Persephone’s Island

The Return of Persephone by Frederic Leighton (1891)

The story of Demeter and Persephone is such a bittersweet one.

In researching my trip to Sicily, I discovered that Persephone is the Patron Goddess of Sicily.

You see, Persephone was beautiful, and the Gods adored her, so her mother, Demeter, kept her out of the public eye to protect her. But one god kept his eyes on her.

One day, the goddesses were out for a stroll when the earth opened up and a chariot burst out, its driver taking Persephone. The earth closed up before Demeter’s eyes.

Demeter searched everywhere for her daughter.

Demeter was the Goddess of the Hunt, fertility, the harvest, nature, the seasons and agriculture. Demeter grieved do much for her daughter that the trees began to drop their leaves and the harvest slowed then stopped. People were devastated and asked Zeus to step in.

Persephone was also Zeus’s daughter, so he had a vested interest in finding her (and may have felt bad, not wanting to upset Demeter). He caught wind of which god had taken her, so he travelled below the earth, to see his brother, Hades, the God of the Underworld.

Initially, Hades agreed to give back Persephone. But he asked for one last day. On that day, he asked Persephone to share a pomegranate with him. When she did, she kept six seeds.

The next day, when the Messenger God, Hermes, came to take her, Hades announced that seeing that Persephone had taken six seeds, she would have to come back to him every six months of the year. Hermes agreed and took Persephone back to her mother.

Demeter was so pleased that the earth started to warm up and spring back to life. But after six months, when Persephone left her again, Demeter’s sadness returned, causing the leaves to fall from the trees, brining a new cycle.

I hope to visit the site of the abduction when I’m in Sicily in a few weeks. Lake Pergusa is near Enna, towards the centre of the island. It is also the location from which Persephone disappears and emerges every six months, turning the seasons.