Demeter

February 20th, 2008 by sabrina

Demeter (pronounced dih-MEE-tur) is the Greek Goddess of the earth, in particular the fruits of the earth. She is one of the children of Kronos and Rhea, sister of Zeus. The Roman Goddess Ceres is her equivalent. With Zeus, she had a daughter named Persephone, and it is in association with Persephone that Demeter is most well-known. Persephone was very lovely, and had been courted by the Gods Apollo, Ares, Hermes, and Hephaestus, but Demeter sent them all away. One day, while Persephone was out picking flowers with some nymphs, Hades, God of the Underworld, came up out of the earth and abducted her to be his bride. Demeter did not know what had happened to her daughter, and searched the world for her. In her despair, she neglected the earth, and all of the crops began to wither and die.

With the failure of the crops, people were going hungry and had nothing to sacrifice to the Gods. Zeus, knowing that Hades had taken Persephone, sent Hermes to him to bring her back to her mother. Before she left, Hades tricked her into eating six pomegranate seeds, tying her to the underworld for six months of the year. When Demeter was reunited with Persephone, she once again caused the earth to be fertile, but every year when Persephone goes back to the underworld, she lets the plants die again until her daughter’s return.

Demeter is also at the center of what are known as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Though no one is entirely certain what was involved with the mysteries (they were never written down and some aspects were known only to initiates), it is known that there were two central celebrations–those of the Lesser Mysteries in the spring, and those of the Greater Mysteries in late summer. The Lesser Mysteries likely signified the return of Persephone from the underworld. The Greater Mysteries may have evolved from a myth pertaining to the time when Demeter was searching for her daughter. In her search, she stopped at the home of Keleus, the King of Eleusis. While she stayed, she taught one of Keleus’s sons, Triptolemus, the art of agriculture, and it was he who spread it throughout the Greek world. For Keleus’s other son, Demophon, Demeter had a very special gift. She intended to turn him into a God, and part of the process involved burning away his mortal soul so that he would be immortal. Every night, she placed him in a fire, until his mother saw this and interrupted the ritual, afraid for her son’s life.

Demeter’s name is likely derived from the words for “distribution” and “mother,” which were suit her role as Goddess of the harvest. Epithets for her include:
Demeter Aglaokarpos (giver of goodly fruit)
Demeter Aglaodoros (bestower of splendid gifts)
Demeter Akhaia (of the Achaeans)
Demeter Amphiktyonis (who dwells nearby)
Demeter Anassa (queen)
Demeter Anesidora (spender of gifts)
Demeter Antaea (ghostly)
Demeter Auxesia (of spring growth)
Demeter Brimo (angry)
Demeter Despoina (ruling)
Demeter Dia Thea (bright Goddess)
Demeter Eleusinia (from Eleusis)
Demeter Epogmie (of the furrows)
Demeter Erinys (implacable fury)
Demeter Erinys Tilphosa (fury of Thelpousa)
Demeter Eukomos (lovely haired)
Demeter Eunostos (of flour mills)
Demeter Europa (of Europe)
Demeter Eustephanos (lovely crowned)
Demeter Hagne (chaste)
Demeter Herkyna (of the stone enclosure)
Demeter Horephoros (bringer of the seasons)
Demeter Kabeiraie (of the Kabeiroi)
Demeter Kalligeneia (with fair offspring)
Demeter Kallistephanos (beautiful crowned)
Demeter Kallisphyros (beautiful ankled)
Demeter Karpophoros (fruitbearer)
Demeter Khamyne (earth-opener)
Demeter Khloe (blooming)
Demeter Khrysaoros (with golden arms)
Demeter Khthonia (in the ground)
Demeter Kidarie (masked)
Demeter Kyanopeplos (dark veiled)
Demeter Kydra Thea (glorious Goddess)
Demeter Lernaia (of Lerna)
Demeter Lousie (bathing)
Demeter Malophoros (apple-bearer)
Demeter Megala Mater (great Mother)
Demeter Megala Thea (great Goddess)
Demeter Melaina (the black)
Demeter Mykalessia (of Mykalessos)
Demeter Mysia (of Mysios)
Demeter Panakhaia (of all the Achaeans)
Demeter Pelasgis (derived from the hero Pelasgos)
Demeter Ploutodoteira (giver of wealth)
Demeter Polyphorbos (all-nourishing)
Demeter Potnia (mistress)
Demeter Potnia Theaon (queen among Goddesses)
Demeter Pron (of the headland)
Demeter Prostasia (patron)
Demeter Prosymne  (for whom hymns are sung)
Demeter Pygaie (of the gates)
Demeter Rharias (derived from the Rharian plain)
Demeter Rhea eukomos thugater (daughter of rich-haired Rhea)
Demeter Semne (august, holy)
Demeter Sito (giver of food)
Demeter Stiria (of Stiris)
Demeter Thermasia (warmth)
Demeter Thesmia (of the laws)
Demeter Thesmophoros (law-bearer)
Demeter Tilphosa (of Thelpousa)
Demeter Xanthe (golden haired)

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