Saturday, December 24, 2011


Demeter (Dhmhthr)


As the goddess of grain and fertility, Demeter played an important - indeed essential - role in ancient Greek society. The Greeks, like most ancient cultures, relied upon agriculture for their sustenance. As the patron deity of agriculture, Demeter was accordingly worshipped with festivals (such as the Thesmophoria) and other honors. Likewise, her association with grain also translated into a close relationship with human fertility, as this was another crucial part in our continuing survival. There are, consequently, many myths dealing with Demeter in her capacity as a fertility goddess.

Perhaps the most poignant of these myths is the so-called Homeric Hymn to Demeter, in which the story of the goddess and the loss of her daughter Persephone is told. The Hymn to Demeter is thought by scholars to be not only a myth about the abduction of Persephone and the consequent anger of Demeter - it also alludes to aspects of the mystery cult referred to as the Eleusinian Mysteries. This cult falls more properly into the realm of Greek religion, rather than myth, so it will not be discussed it in any detail here. However, as it is an integral aspect of the worship of Demeter, it should at least be mentioned in this context.
In addition to the myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, another intriguing tale that involves the goddess of fertility is her affair with the mortal Iasion. According to the version told by the poet Hesiod, Demeter and the hero "coupled with passion on a field plowed three times, in the rich soil of Crete." Apparently, this legendary liaison with Iasion was quite a fruitful one, for Demeter became pregnant and eventually bore her human lover a son named Plutus.
The goddess Demeter was known as Ceres in Roman mythology.

FROM: Greek Goddess Demeter in Myth and Art


Demeter was usually portrayed on a chariot, and frequently associated with images of the harvest, including flowers, fruit, and grain. She was also sometimes pictured with Persephone.
Demeter is not generally portrayed with a consort: the exception is Iasion, the youth of Crete who lay with Demeter in a thrice-ploughed field, and was sacrificed afterwards— by a jealous Zeus with a thunderbolt, Olympian mythography adds, but the Cretan site of the myth is a sign that the Hellenes knew this was an act of the ancient Demeter.
Demeter placed Aethon, the god of famine, in Erysichthon's gut, making him permanently famished. This was a punishment for cutting down trees in a sacred grove.
In various contexts, Demeter is invoked with many epithets:
  • Potnia ("mistress" in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter)
  • Chloe ("the green shoot", Pausanias 1.22.3, for her powers of fertility and eternal youth)
  • Anesidora ("sending up gifts" from the earth Pausanias 1.31.4, as Demeter)
  • Malophoros ("apple-bearer" or "sheep-bearer", Pausanias 1.44.3)
  • Kidaria (Pausanias 8.13.3),
  • Chthonia ("in the ground", Pausanias 3.14.5)
  • Erinys ("implacable", Pausanias 8.25.50)
  • Lusia ("bathing", Pausanias 8.25.
  • Thermasia ("warmth", Pausanias 2.34.6)
  • Kabeiraia, a pre-Greek name of uncertain meaning
  • Thesmophoros ("giver of customs" or even "legislator", a role that links her to the even more ancient goddess Themis. This title was connected with the Thesmophoria, a festival of secret women-only rituals in Athens connected with marriage customs.)
FROM: Demeter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Patron of: Farmers; Ploughing, Sowing and Harvesting grain
Favour: Bountiful harvest; Fertile earth
Curse: Crop failure; Hunger and Starvation

Patron of: Flour-mills; Flour-stores

Patron of: Bread (staple food)

Patron of: Vegetable-gardens
Favour: Bountiful harvest; Fertile earth

Patron of: Fruit-orchards
Favour: Bountiful harvest

Patron of: Pig-farming

Patron of: Mothers; Motherly devotion; Wet-nurses

Patron of: Mystery religion (passage to a blessed afterlife)
Favour: Passage to Elysium (paradise) in death

II) What were her symbols, attributes,
sacred plants and animals?
Wheat-ears; Winged-serpent; Cornucopia (horn-of-plenty)

Wheat-ears; Torch; Cornucopia (Greek "keras Amaltheias"); Lotus-staff;
Radiate-crown (stephane); Winged-drakon chariot

Drawn by a pair of winged serpents (Greek "drakones")

Wheat (Greek "puros"); Barley (Greek "krithe"); Mint (Greek "minthe");
Poppy (Greek "mekon")

Serpent (Greek "drakon"); Pig or Swine (Greek "hus");
Spotted-Lizard or Gecko (Greek "askalabotes")

Turtle-dove (Greek "trugon"); perhaps the Crane (Greek "geranos");
Screech-owl (Greek "askalaphos")



III) Who were the family & attendants of Demeter?
KRONOS Deposed Titan-King of the Gods, son of Ouranos the sky & Gaia the earth

RHEA Former Titan-Queen of the Gods, daughter of Ouranos the sky & Gaia the earth


PERSEPHONE Queen of the Underworld and Goddess of Spring Growth
PLOUTOS God of Agricultural Wealth
ARION Magical, immortal horse, first owned by Herakles then Adrastos.


PLOUTOS God of Agricultural Wealth
PERSEPHONE Goddess of Spring Growth
HEKATE Goddess of Witchcraft; Minister of Persephone
DRYADES Nymphai of Trees & Shrubs (including fruit-trees)
OKEANIDES Nymphai of Clouds & Rain, Flowers & Grasses
Various Hemitheoi (demi-gods) of the Eleusinian Mysteries eg Iakkhos

IV) Where and how was she worshipped?
Attika in Greece; Messenia in Greece; Enna in Sicily

Eleusis in Attika, Greece (home of the celebrated Mysteria)

Temples throughout Greece & Sicily;
Mysteria (mystery religion) widely practised in Greece

Gaia (the Earth); Titanis Rheia (Flow); Titanis Themis (Custom);
Erinys (Fury); Ekhidna (Viper)

Ceres (Roman goddess); Isis (Egyptian goddess)

V) What were some of the popular myths about Demeter?
* Demeter and her siblings were swallowed at birth by their father Kronos. Zeus later conscripted Metis to feed the Titan-King a draught which made him disgorge all five.
* Demeter's daughter Persephone was carried off by Haides to the Underworld. Demeter searched everywhere for her, and upon discovering the truth, brought deadly starvation down upon mankind until Zeus agreed to let her daughter return.

* Demeter fell in love with the mortal Iasion of Samothrake and lay with him in a thrice-plowed field. Zeus discovered the affair, and struck Iasion dead with a thunderbolt.
* During her search for Persephone, Poseidon desired to lie with Demeter. She transformed herself into a mare to escape him, but the god assumed the form of a horse and raped her.

* Demeter gave her dragon-drawn chariot to Triptolemos of Eleusis and sent him out into the world to teach mankind the practise of agriculture.

* Askalaphos revealed to Haides that Persephone had tasted the seed of the pomegranate, forcing the girl to spend part of the year in the Underworld. Her mother Demeter was furious and transformed the tell-tale into a screech-owl.
* The Thessalian Erysikhthon cut down Demeter's sacred grove in order to build himself a feasting-hall. As punishment the goddess inflicted him with an unquenchable hunger.

Cult titles
Anassa: Queen
Auxesia: Goddess of Growth
Ceres: Roman equivalent of Demeter
Damia: Goddess of Growth
Deo: Goddess
Demetra: Alternative pronounciation of Demeter
Herkyna: Lady of the Stone Enclosure, specifically relating to Hermione
Hagnos: Pure One
Deo Mystika: Goddess of the Mysteries
Megala Thea: Great Goddess
Megala Meter: Great Mother
Meter Antaia: Ghostly Mother (Orphic)
Semne Thea: Awesome Goddess

General epithets
Aidoioi (Revered)
Antaia (Besought by Prayers)
Hagne (Pure)
Kourotrophos (Youth-Nourishing)
Panagia (All Holy)
Potnia (Lady, Mistress, Ruler)
Semnai (Holy, awesome, sacred)
Agricultural epithets
Aglaodora (Giver of Gifts)
Auxesia (Growth)
Evalosia (of Good Harvest)
Karpophoros (Bringer of Fruits)
Malophoros (Bringer of Apples)
Mimalis (Abundance)
Orephoros (Bringer of seasons)
Sito (Grain)
Thermasia (Warmth)
Plutodoteria (Wealth Giver)
The central trinity of seed - sprout - plant, followed by death
Khthonia (of Earth)
Anesidora (Who Sends up Gifts)
Khloe/Khloaia (the Verdant)
Epogmie (Furrows)

Local epithets
Demeterion (Of the Temple)
Europe (Of Europe)
Lernaia (Of Lerna, a town in Argolis)
Panakhaia (Of all the Greeks)
Prostasia (Patron, Leader)
Stiria (Of Stiris, a town in Phokis)

Mystery Epithets
Mysteria (Of the Mysteries)
Orgia (Of orgies)
Brimo (the Strong)
Eleusinia (of Eleusis)
Erynis (the Fury)
Kabeiraia (of the Kabierian Mysteries)
Kidaria (unknown)
Louisa (Mild)
Melaina (the Black)
Thesmophorous (of Sacred Law)

General epithets
Antaia (Besought by Prayers)
Antaia is an Orphic epithet, referring to the Goddess's grace in listening and responding to our supplications.
Hagne (the Pure)
The Greek word 'hagne' is ancient, deriving from the the Indo-European 'hagnos'. From Homeric times, the Greeks have honoured a system of cultic purity that involves refraining from prayer and sacrifice when tainted by miasma, or impurity, that comes through association with mortal concerns such as blood and death.
Demeter was widely worshipped as Hagne, or pure, despite her intimate knowledge of fertility and death. In her case, purity refers to her status as a God, that her sacred honour remains unbesmirched regardless of her close association with humankind. Her daughter is also referred to as 'hagnen', emphasizing their shared divinity. Much like Apollo, Demeter could also bestow purity on the unclean, just as she thrust Demophoon into the fire to purge him of his mortality.
Kourotrophos (Youth-Nourishing)
This is an aspect of many Goddesses, including Demeter, Persephone and Hekate, although 'Kourotrophos' can also be prayed to as a single Goddess. It refers to the Goddesses who protect and nurture the young, warding off harm during childbirth and childhood.
Panagia (All-Holy)
The designation of All-Holy is now most closely associated within Greece with the Virgin Mary. It is essentially self-explanatory, invoking Demeter as the pure and holy Goddess of the people.
Potnia (Lady, Mistress, Ruler)
Potnia is generally translated as Mistress, and is commonly associated with the Potnia Theiron, or Mistress of Beasts, the archeological name for a common figure in Minoan religious iconography. She is usually depicted stroking or riding a tame lion, and her specific Hellenic analogue has been surmised to be either Rhea, Artemis or Demeter. Demeter is referred to as Potnia four times in the Homeric Hymn.
Agricultural epithets
Evalosia (of Good Harvest)
As the Harvest Queen, Demeter was honoured at the festivals of Thargelia and Kalamaia.
Orephoros (Bringer of Seasons)
Demeter is referred to in this capacity in the opening of the Homeric Hymn, suggesting that the seasonal cycle was already established before the abduction of Kore. This is further evidence to suggest that the common reading of the Hymn as the 'origin of the seasons' is incorrect.
Plutodoteria (Wealth Giver)
This epithet is traditionally used to invoke Demeter's power over agricultural abundance. Demeter's child by Iasion, Plutos, is the God of Wealth, and an important figure in Eleusinian iconography. As the adopted children of the Two Goddesses, initiates could expect bounteous increases in their yearly harvests.
Khthonia (of Earth)
Although there is a strong distinction between the Olympian and chthonic in ritual, many heavenly Gods possess underworld aspects. These are typically recognized by the epitaph 'kthonia', which is common to Demeter, Zeus and Dionysus.
Demeter's designation as 'Kthonia' is widely believed to relate to the dark earth before the spring, and the Goddesses power over the seed which lies dormant without her blessings. In this respect, 'Kthonia' forms a trinity with Demeter's other agricultural titles 'Anesidora' - 'who sends up gifts', particularly young shoots - and 'Khloe' - 'Green', referring to verdant plantlife. The final aspect in this symbolic mapping of the lifecycle is 'Epogmie', meaning 'furrows'.
More widely, her reign over life and the Earth, and her close relationship with Dionysus and Persephone, the great resurrected Gods, associates her forever with the underworld and death. The Greeks believed that 'corn comes from the dead,' and grain was often scattered over graves. In Hermione, where secret sacrifices to Demeter took place within Neolithic stone circles, her festivals was known simply as Khthonia. Pausanius described the uncanny nature of the ritual, where a procession led a cow to be sacrificed in a closed temple. Garlands were worn by children in the procession to signify mourning. As always, the life-giving goddess illuminates the dark reaches of death.
Anesidora (who sends up gifts)
Anesidora was widely used to refer to Demeter's reign over young, green shoots following the dark of winter.
Demete Anesidora was, according to Plutarch and Pausanias, honored in great Mysteries at the sanctuary of Phyla that were said to predate Eleusis. There were a number of altars there, to Apollo Dionysodotos (given by Dionysus), Artemis Selaphoros (torch bearer), Dionysus Anthios (of flowers), Zeus Ktesios (protector of possessions), Athene Tithrone, Kore Protogone (first born) and Demeter Anesidora (who sends up gifts). There is an ambiguous pair of votive statues that may have shown Demeter and Apollo side by side.
Pausanias speaks of the very ancient hymns sung there about Demeter's sojourn with Phylos, son of the earth, and Eros, the primordial God. A painting on the wall shows a grey-haired, phallic, winged man pursuing a woman in dark robes. It is not possible to precisely surmise the role that Demeter played in these Mysteries, and we know even less about their content then those of Eleusis.
The ancestral woman, Pandora, was also called Anesidora.
Khloe/Khloaia (the Verdant)
Demeter is worshipped in the Spring with the Khloaia festival, during the month of Anthesterion, or the 'month of flowers.' The epithet honours Demeter's role as the Goddess of springtime growth and abundance.
Mystery epithets
Brimo (the Strong)
This is a particularly ambiguous epithet, since Hippolytos tells us that the Heirophant of Eleusis announces the birth of a divine son with the cry: "The Mistress has born a sacred son, Brimo the Brimos, the strong to the strong." Conflicting commentary on the Mysteries suggests that the mother of this child could be either Demeter or Persephone, and gives us very few suggestions on the identity of the child. Dionysus has a similar epithet, Bromios, however, another possible candidate is Ploutos, Demeter's son by Iasion.
Eleusinia (of Eleusis)
Of course, this title refers to Demeter's status as the founding Goddess of Eleusis, and the central figure in Eleusinian iconography. It was uncommon for the worship of a deity's cultic aspects to spread beyond the geographical centre of the rites, however, Demeter Eleusinia was worshipped throughout Greece, and particularly in Ionia.
Erynis (the Fury)
Classically, the Furies are a trio of Goddesses dedicated to the revenge of blood transgressions. They were, at times, depicted as a single Goddess, and the Goddesses can often adopt the countenance of a Fury.
Demeter became known as the Erynis following the loss of Kore, and her own ravishment by Poseidon. This aspect was commonly associated with Thelpusa, where she was attacked by the ocean god. As Erynis, she has more then a passing resemblance to her depiction as Melaina, since in both cases she was portrayed as horse headed.
Kabeiraia (of the Kabeirian Mysteries)
This name bears a strong resemblance to the Kabeiroi and the Kabeirian Mysteries, also called the Mysteries of Samothrace. This cult is one of the most enigmatic in Greek tradition, since it contains non-Greek, or perhaps pre-Dorian, elements. It was centred on Lemnos and at Thebes, although, on Paros, a society of men with the name Kabarnoi existed as devotees of Demeter.
The names of the Gods of Samothrace were secret, although one commentator, Mnaseas, gives the names Axieros, Axiokersos and Axiokersa, translating them as Demeter, Hades and Persephone. This is by no means authoritative, as other ancients accorded different Gods to the trio. Pausanias stated that it was Demeter Kabeiraia played a role in bringing the cult to Samothrace, and she was closely identified with the principal Samothracian Goddess. Another possibility for the identity of the Great Goddess is Kybele, the Mountain Mother, who appeared on Samothracian coins. This may be a matter of semantics, since the rites and iconography of Kybele are very similar.
Kidaria (unknown)
Demeter Kidaria was another aspect of Demeter worshipped at the Arcadian Mysteries. A mask, representing the Goddess, was held at Pheneos, and during the mystery ritual a priest would don the mask and 'beat the subterranean dwellers with a road.' There was also a bearded mask that may represent Dionysus.
Louisa (the Mild)
Demeter Louisa heralds the Goddess's transformation from Erynis. After bathing in the river Ladon, her anger subsided, her purity was restored, and
she became Demeter the Mild.
Melaina (the Black)
The Black Demeter of Phigalia, Arcadia, was the form adopted by the Goddess following her rape at the hands of Poseidon. She was described as horse-headed and dressed in dark robes, reigning over a universal famine caused by her anger. Herodotus believed that the Mysteries performed here in her name were pre-Dorian. Interestingly, Hesiod denies that Demeter was the bride of the stallion-formed Poseidon, positing Medusa in her place. Both Medusa and Demeter Melaina are described as snake-haired.
Pausanius tells us that the Phigalians once honored an ancient statue of Demeter Melaina in her sacred cave. She is depicted seated on a rock, with a mares head, holding a dolphin in one hand and a dove in the other. The juxtaposition of heavenly and oceanic symbols may suggests a cosmic, three-realmed aspect, similar to Hekate and Rhea. When this statue was lost to fire, and the Phigalians neglected the festivals of the Black Goddess, a terrible famine afflicted the land. Delphi was consulted, and the people were informed that they were being punished for failing to propagate the terrible Goddess. They revived the practice of her sacrifices, and fertility was restored to the land.
World mythology may shed some light on the nature of Demeter Melaina. In Ireland, we find Black Annis, who was also associated with a secret cave. She lived in the oak tree that grew above it, and stalked and ate children. She, too, was half-animal, and one poet sang that she had an eagles talons in place of hands. There is, of course, Kali, the black Goddess of the Hindus. Like Demeter Melaina, Black Kali is one aspect of a whole, and in her benevolent form was also associated with fertility.
Thesmophorous (of Sacred Law)
This epitaph refers to Demeter's capacity as the bearer of law and order. It is widely believed that it was Demeter that bestowed the gift of civilization on humankind, by granting us the gift of agriculture and thus ordering our lives. This epitaph reads sometimes as 'Thesmophie', literally, 'of the Laws'.
The Thesmophoria festival is the best known and, perhaps, one of the most ancient celebrations of Demeter. It was celebrated solely by women, who wielded a much greater degree of autonomy within the festival then they did in civic society. The rite lasted for five days, oscillating between nightlong dancing and jesting, and a strict regime of chastity, fasting and sacrifice. The celebrations mirrored the myth of the Two Goddesses, and honoured the sacred laws of agriculture which Demeter had bestowed upon humankind.

FROM: I copied this info down and saved it to my computer long ago when I was researching Demeter. The website where it comes from-- -- has vanished. I don't even know who to credit, or if it will be back up. I thought it was interesting info though. That site had some interesting essays too. Too bad.
Demeter is a Goddess of the earth, especially of the cycles of growth and decay. But unlike Gaia, who is concerned with all life - plant, animal, human, etc - Demeter's focus is the tilled and cultivated soil of an agricultural community. She is also the Mother, intensely devoted to her daughter. When her daughter was stolen from her, she was prepared to stamp out all life in return. Instead of death, however, her grief gave rise to Mysteries of transformation and hope.

Erinus (Raging), Kabeiria (Mother of the Kabeiroi), Karpophoros (Bringing Fruit), Khloe (Verdant), Khthonia (Earthly One), Kidaria, Kourotrophos (Protector of Youth), Lousia (Mild), Melaina (Black), Meter (Mother)

torch, crown, stalks of grain

horse, snake

grain, poppy, sunflower, cypress, storax, myrrh, civet, olibanum

Primary Cult Center(s):
Agrigentum, Cnidos, Priene, Sicily, Siris, Lokroi, Athens, and especially Eleusis

Epikleidia: (date unknown)
The Greater Mysteries: Boedromion 14-21 (September-October)
Halao: 26 Poseidon (December-January)
Skira: 12 Skiraphorion (June-July)
Stenia: 9 Puanepsion (October-November)
Thesmophoria: 9, 11-13 Puanepsion (October-November)

Ways to honor:
Plant and care for a garden. Even a small plant in a pot will help you connect with her, as you watch it grow and nourish it. Support the rights of farmers and migrant workers in orachards. Theirs is not an easy life, and yet without their toil, our country would grind to a hault. Donate money or time to rape crisis counsiling. Give of your time and gifts to children, who are so very important.

For more information:
Apollodorus' Library 1.1.5-1.2.1, 1.5.1-3, 1.6.1, 2.5.12, 2.6.1, 3.12.2, 3.6.8, 3.7.1, 3.12.1, 3.14.7
Apollonius Rhodius' Argonautica 4.986-990
Aristophanes' Women Celebrating the Thesmophoria
Euripides' Helen 1301-1368
Hesiod's Theogony 453-506, 910-914, 965-974
Homer's Odyssey 5.125-128
Homeric Hymn to Demeter 2, 13
Homeric Hymn to Dionysos 1.5.3
Hyginus' Fabulae 83, 141, 146, 147
Hyginus' Poetica Astronomica 2.4, 2.25
Ovid's Metamorphoses 5.341-571, 6.118-119, 8.738-878, 9.422-423
Pausanias' Description of Greece 1.13.8, 1.14.3, 1.37.2, 2.5.8, 8.15.1-4, 8.25.2-8, 8.37.6, 8.42.1-13

Other sites (these barely scratch the surface): Demeter - the best site for info.
Threads on MW:

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