By Molly Ringle
For the Greek god Hades, every day is Halloween.
As king of the Underworld, he lives in a vast cave with all the souls of the dead, sorting them out into their eternal fates–heroes over there in the Elysian Fields, horrible people down there in the pit of Tartaros, and a few options in between. He has a cold and gloomy palace, a three-headed dog (Kerberos), and some eerie supernatural helpers. All in all, the Underworld is pretty much what every Halloween fake haunted house is trying to be.
That fascinated me when I discovered Greek mythology as a kid. Not only did I love Halloween and its spookiness, but I loved caves too. Though it would be scary, I wanted to see this Underworld–similar to our desire to walk through the haunted house even though it’ll freak us out.
And Hades’ story fascinated me even more when romance entered into it.
Struck by insta-love one day, Hades kidnaps Persephone, a goddess of spring and the daughter of Demeter, and installs her as queen of the Underworld without technically asking for Persephone’s or Demeter’s permission. The kidnapping isn’t all that unusual a move for a god. The gods are, unfortunately, always chasing people they fancy and forcing them into unpleasant situations. Such behavior isn’t romantic from a modern point of view, and I’m not sure if it was meant to be back then. It was just good drama.
But here’s what is unusual and potentially romantic: Hades stays by Persephone. He continues to love her, and asks her to view him as a devoted husband. He gives power to her rather than taking it away. And aside from one nebulous rumor about a nymph named Menthe, he stays faithful to Persephone. Even within the confines of the kidnapping myth, Hades is a fairly good husband–that is, going by the standards of relationships in Greek myth.
But what does poor Persephone think of all this? At first, she longs to go back home, of course. And she gets her wish: for half the year, she returns to the sunlight and her mother. But the other half of the year, bound by the magic she incurred when she ate pomegranate seeds in the Underworld’s gardens, she’s confined to the realm of Hades. Meanwhile, according to the myth, her enraged mother Demeter refuses to let plants grow or warmth touch the Earth while Persephone is away. Thus, Persephone’s time in the Underworld is winter–or perhaps autumn and winter both–and her time above ground corresponds to the revival of greenery and warmth in spring and summer.
In the version I wrote, Persephone’s Orchard, I turn the myth on its ear. I created a Persephone who, admittedly, was a bit like me in my youth looking at those mythology books: a girl deeply curious about the Underworld. She grows up to fall in love with Hades, and wishes to run away with him (or rather, to him). No kidnapping required. And my immortals have limited powers, so Persephone’s descent to the Underworld does not, in my version, actually cause a change of seasons.
Nevertheless, the old myths have stuck with me and influenced my mind. At the onset of spring, when crocus bulbs push their green tips up from the wet ground, I tend to think, “Persephone has returned.” And around the autumn equinox, I think, “Persephone has gone back to Hades.” And I’m romantically pleased for them, because I still like to think they love each other.
Halloween, at the end of chilly October, lies squarely in Persephone’s Underworld half of the year. The king and queen are both in residence. Come walk through the caves of the dead and say hello.
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About the Author: Molly Ringle has been writing fiction for over twenty years. Persephone’s Orchard is her latest novel, and is the first book of a Greek-myth-based series. Her academic studies include degrees in anthropology and linguistics. Molly lives in Seattle with her husband and kids, and worships fragrances and chocolate.
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