in the Wheel
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It seemed at first that you would follow in my footsteps. We were rarely apart as you grew older and more beautiful. You helped me with my duties to the Earth. You loved the Earth fiercely. You loved to see it blooming and buzzing with life. Those were happy times. Together we did wonders, we taught the people how to care for their land and we helped things grow as they should. The only thing more beautiful than the Earth you and I tended, was you.
Little did I know--it was that beauty of yours that would cause us such great sorrows. I was not the only one who noticed how lovely you were. You were admired by many, but still I thought that you would be mine always. That hope of mine shattered one day when you were a young maiden. You had gone to the meadow with some other maidens to collect flowers. You did not know that you were being watched by an admirer, and when the other girls had gone off ahead of you, the Earth beside you opened and Hades snatched you up on his black horse and took you to the Underworld to make you his bride.
I knew right away that something had happened. My heart began to ache immediately, but I did not know why. I ran to the meadow, but you were not there. I saw the other maidens but you were not with them. The aching inside me grew. The more I looked for you and could not find you, the more my heart ached. My sorrow seeped into the Earth that you and I held so dear, and soon the crops and plants began to wither and die. For the first time ever, I did not care about the Earth, I only cared about having you back with me. With you gone nothing else mattered.
My search for you led me to Mt. Olympus, where I asked the Gods if they knew where you were. They claimed to know nothing, but I could sense that they were hiding something. I begged and pleaded with them to help me find you. They told me not to worry and tried to convince me to return to my Earthly duties. "The people will starve if you don't tend the Earth," they said. I did not care. "Every young bird leaves its nest eventually," they said, but I knew you would never just leave me. There were never any secrets between you and me. We never held anything from each other, and I knew that if you were wanting to leave, you would have come to me first. Deep inside, I could feel that something was horribly wrong, that you were hurting too, and that made my pain so much worse.
I stayed on Mt. Olympus only a short time. My request for help had been ignored, and I could not stand to see them lounging about, happy and content. They had turned their backs on me. I felt truly alone, but it was only you that I really missed. In my sorrow, I had grown cold and bitter. As I did, so did the Earth. I had never been as beautiful as you, but I did have beauty once. When I left Mt. Olympus, I was haggardly, not even recognizable as the Goddess I had once been.
While continuing my search, I met a noble family. They saw me only as an old, sad hag and took pity on me. They asked me to nurse their young son, and I accepted. Taking care of the boy helped ease my sorrow a bit. It felt nice to hold a little one in my arms again. I still missed you terribly, though. I was grateful to the child for providing me with some distraction from my pain. I decided to make the boy immortal, so I fed him special herbs and every night I placed him in the hearth fire. His mother caught me doing this one night, and did not understand my intentions. I was angered and hurt by the woman's accusations. With the very little power I had left, I showed the woman my true self. When she saw that I was the goddess, Demeter, she begged my forgiveness. She swore she would build a temple in my honor, if I would please forgive her. Annoyed by all this, I left their home and continued on my search.
The Earth was very barren and cold now, but without you I felt no desire to make it beautiful. I could still feel your own pain in my heart, and I felt an increased urgency to find you. I felt that you were growing weaker and ready to give up. I could not bear that. I had searched everywhere I could think of, but had found no trace of you. I was cold, ill and weak, but I could not give up my search.
At the very height of my desperation, Helios approached me. He told me of Hades kidnapping you. I was furious. I went back to Mt. Olympus and demanded that Zeus have you released. This time he was willing to help me, because the Earth and its people needed me desperately. He knew the Earth would never be beautiful again, unless you were by my side. He knew nothing could grow without me, and that I had no desire to make things grow without you. He told me that you could return to me as long as you had not eaten anything during your time in the Underworld. My Heart filled with joy and I hurried down to Earth to greet you.
We were reunited finally. You ran into my open arms immediately and we both sobbed with joy. Then I remembered what Zeus had told me, and I asked you if you had eaten anything while in the Underworld. Ashamed, you said yes. You told me that you had only eaten one pomegranate seed, because Hades had fussed and pleaded with you to eat something. My sorrow returned and I clung to you and sobbed. I was furious at Hades, convinced that he had tricked you.
Upon seeing my sorrow return, Zeus knew he had to do something. If not, the Earth would suffer as I was suffering. Since you had eaten so little, he decided that you would be able to spend two thirds of the year with me, and the remaining time in the Underworld as Hades wife. I was horrified to think of you having to live down there, but I knew there was nothing more that could be done. With sorrow, we accepted Zeus' offer.
Now, when you return to me, Spring comes to the Earth and together, we make things grow. We stay close to each other, and enjoy every minute of our time together. We bring the Earth into Summer, the height of our time together. The Earth is beautiful when you are by my side. Then as your time to return to Hades approaches, sorrow begins to come to us again. Autumn comes to the Earth. We hold each other and cry, knowing that we will have to part again for awhile. The Earth cries with us.
When you leave me and go to the Underworld to join your husband, my sorrow returns, and winter comes to the Earth. I am left alone, with no energy to make things beautiful. I seclude myself from all, and wish for you to return to me. All I can think about is you. I cannot stand now to hear people refer to you as the Goddess of the Underworld. Those fools label you, without knowing all that you truly are. I see so much more in you. I see a Goddess of the Earth and of life, like me. You spend much more of your time working with the Earth than in the Underworld, but still they can only see the darkness, not the light. When you go to the Underworld, your amazing beauty fades, and you take on the form of a crone. I know this is because your heart is filled with sorrow, like mine.
The Book of the Goddess, Past and Present. ed. Carl Olson