Demeter (Attic Greek: Δημήτηρ, Dēmḗtēr; Doric: Δαμάτηρ, Dāmā́tēr) is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture in ancient Greek religion and myth, one of the Twelve Olympians. The elder sister of Zeus, Demeter presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. She served as the patron goddess of farmers, and was believed to have taught men how to reap and cultivate the harvest. By Zeus, she is the mother of Persephone, the wife of Hades and queen of the underworld. Both she and Persephone were central figures of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which were a series of festivals held in honor of the two goddesses at the site of Eleusis in the region of Attica. Her symbols were the scythe, cornucopia, wheat, bread and harvest grains, and the pig and snake were her sacred animals. Her Roman equivalent is Ceres.
Goddess of agriculture, harvest, fertility and sacred law.
A marble statue of Demeter, National Roman Museum
|Other names||Sito, Thesmophoros|
|Symbol||Cornucopia, wheat, torch, bread|
|Festivals||Thesmophoria, Eleusinian Mysteries|
|Consort||Iasion, Zeus, Carmanor, Poseidon|
|Children||Persephone, Despoina, Arion, Plutus, Philomelus, Eubuleus, Chrysothemis|
|Parents||Cronus and Rhea|
|Siblings||Hestia, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Zeus, Chiron|
Demeter is most often remembered in Greek mythos due to her daughter, and the marriage of her to Hades... or in the eyes of Demeter the kidnapping of her daughter by the Lord of the Underworld with the permission of Zeus. As the story is told in most books we still have, Zeus had given his brother permission to take the girl as his bride. He, Hades, decided that meant he could simply take her, seeing as the girl was daughter of Zeus, and her mother was, while one of the "Big Twelve", her role as goddess of the harvest and agriculture placed her in a lower tier. Drawing the young Persephone away one day, he effectively kidnapped her.
Demeter was, as many single mothers could understand, very upset. For a time she searched the world seeking her missing daughter, before being told by Helios, the watchman of the gods, what had occurred. When she tried to get to see her daughter, Zeus and the others basically told her it was his choice and will in this matter, and to go home like a good woman. Her response was severe, and for a time... the myths do not say for sure, but historically it coincides with the 7 year famine referred to in Egyptian and Jewish lore... she protested the actions of the greater gods by refusing the fertility of the land, and harvest in general. It eventually got so bad that the other gods and goddesses came to Zeus and begged that he do something, since they had gone to Demeter and been told she was not interested in hearing anything other than when her daughter would return.
Finally Zeus was forced to submit... one of the few times he was ever forced to respect a woman... and sent Hermes to return the girl to her mother. Now, during the time that Persephone had stayed with Hades, most literature makes it clear she was more or less happy as his wife, although not with how he had done so... she had followed one of the laws of the gods. This law stated that nothing from the Underworld could be taken from it, and that includes food. So she had refused all foods from that land. However, at one time or another, the differing myths place it at different times during her stay, she did share a pomegranate with her husband. Some tales say she ate only the seeds, others that she ate half with him, but the end result of that law would still be enforced. When returned to her mother, she and Demeter were informed that due to her eating that fruit, she must spend at least a part of the year with her husband... because for all that Hades did return her, he still was her husband. So, each fall Persephone would return to the side of her husband, and Demeter would enter her annual grief and sorrow... and her sorrow would cause the world to once again go through a time of hunger we now call winter. And come spring, they would be reunited, and their joy cause the plants to bloom forth once more.