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Background to Name

FredericLeighton TheReturnofPerspephone1891Background of Name

The name Proserpine was derived  from the legend of the Greek goddess Persephone (whose Latin name is Proserpine). As the legend goes Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, and the god of the underworld, Hades, lusted after her, and persuaded Mercury, messenger of the gods, to capture her and bring her to him in the underworld. When Demeter discovered that Persephone was missing, she searched desperately for her, until she found the truth, whereupon she visited the underworld to retrieve her daughter.

In the meantime, Persephone had eaten some pomegranate seeds which Hades had given her as a token of love, and so she was not able to entirely leave the underworld. So she had to spend part of the year (winter) in the underworld with Hades, and then emerges as springtime brings her with the birth of new life  and the growth of plants fruits, flowers, and all life, but at the end of of the autumn after the harvest she must return to the underworld for her sojourn there. She accordingly is associated with growth, abundance and fertility.

American writer Thomas Bulfinch published The Age of Fable in 1855. His renditions of Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Scandinavian mythology, published in Bulfinch's Mythology, became a popular resource. The following excerpt from Bulfinch's Mythology concerns the protracted and adventurous search by Ceres (the Roman goddess of earth and agriculture, called Demeter in Greek mythology) for her missing daughter, Proserpine (in Greek mythology, Persephone). Bulfinch concluded with an allegorical reading of the myth, punctuating his remarks with relevant selections from English poets John Milton and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Irish poet Thomas Moore.

 

See Persephone.