In Greek myth, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Hades fell in love with her from afar and—correctly judging that Demeter would never consent to give her up—eventually kidnapped Persephone to become his wife and queen of the underworld. Demeter was distraught, causing the harvest to fail disastrously. Finally, in order to keep everyone from starving, Zeus persuaded Hades to let Persephone leave, but Hades first offered her six pomegranate seeds to eat. For some reason, Persephone went ahead and ate them even though she knew that if she ate anything she’d have to stay in the underworld. This led to some god-level negotiations, and long story short, those six seeds meant Persephone had to spend half of every year in the underworld and half the year with her mother, which is why we have seasons. Or maybe a third of the year in the underworld. It depends on who you believe.

None of this makes much sense. Why did Hades care if everyone starved? Seems like it would be good for business. Why did eating anything mean Persephone would have to stay in the underworld? And having carefully not eaten anything during her captivity, what caused her to lose her mind right on the brink of her departure and eat the pomegranate seeds? Are they really that irresistible?

Beats me. But I learned this in fourth grade and it’s everything I know about pomegranates. I’ve never eaten one, but I guess the takeaway from the myth is that they must be pretty tasty indeed.

September 26, 2018 — Irvine, California

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