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Understanding Persephone, Queen Of The Underworld And The Original Femme Fatale

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As the daughter of Jupiter, the King of all Gods, and Ceres, the Goddess of Fertility and Agriculture, Persephone was born into Roman mythological royalty. Persephone’s dark beauty made her an exotic seductress who men flocked to be near.

As a frenemy of Venus, Persephone caused a love triangle between Venus and Adonis, because Adonis could not decide which of these beauties was his ideal match. Though he ultimately chose Venus, Adonis had a hard time choosing between the Aphrodite with her golden locks and lusty eyes, and the more earthy, innocent Persephone.

Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, obsessed over Persephone, desiring her all for himself. Ceres disapproved of the match and thwarted his advances, thoroughly rejecting his marriage proposal for Persephone. Even still, Pluto felt his icy heart soften when he was near the youthful and sweet Persephone, and he knew he had to persist until she was his.

One day, while picking flowers, the Ruler of the Underworld kidnapped Persephone by creating an earthquake that cracked the earth, pulling her down into the Underworld. When she realized that her daughter was missing, Ceres raged and despaired her loss. She decided that her best recourse as the goddess of fertility and the harvest was to hold the earth ransom until her daughter was returned. Thirst and starvation befell humanity while Persephone was trapped in the Underworld, as Ceres stalled the growth of vegetation and crops. The suffering of the mortals ultimately forced Jupiter to secure his daughter’s return.

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persephone 8a416The return of Persephone by Frederic Leighton (1891) via Wikimedia Commons

Tragically, not only did Pluto kidnap Persephone, he used magic as they flew down to the Underworld in his gilded chariot, feeding her pomegranate seeds (the food of the Underworld) to make her not miss her family. Poor Persephone, who had previously spent her days bathed in gentle streams, warming her skin in sunlight, and frolicking in the forests of Earth, was tricked by Pluto into this new life in the darkness, brainwashed and poisoned to desire a life only with him.

After much negotiation, Jupiter made a deal with Pluto, allowing Persephone half of the year with her mother to grow crops and harvest, and the rest of the time in the Underworld with her husband. As the ancients understood it, during the time when Persephone was in hell, her mother grieved her loss, neglecting the forests until they grew barren, cold, and dry. When her daughter returned, so would Ceres’s joy and sense of purpose, and the world thawed and blossomed into springtime. Persephone was blamed for thirst and hunger in the mortal world, though clearly this was the fault of her kidnapper. Some link the mythology around Persephone to seasonal depression, as mortals experience the feeling of barrenness as the days grow cold and dark in autumn and winter.

Persephone as the Queen of the Underworld was the only woman who possessed the power to go to the land of the dead and return to Earth alive, which made her the most feared Queen of all the goddesses. She controlled the light and the dark—fertility and death—making her one of the most revered figures in ancient Greek mythology. As part of the dark world, Persephone transformed into a mythological femme fatale, a woman who unabashedly used her beauty to possess and control others. This is not necessarily a bad thing! Embracing her desires, she willfully used her charm and wits to walk on both planes, that of the mortals and the solemn but great beyond. She’s a sexual being, the first woman in the pantheon to own her sexuality, using the decadence of the underworld to entertain herself and seasonally reviving her light side to birth the harvest each year. Perhaps the most understood of mythological figures, Persephone doesn’t make excuses. She controls humanity. She represents innocence lost and light-heartedness regained.

She lives her life openly in the hedonistic Underworld, then travels to walk the Earth with her mother. She is the sensual woman, the kinky lover, the S&M dom, the sex worker who demands respect, and also the bright-eyed daughter, who wants to read a book in the sun; the woman who says no to sex in favor of sleep, or play, or self care. She represents the core truth in us all in that her lesson is to embrace yourself, your desires, and your sexual side. Don’t hide or live a life of shame: Live your life as you desire to. Embrace life, death, and love, while being true to yourself and your heart. Simply put, be a bad bitch and live life to the fullest, vacillating between the darkness and light, living your natural and sacred rhythms and cycles.

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Top image: Walter Crane - The Fate of Persephone (1877) via Wikimedia Commons

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Lisa Stardust is a NYC based astrologer. Known for her pop culture horoscopes, Stardust adds humor and cultural events to aide others in understanding the stars. Stardust acts a guide for clients to help navigate them through finances, relationships, and other facets of life. Follow her on Instagram @lisastardustastro, on Twitter @lisastardust_, and at listastardust.com

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