Today, March 20, 2014 marks the spring equinox. It is also the first day of spring and the first day in the astrological year. In Greek and Roman mythology this time of year is associated with the story of Persephone and her abduction into the underworld by Hades.
Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of harvest and fertility. She was an innocent young girl and loved wandering through the fields happily picking flowers. One day, the story goes, Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, the god of the underworld and taken down to his dark land.
Demeter was of course grief struck over the loss of her daughter to the underworld and asked the god Zeus to intervene. Zeus was eventually able to strike a deal with Hades that Persephone could return to her mother for a time. However, she would have to return and spend 6 months in the underworld every year.
I enjoy meditating on archetypal stories like this and how they point to universal human experience on different levels. The first and most obvious interpretation of this myth is that although the world gets dark and cold for 6 months every winter, spring will always come again with its vibrant new life and growth.
A more subtle interpretation of this story is the cyclical nature of the world and the fact that everything dies and rises again in another time and place. This often happens quickly enough we can see it occur in various ways all around us, but there are much slower cycles we cannot so easily perceive.
One such slow cycle is that of a human lifetime on this earth. It can be difficult when we lose a loved one because we cannot see that they will ever rise again. But all of life is a cycle and the ones we love are indeed reborn in our memories, our shared stories, and perhaps even in spiritual or physical form in another time or place.
So while the signs of life grow ever stronger around us here in the northern hemisphere, know that your grief will also give way to beautiful new things as the ones you loved and lost move joyfully onward to a new adventure in the circle of life.