Hi! Re: the Persephone choosing to go to the underworld thing, you're right in that there are no surviving pre-Hellenic myths that say that, but there is evidence to suggest that that was a thing and that other elements were introduced to the myth as time went on. However, this is mostly the territory of feminist and neopagan researchers and writers, and any reconstructions are usually based on their ideas. It's hard to say objectively what the older myths were since there's so little left.
I have some sources here if you’re interested. The post itself is a bit one-sided but some of the sources are very interesting. annachibi.tumblr.com/post/73585426166/sources-for-prepatriarchal-persephone
So this ask is perfect because I’ve been having Regrets about not expanding on some stuff in my original post, but it’d been reblogged a few times and I didn’t want to edit, you know.
other elements were introduced to the myth as time went on
It’s true, myths and beliefs were evolving constantly and like, Bronze Age beliefs were different than Archaic beliefs were different than Classical beliefs. And every time some small Greek tribe bumped up against some small near Eastern tribe, they interacted and were influenced and you had all these cool little mystery cults popping up all over the place. I said Greek religion’s “complicated” in my original post to awkwardly paper over that, but you were right to smack the piñata because there’s no one unified Greek “canon” mythology, just some versions of stories that stuck around and were more popular than others, which is something we have to keep in mind.
For the second part: I mean, I wanna disclaim by saying that this really is more yelling into the void than anything else. In the grand scheme of things to be yellin into the void about, there are more important things, I’m not hitting speed dial for Barack. But everyone has stuff they’re passionate about and seriously, I hear the Kill Bill sirens every time I see that post on my dash.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the post on “pre-patriarchal Persephone” is not based in academic consensus in Classics, and its sources are not legitimate. Acceptable sources are peer-reviewed and written by people with training in Classics. The sources for this post are literally a book on trends in 19th century mythography by an English professor (which looks super interesting, by the way, but was clearly not at all intended to support this kind of thing); a book written by an author with an MA in English and American Literature which a reviewer describes as an “illustrated retelling … that will be enjoyed whenever women come together for ritual”; a book which is encouraging me to “Ask yourself the following seasonal question: ‘What wisdom am I bringing with me from the dark of winter?’”; and some internet person named Jan with an unsourced “case text” and her own unsupported analysis. And motherearthpages.com.
These sources aren’t convincing to me. The post is an attempt to mold incomplete ancient data to suit modern social justice sensibilities. And like, it’s one thing to use ancient deities to inform your spiritual beliefs or to empower modern feminism—not my thing, but if it’s anyone else’s, more power to you. It’s entirely another to present your findings as something historically plausible, something that deserves cachet like it’s actual academic research.
Like, it’s not just the misinformation. It’s the authoritative, almost dismissive tone of the post. It’s not just that it’s likely wrong—it’s that it’s so tailor-made for the tastes of the Tumblr community, so attractively wrong, that over 5,000 people have been duped and are innocently spreading its wrongness. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the source for original anon ask was informed by this post. It’s the first thing I thought of and I felt mad on anon’s behalf, that they were sent on a wild academic goose chase for something that has no basis in actual scholarship. There’s a lot of interesting stuff being said about Persephone and her origins, but the people we should trust to say it have training in the subject area. And maybe more importantly, they have other classicists who agree with their findings too.
Anyways, I hope I didn’t totally blow my lid here, that pressure cooker’s been rattling on the table for a while now. (And like I’m not actually Mad in any meaningful way, obviously, haha. This is the internet and I love everyone who’s into classics. Just, like. Let me explain my passions.) And if I’ve said something wrong, or if any of my classics bros do have good sources for that stuff, please let me know and I’ll post ASAP.
All that aside, there’s so much cool and interesting women’s studies stuff in antiquity that is legit. Like check out the Thesmorphoria. There’s jealously guarded secrets and sacred feminine spaces and reaffirmation of the mother-daughter bond and tossin pigs into pits and beating men for intruding and all this other stuff we barely know about because that’s how well-guarded the secrets were. The mystery cults are full of this kind of stuff for the Fix—we don’t need to rewrite history to find ancient women doing awesome stuff, even in the swampy patriarchal marsh that was classical antiquity.