“These yellow flowers are the heralds of spring,” my friend told me in a small road trip in the coastal area of Norway. He pointed to coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) at the side of the road. In his mother tongue it is hestehov.
I asked him to stop the car and found myself plucking the yellow wildflowers. I felt back like a child, and it felt right.
It reminded me also to the ancient-Greek myth of Persephone, whose life really began when she decided to pluck wildflowers. Once she was goddess of vegetation but eventually became the Queen of the Underworld. She was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Her myths explain the change of the seasons, making her a very important part of Greek culture.
The change of seasons
While she went plucking, she got abducted by Hades, who was madly in love with her. Nobody had seen the kidnapping and a frantic search started. Her mother was madly looking for her, and when she found out the truth that even her husband was behind this abduction, she was furious. There was a terrible fight after this and Demeter threatened to make the entire earth unfertile and doom the entire population to a certain death. It was then that an agreement was made. Persephone would be allowed to leave Hades for half the year and stay with her mother. The remaining half she would stay in the Underworld. This is the explanation for the change of seasons. When the earth becomes barren and cold, Persephone is with Hades and her mother is too distraught to keep up with her duties.
A good crime
My friend knows that I work for years on a novel based on the story of Persephone and Demeter, and it had once the working title “When Persephone disappeared” It is now turning into a mystical eco-thriller. I had to think about my own Persephone story, because in this same road trip, my friend had told me earlier that easter time is the time in Norway to buy and read good crime thrillers and I could see the link with spring.
I knew before that Nordic countries export a lot of crime stories to the world, and I know about the christianity’s influence, but I had always thought that Easter was more about (re)birth than death. Later, in a shop, he pointed out also to a advertisement of a list of crime books which was decorated with easter eggs and cute baby chicks.
It felt so weird to see this combination of death and horror with something cute and innocent as a baby chick. “Don’t you read crime books or bingewatch crime series in this time in Belgium?” he asked a bit puzzled. “No, not really,” I answered.
However, I started to grasp when I thought about it more. Death and rebirth are intertwined with each other. In matter of fact, Persephone was also the queen of death and the underworld. Every death is a beginning; and easter time is the ideal time to reflect on that.
Ash, connecting death (sacrifice) and rebirth
When I consulted my book about the wheel of the year and the related trees I found this was also the time of the ash. The ash is a tall tree of imposing grace and is known in leggings as the tree of life. It branches stretch far out to the heavens, with the earth at its centre, and its roots reaching own to hell. it also appears in Norse mythology as Yggdrasil, the great ash of Odin who hung from it (yes, he died and got resurrected) in order to gain the secrets of the runes and enlightenment. Do you see the similarity with Jesus at the cross, the event remembered during Easter?
Since the winged fruits of the ash looks like keys, the tree itself symbolises a key to the universal understanding of how all things are linked and connected. Like death and life.
Now it begins
Some hours later, I put the yellow flowers in a vase in his house and took a seat in his sofa where I continued reading “The Sixteen trees of the Somme” by Lars Mytting, which is a mystery (too) about the love of wood and finding your own self. (I had bought the book some weeks ago, because of the promise I can enjoy reading about the love for birches, carpentry and wood carving, and not so much because it was a mystery). The end of the first chapter resonates perfectly with the Norwegian easter spirit. Someone had died, and the main character thought:
Now it begins.