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Mythology 100: Writing Assignment 1
Unit 3: How could the Homeric Hymn to Demeter be an allegory for the origin of the cycle of seasons? Try to explain as many elements of the poem as you can with this model. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter may refer to the origin of the cycle of seasons in either of these two events: through the bond between Hades and Persephone when she eats the pomegranates seeds, or from when Persephone is first abducted and Demeter attempts to raise the mortal boy, Demophoon, into an immortal. It is the character’s natures and attributes that supports the first argument above: first, Persephone, who portrays ‘spring’ in a metaphorical sense. The hymn writes of her picking flowers with Nymphs in a meadow (HH, 5), which is imagery that the reader can use to relate to this season. The juxtaposition to Persephone, Aidoneus (Hades, god of the underworld) could also be considered a metaphor for winter and death. Thus, through his abduction of Persephone, he is ‘killing’ her innocence, much like how winter is the cold killer of crops and life. Therefore, one could argue that the cycle of seasons originates when Aidoneus forces Persephone eat the pomegranate seeds before being reunited with Demeter. Essentially, he has ‘married’ her to himself since she must return to the Underworld for a third part of the seasons every year. It is the marriage between winter and spring (or between harvest and famine) that is clearly indicated here: even though Persephone can return to her mother (referencing spring), she must always return to Aidoneus annually (winter). If ‘winter’ was to continue, Demeter would kill mortals in her choice to hinder grain, much like a real winter would kill humans if spring were to never arrive. However, the second event in this hymn where the cycle of seasons could originate is when Demeter attempts to raise Demophoon. Demophoon, being a newborn, could metaphorically represent birth and fertility (another reference to spring). Other references which allude to spring include the daughters of Keleos, who are described as blossoming with youth and seem to offer hope and kindness to Demeter (HH, 107). When entrusted with Demophoon, Demeter raises him like a god, perhaps to ease her hurt for her abducted daughter. However, ‘winter’ returns when Metaneira wails as she sees Demeter burying Demophoon in a fire to immortalize Demophoon (HH, 245). An angered Demeter returns to mourning in her ‘winter’ state, as she doesn’t successfully immortalize Demophoon. Therefore, one could argue that this is the first instantiation of a cycle of seasons: from ‘winter’ (Demeter frantically looking for Persephone and discovering the truth of her abduction) into ‘spring’ where Demeter raises a mortal child like a god, which becomes new happiness for her. However,’ winter’ returns quickly and even harsher than before through Demeter’s declare that mortals will die if she does not see Persephone again. Therefore, the characters’ attributes and the events which in turn affect their emotional state may be analyzed to represent the contrasts between spring and winter, where the bond between Hades and Persephone ultimately decide the infinite continuation of the seasonal cycle.

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