Ancient World Now: The Eleusinian Mysteries

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Part II in a five-part series on religions of the ancient world.

This ancient tale is the basis of the Eleusinian Mysteries honoring the grain goddess Demeter and her daughter, Persephone.

One bright spring morning, when the dew was still clinging to the flower petals and the green blades of grass, the lovely Persephone, daughter of Demeter, was making her rounds of the fields. Persephone had a special duty as the daughter of Demeter. It was her job to paint the flowers in the springtime. So, with her paintpot she wandered from blossom to blossom, choosing the colors that were most pleasing to her.

Her mother, Demeter, was busy making things grow, and did not notice that her daughter had wandered away from her side. With great delight, Persephone mixed the colors of the sky with the colors of the grape to get just the right shade of lavender, when suddenly, the Earth ripped open a chasm right at her feet and from the depths charged a great chariot pulled by two black stallions. Driving the chariot was Hades, King of the Underworld, and he snatched Persephone up in his arms and dove back down to the depths of his dark kingdom.

Demeter heard the cries of her beloved daughter, and raced to the sounds of the fading voice. By the time she reached the spot, there was no trace of what had happened there. Demeter cried aloud for her girl, but there was silence. She searched field and forest day and night, carrying a flaming torch to light her way. But Persephone was nowhere to be found.

This famous painting by Dante Gabriel Rossetti of our girl gives a clue to her tale in the red pomegranate she is holding.  Listen to this week’s podcast to find out what happens to Persephone! Enjoy!

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