The Myth of Persephone
Extract from the book The Myth of Persephone:
The story of Demeter begins in the days when the terrible war against the Titans had just come to an end. After the bitterest fighting the world had ever seen, Zeus and the gods of Olympus had toppled the fearsome Titans from their thrones and become the new lords of the earth.
In the aftermath of such a war, the victors were beset with a host of serious problems. The most pressing of these was to save the human race from the hunger which was slowly wiping it out.
Those ten long years of fearful war had ravaged the whole earth. Not a blade of green was left, and those few men who had survived wandered in starving bands, begging the gods for help. Zeus was now the lord of earth and sky, and in his desire to help mankind, he made the goddess Demeter responsible for all the plains and forests in the world. It would be her task to see that the earth bore fruit so that both men and animals should have enough to eat.
The mighty Zeus had made a wise choice. No one loved the green meadows and the placid herds with the same passion as did Demeter – and her greatest love was for mankind. She threw herself into the difficult task with enthusiasm. The meadows were soon carpeted with green, and fruit hung from the boughs. No longer faced with immediate starvation, mankind slowly began to multiply. But this was not enough for the gentle goddess.
In those distant times, man had not yet learned to farm the land. He lived in the forest like a wild creature, struggling against savage beasts and the wildness of nature. His home was a cave or a makeshift shelter of branches and his only food the fruit he picked wild from the trees or the occasional animal he managed to kill in the chase. He and his kind were obliged to wander from place to place, for when there was no food left in one spot they had to search elsewhere for more. Often, however, there was nothing to be found and they were ravaged by hunger. At other times, when out collecting food or hunting, they would run into men of another tribe. Then there was no choice but to give battle: a savage blood-bath to decide who had the right to gather a few wild berries, or to go hunting in that particular part of the forest.
It wounded the goddess to the heart to see man suffer so. Something had to be done. She had to find some way of helping more effectively. The shady woods and the wild meadows were beautiful, but they could not always satisfy man’s hunger. His way of life would have to be changed.
Then one day, quite suddenly, as Demeter was sitting on a rock and gazing thoughtfully out over the green plain, a thought flashed into her mind. It was the answer to the problem which had been troubling her for so long.
“Yes, that is what I shall do!” she cried. “I shall teach them to till the soil!” and her face lit up with joy. Demeter’s thoughts took wing, and the further they flew, the greater her joy became. (…)
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