Love and Hate, the distance between the two (in time and in between two separate worlds or ideas of perfect hubs - to disturb or not to disturb? (to which level?), and the closeness between the two, the thin line drawn (always by Bugs Bunny) and the pieces of the puzzle called The World to unify a broken concept and make of it the representation of what palpably is with life implying death, at times even asking for it... or longing for an end. So, it must be my life the one longing for... my end? Wow! What a hero I have become!
But who am I saving and is it for the best? Do I like it? And if the answer is "Yes" then to which extent? Would I love it as myself?
Yes! You've got it! This is about Persephone!
Persephone, queen of the Underworld, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, the goddess of harvest and fertility. She was also called Kore, meaning "maiden" and grew up to be a lovely girl attracting the attention of many gods. It is widely spread that Demeter had a sickening obsessed love for her daughter, thus keeping all men away from Kore.
But suitors couldn't be kept away forever and, as Persephone grew up to be a charming young lady, Hades, the god of the Underworld, a middle-aged man living in the dark - after being refused the hand in marriage of Persephone - decided to take the girl to his kingdom. One day, while the girl was playing with her friends in the field, picking flowers, she stopped to pick the most enchanting narcissus she had ever seen when the earth cleaved open beneath her. Through the gap Hades himself came out on his chariot with black horses and grabbed the maiden before she could alert her friends. He then took her to his kingdom, the Underworld where he was planning to keep her forever as his bride-to-be and Queen of the Dead.
Interestingly enough, at the surface, the disappearance of Persephone remains unnoticed by her idle friends. However, Helios and Zeus do witness the incident. Nevertheless, they prefer to remain silent about it for reasons of wisdom and the need for peace and tranquillity. Distraught and heartbroken, Demeter wandered the earth seeking her daughter. Hecate, the goddess of wilderness and childbirth had mercy on this desperate mother and advised her to go and seek the help of Helios. The all-seeing sun god, when he saw Demeter crying and begging for help felt very sorry for her and revealed to her that Persephone had been kidnapped by Hades. Helios suggested that it was not such a bad thing for Persephone to be the wife of Hades and queen of the Underworld. However, Demeter was furious at this insult and decided that Hades, who had only dead people for company, was not the right husband for her daughter. This fury of Demeter started out a great fight, the woman threatening that she would never again make the earth fertile and every single body on the planet would die.
At this threat, Zeus decided that Persephone would spend half of the months in a year with her husband in the Underworld and the other half of the year with her mother in Olympus. None of the two opponents got pleased with this arrangement but they had to accept it. During the six months that Persephone spent in the Underworld, her mother was sad and did not need to deal with harvest - according to the ancient Greeks, these were the months of Autumn and Winter; when the land is fertile and gives crops, though, was when Persephone was allowed to come to the surface and so she did, living with her mother. Demeter then would shine from happiness and the land would become fertile and fruitful again all due to their happiness. Now, these would be, of course, the remaining months of Spring and Summer.
The myth, among other purposed ideas, was to explain the change of seasons and the eternal cycle of Nature's death and rebirth. Of course, as a vegetation goddess, Persephone in fact as well as Demeter, were the central figures of the Elensinian Mysteries which promised the initiated happy afterlife.
Although the origins of her cult are uncertain, the agricultural ancient communities celebrated Persephatta in the month of Anthesterians in Athens whilst the city of Epizephyrian Loceris, in modern Calabria (Southern Italy) the cult of Persephone is moved around the idea of her being the goddess of marriage and childbirth (an inherited earned gift from Hecate, perhaps?) The sources of inspiration have this myth explained and reinvented in many expressive and sometimes clever forms. Nevertheless, for the natural mythological data in this article and the tradition of perpetuating the popular legends as close to the original story as we know them the source remained a traditional one.
It is good to point out, though, that Persephone, was and is still known under many names with various historical variants including Persephassa, Persephatta or Periphona, in Latin being rendered as Prosepina, also identified by the Romans as the Italic goddess Libera who was conflated with Prosepina. The Homeric form of her name is Persephoneia whilst the people keep knowing her as Kore.
Now, leaving the debate of her name behind for perhaps the richer in meaningful resources symbol linked to her existence as a legend or a mythological creature if not an archetypal character: what's with the pomegranate? And where is all that pomegranate thing or story we got all so crazy and hooked up with by artists or with artists and writers, if with no magicians or sorcerers involvement whatsoever!?
Well, a more succulent side of the myth tells us that Persephone cried and cried and over-cried to Hades about being separated from her mother, refusing to eat anything that was being brought to her. Hades insisted to find ways to please her, so, he brought her many fruit and foods until he attracted her with a pomegranate. At the sight of the exotic enchanting fruit - one some speculate she had never seen before whilst others hold as her favourite fruit -she splits the fruit into two halves and picks six seeds she eats from it. This act takes her immediately back to her mother where they embrace and have a wonderful cheerful time together. But, after only six months, Persephone is paid a visit from the Underworld, is summoned to return to her husband and explained the reasons - she had eaten six seeds of the pomegranate which entitled her to see her mother for six months in the year only. When the time comes Persephone does say goodbye to her mother and returns to Hade's kingdom remaining the queen of the dead forever.
The pomegranate myth had many sides and facets. A different one, in fact, explains the will and power of the gods involved earlier in this presentation the one telling us of the desperate tries of Demeter, the mother, to get her daughter out of the hands of Hades, Hecate's and Helios' mercy and goodwill, the wrath of the mother and the need to make peace invoked by Zeus. So, Zeus, here, does decide that Persephone must get back to the surface as the crops start being affected by Demeter's state of mind so Hades, knowing that the girl has to eat something from the Underworld in order to remain attached to it forever tries to tempt her with many exotic foods. But, the girl refuses and at a god's council, she is promised, out of the goodness and good-will of her husband, Hades, some time to spend with her mother, in Olympus. She is instructed or guided to have only six seeds of the pomegranate and so she listens and eats only six seeds being immediately taken back to her mother. Spring and Summer fly, though, away and the girl must obey and return to her destiny and husband in the world of the dead. A slightly different version still speaks of Hades' struggle to convince Persephone to eat something and the sign given to the gods when Persephone chooses to eat six seeds - it must mean that she needs to spend half of the time in a year to the surface and half of it in the shadow.
Artists and poets around the world have speculated and have drawn inspiration from this myth. Enchanted by the story and the mysteries coming with it, they came up with their own thinking details and adornments or with their pragmatical or not quite-so variations of the story, either embellishing it or aggravating things, making it more or less different from the archetype, closer or a lot more distant from the legend's meaning and the typology of this character. Nevertheless, the legend leaves space for many interpretations and speculation, and just like many writers and thinkers of Athens and Greece have exploited the potential of this myth, others launched themselves into making assumptions, making discoveries and even changing the whole story turning it into something else. The dark fantasy literature and sub-genre is the one that in present days exploits with thirst the myth, remixing it with many other folk legends around the globe and coming up with interesting time shifts, launches in extraordinary and never seen before adventures, and jumping to unexpected conclusions with spectacular novel endings.
This journey of the quest for meaning and the symbolism carried with the fruit had me not only hungry but also a little intrigued and very curious. I wanted to know more. Did I want to understand why a pomegranate? Now, what's with it? What does it symbolizes and why?
Interestingly enough, this fruit is native from Iran to the Himalayans, in northern India. It has been cultivated since ancient times throughout the Mediterranean region of Asia, Africa and Europe. The fruit is a powerful one, full of vitamins, very nutritious, containing even the good fat our body needs, proteins, dietary fibres and minerals. It doesn't lack carbohydrates and is indicated in a few affections, being one of the very happy to help you with a few health problems gift of nature. Due to its rich water content and Vitamin C, the fruit helps against dehydration. It was also used and is very effective in cicatrizing internal little wounds as well as external wounds. One can find in 100 g of pomegranate arils 78 g of water, the entire body of arils being responsible for offering 346KJ (83 kcal) of energy. The fruit is seen as a life-giver or a redeemer of life if you like, a rejuvenating wonder fruit. Its skin is also said to be used in producing carpet paints and I am not sure that it wouldn't work for the industry of other textile and non-textile paints. Worth giving it a thought in research.
The Ancient Egyptians regarded the pomegranate as a symbol of prosperity and ambition. According to one of the oldest medical writings from 150 BC, Ebers Papyrus, the Egyptians were using pomegranate for the treatment of tapeworm and other infections. Due to its powers to bring the dead back to life and life back into the human but also following the influence of Persephone's myth, this fruit has been recognised as a symbol of fertility, rejuvenation and health. It is also seen as a symbol of death, and who can blame it for being also a killer when, in order to give life you have to kill and, in order to come back to life you have to die for the world you're living in.
The association of this fruit in Greek mythology is with Aphrodite and Hera, two powerful goddesses who were both known for their beauty and were associated with love, marriage and childbirth, each in their own particular character traces. It was also named Malum Granatum, which means "grainy apple" and was used in beauty treatments, skin disorders and digestive disorders over the centuries of The Ancient Mediterranean world. Modern research revealed that pomegranates are helping against heart conditions, diabetes and cancer. Several publications and articles were dedicated to offering more details about the health benefits of this miraculous gift of the Himalayas.
But the symbolism of this fruit doesn't stop here. Given its many seeds, the pomegranate is seen as a fertility fruit. In the Quran, pomegranates grow in the Garden of Paradise and are referred to on multiple occasions as God's good creations. It was also believed to be found in the Garden of Eden and Ancient Iranian Christianity also leaves open the subject of it being the real forbidden fruit rather than the apple. The people of Iran also celebrate the victory of light over darkness by eating pomegranates. In the Egyptians' eyes, this fruit was a symbol of prosperity and ambition and in the Armenian culture, this fruit is held as a symbol of fertility, abundance, and marriage. In Ancient Armenia, a bride was given a pomegranate fruit which she threw against a wall; the scattered pomegranate seeds ensured the bride's future children. The pomegranate also has an important role in Jewish tradition - it's said that one fruit must have 613 seeds which represent the 613 commandments of the Torah. In Ancient Israel pomegranates were brought to Moses to demonstrate the fertility of the "promised land" and the Book of Exodus describes the me'il (the robe of the ephod) worn by the Hebrew high priest as having pomegranates embroidered in the hem. The fruit is even mentioned in the Songs of Solomon six times containing a particular quote. The tradition is to consume them on Rosh Hashana because the pomegranate symbolizes fruitfulness. They also symbolize a mystical experience in the Jewish mystical tradition, or kabbalah, with the typical reference being to enter the "garden of pomegranates" or pardes rimonim. Azerbaijan made the fruit its symbol by dedicating to it a Festival named Goychay Pomegranate Festival. The Pomegranate was also depicted on the official logo of the 2015 European Games held in Azerbaijan.
In the European Christian motifs, this fruit makes a sensation. A fourth-century floor mosaic from Hinton St Mary, Dorset, now in the British Museum, the bust of Christ and the chi-rho are flanked by pomegranates but this is not the only place where pomegranates are encountered. They are often woven into the fabric of vestments and liturgical hangings or wrought in metalwork. They figure in many religious paintings such as the ones representing it in the hands of the Virgin Mary or the infant Jesus. When broken and bursting open, the fruit is a symbol of the fullness of Jesus' suffering and resurrection. In Eastern Orthodox Church, pomegranate seeds may be used in kollyva, a dish prepared for memorial services - this symbolizes the sweetness of the heavenly kingdom and the Greeks make similar offerings when they commemorate their dead; their kollyva is as well a dish made of boiling wheat mixed with sugar and decorated with pomegranate. In modern times, when somebody buys a new home, it is conventional for a house guest to bring as a first gift a pomegranate, which is placed under the ikonostasi (home altar) of the house: a symbol of abundance, fertility and good luck. It is also said that Solomon had his coronet designed based on the pomegranate's calyx.
In China, this fruit was introduced during the Han Dynasty and was considered an emblem of fertility and numerous progeny, the Chinese character describing it meaning seeds and offspring at the same time. In Kurdish culture, the pomegranate is accepted as a symbol of abundance and a sacred fruit of ancient Kurdish religions, used as well in Kurdish carpets as a symbol. It is also the case of India to be considered a symbol of prosperity and fertility, in Indian culture being associated with the earth goddess, Bhoomidevi and Lord Ganesha, the one fond of the many-seeds fruit.
This fruit was so popular, appreciated and loved that there was even money imprinted with this symbol. The Ancient Greek city of Side (which is the name for pomegranate in the local language) used a coin that had a crested Corinthian helmeted bust of Athena on it with a pomegranate fruit on the other side. Pretty wise, don't you think? And clever, I'd add. By the way, Side was in Pamphylia, a former region on the southern Mediterranean coast of Asia Minor, today's Antalya province of Turkey.
The fruit of the dead, as it was known in Ancient Greek mythology, is believed to have sprung from the blood of Adonis. So, it must also stand for potency and beauty, if not power, right? Maybe that is why Persephone gave it a try! Clever girl! But let us return to the closer-to-us days and look into the more recent studies on pomegranate.
Right. So it seems that according to Carl A.P. Ruck and Blaise Daniel Staples, one a professor of Classica Studies and "an authority on the ecstatic rituals of the god Dionysus", the other a classical mythologist, the chambered pomegranate is also a surrogate for the poppy's narcotic capsule. The two co-authored The World of Classical Mythology: Gods and Goddesses, Heroines and Heroes, a textbook which became a standard in the field of Classical Studies and Mythology. In the book The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries, Blaise Daniel Staples claims that there was a psycho-active ingredient in the secret kykeion potion used in the Eleusinian Mysteries.
Nice to know that the name pomegranate derives from the medieval Latin Pomum meaning apple and granatum meaning seeded with the possibility of the term to be stemming from the old French word for the fruit, pomme-grenade, as the pomegranate was known in early English as "apple of Granada". Apparently, the term survives today only on heraldic blazons. But garnet derives from Old French, you'd say, and granatum used a different meaning of the term such as "of dark red colour". Well, the modern French term for pomegranate solves disputes and everything in a very military fashion: "Shut up or I'll kill you" sounds like the way the French would have done it in Ancient times, keeping their Celtic bottoms safe and away from the enemy, throwing a grenade or two at the enemy and sending them away. "Oh, off they go! Look at them! Such a short visit!" "Now let us pay a visit to our friends oop on the little island!" "Take a couple of wine-apples to them, like the Romans do, you know, they moved to a new home!?" "Are ye goin' tae Dublin? I have a friend there! He's a scientist. Can you give him this box from me?" "Sure, what's in it?" "Cochineals! Don't open it! They'll eat oop yer fruit there and cause you some injuries as well!" "Yuch! You keep it, mate!"
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the Eleusinian Mysteries are echoed by many thinkers and writers. We can identify, thus, references and allusive expressions if not versions of the myth and teachings in The Myth of Er in Plato's Republic or moments and pictures in Shakespeare's The Tempest where imagery from alchemy and hermeticism draw on the Mysteries, the play's central masque sequence celebrating the greek myth by using the Roman deities names for the characters involved. But, this is not all of it. Terms and interpretations were borrowed by Carl Gustav Jung himself for his reframing of psychoanalytic treatment and they were used as a source of metaphors to initiate rituals of spiritual initiation and rebirth. To hint even more at the pomegranate symbol use-make in art and literature, we have the Poena Damni trilogy by Dimitris Lyacos, who, in his second book focuses on the return of the dead and the pomegranate is remembered as a symbol indicating the residence of the dead in the underworld and their periodical return to the world of the living. Now, to conclude in musical tones, Eleusis, the symphonic poem created by Octavio Vazquez treats the Eleusinian Mysteries with add-ons of Western esoteric traditions.
Love and Hate! Figuring out how things can turn great... And there I find a little story from the Side region in Ancient Greece, and this one is about a girl named Side (which means pomegranate) who killed herself on her mother's grave in order to avoid suffering rape at the hands of her own father Ictinus. Boy, that Cinderella we know had such great reasons to cry over missing the ball and not meeting the prince and everything at her mother's tomb! Nevertheless, Side's blood transformed into a pomegranate tree. And voilà! some greater mysteries starting to get revealed, the symbolism of the great mythological facts turned upside down and a rough reality pointed out as "the spotted side of the legend".
So, with which side of the myth and legends and the stories built all around them would you rather choose to live? Which one do you prefer and why? And what is better, in your opinion, and in which case - silence or truth? Reality or mischief? A lie or two or some nice dosage of creativity...? Which one is better? Which side comforts one best and where would you rather position yourself, if you had to be in some kind of a participant's shoes for a while? I will let you explore and think about the answers you can come up with while I'll send myself back into the editing-creating-editing world where there's loads of research, study and exploration by means of learning to do.
Enjoy your reading times as much as your living times and have some happy socio-active pomegranate celebrations!