Persephone

Persephone is a bright child, the golden apple of her mother’s eyes. Her mother is Ceres, the Greek goddess of bountiful harvests. It is Spring, so Ceres must leave her daughter while she toils with the farmers.

Hades sees her as he drives by in his dark chariot. He is the god of the underworld, and follows — naturally — the Grecian mythological tradition of lacking any respect for personal boundaries or property. He sweeps Persephone up in his chariot as he plunges into his domain. No one hears her scream. No one sees her stolen.

Ceres returns, and is frantic at the loss of her child. She searches for Persephone, neglecting sleep and duty. Food rots. A cold wind sweeps away the harvest. Humans starve. Gods merely shiver. It turns fall, then winter. Still no Persephone.

Finally, Mercury finds her. She sits at Hades’ side, the only bright thing in the gloom of his kingdom. Hades is smug; Persephone is pale, translucent. Mercury speaks to Ceres, and Ceres beseeches Zeus to intervene.

A compromise is reached. Persephone may return to her mother — as long as she has eaten nothing in the realm of Hades. Persephone is aghast. She shows Mercury a pomegranate, cut in half; half of its twelve seeds are gone.

So it is ordained: six months of the year, Persephone may remain with her mother. While her daughter is with her, Ceres works, Ceres smiles, and fruit will ripen. The other six months, Persephone must return to the netherworld, to Hades, and while she is away Ceres withers, and the world withers with her.


 

In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo meets the Merovingian, otherwise known simply as The Frenchman. He oozes with smug superiority and a surfeit of hair product, but he is a man who gets what he wants.

At his side is Persephone — pale, vengeful Persephone, who eventually betrays him. She does this by demanding that Neo kiss her, in front of Trinity, in exchange for the location of the Keymaker.


 

Somewhere in the latter half of House of Cards, Season 3, Jackie Sharp debates the virtues of remaining in Frank Underwood’s entourage, standing in her kitchen eating breakfast with her new husband. Alan, who is a surgeon, reminds her that in surgery, one cannot pull out of a bad operation simply because the patient is hemorrhaging.

The camera focuses on Alan, but not his face; it’s his hands, slicing open a pomegranate brutally, decisively. As he leaves the room, Jackie eats a seed thoughtfully.

And after Jackie is betrayed in a Democratic debate by Frank Underwood, she leaves his team, endorsing Heather Dunbar instead.


 

I like these new Persephones. I liked the original Greek myth, as tragic and misogynist as it was, but these Persephones slip out from under Hades’ yoke. These Persephones are not allowed to leave; they simply go.

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