PERSEPHONÊ - PÆRSÆPHÓNÎ - ΠΕΡΣΕΦΟΝΗ

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Pærsæphónî (Persephonê; Gr. Περσεφόνη, ΠΕΡΣΕΦΟΝΗ. Pronounced: pehr-seh-FOH-nee.) The daughter of Dîmítîr (Dêmêtêr, Δημήτηρ) and Zefs (Ζεύς) [1], Pærsæphónî is one of the most important deities of Ællînismόs (Hellênismos, Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion, and is strongly connected with the foremost of the Mystery Cults, the Mysteries of Ælefsís (Eleusis, Ἐλευσίς).

Etymology

T
here are various etymologies proposed regarding the name Περσεφόνη, and there are many forms of the name depending on what region of Greece they come from. Modern scholars say that the original form is Περσεφάττα or Περσόφαττα perhaps derived from the Sanskrit parṣá “sheaf of grain.”

In regards to the Mysteries there is a particular etymology: πῦρ “fire” + ς (ancient symbol of Ζεύς) + φονεύω (“kills” = transforms). From this perspective, Pærsæphónî is the fire, the thunder and lightning of Zefs which transforms the soul.

 

The Birth of Pærsæphónî

According to the mythology, Dîmítîr was pursued by her own son Zefs. In order to escape him, she transformed herself into a snake. Zefs also became a serpent and they entwined into a Knot of Iraklís (Heracles, Ἡρακλῆς), thus producing Pærsæphónî [1], destined to become the mother of Zagréfs (Zagreus, Ζαγρεύς). This story may be found in Orphic theogony.

 

The Abduction of Pærsæphónî by Ploutôn

T
he story of the abduction of Pærsæphónî by Ploutôn (Πλούτων) [2], while gathering flowers in a meadow, is the most familiar mythology of both Dîmítîr and Pærsæphónî.

According to the mythology, Zefs had secretly promised Pærsæphónî to Ploutôn in marriage and allowed her to be kidnapped by him. Ploutôn is Zefs Khthónios (χθόνιος), i.e. Zefs of Earth; khthónios means "terrestrial," "earthy;" so Zefs has promised Kóri (Core, the Daughter, Κόρη) to the Earth. As Pærsæphónî descended into Ploutôn's realm, Dîmítîr, who heard the echo of her daughter's voice, began to search for her in desperation. On the tenth day of her search she met Ækátî (Hecatê, Ἑκάτη), who had also heard the cries of Pærsæphónî. They inquired of Ílios (Hêlios, Ἥλιος) the Sun, who had seen all and now revealed the details of the abduction to Dîmítîr. The angry Goddess caused famine by not allowing the earth to produce fruit. She refused to ascend to the Olympian Heavens but, rather, took up residence on earth at Ælefsís. Zefs feared for the future of earth, so he retrieved Pærsæphónî, but before she left his realm, Ploutôn gave her some pomegranate seeds which she ate (the pomegranate being symbolic of the richness and fruitfulness of the Earth), a trick requiring her to return. Zefs agreed to allow Pærsæphónî to stay with her mother for most of the year, but in winter she must return to Ploutôn because she partook of the food of Aidîs (Hades, Ἅιδης). Dîmítîr agreed to this, returned fruitfulness back to the earth, and prepared to depart back to the Heavens. Before she left, Dîmítîr instructed Triptólæmos (Triptolemus, Τριπτόλεμος), King Kælæós (Celeus, Κελεός) of Ælefsís, Évmolpos (Eumolpus, Εύμολπος), and Dioklís (Diocles, Διοκλῆς) in her Mysteries, the great Ælefsinian (Eleusinian) Mysteries, the holy rites and teachings sought by all who love religion.


Pærsæphónî is the Queen of the Mortals and the Queen of Earth

Pærsæphónî is khthónia (chthonia, χθόνια), the "earthy" or terrestrial Goddess. Khthonic means "of the earth" in contrast to ypokhthónios (hypochthonic, ὑποχθόνιος), which means "under the earth." Pærsæphónî rules alongside Ploutôn as Queen of the Earth with all its verdure and richness. She is also known as the queen of the dead, but this is not quite correct: Pærsæphónî is the queen of the mortals, those who are subject to death. So the mythology concerning her abduction is poetic and symbolic. Pærsæphónî helps to free the mortals from the cycle of births and deaths.

 

Pærsæphónî is the Mother of Diónysos-Zagréfs

As told in Orphic theogony, Pærsæphónî was pursued by her father Zefs who united with her in the form of a snake, producing the child Zagréfs (Zagreus, Ζαγρεύς), destined to become Diónysos (Dionysus, Διόνυσος) the Sixth King and liberator (ἐλευθέριος) of mankind.

From the Orphic hymn to Pærsæphónî, she is called the mother of Diónysos:

μῆτερ ἐριβρεμέτου πολυμόρφου Εὐβουλῆος

“mother of loud-thundering many-formed Evvoulefs (Εὐβουλεύς a name of Diónysos)” (trans. by the author) [3]

From the Orphic hymn to Diónysos:

Διὸς καὶ Περσεφονείης
ἀρρήτοις λέκτροισι τεκνωθείς, ἄμβροτε δαῖμον

“Zefs and Kóri bore you
on a secret bed, immortal daimon”
(trans. by the author) [4]

 

Pærsæphónî is parallel to Diónysos

Diónysos follows in the line of Kings after Phánîs: Ouranós, Krónos, Zefs, and finally Diónysos. Likewise, Pærsæphónî holds a similar role following the line of Queens: Yaia, Rǽa, Íra, and finally Pærsæphónî.

 

Pærsæphónî in Iconography


"(Περσεφόνη) is generally represented at the side of Pluto, either on a throne of ebony, holding a torch which emits a smoky flame; in a car, drawn by black horses, holding narcissus flowers; in the garb of a huntress; or with a basket on her head, emblematical of the basket which she was filling with flowers when borne away by Pluto. The poppy and the narcissus were sacred to her, and dogs were sacrificed on her altars." [5]

Pærsæphónî is frequently represented in the company of Dîmítîr and Ækátî, holding a torch and sheaves of grain, with Triptólæmos by her side.

 

For a list of names of Pærsæphóni please visit this page: Pærsæphóni: The Epithets.

 

NOTES:

[1] Θεογονία Ἡσιόδου 912, Ἰλιὰς Ὁμήρου xiv. 326 and Ὀδύσσεια xi. 216; Βιβλιοθήκη Ἀπολλοδώρου i. 5. § 1.

[2] Ὁμηρικὸς Ὕμνος 2 Εις Δίμητραν.

[3] Orphic Hymn 29. Ὕμνος Περσεφόνης 8.

[4] Orphic Hymn 30. Διονύσου 6-7.

[5] A Classical Manual, Being a Mythological, Historical, and Geographical Commentary on Pope's Homer, and Dryden's Æneid of Virgil, 1833. (no author or editor mentioned)


The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia, 
Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase (Γῆς παῖς εἰμί καὶ Οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος) are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara, κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo, Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus, Ὀρφεύς).



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.


The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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