The Greek goddess Persephone was worshipped as the Maiden or the Kore (young girl) and as the Queen of the Underworld. She was the only daughter of Demeter and Zeus. In the beginning of the myth, Persephone was a carefree girl who gathered flowers and played with her friends. Then Hades suddenly appeared out of a vent in the earth, basically kidnapped the young girl and took her back to the underworld to be his unwilling bride. Demeter did not accept what had happened and forced Zeus to go and bring her back.
Zeus sent Hermes, the Messenger God, to rescue her, who found a despondent Perephone and convinced Hades to let her go. Before doing so, Hades gave Persephone some pomegranate seeds, which she ate. But because she ate them, she became his wife instead of his captor and was destined to spend one-third of the year in the underworld with Hades and two-thirds of the year in the upper world with Demeter.
The myth of Persephone’s abduction represents her “personification of vegetation which shoots forth or blossoms in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest”–simply put, her arrival on earth represents spring and her descension into Hell represents winter. Beyond this, despite the fact that Hades abducted Persephone and raped her, he really does love her. Persephone is actually drawn to him and always returns to him when the seasons change.
Hassie Calhoun’s sexuality was awakened when she went to Las Vegas as a barely eighteen-year-old girl. She was “abducted” by the older and much more experienced Jake Contrata, who taught her how to be a woman–the Queen, if you will. And though he could have taken great advantage of her at that time, he truly loved her and took good care of her until circumstances forced him to leave her to get on with her life.
The arc of Hassie’s story takes her from the vital, alluring young girl to a wise, seasoned woman, having survived a plethora of bad decisions and misspent years. As she matured and despite the fact that Jake was her first love, she realized that Jake had actually been bad for her and that outside of business, he should not be a part of her world. Finally, to Hassie’s credit, no matter how hard and how many times Jake tried to lure her back into his world, she resisted and ultimately reigned victorious.
There is belief that there are traits of a god in every man and a goddess in every woman. Advanced studies say that most of us have many goddesses active within us. Therefore it is accurate to say that Hassie displays many traits of the goddess Aphrodite as well as Persephone. Aphrodite was considered to be the “alchemical goddess governing a woman’s enjoyment of love and beauty, sexuality and sensuality, enabling her to fulfill both creative and procreative functions.”
Combine the traits of both Aphrodite and Persephone and you can begin to understand and appreicate the complexity of Hassie Calhoun.
***The American singer/songwriter/playwright Anais Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin brought the musical production “Hadestown” to the Broadway stage in 2019. The mythical aspect of the show addresses the Persephone/Hades relationship. More about this Tony- and Grammy-winning musical in the next blog post.