Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Rape of Proserpine and Tarquinia

Walking through the ancient site of the necropolis of Tarquinia through fields filled with poppies, purple wild geraniums and other wildflowers, surrounded by tumuli and stairways that led down to Etruscan tombs, I suddenly felt very close indeed to the portal to the Underworld.

It was easy to picture the scene of the kidnap of Cere's daughter by the Lord of Death. She and her companions were collecting wildflowers innocently when his gaze fixed upon her and he determined to have her as his Queen.

Red poppies often have been associated with Proserpine. The poppies in the fields of Tarquinia were not the papaver somniferum that brings sleep, sister to Death but nonetheless were poppies and thus sacred to Ceres or Demeter, Earth Mother.

In the ancient myth, the ground itself opened and the God appeared in his chariot to take her in his arms. The earth then swallowed chariot, God and maiden in the blink of an eye.

Natural powers are very much in evidence in Italia and the islands of the Mediterranean. Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes feature in history, legend and archaeological evidence everywhere. It is said that Atlantis may have been an island kingdom swallowed by the sea due to a natural cataclysm. Some place it near Cadiz. Others believe it was near Santorini. Whatever the truth of it, the shape of every continent and island has been transformed again and again by Nature's hand.

April is a beautiful time to visit the Mediterranean. Throughout Italia, Spain and the islands, wildflowers proliferated. The scent of lavender was intoxicating in Toulon in the south of France. There are no intense shades of green but the tapestry of cypress, pine, plane trees and wildflowers beneath powerful dazzling sunlight has its own unique beauty.

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