359-383 Greek Attic (Geometric) Oinochoe (Wine Jug), Hare Outruns the Hounds, ca. 700 BCE, MMA
Persephone as Peplos Kore (Κόρη),
Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE
Before he releases her, Hades seems to be treating Persephone as his equal|
"Having spent a year with Persephone in the underworld, Hades' treatment of her and his attitude towards her reflects a major change. By the end of the poem, he appears to be taking into consideration her feelings, validating her sense of being wrongfully treated, deeming her worthy of persuasion, and communicating with her respectfully. In short, before he releases her, Hades seems to be treating Persephone as his equal. This is a far cry from the Hades we encountered at the beginning of the poem who appropriates what he wants when he wants it with the cavalier attitude of patriarchal entitlement. Hades has apparently changed during Persphone's tenure with him in the underworld. His dialogue and actions illustrate that his encounter with the feminine force she embodies has had a positive impact on him. It has enabled him to connect with the feminine in his life and render him a more complete individual."
from "Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth," p.127,
by Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)
___ ___ ___
"Richness of Nature"
in the Hymn to Demeter
"The return journey to the upper world is described with a slight pictorial elaboration [L-380-383] which seems characteristic of this poet (cf. Dem, 33 ff., 38 f., 174 ff.). [...] Throughout the poem the richness of nature, the realm of Demeter, receives special attention, and the result is a pictorial quality which adds great charm and grace. The catalogues of flowers, the lists of nymphs, the descriptions of Celeus' daughters, the journeys over land and sea, the death and rebirth of the crops, portrayed in all their stages of growth, from spring to harvest, the appearance of Persephone herself with the spring flowers, and the participation of Earth and the whole of nature in the rape and recovery of the goddess; these and many other touches, seem to give this Hymn a quality of Archaic χάρις [kharis, grace, L-120, L-215], which has led some of its readers to compare its tone with that of the early Greek lyric, or the Greek art of the 7th and 6th centuries [for example, the Peplos Kore sculpture above]."
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demter," p.58, edited by N.J. Richardson (1974)
___ ___ ___
The Greek love for horses, evidenced in this episode of the Hymn (L-375-383), is demonstrated on this neck amphora (dated about 725-700 BCE), Metropolitan Museum of Art. Snakes are symbols of the Earth Goddess in Mycenaean and Minoan culture and also of rebirth (since they shed their skin).
___ ___ ___
Persephone's return must
come laden with the riches
of the abductor
"The 'return' of the Goddess
is not a new idea. In the ancient world it was a symbol of a deep and powerful event in poeple's lives. The anodos, or "way back" or "way up," was told of the Goddess in many of her forms in classical Greece, but the most important of these "returns" was that recounted in the myth of the two Goddesses, Demeter and Persephone. [...] [But] like Persephone returning from the underworld, it must come laden with the riches of its abductor, full of the fruits of rationality, intelligence and literacy. This is why it is important to establish a highly general interpretation of the female principle, one which can be verified both in the paleofeminine era of the far past and the neofeminine era of the near future."
from "Unknown Goddess" by Beatrice Bruteau, p. 76, in "The Goddess Re-Awakening: the Feminine Principle Today," ed. by Shirley Nicholson (1989)
___ ___ ___
Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (French: Nu descendant un escalier n° 2, 1912)
by Marcel Duchamp, Philadelphia Museum of Art
___ ___ ___
Resignation & Redemption
"Zeus' attempt to give his daughter in marriage to Hades without the knowledge of mother and daughter imposes partriarchal marriage — that is, the exchange of women by men and patrilocal residence for the wife — on divinities who have no experience of it. Yet during her stay on earth, Demeter encounters mortal women who accept marriage and affirm the authority it brings to the wife. Hence the concluding resignation to Persephone's lot is prefigured in the mortal context and made to seem inevitable. Persephone's marriage to Hades becomes the basis for a new mortal experience after death promised in the cult; for prior to this event, the spheres of heaven, earth and underworld were not reliably linked."
from "A Question of Origins: Goddess Cults Greek and Modern," by Helene P. Foley in "Women, Gender, Religion: A Reader, p. 227, ed. by Elizabeth Anne Castell, Rosamond C. Rodman (2001)
___ ___ ___
Respect & Reconciliation
"[L-369] δαΐφρονι Περσεφονείῃ [meaning, 'wise Persephone'], this is normally an epithet of men in Homer, as opposed to
περιφρων [meaning, 'thoughtful,' 'careful'] of women. Deichgräber, Eleus Frömmigkeit, observes that Hades' behavior is not what one would expect from the viewpoint of archaic Greek religion. His address to Persephone aims at reconciliation, which is one of the main motifs of the Homeric poet throughout the Hymn."
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," p.268, edited by N.J. Richardson (1974)
___ ___ ___
Realms of Space & Process
"Zeus was alotted the sky, Poseidon the sea, and their brother Hades the underworld, with the earth to be shared among all three. In practice, however, the earth's gifts were considered controlled by their sister Demeter. [...] As goddess of growing plants and patron of agriculture she was a great divinity in her own right. [...] As a result, with space divided between males and process assigned to a female, agricultural fragility was explained in terms of divine conflict. This conflict emphasized a basic tension between Demeter and Zeus and became a template for differences between male and female realms of authority."
from "Landscapes, Gender, and Ritual Space: the Ancient Greek Experience, p. 9, by Susan Guettel Cole (2004)
___ ___ ___
symbolizing the entire journey,
from a geometric "bird bowl,"
Camirus, Rhodes, ca. 700 BCE.
___ ___ ___
More on the meaning of Anodos
Meanings of ἄνοδος [ἄν-οδος, anodos, "way up"] include, e.g., the ascent to the acropolis at Athens, also a celebration on the first (or second) day of Demeter's Thesmophoria — also refers to a journey inland, to ascend from the sea, and metaphorically (Plato) return of a being to its true self or original source = enlightenemnt.
~ see Thesaurus Linguae Graecae
___ ___ ___
Demeter — Prefiguring the Plight
and Solutions of Liberation
"My reason for going back to Greek and pre-Greek literature for the poet's recounting of the myth of Demeter and Persephone is that our sense of ourselves has its roots in that age. In the history of human consciousness, Father culture was replacing Mother culture when Hesiod and Homer were writing, which means, among other things, that in the history of sexual posture women were rarely on top anymore. [...] Wherever the domination of masculine values begins, as, for example, with the reign of Yahweh and Zeus, complications of life for the feminine are taken into the myths of the people. The main reason, then, for going back to those shepherd poets [...], is that the plots and solutions of their tales prefigure the plight of the feminine in the patriarchate."
from "The Moon and the Virgin: Reflections on the Archetypal Feminine," p. 69, by Nor Hall (1980)
___ ___ ___
Homeric Hymn to Demeter
edited & adapted from the 1914 prose translation
Hugh G. Evelyn-White
Art & Photo Illustrations
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Homeric Hymn to Demeter|
English Ancient Greek Transliteration
• Greek-English Glossary
HADES RETURNS PERSEPHONE (359-383)
And he [Hades] straightway urged wise* Persephone, saying:
___ ἐσσυμένως δ᾽ ἐκέλευσε δαΐφρονι Περσεφονείῃ:
___ essumenôs d' ekeleuse daïphroni Persephoneiêi:
"Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed* mother,
___ ἔρχεο, Περσεφόνη, παρὰ μητέρα κυανόπεπλον
___ erkheo, Persephonê, para mêtera kuanopeplon
go, and keep your heart and disposition kindly*:
___ ἤπιον ἐν στήθεσσι μένος καὶ θυμὸν ἔχουσα,
___ êpion en stêthessi menos kai thumon ekhousa,
be not so exceedingly cast down* than others;
___ μηδέ τι δυσθύμαινε λίην περιώσιον ἄλλων:
___ mêde ti dusthumaine liên periôsion allôn:
I shall be no unfitting* husband for you among immortals,
___ οὔ τοι ἐν ἀθανάτοισιν ἀεικὴς ἔσσομ' ἀκοίτης,
___ ou toi en athanatoisin aeikês essom' akoitês,
since I am brother to father Zeus. And while you are there,*
___ αὐτοκασίγνητος πατρὸς Διός: ἔνθα δ' ἐοῦσα
___ autokasignêtos patros Dios: entha d' eousa
you shall rule all that lives and moves
___ δεσπόσσεις πάντων ὁπόσα ζώει τε καὶ ἕρπει,
___ desposseis pantôn hoposa zôei te kai herpei,
and shall have the highest honour among the deathless gods:
___ τιμὰς δὲ σχήσησθα μετ' ἀθανάτοισι μεγίστας.
___ timas de skhêsêstha met' athanatoisi megistas.
those who defraud you shall be punished for evermore,
___ τῶν δ' ἀδικησάντων* τίσις ἔσσεται ἤματα πάντα,
___ tôn d' adikêsantôn tisis essetai êmata panta,
or who do not appease your power with offerings,
___ οἵ κεν μὴ θυσίῃσι τεὸν μένος ἱλάσκωνται
___ hoi ken mê thusiêisi teon menos hilaskôntai
reverently performing rites and paying fit gifts.
___ εὐαγέως ἔρδοντες, ἐναίσιμα δῶρα τελοῦντες.
___ euageôs erdontes, enaisima dôra telountes.
When he said this, strong-minded* Persephone was filled
___ ὣς φάτο: γήθησεν δὲ περίφρων Περσεφόνεια,
___ hôs phato: gêthêsen de periphrôn Persephoneia,
and hastily sprang up for gladness. But he on his part
___ καρπαλίμως δ' ἀνόρουσ' ὑπὸ χάρματος: αὐτὰρ ὅ γ' αὐτὸς
___ karpalimôs d' anorous' hupo kharmatos: autar ho g' autos
gave her a pomegranate seed to eat, honey-sweet,
___ ῥοιῆς κόκκον ἔδωκε φαγεῖν μελιηδέα λάθρῃ,
___ rhoiês kokkon edôke phagein meliêdea lathrêi,
taking care* himself that she might not remain always
___ ἀμφὶ ἓ νωμήσας, ἵνα μὴ μένοι ἤματα πάντα
___ amphi he nômêsas, hina mê menoi êmata panta
again with revered,* dark-robed Demeter.
___ αὖθι παρ' αἰδοίῃ Δημήτερι κυανοπέπλῳ.
___ authi par' aidoiêi Dêmêteri kuanopeplôi.
So he readied his immortal horses before the golden chariot
___ ἵππους δὲ προπάροιθεν ὑπὸ χρυσέοισιν ὄχεσφιν
___ hippous de proparoithen hupo khruseoisin okhesphin
forthwith, immortal Aidoneus the Ruler of Many.
___ ἔντυεν ἀθανάτους Πολυσημάντωρ Ἀιδωνευς.
___ entuen athanatous Polusêmantôr Aidôneus.
And she mounted the chariot beside the strong Slayer of Argus
___ ἣ δ' ὀχέων ἐπέβη, πάρα δὲ κρατὺς Ἀργειφόντης
___ hê d' okheôn epebê, para de kratus Argeiphontês
who took the reins and whip in his dear hands
___ ἡνία καὶ μάστιγα λαβὼν μετὰ χερσὶ φίλῃσι
___ hênia kai mastiga labôn meta khersi philêisi
and drove forth from the hall, the horses speeding readily.
___ σεῦε διὲκ μεγάρων: τὼ δ' οὐκ ἀέκοντε πετέσθην.
___ seue diek megarôn: tô d' ouk aekonte petesthên.
Swiftly they traversed* their long course, and neither the sea
___ ῥίμφα δὲ μακρὰ κέλευθα διήνυσαν: οὐδὲ θάλασσα
___ rhimpha de makra keleutha diênusan: oude thalassa
nor river-waters nor grassy glens*
___ οὔθ' ὕδωρ ποταμῶν οὔτ' ἄγκεα ποιήεντα
___ outh' hudôr potamôn out' ankea poiêenta
nor mountain-peaks checked* the career of the immortal horses,
___ ἵππων ἀθανάτων οὔτ' ἄκριες ἔσχεθον ὁρμήν,
___ hippôn athanatôn out' akries eskhethon hormên,
but they clave* the deep air above them as they went.
___ ἀλλ' ὑπὲρ αὐτάων βαθὺν ἠέρα τέμνον ἰόντες.
___ all' huper autaôn bathun êera temnon iontes.
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Ancient Greek Other Meanings|
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359 δαΐφρονι / daïphroni|
fiery - wise [sagely] (from skt., working miracles) - prudent (usually a male epithet in Homer)
360 κυανόπεπλον / kuanopeplon (κῠᾰνό-πεπλος)
dark upper garment or mantle - dark woven cloth - dark veil
361 μένος / menos
strength - spirit - disposition - temper - intent - purpose
361 ἤπιον / êpion
kindly - kind - gentle - assuaging - favourable - appeased
362 δυσθῡμέω / dusthumaine
to be melancholy - cast down - angry
362 περιώσιον / periôsion
immensely - exceedingly - far beyond (the rest)
363 ἀεικής / aeikês
unseemly - unfitting - shameful
364 ἔνθα / entha
there - thither - in that place - [according to N. J. Richardson (1974), the term infers that - "Persephone will remain Hades' wife amongst the gods (L-363), and she will rule in the upper world over all that lives and moves (L-365 f.) and will hold her honours 'amongst the gods.' (L-366)"]
370 περίφρων / periphrôn
strong-minded - very thoughtful - deeply thoughtful
372 λάθρῃ / lathrêi
by stealth - secretly
373 νωμήσας / nômêsas
peering (round him) - handling, taking care (himself) - to be the guiding power
374 αἰδοίῃ / aidoiêi
having a claim to regard, reverence, or compassion -
showing reverence or compassion
380 διήνυσαν / diênusan
bring to an end - accomplish - finish - traverse - having finished one's course over
381 ἄγκεα / ankea
bend - hollow - hence, mountain glen (small, secluded valley)
382 ἔσχεθον / eskhethon
hold - might stop - check - hold back
382 ὁρμήν / hormên
onrush - career (chosen course) - rapid motion forward - eager desire
383 τέμνον / temnon
cut - clave - cut through - plough
"A Nude Demeter Descending a Stairway"
"Though they said
Hermes played psychopomp,
it was Demeter who descended that moving stair,
escalator into Erebus, Styx burning below.
"And the mother, joying in the daughter,
did not lead her up,
but the two women ascended side by side,
silent in the stultifying air
"two women cascading though space and time,
above them little luminescent moons,
the alphabets of golden sheaves
folded over their arms."
Citation from a poem by Susan McCaslin, titled,
"Demeter Opens the Mysteries, and; Persephone in Hades, and; Persephone Finds Ruth on the Threshing Floor, and; Demeter Speaks Truth to the Powers, and; Demeter Laughs, and; Persephone Hears a Layered Singing, and; Demeter Works on Non-attachment, and; A Nude Demeter Descending a Stairway, and; Demeter's Drum," published
in "Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion,"
Volume 26, Number 1, Spring (2010).
Venus, Hades & Compulsory Sexuality
"[Persephone/]Proserpina’s mythic status as a liminal mediator is what unites the divergent Furies. She mediates between heaven and hell (e.g., in structuralist interpretations of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter) but also, symptomatic of Claudian’s literary self-consciousness, between the epithalamial
and the funerary in the topos of mors immatura [youthful death]. In her body not only are cosmic order and boundaries preserved, but contradictory Furies, torn between marriage and death, are united and made whole. [...] Proserpina, [...] is not merely the colonial victim of Venus’s sexual imperialism, but also the tool whereby to subjugate Pluto [Hades]. Rape is Venus’s weapon against any who reject her empire of sexuality by holding onto their virginity; indeed, in Claudian’s text her empire expands through what Patricia Johnson (1996, 139) calls 'compulsory sexuality.'”
from "Hellish Love: Genre in Claudian's De raptu Proserpinae" by Tsai, S-C Kevin, in Helios, Volume 34, Number 1, Spring 2007, pp. 37-68. See related, "Ovid before Exile: Art and Punishment in the Metamorphoses, p. 66, by Patrica Jane Johnson (reference, Metamophoses, 5-273-77)
Epic Patterns in the Hymn to Demeter
"[T]he story of Demeter's withdrawal and return in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter shares an epic pattern that is discernible also in the Homeric poems. The narrative of the Hymn, built upon recurrent epic and mythic themes, may be seen to reveal a structure found in other stories in verse that have long existed in tradition. [...] The narrative pattern [...] centers on the following principle elements with accompanying themes: (1) the withdrawal of the hero (or heroine), which sometimes takes the form of a long absence; this element is often closely linked with a quarrel and the loss of someone beloved; (2) disguise during the absence or upon the return of the hero, frequently accompanied by a deceitful story; (3) the theme of hospitality to the wandering hero; (4) the recognition of the hero, or at least a fuller revelation of his identity; (5) disaster during or occasioned by the absence; (6) the reconciliation of the hero and return. [...] The pattern of Demeter's withdrawal, reconciliation and return is at times closer to the pattern of the Iliad and at other points nearer to the Odyssey. For a story that is found in neither of the Homeric poems, these thematic correspondences are remarkable in number and in kind. They help reveal the vitality and uniformity of the elements from which epic tradition is formed."
from "Withdrawal and Return: an Epic Story Pattern in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and in the Homeric Poems," pp. 214-48, Classical Journal 62, by Mary L. Lord (1967)
The Feminine Archetype —
from Submergence to Renewal —
"[T]he joyful finding of Persephone emblemizes the feminine archetype as a vision of continuous attachment and transfigurative strength, mapping the return from darkness to light, from submergence to renewal. The Eleusinian mysteries surrounding the cult of Demeter not only celebrate the death and rebirth of the seasonal year but therefore mark an expressly feminine filiation and genealogy. Describing a rendezvous of myth and history, the Demeter-Persephone archetype has continuous and current resonance in all aspects of women's relationships with each other and can be said to govern the ethos of the women's movement itself, shaped as it is by the internal networks, continuities and friendships of women who span various generations."
from "Reading for Difference: Feminist Perspectives on Women Novelists of Contemporary Spain: Introduction: Demeter or the Joyful Finding" in "Anales de la literatura española contemporánea," p. 12, by Mirella Servodidio, Alec 12 1/2 (1987)
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