Persephone is a figure from Greek Mythology, known as the goddess of vegetation and the queen of the Underworld. She is the daughter of Zeus, the king of the gods, and Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility. Her Roman equivalent is Proserpina.
The most famous myth about Persephone is her abduction by Hades, the god of the underworld. According to the myth, Persephone was gathering flowers in a field when Hades burst from the ground and carried her away to the Underworld. Her mother, Demeter, was so grief-stricken that she neglected her duties, and the earth became barren.
Eventually, Zeus intervened, sending Hermes to the underworld to bring Persephone back. However, because Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds in the Underworld (the food of the dead), she was bound to spend part of the year there. It was agreed that she would spend one-third of the year (the winter months) with Hades, and the rest of the year with her mother.
The myth of Persephone’s descent into the Underworld and her return to the surface is an allegory for the changing of the seasons: her departure for the Underworld corresponds with the arrival of winter and the death of vegetation, while her return to the surface world brings about spring and the renewal of life. As such, Persephone is often associated with the concept of rebirth and the cycle of life and death.
Persephone was worshipped alongside her mother Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries, a major cult in ancient Greece that was based around the myth of Persephone’s abduction. This ritual was held annually and was considered one of the most important religious events of the ancient Greek world.