT YOUR WIVES. IF YOU DO, YOU WILL SUFFER GREATLY.
That we have any emotional reaction whatsoever to the myth of Hades and Persephone is testament to the fact that it is still relevant enough and has enough of a human element to where it is relatable and real. It is why Hades and Persephone remain so popular. It is why so many modern tellings exist, and why those tales have millions of fans. Beauty and the Beast, the Phantom of the Opera, and the Labyrinth are direct descendants of the story of Hades and Persephone.
The historical facts are that Demeter and Persephone were the chief deities in what were arguably the most popular religious rites in the ancient world: the Eleusinian Mysteries. They were in existence from at least the start of the Greek dark ages through the end of the classical era. In case you’re keeping score, that’s 1,000 years longer than the current lifespan of Christianity.
Persephone features prominently after the myth, even more so than her husband. When Odysseus speak with the rulers of the Underworld, he speaks to Persephone. As does Orpheus, and Herakles, and Psyche, and others. In fact, Pirithous, the one “hero” who doesn’t give Persephone respect and instead tries to carry her away from her realm like a powerless little girl, never makes it out of the Underworld alive.
Given their reverence and worship, their significance and popularity, what better players to showcase the power of women than Demeter and Persephone: the goddesses who control the fertility and harvest of mankind?
The strength of the mother-daughter relationship between Demeter and Persephone, and subsequently the bond that Persephone forms with Hades and how she transforms him and his realm and becomes the powerful Queen of the Underworld is why I ship Hades and Persephone.
tl;dr: A response to “I Don’t Ship Hades and Persephone”. The myth of Hades and Persephone is all about consent, but it depends on understanding historical context and what the myth meant to the ancient Greeks.
"Mother, he is a gentleman.
-(‘Persephone Writes to Her Mother,’ Tara Mae Mulroy)
He is a builder with bricks of moonlight.
He knows the secret places of the earth.
He washes the sleep from the eyes of the souls.
He lets them look on beauty.
He lets them tell him they hate him.
In the mornings, I gather berries and apples.
I scrub his back with rind.
I weave spider-spit, eyelash.
He talks in his sleep pudding, fire, discus,
the things he misses.
He breathes, Your body is my orchard.
I am undulating grass.
I am a field of wheat he parts with his fingers.
Poppies bloom in my veins.
When he kisses me, he tastes pomegranate.
The night crawls nearer.
The moans of the dead roll and swell.
Mother, we are well."
sources for prepatriarchal persephone
"However, long before the mythical Hades was ever conceived, in more ancient, pre-patriarchal times, Persephone was Queen of the Underworld and was another form of Hecate. Originally, the Triple Goddess was represented…
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