Persephone, I imagine some day you’ll be asking about your name. You’re only three months old now, so obviously it’s not exactly on your mind right now. But some day you’ll realize this name is at least a little unusual, not to mention confusing to some people, and you’ll wonder why we named you this. I find the myth of Kore/Persephone and her mother Demeter to be so endlessly fascinating, so rich and compelling that I imagine I could give you a hundred different answers, a thousand different reasons. But today I’ll try to boil it down to one.
The goddess Persephone has a dual nature. She’s both the Bringer of Spring and the Queen of the Underworld. She moves between two worlds and learns to be at home in both the light and the dark. That’s a powerful image, and it embodies my hope that as you grow you will not be afraid of the dark or dazzled by the light, that you will learn to embrace both and seek balance like the yin and yang.
A little too weird? Too poetic, too metaphorical? Well then: We liked the way the name sounds, and also we love pomegranates.
Strangely enough I was contacted by a young woman who shares your first and middle name and discovered your existence through the internet. I felt like I was talking to my little girl through a time warp and she was all grown up. Of course I had some questions for her. I was curious to know her experiences with the name. I also wanted to know if her parents were crazy. Here’s what she wrote back:
I go by Sephie, Seph, Persephone, PJ & P.Jean. I have been called Percy which is, ok, but it makes me think of the scarlet pimpernell. not a bad association, just a male one.
What is difficult is the folks who can’t hear my name. They call me Penelope, Priscilla or (per)Stephanie. The Stephanie/PerStephanie version is worst of all It used to drive me completely insane. Not so much these days as I’ve grown up and know how to accept other people’s inability to hear/understand my name. It’s amusing how often I have to spell it for people. All this leadsto what I have come to know as I’ve become an adult and that is how much power this name brings me. When I am introduced to people they notice and automatically I am more memorable simply for the sake fo my name or they are the people who can’t hear it and that tells me something right away about how capable they are of seeig things they don’t expect to see in their environment. When someone knows my name, knows how to spell it or knows the story behind it, that tells me something too, even if it is just that this person has read some mythology! I did go through a time period when I was younger (around grade 4-5) that I wanted to go by Jean but that didn’t stick and by the time I reached grade 10 I was thankful for the name Persephone. It was a seed which fueled in me a great love of mythos, legends and spirituality. I cannot say your daughter will have the same experience that I have had with the name but I am sure she will ultimately be blessed by it.
And, yes my mom is moderately insane but, basically she just liked the name.
We’ve already encountered the “Perstephanie” syndrome. I’m surprised she didn’t mention the “Purse-Phone” problem, where people try to read the name but sound like they’re talking about a cellular device in a handbag. If you’re anything like your dad, these things will drive you crazy for a while. Fortunately your mom will remind us to laugh it off.
Also, let me lay something to rest right now. I don’t buy into the notion that Hades abducted Persephone in a brutal and violent fashion. As Grian/Lee notes, it’s hard to believe that the priestesses of Persephone would have dedicated themselves to the deification of rape for thousands of years. I think that twist was grafted on by the patriarchal Romans or some later society. I don’t have the scholarship to back up my theory, but Grian/Lee seems to concur. And like Grian/Lee, I see Persephone as an image of empowerment and equality.
One more footnote: I’ve got to add this because it backs up my theory. According to Dr. Laura Strong, “There is no mention of rape in any of the early Greek texts, but we start to see its introduction with the coming of the Romans near the turn of the century.” For some citations in support of this, see her essay The Myth of Persephone: Greek Goddess of the Underworld.