Death and Return in the Myth of Demeter and Persephone (Continued) 2

by Kathie Carlson

To continue the story: No one would tell Demeter the truth, so for nine days she wandered, grieving for her daughter. On the tenth day she was joined by Hecate who had heard Kore’s cries but did not see who bore her away. Together the goddesses went to Helios who knows and sees all, and he informed them that it was Zeus who gave Kore away to Hades, his own brother, to be his wife and that Hades had carried her off screaming.Then Helios chided Demeter for her distress, saying, "But goddess, stop your own great weeping. It does not fit you, this anger that’s so vain and insatiate."11 He went on to champion Hades’ cause, claiming that the underworld god was not unworthy as a son–in–law, reminding Demeter that Hades was her own brother and had received an entire kingdom under the earth when the world was originally divided into three.But Demeter’s grief and anger only deepened at these words and she became outraged at Zeus.

The presence of Hecate and her companioning of Demeter as she seeks to know what has become of her daughter is highly significant, even though it is not emphasized by Homer. Hecate was the goddess of ghosts, connected with night and the moon; in her full powers, she was the Death goddess herself and embodied the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. By the time of the Homeric hymns, she was simply seen as a witch and valanced negatively,though still imaged in triple form and worshipped at the places where three roads crossed. Her minor role in the Homeric poem mirrors well the later fate of the Crone aspect of the goddess in patriarchy which all but disappeared in subsequent religious life (the Virgin and Mother aspects reappear in the Virgin Mary, for example, but the Crone disappears altogether in Christianity.12) Nevertheless, the appearance of Hecate is significant,presaging perhaps the aspect of the Goddess recovered in the transformation of Kore to Persephone. Hectate appears again at the end of the myth as Persephone’s companion

The perspective of Helios, also implied in Zeus’s attitude and echoed later by Hades as well, appears to be: don’t make waves, don’t rock the boat, stop overreacting and be reconciled to this. Although Kore was seized against her will and raped by the dreaded god of Death, Demeter is expected to see this as positive and acquiesce to it. As Friedrich comments, "This speech by Helios ironically underscores the theme of bitterness and injustice:the mother should take heart at her daughter’s rape because the rapist is her brother and has great wealth and power."13 Demeter’s responses are ferocious and unambivalent: grief, rage, and outrage. She refuses to go on serving the ‘system’ that has brought this about and effectively protests and subverts it on both a human and transpersonal level.