Rupert Bunny, The Rape of Persephone, c.1913

Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter (the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and harvest). Zeus permitted his brother Hades, god of the underworld, to abduct Persephone and make her his bride. Knowing that Demeter would never permit the marriage, Hades kidnapped Persephone while she was out picking flowers with Artemis and Pallas (granddaughter of Poseidon), away from her mother’s protection.

Demeter greatly mourned the loss of her daughter, and in her sorrow, nothing grew. The people of earth began to starve; Zeus heard their cries and forced Hades to return Persephone. Hades agreed, but first he tricked Persephone into eating the food of the underworld, ensuring that she must spend a third of the year there.

Winter begins when Demeter despairs the loss of her daughter once again and nothing grows until Persephone’s return in Spring.

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