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Status: Goddess of Corn, Grain and Harvest
Class : Titans
Sex : Female
Roman Name: Ceres
Lineage: Cronus (father) and Rhea (mother)
Represented: A solemn woman,  wearing a  wreath of  braided  ears of corn
Symbols: The fruits of the earth, a torch, stalks of grain and a crown
Sacred animals: A snake (an earth-creature) and the pig (symbol of fertility)


The Titans, Kronos and Rhea had six children : Demeter, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia and Zeus.

Demeter is the fair-haired Greek earth goddess, who brings forth the fruits of the earth, particularly the various grains. She was also known as the Goddess of corn, grain and harvest. She blesses all phases of the harvests. As she walks the furrowed fields dressed in green, her moods are displayed with feast and famine. She taught mankind the art of sowing and plowing so they could end their nomadic existence. As such she was very popular with the rural population. Demeter was the one who makes the crops grow each year so the first loaf of bread from the harvest is always sacrificed to her.

Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus. The abduction of Persephone was the cause of Demeter’s sufferings which in turn led to her putting a curse on the mortal world. The story of abduction Persephone is best told in the Hymn to Demeter. The story begins in the middle : Hades saw Persephone and fell in love with her. Zeus readily agreed to the marriage but warned that Demeter would not approve of her leaving for a sunless home in the underworld. Zeus suggested that Hades simply carry the girl away. Hence Persephone is kidnapped as part of a secret agreement between Zeus and Hades. Although Demeter is one of the six Olympians and brother to Zeus and Hades, she was not told of the fate of her beloved daughter until it was (almost) too late.

persephone1.jpg (35405 bytes)While at play with the beautiful daughters of Okeanos, Persephone was picking flowers… but these weren’t earthly flowers… these flowers were the work of Zeus and put there for “a girl with a flower’s beauty”. The flowers were put there to guide Persephone to The Trap. A beautiful, divine trap… the trigger for the trap was an irresistible flower with one hundred stems of fragrant blossoms. When Persephone reached out with both hands to pluck the flower the earth opened at her feet. Hades roared forth in his golden chariot and seized her before the alarm could be raised. Persephone must have wandered away from her companions before Hades appeared for no one could say what actually happened to her when Demeter asked about her disappearance. No mortal heard Persephone’s cries for help before she vanished into The Underworld. Only two immortals heard the faint cries of the abducted girl: Hakate and Helios.

Demeter began searching in vain for her daughter. Her sorrow was so great that she denied herself all food, drink, and comfort for nine days. When dawn arrived on the tenth day, Hekate came to Demeter and told her that she had heard a voice but had not seen the abduction of the poor Persephone. The two goddess went to Helios because he sees all mortal and immortal actions. Helios, indeed knew the plot and the players. He told Demeter that the blame was that of Zeus and Hades. He further advised her to accept the situation because Hades was Lord of Many and “not an unseemly bridegroom”. Demeter did not like this advice and choose a long, brooding path to regain her precious daughter.

Far from being comforted, Demeter was so enraged that she refused to return to Olympus. She wandered over the earth in human form, caring nothing for her appearance.  While she was passing through Arcadia, Poseidon tried to rape her. The goddess changed herself into a mare in order to avoid his attentions and grazed with the mares in the herds of Oncius, at Thelpusa.  Not fooled, Poseidon became a stallion and mounted Demeter.  She bore Arion, the remarkable horse, and a goddess whom the Arcadians call merely the Mistress (Despoina), her name being a secret revealed only at her mysteries.  Furious at Zeus, Poseidon, and the world in general, Demeter shut herself in a cave on Mount Elaeus, near Phigalia.  Pan eventually found her there and told Zeus.  The worried god sent the Fates to talk with Demeter. They were able to persuade her to calm her anger and grief  and to accept the marriage of Persephone and Hades as inevitable.  Thereafter the people of this part of Arcadia worshipped both a mare-headed Demeter and Poseidon the Horse.
 
According to a more widespread tradition, Demeter visited the cities of Men during her grief as an old woman called Doso. The best known was the town of Eleusis, near Athens. She offered to work at any task suitable to old women. Metaneira, Celeus’ wife, welcomed her and made her the nurse of her son Demophon. In return, Demeter decided to make Demophone immortal. She anointed him with ambrosia and at night laid him to sleep in the embers of the fire. All would have gone well if not for Metaneira who spied on her at night. She cried out in horror and alarm at Doso. Angered, the strange nurse threw the baby on the floor and revealed her true self. Relenting somewhat, she taught Celeus and his people the rites in her honour that were to be celebrated for years as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Demeter however did not forget her daughter and inspite of her kindness to the Eleusinians, she bought famine on earth for an entire year.

Demeter demanded that a temple be built in her honour and the king of Eleusis were only too glad to oblige in hope that the curse would be lifted but this was not so. After the completion of the temple, Demeter retreated into the temple and her brooding worsen. The following year, no seed sprouted. Nothing grew in the plowed fields. The mortals were doomed to famine and eventual destruction if Demeter did not lift her curse.

Zeus sent Iris to dissuade Demeter from her destructive course and lift the curse but Demeter remained unmoved. In turn all the immortals came to Demeter’s temple and pleaded with her in hope that she will relent and give life back to earth. She stood firm in her decision and refused to change her mind.

Zeus was left with no choice but to send Hermes to the underworld to speak with Hades and Persephone. Hermes explained the situation and suggested gently that Persephone be returned to her Mother. Hades sympathized with the mortals but he was also intent on keeping his wife. Hence he offered Persephone a honey- sweet pomegranate seed as she departed. By tasting the sweet she was eternally bounded to Hades and the Underworld.

Demeter was overjoyed to see her daughter again but she was upset with the fact that Persephone was bounded to Hades forever and must return to the underworld.

A desperate Zeus, in a final bid to save the earth and appease her sister, sent his mother, Rhea, to plead with Demeter to lift her curse. Rhea offered Demeter honors if only she would return to Olympus and undo her curse. Zeus also promised that Persephone would spend two thirds of the year with her mother and only the remaining one third of the year with in the Underworld with her husband Hades.

Demeter was finally moved by her mother’s plea and agreed to lift the curse. The earth soon recovered her vitality and became fertile once again. Demeter and Persephone ascended to Olympus and it is said that those on a earth are now thrice blessed.

Before leaving Eleusis for Olympus, the goddess lent her dragon-drawn, winged chariot to Triptolemus who was said to be an elder son of Celeus but there are many stories about his parentage. He flew through the air sowing corn and teaching people how to cultivate lands. On many occasions, she also came to his aid when he was threatened with harm by unfriendly kings. She also gave a gift in the form of a fig tree to a man Phytalus, who had been gracious to her in during her stay.

When Persephone is with Hades, Demeter grieves and earth is once again wrecked by the sorrow of her mother for she withdraws her gifts to the world thus creating winter. However when Persephone returns to walk the earth again, Demeter bless the earth in the form of spring to welcome her beloved daughter home. The dying and blossoming of nature are thus connected with Demeter.

According to several sources, Demeter had an age long feud with her brother, Poseidon and because of this the edge of the sea is always  barren of crops. The origin of this feud is, unfortunately , vague.

Demeter’s worship was widespread and her rites were celebrated in many places. Because of the power of Athens, which had early incorporated the town of Eleusis within its boundaries, the Eleusinian mysteries became the best known and most influential of all the religious mysteries of the Greek. Apart from her renowned cult in Eleusis, the next great festival of Demeter was the Thesmophoria, held in autumn to honour her as Demeter Thesmophoros, the bringer of riches (of earth). This was celebrated yearly by Athenian women.