I tried, I really did. I so wanted to write a light and happy post for spring and went looking for sweet, floral, and effervescent goddesses to welcome in the season. But, it seems that every time I found a good candidate, she ended up having tragedy in her story.
Of course, probably the best known spring goddess is Persephone, the daughter of Demeter. Unfortunately, as we all know, Persephone was kidnapped and taken to Hades, causing Demeter to withdraw her vitality from the Earth, resulting in winter and hunger. Only when Persephone was rescued did spring and summer return, but only for a few months a year.
I find the stories of the Rusalkis, Russian goddesses of spring, to be mesmerizing. They come from rivers and dance to make the rains come so that the crops and flowers will grow all spring and summer long. Then, when it is time for fall, they settle down into their feather nests and sleep till next spring. How sorrowfully mysterious it is that these beautiful creatures are the spirits of women who have drowned or killed themselves.
I’ve just begun to learn more about Scandinavian goddesses and have become captivated by Iduna. She is a goddess of spring who dwells in a place of blossoms and fruit and all good things associated with abundance and life. Her special gift is a treasure box full of golden apples that she gives to the gods and goddesses so that they may remain immortal. But, she, too, is kidnapped and taken to a place of death and barrenness. Without her apples, the goddesses and gods become mortal and begin to age and wither. She is rescued by being turned into a seed and flown back home in the beak of a god in the form of a falcon so that she can once again give away her golden apples.
When I first began to ponder these stories, I remembered that at the time when they were first told, spring would be tinged with the grief of losses of loved ones over the winter with its harsh cold and famine, as it still is in so many places. In fact, this year these stories are particularly poignant as we rejoice in the first bird call and sprouting blooms while being mindful of those who have perished in natural disasters and violence in the past weeks.
But, when I change my thinking, and consider them not as stories about spring, but as stories about coping with the tragedies and challenges of life, they take on a new meaning. Winter’s sorrows come to all of us at times in our lives and, at any time, there are others suffering somewhere in the world. How can we respond in a way that is both compassionate and effective?
Perhaps these stories hold one key. These goddesses not only experience loss, but also rebirth. In each case, the goddesses come back from some deep place with the hope of spring and the re-creation of a world of happiness and peace. They are kidnapped, or lost through death, but they return with the message that there is an innate joy and beauty in the world, one that does not disappear even when all seems to be lost, and that it is worthwhile to keep striving to make that vision manifest in daily life. And, not only do they bring a message, but they also use their gifts to bring spring back to the earth.
This remembrance that the earth could be a place of paradise is powerful and not to be wielded by the faint of heart. Nothing can spark a revolution, or bring someone lost in grief into life again, or be the push to get moving on a piece of art or a project or a new enterprise, faster than the conviction that joy is within reach if we will only keep on going and then work to make it happen. Suddenly, these spring goddesses seem to be no longer victims of suicide or death or kidnapping, but gatekeepers to all that makes life worth living.
How do we become Persephone, a Rusalki, Iduna? How can we a goddess of spring on the threshold of this most joyful season? By doing what they did and going deep inside ourselves to find that certainty, those memories of those moments when we just knew that love and happiness are the hallmarks of our true realm and then bringing our golden apples, or rain, or harvest, to those who need them. This year, find your own treasure box of manifestations of spring – whether it is acts of kindness, or poetry or song or dance, or whatever else is an expression of your unique talents – and give them away.