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Alphabe Thursday … D is for Goddess Demeter.

December 13, 2012

Demeter and Persephone

Demon (god) from the Greek daimon means allotter or divider and since the time of Homer it was the word used to describe the causer of the unexpected or the intrusive events in human life.  For instance the change of season, good fortune or a disaster.  The adjective daimonios means strange, uncanny or incomprehensible and adopted the idea of fate.  Some authors introduced a new meaning and suggested that the  spirits of those who died during the so called ‘Golden Age’ could have this daiminos and become guardians or protectors; they could accompany humans and bring luck or harm.

Demeter is a good example of this; her name is the most significant aspect of her identity; meter is the Greek word for mother and de is the word from olden times meaning earth. However, she was was not merely the Earth Mother she was also the Corn Goddess.  These two aspects of her existence were presented in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter written between 700 and 550 BC.
One day, Demeter’s daughter Persephone was snatched,  while picking flowers in a meadow, by Hades the god of the Underworld who carried her off to the bowels of the earth.  For nine days with a blazing torch Demeter wander the world looking for her child.  When Demeter learned that it was Hades who had stolen her daughter she was so distraught she left Mount Olympus and went to live with the human race.
She disguised herself as an old woman and found employment in the Palace of the king Celeus and his wife Metaneira, as a nurse the their only son Demophoon.  She planned to make him immortal as the king and queen but not happy with this she agreed to give their son heroic honours after his death.  However for their apparent faithlessness she made them build her grand temple where she retired, to mourn the loss of her child.  Meanwhile she raised havoc, the human race suffered a dreadful famine and the gods too were becoming restless as there were no sacrifices being made.
Zeus sent dispatches to Demeter to persuade her to allow the ‘earth to sprout’ but she remained unmoved.  It was Hermes who was able to insist that Hades released Persephone.  Her daughter was able to return to the human world for 2/3 of the year; Demeter made the land teem once more with vegetation until her daughter returned to Hades and the land died again.
Festivals of Demeter and Persephone were very common in ancient Greece; linked to the important stages of the farmer’s year.

Demeter and Persephone with Triptolemus, who is about to take corn to the human race. Athenian red-figure skyphos attributed to Makron, c480 BC

Demeter and Persephone with Triptolemus, who is about to take corn to the human race. Athenian red-figure skyphos attributed to Makron, c480 BC

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2012 9:20 am

    I find it fascinating when we explore the actual meaning of words. Really interesting post for ‘D’!

    • December 13, 2012 9:27 am

      I try and keep the thread with my blog; sometimes it might seem a bit dull … I enjoyed doing itxxx

  2. jdaniel4smom permalink
    December 13, 2012 1:12 pm

    It can be hard not to have green in the winter.

  3. December 19, 2012 4:30 am

    Very informative post for the letter D…

    Thanks for linking.

    A+

    • December 19, 2012 5:20 am

      Thanks Jenny ; Thanks you for being a great and supportive teacher X

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