Persephone’s Return BY KINUKO Y. CRAFT
Ah, Persephone, it was never your fault! Whatever gifts you were born with—be they beauty, innocence, certain (dare I say) bewitching qualities, or merely because you were born into a family of gods—we all know that what happened was not your fault. The long winter, well, maybe, but life is what you make out of difficult circumstances.
Do I need to remind you that you have responsibilities up here too? The mortals are waiting for us to appear, together, so the spring Mysteries can begin. So you are being very naughty, lingering here at the edge of the Underworld, pouting about a husband you don’t like and a lover who didn’t want to stay down there with the two of you.
Oh no, Adonis doesn’t think any less of you because of where you live! But understand also that the boy is mortal, and that place—
I always think of you in sunlight, my dear. Never, never in shadows! You must know that. All those months after you first disappeared, while I searched and searched, I wouldn’t let a single blade of grass grow, lest a vine or a branch be hiding you. It was a long time before Helios told me what he’d seen—yes, I agree, I was annoyed with him too for keeping the secret so long—but at least then I knew where to look, and it wasn’t in sunlight.
One moment there you were, as merry as you please, strolling through
an Eleusinian meadow with Artemis and those silly sea nymphs. I picture you gathering juicy treasures of berries and flowers, laughing at the stains your fingers left as you wiped them on your white chiton … those reds and blues and pinks and greens …
If I blame your prissy cousin Artemis for anything, it was for scolding you then, for holding your chin in her hand and wiping your mouth with her hem and asking: “When will you grow up?” For I understand that it was her voice that attracted the beast.
Hades. My disgusting little brother. I grew up with the fellow chasing me around and pulling my pigtails, holding me down and belching into my face. I wouldn’t have wished him on my worst enemy, let alone on my own daughter.
Well, maybe I’d wish him on Artemis now. Honestly, the earth splits asunder at your very feet, and a monster grabs one of your friends and pulls her into the earth—wouldn’t you tell someone? The girl’s mother, for example? But no, she went running off through the forest with her dogs and her bow and arrows, calling herself the moon, and I had to hear it from the sun.
But I’m the Mother Goddess; my job is to empathize. I’ve tried to understand Hades just seizing you like that, and your half-sister Aphrodite encouraging him… Well, she was jealous is all, because you’re every bit as pretty as she is. I’m sure Adonis thinks so too. And you know she really loves you, because when she found that infant curled up in a box, she brought him straight to you. It’s just bad luck that when he grew up, both of you fell in love with him.
I talked it all over with Zeus while you were away, and I do believe he meant to be fair. Zeus catches a lot of blame in this family. He was trying to please everybody (which is impossible, you know) when he decreed that Adonis would live with you for four months and Aphrodite for four months, and then wherever he liked for the rest of the time.
So Adonis did not choose you this winter—maybe he’s waiting for you aboveground now! Come see! …
No, no, I’m not choosing sides against you; I only want us all to get along and have a great summer together. I’m trying not to be so angry all the time.
Fine, my dear, you’re stuck being Queen of the Underworld. There are worse things you could be. Rude, for example. You might say it’s inevitable that you forget yourself and your manners when you’re down there feasting with ghosts half the year. But Persephone, if you want someone to fancy you, do not let your husband’s bad habits become yours!
All right, I’ll give an example. Hermes and I also worked through a few issues recently, and he told me that last summer, he chased you through one of those fields up north. He said he almost caught you too, but as soon as he touched your elbow, you—my dear, he said you snorted at him. Now, that doesn’t sound like a harbinger of springtime sweetness, does it? Can you understand why Adonis would be put off, hearing something like that?
Oh, certainly, “When in Rome …” But this is not Rome or the Underworld. Ghosts may snort; Olympians do not.
And haven’t I always told you to be careful about accepting hospitality if you don’t want to linger? You’re the one who ate those pomegranate seeds—six of them, greedy girl—when Hades offered them to you. It was your own choice.
So maybe I do blame you, just a bit. But you know how much I love you. And you love Adonis, so please think how he feels, finding out that you expect him to join you—and your husband—on the other side of the Styx! But he might fall for the girl who comes bursting through the earth every March in her clean white chiton, setting the meadows abloom with a touch or a word …
Be that girl.
Now, take my hand; it’s time. I’ll pull you the rest of the way into the light. I have a sheaf of wheat for you, and I’ll carry oats and poppies, just as usual. We have a year’s worth of harvest to seed.
You deserve to be loved for yourself, not your manners or your address. And do you know who loves you that way? Family. Especially your mother.