Hello Dr. Anita Johnston here.
I’m at the Little Theater in Epidaurus and I’m going to tell you the story about Demeter & Persephone.
There were once these two goddesses.
Demeter was the mother goddess, and her daughter’s name was Persephone.
The story goes that they were very, very close. They did everything together; they went everywhere together. One day, they were out in a meadow and they were picking some flowers. As Demeter turned her back to reach for some flowers, Persephone was reaching for a (get this), narcissist flower. Just in that very moment, the earth ripped open and up came Hades with a chariot being pulled by four black horses. He snatched Persephone and took her into the Underworld. Demeter turned around and said, “Where’s my daughter? Where’s Persephone? She’s gone!” She was frantic.
She went to all the gods and goddesses and said, “Have you seen Persephone? Persephone’s gone!” The gods and goddesses said, “We don’t know.” She went to Zeus, who was the king of the gods. Zeus said, “I don’t know where she is. I don’t know!”, which really wasn’t true because Zeus had had a part in all of this. He knew that she was in the Underworld with Hades.
Demeter fell into a huge depression. She was so upset; she could not get over the loss of her daughter. Demeter (whose name in Roman times was Ceres), was the goddess of the grain and the harvest (which is where we get our word for cereal). She was so full of despair, that as a result, the trees stopped producing fruits. The olive trees were no longer bringing forth any olives. The grasses were not producing any grains. The mortals were starving.
At this point, Zeus decided he better get involved. He went to Demeter and he said, “All right. I will get Persephone. She is in the Underworld and I will send Hermes to retrieve her. As long as she hasn’t eaten anything in the Underworld, she can come back fully and completely. Well, when Persephone was in the Underworld, Hades gave her some pomegranate seeds. As a result of this, what that meant was, she was going to have to return to the Underworld several months out of the year where she would reign as the queen of the Underworld.
You can imagine when the two of them were reunited – Persephone and Demeter. They’re hugging, and they’re kissing, and they’re all so excited. Then Demeter says to Persephone, “What did you eat?” You can imagine Persephone was like, “Oh my gosh. I’ve been gone all this time, and what’s the first question you ask me when we’re together is what did you eat?” Because you see, she didn’t know that there was meaning to that. She didn’t know there was meaning to that question.
And so it is for those who struggle with disordered eating, those who struggle with weight issues, or food, and fat and dieting. They too, they don’t understand that when they have been in the Underworld – when they’ve been in the throes of struggling with their weight, with diet, with trauma – they don’t know that there’s meaning to what they eat.
So what if you understood, and were able to entertain the idea that there was meaning, and as a result could begin to decipher it – to see what that exactly means? How might your life be different?