Persephone: A Season in Hell
This Greek myth is an allegory of the seasons for an agricultural society. The seed is planted in earth, where it must remain throughout the winter. In spring it sprouts and flowers, producing food and, eventually, new seed.
Zeus's daughter, Persephone, the girl, represents the seed, and Demeter, her mother ,is both the mature seed and the Godess of the Harvest, which she alone controls. Only she understands the life-cycle of the seed.
In the myth itself, Persephone is playing in the corn stubble, after the harvest. She is picking flowers, when her uncle, Hades, God of the Underworld, drives up in his golden car. He rapes Persephone, and the earth opens up and allows Hades to take Persephone down to the Underworld as his wife and prisoner. Demeter searches throughout the world for her lost child. When she cannot find Persephone, she vows that nothing will grow on earth until her daughter is restored to her.
Eventually the barrenness of the earth so alarms Zeus, the God of the Upper World, and Persephone's father, that he admits to having connived in the mating of his daughter and his brother. Zeus has to agree to free his daughter, providing that she has not yet eaten the food of the dead, the pomegranate.
Hades tricks Persephone into eating three seeds, and so it is decided that she must spend three months each year after the harvest as Hades' queen in the underworld. Demeter, in gratitude, teaches the miracle of the seeds to her messenger who is sent to spread the knowledge of agriculture throughout the world. I tried to make this triptych as if it were an icon of a religion familiar to us all.