THE RETURN OF PERSEPHONE-PROSERPINA
As seen in previous blog, Chloris/Flora was the Goddess of flowers and certainly a symbol of Spring.
Spring is not just about flowers however, it also means renewal, fertility, agriculture, … EARTH! So in addition to Flora there was another great spring Goddess,her name was Demeter. Demeter was the Goddess of Corn (grain), patroness of agriculture and the good harvest, bestower of fertility,the Mother Earth. The Roman equivalent of Demeter was Cerere (Ceres), the word means wheat or grain in Latin (our word cereal comes from the name Cerere). Demeter/Ceres represent the prime sustenance of mankind.
Demeter was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. Her daughter was Persephone, Proserpina in the Roman version of the Myth. Demeter’s festival was celebrated at harvest time, usually in September. Her temple was at Eleusis, a town near Athens, and the worship of Demeter was called the Eleusinian Mysteries.
After the corn plants were harvested, the luxuriant green fields died, and the frost set in, the earth was barren and sad. Man needed an explanation for the changes of the seasons and stories were told to explain the reasons for the changes. The story that explained the changes is told in one of the earliest Homeric Hymns.
Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Translated by Gregory Nag
“I begin to sing of Demeter, the holy goddess with the beautiful hair.
And her daughter [Persephone] too. The one with the delicate ankles, whom Hadês seized.
She was given away by Zeus, the loud-thunderer, the one who sees far and wide.
Demeter did not take part in this, she of the golden double-axe, she who glories in the harvest.
She [Persephone] was having a good time, along with the daughters of Okeanos, who wear their girdles slung low.
She was picking flowers: roses, crocus, and beautiful violets.
Up and down the soft meadow. Iris blossoms too she picked, and hyacinth.
And the narcissus, which was grown as a lure for the flower-faced girl by Gai [Earth].
All according to the plans of Zeus."
According to the Hymn Demeter had a daughter named Persephone, the maiden of spring. One day Persephone was gathering flowers when enticed by the beautiful bloom of the Narcissus, she separated herself from her friends and went to gather the flower. The god of the underworld used the Narcissus in order to abduct the beautiful maiden, bring her to Hades and make her his bride.
Persepohone by Kris Waldherr
Persephone was now lost to her mother and in her terrible grief Demeter withheld her gifts from the earth, the green and flowering land became icebound and lifeless. Nothing grew, no seed sprang up, it seemed that mankind would die from famine.
Zeus finally stepped in and sent Hermes to the underworld to bid the ‘groom’ to let his bride go back to Demeter. The god of the underworld had to obey Zeus and send Persephone back up to the world and her mother. However he first enticed his bride to eat the seeds of the Pomegranate, knowing that if she did so she must return to him. Hermes returned Persephone to her mother who upon learning of the eaten Pomegranate seeds grieved knowing that she would lose her daughter again. Fortunately wise Zeus sent another messenger to Demeter, Rhea, and an agreement was reached. Demeter will have her daughter to comfort her mother:
“As each year is accomplished and bitter winter is ended.
For a third part only the kingdom of darkness shall hold her.
For the rest you will keep her, you and the happy immortals.
Peace now. Give men life which comes alone from your giving.”
Demeter agreed and once more made the fields rich with abundant fruit and the whole world bright with flowers and green leaves.
The Return of Persephone by F. Leighton
In the book “On Persephone’s Island” by Mary Taylor Simeti , the author says that Enna in Sicily is the ancient seat of the cult of Demeter/Ceres. Together with her daughter Persephone/Proserpina, she held all of Sicily, the most fertile of the Mediterranean islands, in her protection, and her shrine stood on the top of the mountain Enna, overlooking the wheat fields and the flowering plain where Hades (Dis) galloped his black horses as he bore off Persephone, known to the Romans as Proserpina, to be his queen in the Underworld.
La Rocca di Cerere, These are the archeological remains of the sanctuary of Demeter, built by the Greeks in ENNA
“Near Enna's walls a spacious lake is spread,
Fam'd for the sweetly-singing swans it bred;
Pergusa is its name: and never more
Were heard, or sweeter on Cayster's shore.
Woods crown the lake; and Phoebus ne'er invades
The tufted fences, or offends the shades:
Fresh fragrant breezes fan the verdant bow'rs,
And the moist ground smiles with enamel'd flow'rs
The chearful birds their airy carols sing,
And the whole year is one eternal spring.
Here, while young Proserpine, among the maids,
Diverts herself in these delicious shades;
While like a child with busy speed and care
She gathers lillies here, and vi'lets there;
While first to fill her little lap she strives,
Hell's grizly monarch at the shade arrives;
Sees her thus sporting on the flow'ry green,
And loves the blooming maid, as soon as seen.
His urgent flame impatient of delay,
Swift as his thought he seiz'd the beauteous prey,
And bore her in his sooty carr away.
The frighted Goddess to her mother cries,
But all in vain, for now far off she flies;
Far she behind her leaves her virgin train;
To them too cries, and cries to them in vain,
And, while with passion she repeats her call,
The vi'lets from her lap, and lillies fall:
She misses 'em, poor heart! and makes new moan;
Her lillies, ah! are lost, her vi'lets gone.
OVID, THE METAMORHOSES
Enna is located at the very center of Sicily
Pinax of Persephone and Hades on the throne. Found in the holy shrine of Persephone at Locri in the district Mannella. Locri was part of Magna Graecia and is situated on the coast of the Ionian Sea in Calabria, Italy.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Your gentle face and patient smile
With sadness we recall.
You had a kindly word for each
And died beloved by all.
The voice is mute and stilled the heart,
That loved us well and true,
Ah, bitter was the trial to part,
From one so good as you.
You are not forgotten loved one,
Nor will you ever be,
As long as life and memory last,
We will remember thee.
We miss you now, our hearts are sore,
As time goes by we miss you more,
Your loving smile, your gentle face,
No one can fill your vacant place.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Flora and the Zephyrs by J.W.Waterhouse
“FASTI” 5: 195-214 by OVID
Tell me, yourself, who you are. Men’s opinions err:
You’ll be the best informant regarding your own name.’
So I spoke. So the goddess responded to my question,
(While she spoke, her lips breathed out vernal roses):
‘I, called Flora now, was Chloris: the first letter in Greek
Of my name, became corrupted in the Latin language.I was Chloris, a nymph of those happy fields,
Where, as you’ve heard, fortunate men once lived.
It would be difficult to speak of my form, with modesty,
But it brought my mother a god as son-in-law.
It was spring, I wandered: Zephyrus saw me: I left.
He followed me: I fled: he was the stronger,
And Boreas had given his brother authority for rape
By daring to steal a prize from Erechtheus’ house.
Yet he made amends for his violence, by granting me
The name of bride, and I’ve nothing to complain of in bed.
I enjoy perpetual spring: the season’s always bright,
The trees have leaves: the ground is always green.
I’ve a fruitful garden in the fields that were my dower,
Fanned by the breeze, and watered by a flowing spring.
My husband stocked it with flowers, richly,
And said: “Goddess, be mistress of the flowers.”
I often wished to tally the colours set there,
But I couldn’t, there were too many to count.
As soon as the frosted dew is shaken from the leaves,
And the varied foliage warmed by the sun’s rays,
The Hours gather dressed in colourful clothes,
And collect my gifts in slender baskets.
The Graces, straight away, draw near, and twine
Wreaths and garlands to bind their heavenly hair.
I was first to scatter fresh seeds among countless peoples,
Till then the earth had been a single colour.
I was first to create the hyacinth, from Spartan blood,
And a lament remains written on its petals.
You too, Narcissus, were known among the gardens,
Unhappy that you were not other, and yet were other.
Why tell of Crocus, or Attis, or Adonis, son of Cinyras,
From whose wounds beauty springs, through me?
According to ‘FASTI’ V, Flora was the Mother of Flowers who was transformed from the nymph Chloris and who enabled the whole earth to blossom in spring.
Chloris is a Greek Mythology figure. She was a Nymph associated with spring, flowers and new growth. She was abducted by Zephyrus, the west wind, who gave her dominion over spring. Zephyrus and Chloris were married and they had a son Carpus (meaning ‘fruit’ in ancient Greek). Chloris’s festival, Floralia, was celebrated on April 28 to May 1 until the 4th century.
Photo by Proserpina
Painting of Flora found in Pompei and displayed at the fabulous Anthropology Museum in Naples.
Flora is the Roman Goddess of flowering plants, especially those that bear fruit. Spring is Her season, and She has elements of a Love-Goddess. Fertility, sex, and blossoming are her attributes. She is an ancient goddess going back to the Sabines , a neighboring tribe eventually conquered by Romans, who named a month after her (today’s April). She was also known by the Samnites and the Oscans (Among the Oscans she was known as Flusia). Flora’s husband was Favonius, the wind god, her companion was Hercules.
According to tradition it was Titus Tatius , the king from the Sabine town of Cures, who introduced the cult of Flora to Rome, during the reign of Romulus.
Her name is related to the Latin word floris, meaning flower. Related meanings are prospering, flourishing, abounding, fresh or blooming. Flora, a major figure in Roman mythology, had two temples in Rome, one near the Circus Maximus and the other on the Quirinal Hill. The feast Floralia occurred in April to coincide with the blossoming of plants, later it became a fixed date starting on April 28 and lasting seven days. The festival included chariot races, circus games, and theatrical performances. During the chariot races it was traditional to let goats and hares loose. Fertility symbols such as lupines, bean-flowers, vetch, wheat in bloom, and other blossom were scattered in the streets. The revelers wore brightly colored colors, wore wreaths of flowers especially roses.
Flora was depicted by the Romans wearing light spring clothing, holding small bouquets of flowers, and at times a crown of blossoms.
Flora was very popular among the Renaissance Humanists.
FLORA is the subject of the famous and magnificent painting by Sandro Botticelli called “Primavera”.
The painting is based on the unfinished poem “Fasti” by Ovid. The scene is set in the Garden of Venus. Venus is the most prominent figure in the painting. At the extreme right is Zephyr (God of Wind) reaching out for the Nymph Chloris. According to the myth, Zephyr forcefully abducted Chloris and made her his wife. Feeling guilty for his actions Zephyr transformed Chloris into Flora, the Goddess of Spring. Flora is also featured in another painting by Botticelli, “Primavera”, as a goddess in floral clothing, spreading flowers as she moves.
The paintings are displayed at Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy.
Who was OVID?
Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC-17 0r 18 AD), known as Ovid in the English world, was a Roman poet. He is best known for the Heroides, Amores, Ars Amatoria, Metamorphoses, the Fasti, and Tristia.
The above quote comes from the Fasti.
The FASTI is a six-book Latin Poem, structured as a series of eye-witness reports and interviews with deities. It explains the origins of Roman religious festivals, rites, and their mythological explanations. It also contains brief astronomical notes.
Each book covers one month, January through June, of the Roman Calendar which was revised by Julius Caesar and is known as the Julian Calendar. It is thought that the Poem was not finished because in the year 8 Emperor Augustus exiled him to Tomis (today known as Costanta).
While in exile he wrote a series of poems called Tristia, they illustrate his sadness and desolation that he felt while away from Rome.
After ten years in exile, Ovid died in Tomis. Allegedly he is buried in a nearby town which was renamed Ovidiu in his honor.