The Goddesses of Spring – by India Roberts
Picture by Malinda Nagy
The Goddesses of Spring by India Roberts
The countryside sang to me today. The clouds were fluffy marshmallows and the sun beamed through them onto the hills making the grass glimmer. Lambs were sitting in their fields, serene and still as their mothers stayed close and trees closeted them from blaring sunlight. It’s only recently that the sun has started peeking it’s eyes over the dense, dull clouds and letting us anticipate the beginning of spring when the earth begins to thaw and daffodils start to blossom.
We all know scientifically why spring recurs but before this was discovered, humans had different explanations for the continuous cycle of seasons. Greek mythology tells tales of Persephone, Goddess of spring and the underworld. Hades, spellbound by Persephone, enlisted the help of Zeus (her father) to abduct her into the underworld to be his wife. Persephone’s mother, Demeter, was the goddess of harvest and when her daughter vanished she tumbled into despair, and the earth withered and crumbled. Crops failed and people starved as Demeter searched for her daughter, but Hades kept his grip choked around Persephone’s wrist. Zeus eventually ordered Persephone’s release, but knowing that eating forbidden fruit would keep her there for eternity, Hades tempted Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds. Persephone was condemned to spending part of the year by Hades’ side, and the rest with her mother. Her release each year was a catalyst for the beginning of spring. Demeter allowed crops to grow, flowers to bloom and the sun to gleam, but when Persephone was confined to Hades again, Demeter’s sorrow would permeate the earth and autumn would begin.
Perhaps shrouded with less trauma, the Roman goddess of fertility and spring, Flora, is an influential deity who was honoured with a festival, Floralia, in April. The goddess of flowers is thought to have originally been a nymph, Chloris, who was kissed by the west wind and turned into Flora. At the festival of Floralia, fertile animals such as hares were released during the ‘Games of Flora’, and multi-coloured clothing was mandatory. Perhaps Flora’s most widely known myth is when she provided Juno, goddess of love and marriage, with the ‘magic flower’, allowing her to virgin-birth Mars. Flora’s impact within fertility and flowers makes her the personification of spring and a symbol for new growth and hope.
Norse mythology brings another spring goddess, Freyja. The fertility goddess abandons earth in the harsh, freezing months but upon the change from winter to spring she returns to restore nature’s beauty. Freyja was connected with childrearing as the goddess of fertility, and she was frequently called upon to assist in a marriage or with women struggling to bear children. Legends dictate that Freyja could take on the form of a bird, possessing a cloak of silken hawk feathers that allowed her to transform whenever she wanted. With her transformations and her connection with the re-birth of the earth, Freyja has been a long-worshipped goddess of spring and Norse communities pray to her for the health of their crops and plants to this day.
Persephone, Flora and Freyja show us some potential reasons for our fascination with the emerging spring season and the history that remains around it. The themes of fertility and re-birth can be traced back to these influential goddesses, and from the tales of the spring goddesses that are in our history, we can see how storytelling has an effect on how we view our world. The Greek, Roman and Norse mythology that has been passed down through generations has set the standard for countless modern stories and have undeniable influence on literature. Our language derives from theirs; our art tries desperately to replicate their masterpieces and our stories are in constant competition with the myths we heard as children. Maybe it’s still because of these goddesses that our earth becomes lush and rich and the buds begin to thrive while the sun gives us a little bit more of itself each day.
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