Ancient Symbol Of Trinacria.

Ancient Symbol Of Trinacria.

Yet not alone as a strategic point of dominating influence was Sicily thus coveted by different nationalities and races. It had its own intrinsic value. So wonderfully fertile were its wheat-producing fields, that it was called the Garden of the Mediterranean and the Granary of Rome, and was believed to be the favorite home of the goddess of agriculture, named by the Romans Ceres, by the Greeks Demter.

An Old Sicilian.

An Old Sicilian.

It was, indeed, near Lake Pergusa, in the centre of the island, that Pluto was supposed to have seized Demēter's lovely daughter, Persephone, while she was " gathering flowers, herself a fairer flower," and to have carried her away to be his consort in the nether world. Nothing in old mythology is sweeter and more poetical than the story of the goddess-mother mourning for her stolen child.

" What ails her that she comes not home ? Demēter seeks her far and wide, And, gloomy-browed, doth ceaseless roam From many a morn till eventide. 'My life, immortal though it be, Is naught,' she cries, 'for want of thee, Persephone ! Persephone !' "

Lighting a torch at Mount Etna, to aid her in her search, the frantic mother wandered vainly over many lands, till finally, having returned to Sicily in despair, she discovered through the revelations of the river nymph, Cyane, the abode of her abducted child, and threatened famine to the world unless she were restored to her. Accordingly Jove promised her that her beloved Persephone, though she must still continue to reside one half of the year with Pluto, should every spring return to Sicily, and stay with her till harvest. Perhaps, like most of the legends of antiquity, this fable was purely allegorical, and parabled the fact that seed, when planted in the ground, lies hidden in the earth, until in spring it rises from the darkness of the under world into the light of day. At all events, it is undoubtedly true that every year, for centuries, when verdure once more crept mysteriously over the Sicilian fields, and all the mountain sides grew radiant with vernal bloom, the people reveled in the restoration of Persephone; and in the autumn also, when the golden grain had all been garnered, they celebrated joyfully the festival of Ceres, decking their hair with ears of wheat and corn-flowers, just as the happy goddess had adorned her own fair tresses in the joy of being reunited with her child.

Where Persephone Returns.

Where Persephone Returns.

A Bit Of Sicily.

A Bit Of Sicily.

Some traces of these ancient customs still survive in Sicily; for though the worship of Demēter has, nominally, long since passed away, some popular religious ceremonies still exist, which no doubt had their origin in the ritual of those stately temples, sacred to the gods of Greece, which once crowned many a mountain top in old Trinacria. Thus at the fetes of the Madonna, even now, devout Sicilians place before her statues flowers and sheaves of grain, and white-robed worshipers in long processions make their way from shrine to shrine with garlands in their hands. Moreover, at the time of planting, not only must the furrowed fields be sprinkled with holy water; but before any of the seed is sown, a part of it is taken by the peasants to the church for consecration. Similarly, in the autumn, Sicilian harvesters bring to the churches their first cereals, in gratitude for the celestial favor once ascribed to Ceres. In this and many other ways Trinacria is still alive with memories of her vanished gods. Most of their temples have, indeed, been overthrown; or, if some portions of them still remain upright, they are but lonely and pathetic relics of their former grandeur. Yet from this desolation blooms the indestructible flower of Grecian art, and the poetic influence of the divinities, whose names those edifices bore, still makes Sicilian soil sacred ground. Thus, we encounter there not only eloquent reminders of Demeter and Persephone, but also numerous souvenirs of Neptune, Venus, Vulcan, Juno, Hercules, Enceladus, and Pluto; of demigods like Daedalus, Ulysses, Polyphemus, and the Sirens, and of the fabled monsters Scylla and Charybdis; until the rhythm of the Iliad and Odyssey seems to pulsate in the murmur of the restless sea against Trinacria's storied coast, and every mountain crest is luminous with the glamour of heroic times.