Her name means she who destroys the light. The story of Persephone is so rich in symbolism and meaning that it has held the fascination of artists, poets and mythologists for eons of time. Psychologists have incorporated her story into their theories of the way myth defines the roles a woman adopts for herself.
Briefly, Persephone was the daughter of Zeus, the head of Mount Olympus in Greek mythology, and the goddess of the grains, Demeter. Persephone was initially known as “Kore,” which means the maiden, as she was the epitome of springtime. It was when she was looking for flowers in a garden that she was abducted by Hades, the god of the underworld. She became his queen once she accepted his offer of a pomegranate to eat. The six seeds she ingested became the length of her stay below ground, which was for six months of the year.
Persephone‘s tale can be interpreted in many different ways, and there is not one final correct analysis. The symbolism is so vast it is best to start unraveling it one layer at a time. First, the name. Persephone means she who destroys the light. Persephone is not just Kore, the helpless maiden, but also the terrible queen of the dead. Her real name could not be spoken aloud for fear of inciting death to take notice of the one speaking, and she was referred to only in oblique terms as the maiden.
In the extended version of her story, Persephone was hidden away from society by her mother Demeter and lived in the fields as a nature goddess. Suitors had come to ask for Persephone’s hand in marriage but her mother Demeter refused them all, since she wanted Persephone to stay with her. One day while Persephone was picking flowers with some nymphs, her female friends, Hades came up from the underworld and ran off with her.
Demeter, in her rage and fury that Persephone’s playmates did not stop her abduction, turned them into sirens. Sirens were women who lived on an island and whose beautiful songs would trap the sailors who heard them to sail towards them. Once the hapless seamen did, they went down a steep cliff and to their watery graves. Sirens had the bodies of birds and the heads of women. It seems a cruel fate for not being able to stop a powerful god, which Hades was, but Demeter was not open to mercy.
Again the rich symbolism is so apparent. The rage of Demeter and her judgment on the young women who allowed her captive to be stolen. Once Demeter realized what happened, she scoured the earth for Persephone and refused to bless the fields and make them fruitful. Zeus, Persephone’s father, heard the cries of the starving people on the earth and forced Hades to give his prize back to her mother.
Persephone had gotten hungry while in her underworld confinement and had eaten six seeds from the pomegranate fruit. Anyone who eats food in the land of the dead may not return to the land of the living. Therefore she had to return to Hades for six months of the year, one month for each seed she had eaten. For six months she is her mother’s captive and then she returns to the underworld where she is Hades’ captive. Not a pretty fate. Persephone over the years became the cold, unfeeling, and dreaded queen of the underworld.
The Eleusinian mystery initiation rites prominently figured the story of Persephone in their rituals. Persephone is part of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Spring occurs when Persephone returns from the land of the dead and winter begins when Persephone must go back to the underworld, six months later.
The ancient Greek calendar began each month with the New Moon sighting, and according to that calendar the Eleusinian greater mysteries were celebrated in the month of August or September. The mysteries were the most scared rites performed in ancient Greece and were celebrated in art, song, and the pottery of that era.
Persephone’s story can be read in many ways, and one interpretation can be for a woman to determine for herself where she may feel like a captive in certain areas of her life. We can feel imprisoned in certain parts of ourselves, and it can happen to us through a variety of experiences.
In astrology the asteroid Persephone is listed as being number 399 in the asteroid scale. Where she shows up in our natal chart can be a place we look at to see and discover for ourselves where we feel taken captive and where we feel we have not been allowed to be ourselves. Persephone’s placement in our houses can show us where we are afraid to take charge, and afraid to assert ourselves. It is where we give our power away to others, or it was taken from us by force. It is where we ask others we consider more powerful than we are to make our decisions for us and take care of us. In essence it is where we hoodwink ourselves and allow ourselves to be taken underground.
Now let’s look at what Persephone can show us, depending on where she is in our own personal charts, through each individual house:
There is no reason for us to wander around lost in our own landscape. We can reclaim ourselves and our natural power, be in charge of our lives, make our own choices, and we do not ever need to ask anyone’s permission to be ourselves. That is the gift of Persephone to us down through the ages; she reminds us that if we don’t make our own decisions, someone else will. And they may not be decisions we want, or agree with.
- First House: If Persephone shows up in the first house of your chart, you may feel as if your basic personality, which is ruled by the First House, was never allowed free expression. Perhaps your parents were so dominating that they overpowered your sense of self and you never found out who you really are. When you aren’t allowed to feel your own feelings or think for yourself, you end up as a false imitation of someone else. A tremendous sense of emptiness and lack of self esteem follows that experience. Unless you can explore different avenues of expression and embark on your own life experiences, you may remain hidden and in the dark about that most important person, namely yourself.
- Second House: In the second house, Persephone may show you feel unable to deal with your own possessions and are used to having someone else do your finances for you. It may mean you are not comfortable taking charge of your own income, or feel you don’t have the "smarts" to do so yourself. Everyone can take money management courses, and read books on the subject, and you may just need more confidence in your own abilities.
- Third House: We may be too timid to speak up for ourselves, and consequently let others do our talking for us.
- Fourth House: We may be afraid to step out from the shadow of our childhood and want to be taken care of throughout our lives as if we were still children.
- Fifth House: We may let our lovers take charge of our lives and we may submerge our needs and desires to theirs.
- Sixth House: We may not stand up for ourselves in the workplace.
- Seventh House: We may be dominated by our marriage or business partners.
- Eighth House: We may feel guilty or ashamed to explore our sexuality to wherever it leads us.
- Ninth House: We may be afraid to practice any other religious belief besides the one we were raised in as children.
- Tenth House: We may be unable to go after the career we really want because our family doesn’t approve.
- Eleventh House: We may let our family of origin or our partners determine who our friends are.
- Twelfth House: We may make ourselves prisoners of our own unconscious thoughts and fears.
Once we realize that we can burst out of our captivity anytime we choose, we can bring any area of our existence that was taken over by another back to new life. We can have confidence that we can make decisions for ourselves, and once we act on them, we change our lives for the better at once.