With spring just around the corner, a lot of our ancestors would celebrate the change in weather and the return of green by telling stories and gathering for f estivals. Of course, today we are fully aware of the rotation of the Earth around the sun and on its axis, giving to us the scientific explanations for the change of seasons. But what did they think back then? How did our ancient predecessors explain these changes? What were these stories? Instead of looking at all of them, we will be taking a look at a few over these next two weeks, leading right up to the Spring equinox. So today? Let’s take a look at the myths of Hades and Persephone and Zhu Long, the Candle Dragon.
When talking about the changes in season, the Greeks looked to the gods and their troubles which affected the mortal world. The story of Hades and Persephone explains these changes as Demeter’s mood swings — Demeter being the mother of Persephone, the Goddess of Spring. A quick look at this myth has Hades kidnapping Persephone, and Demeter — the Goddess of the Harvest and Agriculture — begging Zeus to give her her daughter back as she fails in her duties. Persephone of course eats three pomegranate seeds before Zeus can interfere, which forces him to decide that for half of a year she is to be with her mother while the other half she is forced to return to Hades. During the times Persephone is gone, Demeter becomes inconsolable, neglecting her duties and letting the world around her wither and die. However, when Persephone is returned, Demeter jumps back into action, revitalizing the land.
Following in the same fashion, the Chinese myth of Zhu Long the Candle Dragon explains not only one, but all the seasons, as well as the changes in night and day. You see, Zhu Long — or Zhu Yin — was a huge, scaly, red dragon that was shaped like a serpent and had a human head. According to myth, one of his eyes represented the sun while the other the moon, and when they were open it was daytime, while at night his eyes were closed. In his mouth he holds a candle that lights the gate of heaven, and his breath is what changes the seasons. You see, when Zhu Long exhales he casts winter across the land, but when he inhales he brings summer.
These are but two of many myths that discuss the change of seasons. So whether you believe that a God kidnapped a Goddess or a giant, serpentine dragon is inhaling to bring about the summer, just know that the days will be getting longer and longer until we find ourselves enjoying the Spring Equinox once more and welcoming back Hades’ Dread Empress, Persephone herself.
For more reading on these two myths (sources):