Names: Persephone (Greek), Proserpina (Roman)
Asteroids: Persephone (#399), Proserpina (#26)
Mythology: Greco-Roman goddess of springtime and vegetation, and daughter of Demeter (Ceres). Abducted by Hades (Pluto) and becomes the queen of the underworld. Spends half of the year with her mother as the goddess of spring, and half the year with Hades as the queen of the underworld, and is therefore associated with the change in seasons at the vernal and autumnal equinox. Celebrated with Demeter in the Rites of Eleusis (a.k.a the Eleusinian Mysteries).
Light Expression: Rejuvenating, hopeful, bountiful, and optimistic. Attuned to agriculture, the seasons, and the natural world. Wisdom, power, and depth gained through dark nights of the soul and challenging experiences. Ability to balance the necessary descents into one’s personal underworld with playfulness and lightness of being. Innate wisdom, psychic, mystic, and/or medium abilities, and a connection to the spirit-world. Transcending the fear of death.
Shadow Expression: Naive, sheltered, undeveloped intuition and instinct, unaware, vulnerable to manipulation, learned helplessness, over-dependence on the mother and/or parents. A desire to give one’s power and authority away to others. Repeated experiences of being manipulated, abducted, abused, raped, controlled, or otherwise disempowered. Remaining in the darkness/underworld for too long and experiencing chronic listlessness, melancholy or depression as a result.
Exploration: Asteroid Persephone (#399) is named after the Greco-Roman goddess of spring, rebirth, and the underworld, Persephone (Proserpina). In mythology, Persephone is the daughter of Demeter – the goddess of the harvest, agriculture, and fertility – and Zeus – the sky god and king of the gods. At the beginning of her myth, Persephone is called Kore; the youthful goddess of spring. In Greek, Kore means “maiden” or “daughter,” which suggests that her primary role was to embody the young, innocent, protected, uninitiated girl archetype. One day, Kore wanders off from her companions to pick Narcissus flowers, when the ground opens up and Hades (Pluto) – god of the underworld – emerges, abducts Kore, and takes her hostage. When Demeter learns that Kore has gone missing, she searches far and wide for her lost daughter, but to no avail. Only the dead and chthonic deities were allowed entrance into the underworld, so Demeter could not search there. Eventually, Demeter learns what has happened to Kore from Helios, the all-seeing Sun god, and that Zeus had allowed for their daughter’s abduction. Overcome by rage and despair, Demeter prevents the plants from growing and withholds sustenance and nurturance from the Earth.
Eventually, Zeus decides the draught and famine can go on no longer and decrees that Hades must allow Kore to return to her mother. Hades obliges, but before Kore leaves, she eats six pomegranate seeds. This act of eating food from the underworld thereby binds her to the underworld, and she is no longer allowed to leave permanently. To appease Demeter and prevent the famine from continuing, a deal is struck whereby Kore spends 6 months (Spring and Summer) with her mother on Earth, and 6 months (Fall and Winter) as Hades’ wife and queen of the underworld (one month for every seed she ate). As queen of the underworld, she takes on the name we know her best for: Persephone. This story was used by the Greeks to explain, or allegorize, the seasons.
It’s worth noting that it is not entirely clear whether Kore eats the pomegranate seeds with full knowledge of the consequences and essentially chooses to become the queen of the underworld, if she does so by her own volition but without knowing the ramifications, or if she is tricked by Hades into eating the seeds. If it’s one of the latter options, it could speak to her naïveté and vulnerability to manipulation. If the former, it could speak to her need for freedom from her mother, the desire to transform into an adult, and a yearning to hold more power as the queen of the underworld. While this detail may not seem significant, when it comes to the Persephone archetype in our psyches, it can tell us a fair amount about how we might react to a situation like the above. If we are tricked into a proverbial cage or walk into it blindly or unknowingly, we may feel like a victim of circumstance and experience depression, powerlessness, and melancholy as a result. In these instances, we may feel as though our lives are completely dictated by external authorities (e.g Demeter and Hades), and settle into learned helplessness. If, on the other hand, we grow, learn, and become empowered through our challenges, we may accept that we can never go back to the way things were before and consciously decide to enter back into the darkness, becoming the queens of our own underworlds.
There’s another interesting side to the Persephone story: the Rites of Eleusis. The nature of these sacred Eleusinian mysteries are not fully known, but what we do know is that Demeter’s cult created a set of rites around Persephone’s descent into the underworld in the fall and her rebirth in the spring. If an initiate were to undergo these rites, they were said to aries with a new understanding of life and overcome the fear of death. In this way, both Persephone and Demeter are archetypally linked with the ability to transcend the fear of death and dying.
In astrology, the qualities associated with Persephone’s asteroids are linked to these mythological underpinnings. Those who have her asteroid(s) prominently placed in their birth charts may be hopeful, naive, sheltered, generative, powerful, and/or mediumistic. They may have experiences of being abducted, manipulated, raped, tricked, or otherwise controlled, and/or of giving their power and authority away. They could also harbor deep fears around kidnapping, abuse, or maltreatment. They may have a smothering mother, a father who “sells them off” and/or does not protect them, or a tendency toward over-dependence on a parent. They may also experience transformation and come into their full power through challenging or sinister experiences. Ultimately, by awakening to this archetype, we can choose how we want to work with Persephone’s myth, tendencies, and qualities. We can sink into patterns of depression and disempowerment, or bounce between hope/optimism and despondency depending on the “season” of our life. OR, we can gain wisdom through experience, consciously confront the darkness, and arise empowered and free from fear.
To see if Persephone’s myth is prominent in your astrological birth chart and psyche, see if she is making any major aspects (e.g. conjunction or opposition) to your luminaries (e.g. the Sun and Moon), planets (e.g. Venus, Saturn, etc.), OR to any significant dwarf planets (e.g. Ceres) or asteroids (e.g. Hekate: #100) in your chart. It’s also helpful to look at Persephone’s sign, house, and other planetary aspects to better understand how she shows up in your personality, subconscious, and life experience. If asteroid Persephone is not significant in your chart, but you feel liker her myth is prominent for you, try looking up asteroids Proserpina (#26) – the Roman name for Persephone – and dwarf planet Ceres (#1) – Persephone’s mother – to see if they play a larger part. If not, you may be experiencing Persephone by progression, transit (personal or collective), solar arc, or in your solar return chart. Whatever you find astrologically, if you feel Persephone’s presence in your life, it’s time to work with her myth, meditate on her light and shadow attributes, and see what she is hoping to awaken in you.
If you would like some guidance and support in understanding the Persephone archetype, or other goddess archetypes, in your astrological chart and personal experience, feel free to reach out to me and we can do a goddess astrology reading, mentorship meeting, or archetypal coaching session to further explore her purpose in your life.