Most Greco-Roman myths changed over time, and the abduction of Persephone is no exception. In one version she is captured by Hades and forced into the Underworld, in another she goes willingly down, fully aware of her destiny as queen of the undead. Both these versions are historically valid, but in this age of uber-feminism the more politically correct telling of this myth is gaining popularity.
I’d like to make a case for Persephone’s abduction and subsequent abuse. I believe it’s important not to lose this part of the myth.
In the abusive version of this story, Persephone is set up by Zeus. He entices her with a beautiful flower. Once she is alone and unprotected, Hades opens the ground and carries her crying into the Underworld on his chariot. There, she is raped and forced to marry him.
While the natural reaction to this is disgust, and rightly so, to dismiss it entirely leaves some gaps in the story arc. The abused, Persephone, immersed in darkness, is remade. She is no two dimensional queen, born already knowing exactly who she is.
No. She starts off innocent, naive, and vulnerable.
Like the fool card in the tarot. Like the rest of us.
Persephone remained in captivity for one year. Meanwhile, her mother, Demeter, had turned the world into a winter wonderland. Zeus, unable to dissuade the grieving Demeter finally gave in and sent his messenger, Hermes, to collect Persephone from Hades. In the Underworld, Hermes finds Persephone on a throne next to her husband, crouched away from him. She hadn’t found her place or her power there. When she was given the news that she could return to her mother, she couldn’t wait to leave.
Hades, in one last power play, banked on her compassionate nature. He asked her not to be ashamed of him, because he couldn’t help being what he was. He also told her to remember that she was now a queen, and a powerful one at that. Talking her into eating a pomegranate seed, he ensured that she’d have to return to him.
Yeah, he used her AGAIN. Yet he’d also told her who she really was. This pivotal moment allows her to come into alignment with her fate. The source of her power wasn’t some mysterious kind of magic she was born with. It was in her victimhood.
Since she’d eaten the seed, she would have to spend half the year in the Underworld and half the year above with her mother. This makes her the only goddess who is both alive and dead. Because of this she was, and still is one of the most beloved archetypes in the Greco-Roman pantheon. She is the one who understands. She suffered. She had to find herself. And when she did she radically altered both herself and her husband in the process. No longer able to victimize her, Hades was left with no choice but to respect her for the queen she now is.
Take away the pain and the anguish, and you take away the core of her power. When we paint Persephone as a fully formed queen from the get-go we make her two dimensional, and thereby someone we can’t relate to, because like it or not, we all follow the fool’s quest through the tarot, starting at card 0.