Pomegranates and Poppies

One of Persephone’s main symbols is the pomegranate. Homer tells us that Persephone ate 6 pomegranate seeds in the Underworld, and that is why she must spend six months with her husband and six months with her mother. We have winter when Persephone is with her husband because Demeter mourns. When the daughter returns to the mother, she is happy and the world blooms and grows once again.

Besides the pomegranate, though, I wondered what some of her other symbols might be. I mean, she has a lot of epithets – among the most well known are Kore (maiden), Cthonia (of the earth, especially deities who lived in the Underworld), Daeira (knowing one), Praxidike (exacter of justice), Iron Queen (for a longer list of Greek epithets, click here) – and I wanted to know what other symbols are sacred to her.

poppies in wheat fieldFlowers are an obvious one. Persephone is the Maiden of Flowers. She was abducted while picking flowers in a meadow. The narcissus is the flower that captured her attention and allowed her to be taken. Early on in my journey with her, she told me to walk on lavender flowers –

Lavender oil is known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. It also has antispasmodic, analgesic, detoxifying, hypotensive and sedative effects.   https://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/lavender-oil.aspx 

Meditating with Persephone, and the poppy came to mind. I remember from when I was working with Demeter that the poppy was often associated with Demeter, because you often find poppies in wheat fields. I found some references online to a myth that the poppy was created to help Demeter sleep when she was in her deepest mourning searching for her daughter, though I couldn’t find an actual myth reference to that. I did find this very brief reference on Theoi:

MEKON (Mecon) A man loved by the goddess Demeter who was metamorphosed into a poppy flower.    http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/DemeterFamily.html

And this interesting tidbit:

Virgil, Georgics 1. 208 ff (trans. Fairclough) (Roman bucolic C1st B.C.):
“When the Balance [Libra] makes the hours of daytime and sleep equal [in autumn], and now parts the world in twain . . . then is the time to hide in the ground your crop of flax and the poppy of Ceres [Demeter].” [N.B. Poppies and flax were apparently planted to revitalise the soil in the crop rotations.]    http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/DemeterTreasures.html#Plants 

So, the poppies were sown in the autumn… when Persephone left for the Underworld… They revitalized the soil for the next growing season. They literally transformed the Earth so that it would be fertile in the spring.

Another fascinating connection between poppies and wheat is as a cure for ergot poisoning.

Poppy leaves when bruised and mixed with vinegar, barley meal, and hog’s grease, will cool all inflammations and the disease called St. Anthony’s fire [ergot poisoning]  https://nutritionalgeography.faculty.ucdavis.edu/poppy/

Ergot is a fungus that grows on grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Some scholars suggest that psychotropic substances, like ergot or amanita, were a part of the rites at Eleusis. If this theory is correct, then the poppy mixture would have been a key medicine to have on hand in case of adverse reaction.

The more I search, the more I feel that poppies in the wheat fields are a visual and herbal representation of the Holy Daughter and the Great Mother, Persephone and Demeter.

What if the poppy was a gift from Persephone to Demeter so she could rest and revitalize through the winter, and also be reminded of her daughter with the bright red flower? As well as make the fields ready for the spring planting of the wheat? And to heal from the poison of her anger and depression?