I live in a rational age in which churches fear the numinous. Post Reformation, Jesus was banished from Protestant churches (no statues or pictures) to the Platonic realm, high above the mundane earth. God has become a god of the Gap -exiled to the cold, empty space of the unseen universe.
The Christian philosophy belongs to the Platonic tradition, with its belief in a Pure realm of perfection, whilst the church's iconic symbolism and cycle of festivals belong to an older, more messy dimension -the mythologies of Dionysus, Attis, Damuzi.
Persephone has her place still, as the Virgin Mary.
Death and marriage are mediated by the church: because there is a human need to make life events sacred, or rather to make extraordinary by linking them with something not of this world.
The story of the abduction of Persephone describes an emotionally charged event, listening to or thinking about the story resonates with similar experiences in my own life. Nevertheless the 'new' narratives we have to add meaning to life events generally fail in my case.
Meanwhile, within the church, no believer would describes the life of Jesus as an allegory..
The Persephone myth in particular is used to defend the theory that myth is allegory; the autumn trees weeping leaves recall Persephone's mother weeping for her daughter; the cold hard winds of winter bringing hail and snow and the weakening days all echo the state of the mother's heart as she rages and despairs.
Others have seen Greek mythology as disguised philosophy and theology, concealing deep secrets from those who do not understand it. The people who believed this (predominantly 15th to 18th Century) went on to create sets of symbols and concepts which indeed can be read as a 'secret language'.
Unfortunately this does not prove that the Greek myths were originally used in the same way.
It is my contention that myth exists primarily to provide a Sacred narrative. We invent myth to make the ordinary extraordinary. Myth increases the meaning of an event by linking the here and now with a Golden Age and a Divine Event: the sacred narrative cushions painful experiences, it transforms the empty and meaninglessness of events and makes them more important; it provides the mind with a 'way in' to something that could be too painful to address otherwise.
In the Persephone myth the natural allegory is of the changing seasons, whilst the deeper, emotional allegory deals first with marriage, and secondly with death.
Though all the funerals I have been to were cremations, the coffin still sinks underground.
Belief alone is required for the alchemical transformation -to make an experience Sacred.
So by my definition, parents talk about Father Christmas (teach a myth as fact) to make the 25th of December an extraordinary day, ostensibly for the children. The myth acts to link the mundane and troublesome fact of wanting stuff with a divine entity (a virtual entity/not of this world), the myth provides a space in which to make temporarily sacred, the desire for stuff.
When people believe that there has been 'Satanic Abuse' taking place, it is a 'myth' acting to connect anxiety with the 'divine' or rather the daemonic (a virtual entity/not of this world). The symbols that anxiety pulls to itself are drawn from prevailing cultures, and inverted. Fear of satanic abuse and the inevitable 'witch hunt' provides meaning, creates a sense of the extraordinary and creates out of itself a way to deal with anxiety...
What I was going to write about, or rather to tentatively begin to explore was the subject of Heiros Gamos. But it seemed to me that I needed to explain -to myself as much as to anyone else- what I mean by myth and how myth functions.
I will just say that to our, modern ears, the story of Persephone and her abduction by her uncle falls far short of what we imagine by the Heiros Gamos; the story of Persephone is to modern ears one of abuse, it is a cover up, a way to make the 'abduction' of arranged marriage appear benign, the word marriage in this case is a shame...
But Sacred and sex and abduction are connected via myth, just because the church bowdlerise the myths as part of its recycling process doesn't mean the missing words cannot be put back...