Most of us know the story behind the seasons in Greek Mythology, but just to recap...

Hades kidnapped the daughter of Demeter, Persephone. Demeter went in search for her, lead by Hecate's torches. She let the cosmos (land of humans) waste away untended and without fertility. Eventually, Demeter is told by Helios that he daughter was taken by the King of the Underworld. She threatens Zeus that if her daughter is not returned, she will forever leave the cosmos to waste (meaning no more humans to give offerings to the gods). Zeus then sends the emissary, Hermes, to go to the Underworld and see Persephone back.

Meanwhile, in the Underworld, Persephone is offered some pomegranate and she eats one third (three seeds, half, it varies) of the pomegranate. Eating the food of the Underworld bound her to the Underworld. But a compromise was made that Persephone would spent a third of the year (others say half) with Hades and the other time with her mother.

Is there another myth that has someone eating Underworld food?

  • Well, the ghosts in the Odyssey gather to drink fresh goat's blood, as I recall. The Chinese underworld must feature food b/c in the opening of the Journey to the West, there's a scene where they kill a guy so he can deliver a message to the judges in the underworld, asking if there's anything they want, and they say pumpkins, because it's the only melon they don't have down there.
    – DukeZhou
    May 3, 2018 at 20:53

1 Answer 1


Later authors don't seem to have considered underworld food binding in the same way. Lucian of Samosata wrote a parody of travelogues called the True History (Alēthē Diēgēmata), in which the narrator and his companions sail to the Isles of the Blessed and join in the banquets of the exalted; nothing bad happens to them as a result of this, and they sail off again a few months later none the worse for wear. Annaeus Lucanus (Lucan) also claims that the story of Persephone and the pomegranate is a lie to appease her mother: a necromancer threatens to reveal the actual story, implying that if it became public knowledge, Demeter would never take Persephone back again and there would be eternal winter.

I haven't found any earlier works that involve an outsider consuming the food of the underworld or specifically avoiding it, though nekyia rituals tend to involve the opposite: consecrating human food so that the dead can eat it. This draws ghosts to the surface and gives them strength so that they can answer questions and whatnot; the rite goes back to Homer, which is basically the oldest source we have.

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