or Why I Hate New Age
[rant]If you look at the Wikipedia entry for Persephone, you’re greeted with a New Age re-imagining of the dreaded goddess, because in New Age, everything has to be “empowering” and “give off positive wibes” and all that bullcrap. …so they baked her together with her time and role a maiden of the spring and harvest season (back when she was known as Kore - “the maiden”), and forgotten all about what role she plays in the stories she partakes in after that. The “majestic queen of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead” is mentioned only briefly.
Persephone (after her herself having been harvested (raped, abducted and forcefully married) by Hades) plays a part in two stories.
In the story of king Sisyphus, he has to explain to Persephone why he should be allowed to leave the underworld: Because he wasn’t properly buried (which he had arranged for before dying). Persephone then allows him to basically return as a ghost, and as this is the story about Sisyphus, this is meant as a testament to how he was able to trick her and escape (as in “cheat and escape death”). …but Sisyphus isn’t known for being the one who outsmarted Persephone. He is known for eternal punishment, because when Persephone found out about this, she was the one who condemned him to rolling a boulder up a hill for all eternity.
This story puts Persephone as a goddess who judges who can leave the underworld, and who deserves punishment. Basically she is the gatekeeper to what dead goes where, and it is her that you have to plead before when you die. She’s the coldhearted, uncaring reason why loved ones doesn’t return to life. She is the goddess of loss and sorrow.
In the story of Orpheus, his woman Eurydice dies from a snake-bite. Orpheus, however, was a legendary musician, who could charm all living things. …so he went down to the underworld, and came before Persephone to plead to her to return Eurydice to life, by doing what every mourner does before her: By expressing his grief. …but he does so by a song, and as Persephone was technically still living (as she didn’t arrive in the underworld by dying), he manages to charm her, and move her to tears. This isn’t because dreaded Persephone is a softhearted and sympathetic goddess. On the contrary. Her cold, unmoving heart, is the reason why there has to be a very good reason why dead people may return to the world of the living to haunt it for only a brief period of time - why nobody lives forever.
…but Persephone has a condition: Eurydice will only be released if Orpheus doesn’t reunite with her within the underworld. Is this story known for how Orpheus was so good that he managed to reunite with Eurydice? No, this story is known for him looking back, only so see Eurydice be swallowed up by the darkness of death, by the grace of Persephone.
…so I don’t want to hear it about what a happy and cheerful goddess Persephone is. She has the epithet “the dreaded” for a good reason. Tell anyone who’s been through what she’s been through, what a happy and cheerful person they must be afterwards, and see if they agree with you.[/rant]