In school from elementary through college, I always enjoyed any unit or course which touched upon Greek mythology—or honestly, any sort of mythology and folklore in general. It’s why I took an entire course on fairy tales which I could have aced in my sleep as an undergrad and enjoyed more than probably any other class I took…save my graphic novels course. Clearly I needed to major in non-traditional literature. One of the greek myths that always stuck with me over the years is that of the Abduction (i.e. Rape) of Persephone. Are you familiar with this story?
Demeter is one of the less popularly known, but still major, Greek Gods. She is the “Mother Earth” figure; the Goddess of Harvest and abundance as well as the keeper of the Eleusinian Mysteries—a series of ceremonies we still don’t know much about save they were related to the concept of immortality in the afterlife and aided by some psychotropic drugs. Persephone is/was the “virgin” daughter of Demeter—an interesting contrast to a Goddess of harvest which would symbolize fertility. The story of the abduction of Persephone always stuck with me I think because of the power of Demeter to bring the world to its knees all for the sake of her daughter. You know the saying about a woman scorned? I think that pales in comparison to the wrath of a mother protecting her child. Here’s how the story plays out:
Persephone is the beautiful, virginal daughter of Demeter with untold beauty. One day Hades spies her and, being the god of the Underworld and death, covets her and wishes to take her down to the underworld to be his bride. In the past Persephone had already been wooed by Gods far more beautiful and charming than Hades—notably Apollo the sun god—and she had rejected them all. Demeter would do her best to keep her daughter hidden away from their lustful invitations and her daughter remained a pure Goddess of nature; she would assist her mother in spreading seeds that fed the world.
Hades confers with Zeus who advises him to steal the girl away. Zeus was such a cad wasn’t he? The man could not stay faithful and he had no qualms about just absconding with women as he or his brothers desired. Anyway Hades decides to listen to his philandering, venereal disease collection plate known as God of the Gods, and one day as Persephone wanders alone in a field of wild flowers, Hades abducts and makes off with the poor girl. How awful would that be? To be in a field of sunshine and flowers one moment and the next crowned the queen of a land of the dead and decrepit?
Demeter, upon finding out her daughter’s fate, dooms the earth to drought and death. She refuses to let anything grow unless Persephone is freed from Hades’s grasp and brought back to the light of the world. As the planet withers and dies, Zeus eventually responds by pleading with his brother to let the girl go however it turns out that it is too late to free Persephone from the grasp of the netherworld completely. A rule of visiting Hades’ realm is that no one who eats there may ever leave. Persephone had during her captivity consumed only a few seeds from the fruit of a pomegranate—in some stories she is tricked, in others driven by hunger and attempts to conceal her act. Regardless those 4 seeds bind Persephone to the realm. Consumed with rage Demeter continues to starve the earth to death until Hades develops and alternative plan: Persephone is bound only for as many months as seeds she consumed. While Demeter relents from her destruction when Persephone returns, she still continued to refuse to bless the earth or harvest during the time her daughter is taken from her each year. A constant reminder to Zeus and any other man precisely of what a mother’s wrath can bring. Thus the name Persephone became known as “she who brings destruction and death” This story was also meant to account for the concept of the seasons as most Greek myths are stories to explain something that we now have science for.
I guess this story has been on my mind because we are breaching the final weeks of the worst of winter and I am longing for summer sun to return. I also just spent a fantastic weekend doing a photo shoot with my mom and am planning on spending valentine’s day with her so maybe the mother-daughter thing is on my head as well. Regardless it inspired today’s muffin recipe. The pomegranates were an experiment of mine and I wasn’t sure how they would turn out. I was very pleasantly surprised. See pomegranate seeds are both juicy and crunchy so it was like having blueberries and walnuts rolled into one tiny gem. I quite enjoyed the texture interplay.
Whole Wheat Pomegranate Muffins
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