Now that I have told you about Hades – The God of the Underworld it is time to take a look at Demeter – The goddess of the grain and harvest
Demeter, the goddess of the grain and harvest, is the daughter of Kronos and Rhea and thus the sister of Zeus. Demeter has a daughter (Persephone) with her brother Zeus.
There are not many stories told about her. The most famous story is the one about how her daughter Persephone was kidnapped by Hades – you can read the story here.
Demeter, who is the goddess of the harvest, felt miserable over the loss of her beloved daughter and looked for her everywhere. For nine days, the unhappy Demeter flew around on earth with torches in her hands without finding her daughter. Eventually, she flew up to the sun-god Helios, who tells her what has happened. He tries to comfort Demeter with the fact that Hades is a significant king, brother to Zeus, and that her daughter is now queen of the underworld, but Demeter is not comforted. In anger against Zeus, she leaves Olympus and walks around on earth. For a whole year, a single straw does not sprout, and the seed that is thrown into the ground rots away. There is famine on earth, humanity is dying, and there are no longer any sacrifices to the gods. Zeus sends several of the gods to Demeter to persuade her to return to Olympus, but Demeter is relentless. Earth must not bear fruit until Demeter is reunited with her daughter.
Eventually, Zeus has to send Hermes to Hades and have him release Persephone, but Hades is reluctant. Only when Persephone cries for permission to visit her mother he allows it. To make sure Persephone returns to him, he gives her six seeds from the pomegranate; It will enable Persephone to stay at Olympus six months a year. The other six months – one for each pomegranate seed – she must spend as queen in the kingdom of death. So every year, when winter is over, Hades drives his queen up to Mount Olympus in his cart. Persephone is a symbol of the grain that lies in the soil until it one-day sprouts. So if you have sometimes wondered about the changes of the seasons, then here is the explanation.
The main shrine of Demeter is Eleusis, which is a place near Athens. However, there were also shrines for Demeter scattered throughout Greece; in fact, almost everyone worshipped her, no wonder when you consider her function as a goddess. Celebrations are held first in the autumn, called Thesmophorian festivities. They were held in shrines specially designed for this purpose. It was a party only for women – only married women and immature children had the right to be present, and it was a secret celebration. Not much is known about what happened during these parties. The parties had different durations in different places in Greece, from 3 to 10 days. The sacrificial animal at the party was a pig – thrown into a hole in the ground where it rotted. Each participant – or almost every participant – came with a pig. It was not sacrifices made on behalf of the societies as much as on behalf of the individual participant and their families As a rule; the sanctuary was not inside the city itself, but outside.
In popular mythology, Demeter is mainly associated with earth and its products, the goddess of agriculture, the goddess of law and order, the guardian of marriage, and the birth of the children. Demeter is a symbol of the changing seasons. Her symbols are the snake that lives in the earth, as well as the torch she brought along during her quest for Persephone. Her sacred animal is the pig, which is a fertility symbol.
Demeter taught humans the art of cultivating the land: sowing, plowing, and harvesting. She was therefore particularly popular with the rural population, who were deeply dependent on her help.
Next time I will tell the tale of Hestia– Goddess of Hearth
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