Here on the blog I write about my art process, as well as topics that mirror the core of my work - combination of herbalism, ancestral connection and eco-feminism.
I'm interested in exploring how the environment is impacted by humans and how a disconnection from nature has changed society as a whole.
Beyond being the Queen of the Underworld and the goddess who inspires the shift in seasons, Persephone is a goddess with layers of symbolism. Her story can have different meanings, depending on the individual’s interpretation and own personal experience. My collection “Embodied Nature” is inspired by the parallels between the myth of Persephone and the current state of the environment.
Below is an exploration of how that connection shows up in the Embodied Nature Collection.
The origin of the myth of Persephone is a bit of a mystery. However, we can see glimmers of her appearance before the time of Ancient Greece.
During the time period of the Mycenaeans, who ruled Greece during the Bronze Age (~ 1400 BCE), we have record of a goddess named Perse. The similarity between Perse and Persephone could be an origin point for the goddess before she entered the Ancient Greek world (1).
During the time period of the Minoans, who ruled Crete before the Mycenaeans, there is also evidence of an underworld deity and her cult. There is speculation that the famous Snake Goddess figurine from this period is a pre-cursor to Persephone (5). Likewise, there is also a hypothesis of a connection between the Minoan myth of Ariadne and Persephone (6).
Previous to the Minoans and Mycenaeans, myths from Mesopotamia featured the underworld. There is a parallel between the Mesopotamian myth of Ereshkigal, Goddess of the Underworld, and Persephone. Ereshkigal’s sister, Inanna, also has a story of descent into the Underworld. These myths were prevalent in the 3rd millennium BCE (1).
On the island of Sicily, the thread of Persephone can be traced back to before agricultural times. There, she was associated less with agriculture and more with components of nature, specifically flowers. Amazingly, researchers found evidence of her worship from 6000 BCE (2).
The story of Persephone reminds me of the current state of the earth. Before we dive in, I want to mention that there are a thousand ways to interpret Persephone’s story, and I honor them all.
For me personally, when I look at her through today’s lens I can’t help but see Persephone as Nature; Hades as Capitalism; Demeter as the World (us), mourning the loss; Hecate as climate scientists, holding a light up to the situation, illuminating the story for us, showing us the way.
But Capitalism continues to bargain with us, offering us seeds of convenience. “Please stay, just a little bit longer…”
The loss of Nature pains the Earth. Oceans rise. Forests burn. Storms brew. Plants and animals disappear. Crops fail. Temperatures break records. The rivers dry up. The soil is depleted. People are displaced. Nature is warmer than normal, feeling the fires of hell in the winter, and then the warmth of the sun when she rises up above ground.
We are on a quest searching for a solution for a way back, for Nature, for restoration of life.
Let’s work together for knowledge. Let’s go down into this hard place together so that we may rise up into a healed earth. We need to discover a different way.
One heartbreaking note is that many of the places seen as the sacred groves of Persephone are facing environmental destruction. As Marguerite Rigoglioso notes in her work, “Persephone’s Sacred Lake,” Persephone’s sacred site in Sicily is suffering from habitat and wildlife loss (2). Additionally, toxic waste dumped near Lake Avernus and the surrounding area of Campania is causing health problems for citizens. As a result, this area in Campania is known as the “Triangle of Death” and the “Land of Fire” – an apt name for the entrance to the Underworld (3). In Greece at Eleusis, environmental damage increased from the 1960’s – 1980’s (4).
1. Wikipedia contributors. “Persephone.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 Jul. 2021. Web. 25 July 2021.
2. Rigoglioso, Marguerite. “Persephone’s Sacred Lake and the Ancient Female Mystery Religion in the Womb of Sicily.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, vol. 21, no. 2, 2005, pp. 5–29. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25002531. Accessed 25 July 2021.
3. Mazza A., Piscitelli P., Falco A., Santoro M.L., Colangelo M., Imbriani G., Idolo A., De Donno A., Iannuzzi L., Colao A. Heavy Environmental Pressure in Campania and Other Italian Regions: A Short Review of Available Evidence. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5800204. Accessed 25 July 2021.
4. 2023Elevsis. https://www.2023elevsis.eu/mysteries-of-transition/eunvironment/ecoculture/?lang=en Accessed 25 July 2021.
5. “Persephone.” New World Encyclopedia, . 15 Apr 2015, 20:12 UTC. 25 Jul 2021, 18:37 https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Persephone&oldid=987313.
6. Winters, Riley. “The Descent of Ariadne: Minoan Queen of the Dead to Mistress of the Labyrinth?” Ancient Origins, https://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends-europe/descent-ariadne-minoan-queen-dead-mistress-labyrinth-009407. Accessed 25 July 2021.