Are you curious about the story of Demeter, Persephone, Hades, and the infamous pomegranate? What exactly happened in this ancient myth? What underlying themes and messages can we learn from these powerful Goddesses?
Note: As with all myths, there are many different versions and facets to the story of Persephone and the pomegranate. My main focus is on the hidden meanings of this myth and what we can learn from it and carry with us today.
Who is persephone?
Persephone: Goddess/Queen of the Underworld
Persephone is sometimes known as Kore, which means the Maiden because she plays a role in the coming of spring each year. She also symbolizes duality and fertility.
Demeter: Goddess of the Harvest and mother of Persephone
Hades: God of the Underworld
Zeus: God of the Sky (considered the father of all Gods)
The story of persephone, hades & the pomegranate
Demeter, the Harvest Goddess, lived with her daughter Persephone on Earth, which was always in an eternal state of spring/summer. The land was a luscious shade of green, the flowers were in full bloom, the sun shone warmly and brightly in the sky, and the animals were fully out of winter slumber.
Demeter went out of her way to protect her daughter and keep her out of harm’s way, but as Persephone got older, it became inevitable that she could not protect her forever.
Hades, the God of the Underworld, has been in love with Persephone for a long time and wants her to be his bride. So one day, while picking flowers alone, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and taken to the Underworld, and raped.
When Demeter realizes she has been taken, she is distraught. She searches the whole world for Persephone, accompanied by Goddess Hecate carrying fire torches. Eventually, she learns that Zeus conspired with Hades in the abduction of Persephone and is furious. She mourns her daughter and channels her rage by letting all the crops die and not allowing anything to flower or fruit again until Persephone is returned. The never-ending phase of spring and fertility is paused, and the Earth has a chance to rest but left too long, the people and plants will starve.
In the Underworld, Persephone sees the dead for the first time. At first, she is deeply traumatized and unhappy and longs for the green, ripe, fertile pastures of Earth above her. She refuses to eat anything but pomegranates as a way to withhold her fertility.
Hades explains his actions, declares his love to her, and eventually, with much persistence, she agrees to marry Hades and takes her place as Queen of the Dead. She was tasked with greeting new souls in the Underworld and helping them transition to their new life. Although a part of her longed to be reunited with her mother, she also desired to remain in the Underworld and continue on her new path.
However, the entire time Persephone was in the Underworld, she knew that she could not eat or drink a single thing; otherwise, she would be resigned to the Underworld forever. Because she has eaten the food of the dead (pomegranate seeds), she must return to the Underworld and Hades for six months each year, leaving in fall (Samhain) and returning to Earth around spring (Imbolc).
The symbolism of the story of persephone
1. A mother’s guilt
When Persephone is abducted by Hades into the Underworld, Demeter blames herself and feels immense guilt. She couldn’t protect or save her daughter from the world. This is mirrored today when a young girl experiences trauma or abuse—her mother will often blame herself and drive herself crazy thinking about how she could have prevented it from happening.
2. The detachment of daughter from mother
The story of Persephone and the pomegranate represents the natural detachment that daughters must have from their mothers.
For Demeter, the season of winter represents “losing” her daughter. Watching her grow into herself and become someone she doesn’t know anymore. For Persephone, it’s a chance to gain independence, become her own woman, and know who she is away from her mother’s love.
Persephone goes to the Underworld to detach from her mother and blossoms from a girl into a woman.
3. Being initiated into something before you’re ready
Persephone was taken by Hades, against her will, to the Underworld. Although she learns in time to accept and even enjoy her new circumstances, this does not change the fact that she was pushed into something she did not consciously choose, and her body was abused.
The myth of Persephone and the pomegranate serves as a reminder that sometimes we are pushed into experiencing things we are not ready for, e.g., grief, sex, marriage, and even motherhood. But in time, we can learn to heal the trauma caused and change our relationship to the thing in question. We can still mourn what was stolen from us or the trauma we experienced and simultaneously find strength, joy, and beauty in the learning, growth, and journey we have been on.
4. Surrender to transformation
Persephone is taken into the Underworld, into the dark, by force, against her will. This is a symbol of undergoing any kind of soul growth or evolution—it is always wrapped in fear and discomfort. We don’t know what awaits us on the other side. Everything we think we are or know is falling away, and that can be a lot to take in.
Once we find ourselves in the dark, we have two choices. We can either resist it and remain in “victim” mode or take responsibility for where we are and face and embrace it. This is how we become empowered. Persephone could have remained in victim mode after being kidnapped and raped, but instead, she finds joy in her new home and work helping souls transition.
5. The natural cycles and seasons of life
At the start of the story, Earth is in an eternal state of spring and full bloom. There are no seasons. When Persephone is taken to the Underworld, Demeter refuses to do her work. Earth slips into death, also known as winter. Every time Persephone returns to the Underworld, there is this dying phase on Earth.
This is necessary because everything (including us humans) needs a chance to rest, hibernate, and renew. It reminds us that we cannot live in spring or summer, constantly growing and harvesting. We need winter.
6. Life, death and rebirth
Gods and Goddesses are immortal and, therefore, not as familiar with or empathetic to human experiences such as death. But each time Persephone descends to the Underworld, death comes to Earth, visible in the plants shedding their leaves, the sun visiting less often each day, and frost eventually covering the ground. And each time she returns to Earth, the world experiences a beautiful, abundant rebirth.
This cycle of life, death, and rebirth is the cycle of nature and the cycle of women (which we see in the phases of our menstrual cycle). It is the natural way of life: cyclic rather than linear, as we sometimes confuse it with being.
7. Persephone & the pomegranate: fertility
The pomegranate in the story of Persephone has its own strong symbolism. Split open a pomegranate, and you’ll be greeted by ruby red juice and an abundance of seeds, each of which looks like a tiny red jewel, which is why this fruit represents fertility. But it also means a pause in fertility. In ancient Greece, pomegranate seeds and rind were recommended as a form of birth control.
Both sides are pictured in the fertile window of Earth when Persephone returns in spring and the infertile window when she descends to the Underworld and everything shrivels and dies. This also mirrors our journey as women from Maiden to Mother to Crone. From pre-menstruation to menstruation and to menopause.
8. An invite to transcend duality and move toward unification
The final key message from the story of Persephone and Hades and the pomegranate is the clear split between the Underworld and Earth. This represents the duality of dark and light, below and above. Persephone is forced to split herself (and her time) between both worlds but cannot stay forever in either.
This is true in life. When we experience deep grief or even a dark night of the soul, we cannot sit in this forever. Eventually, we must rise. Similarly, we cannot stay in the “light” forever; eventually, we will experience a death of sorts that forces us deep into the shadows.
Our mission in this lifetime is to unify these two aspects of ourselves and rewrite the myth of Persephone.
What does the myth of persephone mean to you?
I’d love to know your thoughts and personal stories surrounding the myth of Persephone and the pomegranate. Are there any parallels with your own life and experiences? Which messages and themes stand out to you and resonate the most? Share it all with me in the comments below.