The Contemporary New England Witch

The Contemporary New England Witch
Ms Faith

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ceres and Proserpina

 Evening Greetings,

Tonight we're discussing the ancient Greco/Roman Mythology of  'Springtime'. The Greek version has Demeter and Persephone.  The Roman version Ceres and Proserpina.  Though referred to as the Myth of Springtime, I think you'll agree that this story is quite appropriate at this cold and frigid time of year also.

I know the Greek version with Demeter, Persephone, Eros, and Hades tends to be a more popular version of this story, so tonight I will share with you the Roman version.  As these myths have been handed down for over a thousand years I'll tell you this story in my own words as I understand it.  It's always been a favorite of mine.

Once upon a time, a time so long ago as to be shrouded in mist and mystery,  the people believed in a three world concept. The upper world where gods and goddesses reigned, the middle world where mankind existed and the underworld where gods and demons resided as well as those who had died and waited to be reborn.

In the upper world gods and goddesses lived, frolicked and played on Mt. Olympus.  This realm was ruled by Jupiter, God of thunder and of the sky.  His brother Pluto ruled the underworld, a land of shadow and death.  Venus, Goddess of love was Pluto's mother and she wanted her son to know love and happiness with someone who would make him truly happy.

The middle world was the realm of the Goddess Ceres, a goddess of the grain, agriculture and the fruit of the orchards. She was a goddess of abundance, life, the Mother Goddess, ripe with fertility and plenty. Ceres had a beautiful daughter, Proserpina.  Ceres loved her daughter very much.  Proserpina loved the forests, the flowers and played and frolicked in the sun dappled meadows and around her feet blossoms sprang forth from the earth and small creatures scampered and played.

These were the times when the people of the earth only knew of the summer.  The air was always warm, the rain always sweet and nourishing,  and it was always a time of the golden bough,  with blossoms on the same branches as the ripened fruit.

Venus worried that her son, so intent and serious about his job of Lord of the Underworld, would never find a lover. Well, as Lord of the underworld  he took his job quite seriously, mind you. A hard worker, he was.  Well, he worked so intently, she didn't know how he would find a girl to love him.  She sent her other son Amor (Cupid) to visit his brother Pluto in the underworld to convince him to seek a mate.  As Pluto was not a man of many words and had little time to spare his foolish, love happy brother, he gave Cupid a short audience and then turned to leave to return to his work. Cupid decided to 'make his point' and shot Pluto with one of his love dipped arrows.

Pluto then became overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness he had failed to notice before. He found himself wanting to spend time with someone other than demons and the dead.  He found himself wanting beauty, happiness, laughter and joy. Perhaps someone who could make him laugh, and see the world without shadows and death.   The drive to find that right someone drove him to finally step onto the earth above.

One day Pluto found himself standing at the edge of the forest below the great Mt. Etna and he found himself captivated by the beauty of a young woman dancing and playing in the meadow.  She was beauty and joy and he found himself smiling as he heard her giggle. He knew he wanted to hear that sound again and again.

Proserpina saw the tall, dark haired and handsome god standing in the shadow of the trees watching her. She stopped dancing and found herself drawn to him. She went to meet him and they talked and shared. Pluto fell in love with her and in turn Proserpina found herself madly in love with her Lord of the Underworld. She took his hand and together they went to rule the world of shadows and death together.

When Ceres could not find her daughter she grieved and wailed. She missed her so much, she started to wander the earth dressed in mourning clothes, looking like an old, wizened crone. The earth grew colder, the leaves fell from the trees, the rain turned to snow and ice and everything died.  The sun could not warm the earth and soon the people started to die.

The people then pleaded with their gods and goddesses for the earth to become warm again, for the foods from the earth to become plentiful again.  The gods and goddesses went to Jupiter, the chief God of all the gods and asked him to beseech Ceres to once again warm the earth and bring it to fruition.

Jupiter sent Mercury, the messenger god to speak with Pluto on behalf of all the gods and goddesses and their people.  Proserpina, who missed her mother and at times missed the flowers as she really loved flowers, especially roses and the sun, nonetheless loved her Pluto even more and didn't wish to leave him. Yet she didn't wish the world to end, as the more bodies that came to the underworld the harder her man had to work!  Yet she was afraid. Afraid that if she went back, the stronger gods and goddesses, her mother being one of the strongest, would prevent her from returning to her love. Her mate.

She went to Pluto with her fears and together they decided to have Proserpina eat six pomegranate seeds. These seeds were considered food of the dead. It kept mankind living, dying, being reborn and living again. An endless cycle that allowed the mortals into the realm of the Underworld, so that they may be rejuvenated, renewed and then reincarnated back upon the earth.  As she was a goddess, she was not allowed access as humans were with their mortality, and the other gods could keep her from returning.

She swallowed the six seeds, and kissing her lover goodbye, knowing it would seem like forever before they touched again, she went back with Mercury and reunited with her mother.  Ceres, was so joyed she threw off the weeds of the ancient crone and became the strong, vital, fertile mother again. Proserpina's return to the earth caused the ice to melt, the grass to green and the trees to bud.  The snows went away and the air warmed. Spring flowers bloomed and the people started to thrive and flourish again.  Spring had arrived.

Today we can see Proserpina in our springtime and early summer, while her mother Ceres takes control from her daughter during the late summer and autumn months as the earth is harvested of her fruits and grains. Then the time she has waited for comes again and Proserpina kisses her mother goodbye and descends back to the world of her lover, Pluto in the underworld.Her mother puts on the clothes of the ancient crone as she walks the earth waiting for her daughter to return.

Then the earth cools, the leaves turn and fall, greens turn to browns and the snow starts to fly. I'm not a fan of winter, but somehow it warms my heart to know that while it may be cold and frigid where we are, Proserpina and Pluto are happy in each others arms and I personally wish them well.


I hope you liked my version of this ancient myth.  I will note that the earliest versions passed down through history regard Proserpina as an abducted victim, held against her will in the underworld and are rather dark and bleak, with flavors of kidnapping, blackmail and rape.  I prefer to imagine this myth as having been terribly distorted throughout the centuries and as  I know women and I know goddesses, I assure you if Proserpina didn't want to be with Pluto for six months of the year, she wouldn't be. She was a goddess after all.  Goddesses are never victims.




© 2010 Enchantments, LLC Portions of this blog posting may include materials from my book “Enchantments School for the Magickal Arts First Year Magickal Studies.” For more information, see www.enchantmentsschool.com or go to the title of tonight's discussion and click, it will link you to my school's website.

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