Sicily And The Myth of Demeter and Kore

The leaf-less trees along my morning walks in the New York City area are a painful reminder that winter’s arrival is imminent. And so, I think of earth’s seasonal cycles, which for centuries were explained by the myth of Demeter and Kore: Hades, the God of the Underworld, abducted the maiden Kore while she was picking flowers by Pergusa Lake (near Enna, Sicily). Kore ate the pomegranate seeds that Hades offered her, transforming her into his wife and Goddess of the Underworld.

Meanwhile, Demeter, Kore’s mother and Goddess of fertility, grain, wheat, and the harvest, was despondent, searching for her daughter all while allowing everything on the Earth’s surface to die, that is, until Zeus negotiated with Hades and Demeter. The result was to return Persephone to Earth each spring and life would return to the surface. Hence we have six months of planting and growth and six months of harvest and lifelessness.

The myth of Demeter and Kore/Persephone is significant when talking about ancient southern Italy (Magna Grecia), as illustrated by this relief featuring the goddesses from the last quarter of the 5th century B.C.E. Currently on display at the Museo Civico Castello Ursino in Catania, it was found with other buried debris in the 1930s in the city’s St. Nicolelle Square. The act of Persephone annually returning to the dark underworld and then taking on her role as psychopomp, is significant when we begin to talk about devotion to Santa Lucia … our story is to be continued …

Join me on Sunday, Dec. 9 in NYC for the Feast of Santa Lucia! More at

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