Pomegranate Fruit and Seeds (Punica granatum, autumn, Wikipedia )
Persephone as Peplos Kore (Κόρη),
Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE
Food from Other Realms|
"Eating the food from another realm binds one to that realm. Through her [Demeter's] ministrations to Demophoôn, he now belongs partially to the human world and partly to the world of the immortals. Persephone also belongs to two realms, that of her mother and that of Hades. Because she has sought to accomplish with Demophoôn what Hades succeeded in doing, Demeter understands that Persephone is bound to the world of the dead. [Demeter's] own refusal to eat the food of the gods [L-49] indicated her separation from that realm, as did her refusal to eat the food of humanity, except in the ritual drink kykeon."
from "Woman's Power, Man's Game: Essays on Classical Antiquity in Honour of Joy K. King," edited by Mary de Forest, p.76, citation by Kristina Passman (1993)
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Pomegranate's Mixed Gender
"Kerenyi, in one of the most interesting sections of his book on the cult (1967a:134), defines two groups of plants, one associated with the male divinity (pomegranate, apple, fig, vine) and the other with the female fertility goddess (pomegranate, almond, date, palm). The association of the pomegranate with both male and female fertility deities makes it an ideal symbol for the union of Persephone and Hades in this poem [...]: the womblike shape and bloodlike liquid that flowed from it associated it with the female; its seeds were a male feature."
from "Politics and Pomegranates," p.237, by Marilyn Arthur, in "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," ed. by Helene P. Foley, 1994
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"Towards the end of the poem Persephone tells Demeter that Hades tricked her and forced her to eat a pomegranate seed. In so doing, Hades compelled Persephone to spend part of the year with him in the underworld, but he may also, presumably unwittingly, have caused Persephone to be sterile. In medical texts the value of pomegranate, Punica granatum, L., as an anti-fertility drug is only gradually realised. [...] But Soranus is very clear on the main use of pomegranate: he lists no fewer than five different prescriptions for contraceptive pessaries. Clement of Alexandria says that woman at the Thesmorphia were not allowed to eat pomegranate seeds that had fallen on the ground. It is now known that the pomegranate contains female sex hormones, hence its effectiveness as a contraceptive."
Citation by Lucia Nixon, from "Women in Antiquity: New Assessments," p.86, edited by Richard Hawley (1997) Botanical Pomegranate drawing from Wikipedia
(click image to enlarge)
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No Marriage with Hades
"The perspective of Hades, like that of Helios, and presumably of Zeus (although he remains behind the scenes in the Hymn), focuses on marriage and its possible benefits to Persephone, rather than on the violence done to her and his keeping her in Erebos against her will. It is Helios and Hades who use marriage vocabulary and images; neither Demeter nor Persephone, even after the settlement with Zeus, refers to a marriage.
The author of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, by manipulating the images of marriage, rape, and death, presents the story of the Rape of Persephone from two different, gender-specific points of view. From the masculine point of view, the event was a wedding; from the feminine, it was a rape."
from "Rape, marriage, or death? Gender perspectives in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter" by Nanci DeBloois (Philological Quarterly. Iowa City: Summer 1997. Vol. 76, 3; p.245, ff.)
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Crete Goddess, or devotee, from Phaistos,
early 2nd Millenium, BCE, with bird's beak, and innovative wings for hands.
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"At the beginning of the hymn, Demeter was ignorant of Zeus' plan and seemed helpless to realize her powers. By the end, Demeter has realized the efficacy of her power to force Zeus to return her daughter. Demeter also has forged a crucial connection to human beings through the Mysteries and the Thesmorphoria. Persephone has a crucial role. Hades's trick with the pomegranate seed to keep Persephone for one-third of each year has made it possible for Persephone to cross the barriers between Olympos, Earth and the underworld. Therefore Persephone can insure that the initiates in the Mysteries do have a different lot after death."
from commentary on "The Homeric Hymns," p.114, by Diane J. Rayor (2004)
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Hermes Returning Persephone
by Frederic Leighton, 1891 (Demeter Above)
(click image to enlarge)
Demeter / Persephone
"Although most of the poem concerns Demeter's grief and longing for her daughter and the establishment of her temple in Eleusis, when Persephone reappears she is again center stage with her mother. The Hymn describes the reunion between the mother and daughter very much as if lovers were seeing each other after a long, unplanned absence. Demeter, seeing her daughter, bolts down the mountain 'like a maenad [L-386],' while Persephone, seeing her mother, runs and clings to her [L-389] 'in passionate embrace.' [...] Persephone then speaks for the first time [L-405] in the Hymn, responding to her mother's question."
from "The Reign of God is Such as These: A Socio-Literary Analysis of Daughters in the Gospel of Mark," p. 63, by Sharon Betsworth (2010)
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Relief with a dancing maenad [see Dem. L-386], Roman copy of a Greek relief attributed to Kallimachos, ca. 425–400 BCE. Pentelic marble. "This dancing maenad, clothed in a diaphanous chiton, carries an object characteristic of Dionysos' retinue, the thyrsos, which consists of a fennel stalk crowned with a pinecone and ivy berries. The voluminous garment swirls about her in fanciful, highly expressive folds that evoke her dance. Her introspective expression [...] contrasts most effectively with the exuberance of her drapery." Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
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Demeter as Maenad
"When Hermes brings Persephone back from the lower world, 'as soon as she saw her Demeter rushed toward her like a Maenad along the mountainside shadowed by forest, and Persephone opposite jumped down and ran...' [L-385-89] The simile of the Maenad, which in the Iliad is used to describe Andromache when she is afraid that Hector has been killed in battle (6.389, 22.460), here may signify fear as well as joy, since Demeter immediately asks Persephone the question that will determine whether or not they can be permanently reunited, whether she has eaten anything when she was in the world below."
from "Women in Greek Myth," p. 112, by Mary R. Lefkowitz (2007)
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Rebirthing the Life Stream
& the Green World
"The Demeter/Kore narrative...is of particular importance to women, uniting the feminine generations. The psychological effect of participating in the Eleusinian mysteries, suggests Carl Jung, is to "extend the feminine consciousness...An experience of this kind gives the individual a place and meaning in the life of the generations, so that all unnecessary obstacles are cleared out of the way of the life-stream that is to flow through her. At the same time the individual is rescued from her isolation and restored to wholeness. All ritual preoccupation with archetypes ultimately has this aim and result." [...] Demeter's devastation of vegetation, her quest for her daughter, and the triumphant rebirth of both Persephone and the green world make up the Eleusinian rites."
from "Archetypal Patterns in Women's Fiction," p. 170, 171,
by Annis Pratt (1981) (Free "greening" illustration from patternhead.com)
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"Thou shalt come up once more,
for gods and mortals." (L-403)
"[W]e have eaten of the fruit of Persephone, and we are changed. We can never again be wholly severed from the dark, the earth, the flesh. Within us, Persephone dwells, not as queen, but as friend — of the underworld. Within dwells the Dark God, not as demon, abductor, overlord, but as comforter who consoles us with the promise of renewal. They are the open-eyed dreamers, and what they dream into being in the underworld are the visions that rise to restore the earth. Our visions. Our Power."
from "Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics," p.91, by Starhawk (1997)
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Is the Pomegranate Eve's Apple?
"In the myth we are told that when Hermes arrives in Hades to escort Persephone back to the light of day, Pluto cunningly offers her a pomegranate — "a sweet one" — as a precaution so that she will not stay all the time in the upper world. Here Pluto[/Hades] is behaving strangely like Satan in the Garden of Eden. The pomegranate is the Apple of Hades, and in eating it, Persephone, like Eve in the garden, is assimilating a knowledge of good and evil."
from "Archetypal Imagination: Glimpses of the Gods in Life and Art," p. 224, by Noel Cobb (1992)
Homeric Hymn to Demeter
edited & adapted from the 1914 prose translation
Hugh G. Evelyn-White
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Homeric Hymn to Demeter |
English Ancient Greek Transliteration
• Greek-English Glossary
THE POMEGRANATE (384-413)
And he [Hermes] brought them to a halt* where she waited,*
___ στῆσε δ' ἄγων, ὅθι μίμνεν ἐυστέφανος Δημήτηρ,
___ stêse d' agôn, hothi mimnen eustephanos Dêmêtêr,
before her fragrant temple. And when she saw* them,
___ νηοῖο προπάροιθε θυώδεος: ἣ δὲ ἰδοῦσα
___ nêoio proparoithe thuôdeos: hê de idousa
she rushed like a Maenad* down some thick-wooded mountain.
___ ἤιξ', ἠύτε μαινὰς ὄρος κάτα δάσκιον ὕλῃ.
___ êix', êute mainas oros kata daskion hulêi.
Persephone on her side,* when she saw the sweet* eyes
___ Περσεφόνῃ δ' ἑτέρ[ωθεν ἐπεὶ ἴδεν ὄμματα καλὰ]
___ Persephonêi d' heter[ôthen epei iden ommata kala]
of her mother, left the chariot and horses, and leaped down
___ μητρὸς ἑῆς κατ' [ἄρ' ἥ γ' ὄχεα προλιποῦσα καὶ ἵππους]
___ mêtros heês kat' [ar' hê g' okhea prolipousa kai hippous]
to run to her, and falling upon her neck, embraced her.
___ ἆλτο θέει[ν, δειρῇ δέ οἱ ἔμπεσε ἀμφιχυθεῖσα:]
___ alto theei[n, deirêi de hoi empese amphikhutheisa:]
But while [Demeter] still held her dear child in her arms,
___ τῇ δὲ [φίλην ἔτι παῖδα ἑῇς μετὰ χερσὶν ἐχούσῃ]
___ têi de [philên eti paida heêis meta khersin ekhousêi]
suddenly suspected some snare so fearful she drew back
___ α[ἶψα δόλον θυμός τιν' ὀίσατο, τρέσσε δ' ἄρ' αἰνῶς]
___ a[ipsa dolon thumos tin' oisato, tresse d' ar' ainôs]
from her embrace and asked of her at once:
___ παυομ[ένη φιλότητος, ἄφαρ δ' ἐρεείνετο μύθῳ:]
___ pauom[enê philotêtos, aphar d' ereeineto muthôi:]
"My child, tell me, you tasted no food while you were down
___ τέκνον, μή ῥά τι μοι σ[ύ γε πάσσαο νέρθεν ἐοῦσα]
___ teknon, mê rha ti moi s[u ge passao nerthen eousa]
below? Speak out, hide nothing, that we may both know.
___ βρώμης; ἐξαύδα, μ[ὴ κεῦθ', ἵνα εἴδομεν ἄμφω:]
___ brômês; exauda, m[ê keuth', hina eidomen amphô:]
For if not, you shall come back from loathly Hades,
___ ὣς μὲν γάρ κεν ἐοῦσα π[αρὰ στυγεροῦ Ἀίδαο]
___ hôs men gar ken eousa p[ara stugerou Aidao]
live with me and your father, dark-clouded Son of Cronos,
___ καὶ παρ᾽ ἐμοὶ καὶ πατρὶ κελ[αινεφέϊ Κρονίωνι]
___ kai par' emoi kai patri kel[ainepheï Kroniôni]
and be honored by all the deathless gods;
___ ναιετάοις πάντεσσι τετιμ[ένη ἀθανάτοι]σιν.
___ naietaois pantessi tetim[enê athanatoi]sin.
but if so, you must return beneath the depths of the earth,
___ εἰ δ' ἐπάσω, πάλιν αὖτις ἰοῦσ' ὑπ[ὸ κεύθεσι γαίης]
___ ei d' epasô, palin autis ious' hup[o keuthesi gaiês]
there to dwell a third part of the seasons every year:
___ οἰκήσεις ὡρέων τρίτατον μέρ[ος εἰς ἐνιαυτόν,]
___ oikêseis hôreôn tritaton mer[os eis eniauton,]
yet for two parts you shall be with me and the other immortals.
___ τὰς δὲ δύω παρ' ἐμοί τε καὶ [ἄλλοις ἀθανά]τοισιν.
___ tas de duô par' emoi te kai [allois athana]toisin.
But when the earth with fragrant spring flowers,
___ ὁππότε δ' ἄνθεσι γαῖ' εὐώδε[σιν] εἰαρινο[ῖσι].
___ hoppote d' anthesi gai' euôde[sin] eiarino[isi]
of every kind, blooms,* then from the realm of darkness
___ παντοδαποῖς θάλλῃ, τόθ' ὑπὸ ζόφου ἠερόεντοςι
___ pantodapois thallêi, toth' hupo zophou êeroentos
thou shalt come up once more, a wonder for gods and mortals.
___ αὖτις ἄνει μέγα θαῦμα θεοῖς θνητοῖς τ' ἀνθρώποις.
___ autis anei mega thauma theois thnêtois t' anthrôpois
Now tell how he rapt you away to the realm of dark gloom
___ [εἶπε δὲ πῶς σ' ἥρπαξεν ὑπὸ ζόφον ἠερόεντα].
___ [eipe de pôs s' hêrpaxen hupo zophon êeroenta]
and by what trick did the strong Host of Many beguile you?
___ καὶ τίνι σ' ἐξαπάτησε δόλῳ κρατερὸς Πολυδέγμων;
___ kai tini s' exapatêse dolôi krateros Poludegmôn;
Then Persephone, deeply beautiful,* spoke to her in reply:
___ τὴν δ' αὖ Περσεφόνη περικαλλὴς ἀντίον ηὔδα:
___ tên d' au Persephonê perikallês antion êuda:
"Accordingly,* mother, I will tell you all without error.
___ τοιγὰρ ἐγώ τοι, μῆτερ, ἐρέω νημερτέα πάντα:
___ toigar egô toi, mêter, ereô nêmertea panta:
When luck-bringing Hermes came, swift messenger
___ εὖτέ μοι Ἑρμῆς ἦλθ' ἐριούνιος ἄγγελος ὠκὺς
___ eute moi Hermês êlth' eriounios angelos ôkus
from my father, Son of Cronos, and other Sons of Heaven,
___ πὰρ πατέρος Κρονιδαο καὶ ἄλλων Οὐρανιώνων,
___ par pateros Kronidao kai allôn Ouraniônôn,
leading me from Erebus, that seeing with your own eyes,
___ ἐλθεῖν ἐξ Ἐρέβευς, ἵνα ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ἰδοῦσα
___ elthein ex Erebeus, hina ophthalmoisin idousa
you could cease your anger and fearful wrath against the gods,
___ λήξαις ἀθανάτοισι χόλου καὶ μήνιος αἰνῆς,
___ lêxais athanatoisi kholou kai mênios ainês,
I sprang up at once for joy; but he secretly
___ αὐτίκ' ἐγὼν ἀνόρουσ' ὑπὸ χάρματος: αὐτὰρ ὃ λάθρῃ
___ autik' egôn anorous' hupo kharmatos: autar ho lathrêi
put in my mouth sweet food, a pomegranate seed,*
___ ἔμβαλέ μοι ῥοιῆς κόκκον, μελιηδέ' ἐδωδήν,
___ embale moi rhoiês kokkon, meliêde' edôdên,
and unwillingly, bodily forced* me to eat.*
___ ἄκουσαν δὲ βίῃ με προσηνάγκασσε πάσασθαι.
___ akousan de biêi me prosênankasse pasasthai.
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Ancient Greek Other Meanings|
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384 στῆσε / stêse |
bring to a halt - make to stand - bring to a standstill - rest - come to a stop
384 μίμνεν / mimnen
stay - wait - stand fast - abide - to be content [in one's place]
385 ἰδοῦσα / idousa
see - perceive - behold - look in the face - meet
μαινάς / mainas
Maenad - female worshippers of Dionysus - wild or mad with love - ecstatic
ἑτέρωθεν / heterôthen
from the other side, opposite
καλὰ / kala
beautiful - fine - sweet - moral beauty
402 θάλλῃ / thallêi
bloom - sprout - thrive - flourish - wax - be fresh - active - luxuriant - copious
405 περικαλλὴς / perikallês
roundly beautiful, lovely on all or both sides, deeply beautiful
406 τοιγὰρ / toigar
accordingly - therefore - for that very reason
406 νημερτέα / nêmertea
without error - unerring - infallible - speak sure truths
409 ἰδοῦσα / idousa
see, perceive, know, see with the eyes = see manifest, (as spring proves rebirth)
412 κόκκον / kokkon
[pomegranate] seed - grain [of wheat] - 'berry' (gall) of kermes oak (used to dye scarlet) - scarlet (the color) - pl., testicles
προσηνάγκασσε / prosênankasse
force [bodily force, or not given a choice separate from the arousal of the situation] - exert pressure - compel - prove that a thing necessarily is
πάσασθαι / pasasthai
to eat - to get - to acquire - to possess
Non-Desire & Compromise [L-395-399]
μήτε μοι μέλι μήτε μέλισσα
"I want neither the honey nor the bee."
"[As in Sappho] I want etc, is used of those who are not willing to take the bad with the good." ~ Diogenian, Proverbs
citation from "Greek Lyric, Sappho - Alcaeus," pp. 158-59, Sappho #146, edited and translated by David A. Campbell (1982)
Persephone must recount her story
to become reconciled with the trauma
"Persephone proceeds to narrate to Demeter, in elaborate detail, the sequence of events that led to her abduction how she was picking flowers with her friends, how she saw the narcissus, and 'joyously plucked it,'; how the earth opened up; and how Hades emerged in his chariot and kidnapped her. [...] Persephone's storytelling...helps her to become reconciled with the trauma she has experienced. Through reconstructing the events, Persephone transforms the memory of the trauma and integrates it into her life [...]. By negotiating a separate, safe, and autonomous space for herself [...], Persephone succeeds in establishing a safe haven in which she exercises agency, and is a mistress of her own fate."
from "Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth," pp. 52-53, by Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)
Blood Fruit of the Womb
& the Offspring of the Mind
"A child is as much the offspring of the body of your imagination, the treasure hard to attain, as it is the blood fruit of your womb. [...] When the last child leaves home, the void is filled only by the possibility of making something out of yourself. Demeter was past the age of childbearing and she returned to herself in a new form. Perhaps that flowering of women, that gathering of women in our time who choose not to conceive literally, those who choose at a young age to be (paradoxically) past the age of childbearing, are those to whom a cultural burden has fallen. Like the vestal virgins who tended and carried the public fire, these women might be the bearers of a kind of illumination that we have not known before."
from "The Moon and the Virgin: Reflections on the Archetypal Feminine," pp. 85-86, by Nor Hall (1980)
Agriculture as a "Cover Story"
"While [the Hymn to Demeter] myth is principally concerned with the agricultural change of seasons...this is increasingly becoming acknowledged as something of a 'cover story.' As classical philologist Adriana Cavarero notes, "The agricultural symbology is superimposed on ... [the myth]... as an external artifice. It does not contribute to mediating and resolving the conflict.'"
from "Because I, Persephone, Could Not Stop for Death:
Emily Dickinson and the Goddess," by Ken Hiltner, in the Emily Dickinson Journal, 10.2 (2001) 22-42. For Caverero see "In spite of Plato: a feminist rewriting of ancient philosophy," p. 58.
Two sides of the same kernos vase (used for multiple type offerings, seeds, grains, fruit, liquids, etc.), Cycladic, 2300-1900 BCE, MMA
True Signification of Symbols in Myths
"We will not attempt to find the 'true' signification of myths or dreams. Myth, and perhaps also dreams, bring a variety of symbols into play, none of which symbolizes anything in itself. They acquire a signification only to the degree that relations are established among them. Their signification is not absolute; it hinges on their position."
from "The Jealous Potter," p. 197, by Claude Levi-Strauss (1988)
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Sappho's "Apple" better translated as "Pomegranate"
Like the sweet-apple ripening to red on the topmost branch,
on the very tip of the topmost branch,
and the apple-pickers have overlooked it —
no they haven't overlooked it, but they couldn't reach it.
~ Sappho, Poem #105a
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"Mêlon, conventionally translated "apple," is really a general word for fleshy fruit — apricots, peaches, apples, citron, quinces, pomegranate. In wedding customs, it probably most often means quinces and pomegranates.
"[Sappho's] fragment 105a, spoken of a bride in the course of a wedding song, is a sexual image. [...] The vocabulary and phrasing of this fragment reveal much more than a sexual metaphor, however [....] Self-correction is Sappho's playful format for saying much more than her simile would otherwise mean."
from "Public and Private and Sappho's Lyrics" by Jack Winkler, in "Reflections of Women in Antiquity," ed. by Helene P. Foley, 1981
The Jewel-like Fruit
"The dark red jewel-like fruit of the pomegranate is symbolic of the magic and fertility of the Goddess. It flowers in early summer when the grain ripens. The pomegranate ripens in the fall after the threshed grain has been stored. This occurs during the grain field's fallow period, the mythic time when Persephone reigns in the Underworld."
from "Mysteries of Demeter: Rebirth of the Pagan Way," p.60, by Jennifer Reif (1999)
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Illustrations: (Left Panel) Peplos Kore (Κόρη), Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE, (Top) Photo:Pomegranate Fruit and Seeds (Punica_granatum, autumn, Wikipedia)
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