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Greek Mythology > Immortals > Demeter
The Titans, Kronos (Cronos) and Rhea, had six children: Demeter, Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Hestia and Zeus.
Demeter is the fair haired earth goddess who blesses all phases of the harvest. She walks the furrowed fields dressed in green and displays her moods with feast and famine.
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The story of the adduction of Persephone is best told in the Hymn to Demeter. The story begins in the middle, i.e., Persephone is kidnapped as part of a secret agreement between Zeus and Hades. Although Demeter is one of the six Olympians and brother to Zeus and Hades, she was not told of the fate of her beloved daughter until it was (almost) too late.
While at play with the beautiful daughters of Okeanos (Ocean), Persephone was picking flowers... but these weren’t earthly flowers... these flowers were the work of Zeus and put there for “a girl with a flower’s beauty”. The flowers were there to guide Persephone to The Trap. A beautiful, divine trap... the trigger for the trap was an irresistible flower with one hundred stems of fragrant blossoms. When Persephone reached out with both hands to pluck the flower the earth opened at her feet. Hades roared forth in his golden chariot and seized her before the alarm could be raised.
No mortal on the earth heard Persephone’s pleas for help before she vanished into the Underworld. Of the immortals, only two heard the faint cries of the abducted girl: Hekate (Hecate) and Helios (the Sun).
Demeter began searching in vain for her daughter. Her sorrow was so great that she denied herself all food, drink, and comfort for nine days. When Dawn arrived on the tenth day, Hekate came to Demeter and told her that she had heard a voice but had not seen the abduction of poor Persephone. The two goddesses went to Helios because he sees all mortal and immortal actions. Helios, indeed, knew the plot and the players. He told Demeter that the blame was that of Zeus, Zeus and Hades. He further advised her to accept the situation because Hades was Lord of Many and
not an unseemly bridegroom. Demeter did not like his advice and choose a long, brooding path to regain her precious daughter.
In a strange act of revenge, Demeter, disguised as a mature woman, settled in the city of Eleusis and became the servant and nanny for the infant son of Keleos, and his wife Metaneira. The boy, Demophoon, was raised to be noble and pure but Demeter was surely ‘stealing’ the boys affection and loyalty away from his parents (just as her daughter had been stolen from her). One night she was caught transforming the young boy into an Immortal by placing him in the fireplace, but before Demeter (still in disguise) could make Demophoon immortal, Metaneira recognized Demeter for the goddess she was and stopped the ceremony.
Keleos, and the other nobles were glad to oblige when Demeter demanded that a temple be built in her honor. After it was completed, she retreated into the temple and her brooding took on a deadly turn. The following year, no seed sprouted. No barley grew in the plowed fields. The mortals were doomed to famine and eventual destruction if Demeter did not lift her curse.
Zeus sent Iris to dissuade Demeter from her destructive course but Demeter was unmoved. In turn, all the immortals came to Demeter’s temple and begged the blond goddess to change her mind and give life back to the earth. She refused them all.
Zeus now sent Hermes to the underworld to speak with Hades and Persephone. Hermes explained the situation and suggested, with gentle words, that Persephone be returned to her mother. Hades was filled with compassion but he was also intent on keeping his bride. He offered Persephone a honey-sweet pomegranate seed as she departed. By tasting the seed she became eternally bound to Hades and the Underworld.
Demeter was joyous when she saw her darling Persephone again but her joy was tempered with the fact that Hades had tricked the innocent Persephone and she must eventually return to him.
Now, in an effort to save the earth and appease his sister, Zeus sent Rhea, mother of the Olympians, and offered Demeter honors if she would only return to Mount Olympos (Olympus) and lift the curse that was killing the earth. Zeus promised that Persephone could spend two thirds of the year with her mother but the remaining third of the year would be spent with her husband, Hades.
Demeter was moved by her mother’s plea. The earth began to swiftly recover it’s vitality and became fertile again. Demeter and Persephone ascended to Mount Olympos and it is said that those on earth whom they gladly love are thrice blessed. It’s interesting to note that the year was divided onto thirds, just as the three brothers, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, divided creation into thirds after the overthrow of Kronos.
When Persephone is with Hades the earth is wracked by the sorrow of her mother. But, when Persephone returns from The Underworld to walk the earth again, Demeter pours forth the blessings of Spring to welcome her beloved daughter home.
Her age old feud with her brother, Poseidon, might serve to explain why the edge of the sea is barren of crops. The origin of this feud is vague.
She is most often confused with the Roman goddess, Ceres.
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