Demeter, the story of the Greek goddess who gives rise to spring?

The story of demeter, is undoubtedly one of the most exciting of all of the gods of Olympus. And although on several occasions you have surely heard her name, it is most likely that you do not know the interesting details of her story.

Demeter is the Greek goddess who gives rise to spring, since she is usually linked to the fertility of the earth. Discover in this note everything you need to know about this Olympic goddess, who is one of the most important figures of Ancient Greece.

Demeter: the Greek goddess of agriculture

Demeter is part of the gods of Olympus, and was in charge of granting fertility to the land and protecting crops, as well as vegetation in general. This close connection to the earth was an inheritance from her mother, Rhea, who was undoubtedly a concrete reincarnation of the earth mother goddesses. Which were worshiped within rural communities in the Bronze Age.

The sanctuary at Eleusis was dedicated to the goddess and her daughter Persephone, who is also part of the Olympian gods. The Eleusinian mysteries that were practiced there spread throughout the world of archaic and classical Greece. Thanks to the myth that the goddess Demeter would protect those who worshiped her in the afterlife, she managed to retain her popularity with the Romans and was known by the name of Ceres.

Olympian gods related to Demeter

The gods of Olympus usually have large families, and this case is no exception. Demeter is the daughter of Cronos and Rhea, sister of Poseidon, Zeus, Hestia, Hades and Hera. She is the mother of Persephone and Iaco, who are also children of Zeus, and the mother of Pluto, who is the son of the mortal Cretan Iasion. Who was later killed by lightning due to Zeus’ jealousy.

Demeter adopted the Eleusinian prince Demophon, who offered humans the gifts of the plow and the knowledge of agriculture. The goddess was chased by Poseidon and to try to escape her intentions, she transformed into a mare. Despite that, Poseidon turned into a horse and they had a son named Arion, the winged horse that Hercules rode.

Many times Demeter and Persephone appeared paired, so that on certain occasions they were identified as a single goddess with a dual appearance. This duo was often known as the two goddesses and also as Demeters, that is, two Demeters.

Demeter and Persephone

The most important mythology that had to do with Demeter is the story of the kidnapping of her daughter Persephone, by Hades the god of the underworld. There was a day that Hades fell in love with Persephone the moment he saw her. So she decided to take her away in her carriage so that she would live with him in the underworld.

In certain versions of this story, Zeus consented to the kidnapping, and the location of the event was traditionally in Sicily or Asia. Feeling desperate, the goddess searched all over the earth for her lost daughter. And despite the fact that Hermes or Helios had told her the fate of her daughter, Demeter continued with the tireless search until she reached Eleusis.

She went to the place disguised as an old woman, at which time she took care of Demophon, the son of Metanira, wife of King CĂ©leo, the king of Eleusis. As a way of repaying the family for her great kindness, Demeter tried to make Demophon immortal. She placing it inside the fire every night. However, when Metanira realized this she was alarmed.

In response to the whole situation, the goddess revealed her identity and demanded that a temple be built in her honor. What became known as the beginning of the famous sanctuary of Eleusis in Attica. When the temple was completed, the goddess withdrew from the world to live within the temple. She being the one responsible for creating a great drought to try to convince the other gods of Olympus to free Persephone from the hands of Hades.

As the drought ravaged its victims, crops withered and food was so little that mortals did not have enough to offer sacrifices to the gods. That was how Zeus was finally able to persuade Hades to release Persephone. But before returning it, Hades placed a pomegranate grain inside the girl’s mouth. Knowing full well that the taste of her would make her want to get back together with him.

There are certain versions of this myth where Persephone could have freed herself if she hadn’t eaten anything while in the underworld. However, at the last moment Hades offered him a pomegranate seed. Finally and as part of the compromise, it was decided that the young woman would be released, in exchange for having to return to Hades a third of the days of the year.

Grateful for Persephone’s return, it was mentioned that the goddess had sent Demophon to teach mankind about grain cultivation and a wide variety of useful agricultural tricks.

What were the Eleusinian mysteries?

The mythology of Demeter and Persephone was perhaps the symbol that corresponds to the changing of the seasons. Going from summer to winter and being back to life in the spring. A rather alternative view on the part of modern historians is the belief that Persephone’s abduction represents a symbol of the practice of burying seeds in the summer. In order that these would not dry out before they could be sown in the fall.

This is a cycle that became one of several rituals that are part of the sacred Eleusinian mysteries. Where the symbols of said cult were the ears of grain and a torch. The latter represents the search for Persephone by the goddess. Although it is also a reminder that all the rituals in Eleusis were performed at night.

Eleusis became the most important sanctuary for Demeter. A site that has a religious connection and has monuments that have to do with the Mycenaean civilization in the fifteenth century BCE. From the year 600 BCE the sacred Eleusinian mysteries became an official ceremony for the Athenian calendar. Eleusis being a true Panhellenic place, under the command of the Athenian dictator Peisistratos.

By the 5th century BCE, the Athenian statesman Pericles was in charge of supervising the construction of the new Telesterion, a temple and initiation hall. Which at that time was the largest building in all of Greece. This place continued to be the center of attention for worshipers and pilgrims in Roman times. On the other hand, Eleusis was destroyed around the year 395 CE, due to the invasion of the Visigoths.

Unfortunately, since the initiates were bound by a sacred oath, in which they were not to reveal details, the sacred Eleusinian mysteries still remain a mystery. What is known is that from the 6th century BCE, the ceremonies were held twice a year.

The first step during the initiation processes was known as the lesser mysteries, carried out in the spring. The major mysteries, which were the most important, were held in the fall for nine nights in a row. Only Greeks could be initiated, but this initiation was later expanded to include Romans.

Some details about outdoor activities are also known. There was a procession that was led by the priestess of Demeter along the sacred path that goes from Eleusis to what is the agora of Athens. And in turn another return procession that was led by Yaco’s symbolic car.

Apart from this, there were ritual and communal cleaning. Purification ceremonies were performed in the sea at a site known as Falero. The recreation or representation of the myths that had to do with the goddesses, animal sacrifices and also the interpretation of the sacred texts by the priests.

Probably, there was also a drinking, dancing, music and general revelry. As witnessed within the scenes of Greek ceramics, which in turn include rites. Where the initiates are shown holding a sacred rod or Bacchus. Closely linked to fertility and agriculture, these mysteries brought good fortune to worshippers. And perhaps, for some, the most important thing was the promise of a better life in the afterlife.


World history, Red history, Portal mythology