Greek gods and goddesses have always been the subject of interest and query. The birth, expertise, contribution, and whole life story of Greek deities pack the mysteries.
Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, was one of the six prime Olympian goddesses. She was born to Rhea and Cronus but was swallowed by her father, Cronus.
However, she managed to free herself and her other siblings, who were swollen by their father. She then became one of the most honored and key figures as the goddess of grain, Earth, and Humanity.
Demeter’s life has been a mystery and an exciting journey from her birth. Here are the topmost riveting facts about Demeter with some details.
10. Demeter was the goddess of the harvest, agriculture, fertility, and sacred law
Demeter was the prime goddess for the Greeks. They associated her with harvest, agriculture, fertility, and sacred law.
They worshipped, honored, and celebrated her for protecting and keeping the entire earth’s fertility healthy and productive. However, when angry, she would destroy the whole world with famine.
As the goddess of the sacred law in Olympia, she was expected to be worshipped and followed by every Olympian member. Numerous temples were built to honor her all over Greece.
9. Demeter was the loving mother of Persephone
Demeter had a daughter, Persephone, who became the queen of the underworld later. Persephone was born as the first child of Demeter when Zeus and Demeter mated in the serpent form.
Persephone was abducted by Hades, the underworld god when she was playing with her nymph companions. Demeter was furious about the incident, but it was unknown that her husband, Zeus, had given the consent to Hades to do so.
Demeter began searching for her daughter in every corner of the earth but could not find her. She was desperate to find her daughter, and she had forgotten to take care of herself in this process.
After watching the plight of Demeter, Hecate, the goddess of the Moon and witchcraft, approached her. She told Demeter that she had heard the wailings of Persephone but knew nothing about the kidnapper.
Knowing it, Demeter rushed to Helios (the Sun), who informed everything that Hades had taken Persephone forcibly to the underworld, and it happened in the agreement of Zeus.
Hearing the truth, Demeter was so angry that she decided not to return to Mount Olympus until she did not get her daughter back. She began living on the earth among mortals.
Demeter’s rage was so high that she produced many famines on Earth. As a result, of a scarcity of food, people and animals began to die. Watching it, Zeus worried that the human race would vanish if the famine continued.
He requested Hades to return Persephone to the Earth to meet her mother. Upon his request, Hades agreed to return Persephone to Demeter.
While Persephone was about to leave, Hades gave her a pomegranate to eat. She ate pomegranate that bound her to stay with Hade’s one-third of the year.
When Demeter received her daughter, she returned to Mount Olympus at the request of Zeus, and she removed the impact of famine from the earth. So, fruits and crops started to grow and blossom again.
8. Poseidon raped Demeter
The legend about the rape of Demeter by Poseidon is explained in the description of Greece by Pausanias, a Greek Geographer.
According to him, Demeter was raped by Poseidon when she was wandering the earth searching for her daughter, Persephone.
Poseidon had fallen for Demeter’s beauty when he saw her for the first time. Demeter came to know about it and disguised herself as a mare to escape from him.
However, she could not escape as Poseidon had himself disguised as a stallion and raped her. Demeter then bore two children Arion and Despoina, from Poseidon.
7. Demeter had struck the famine on the Earth
Demeter got furious at Hades and Poseidon for doing wrong to her daughter and herself and decided on hiding from everyone.
She then dressed in black and hid in an inaccessible cave. Due to the unavailability of the Goddess of Agriculture and Harvest, the famine struck the earth heavily.
The crops started perishing, and food production stopped. As a result, humans and animals began to die in starvation.
When everyone, including gods, was aware of the unavailability of Demeter, they tried hard to discover her, but all was in vain.
However, when Pan (the God of Wilderness) roamed around the cave, he found Demeter hiding there. He immediately informed Zeus about the discovery.
Zeus then sent Fates (personifications of destiny) to persuade Demeter to return to Mount Olympus. Fates succeeded in putting Demeter’s anger aside, and the natural order of the earth was restored.
6. Demeter had punished the king, Erysichthon
The legend about Demeter punishing Erysichthon, the King of Thessaly, is one of the most exciting facts of ancient Greece.
The legend began when Erysichthon ordered his men to cut down all trees in Demeter’s sacred groves.
The Erysichthon’s men observe the large sacred oak covered with votive wreaths while cutting down the trees. They refused to cut those trees as they symbolized the prayers granted by Demeter.
However, Erysichthon himself jumps on to cut those trees and kills a dryad nymph during the process. The King gets cursed by the nymph and by Demeter.
He would always remain hungry even after eating as he was planted with unrelenting and insatiable hunger by Limos under the order of Demeter.
The more Erysichthon ate, the hungrier he became. Erysichthon had his obedient daughter, Mestra. The king sold all his possessions to buy food, but the hunger remained.
When there was nothing to sell, he sold his daughter, Mestra, into slavery for food. However, her former lover, Poseidon, freed her and gave her the gift of shape-shifting.
Thus, Mestra could be any creature she wished to escape her bonds. The king used her shape-shifting ability to sell her frequently for food. But no amount of food was enough for him, and finally, Erysichthon ate himself and died.
5. Demeter had made love to Iasion
According to Homer’s Odyssey, Demeter made out with Iasion, the Samothracian hero. Zeus found out about them and killed Iasion by hurling the bright thunderbolt.
Though Demeter was with Zeus, she also had an affair with Iasion from whom she bore a son, Plutus. He was the god of wealth and abundance but was sometimes confused with the god of the underworld, Hades.
4. Thesmophoria-A Fertility Festival Held in Honor of Demeter
Thesmophoria and Eleusinian Mysteries were two festivals that were held in honor of Demeter. As Persephone was very dear to Demeter, Persephone was also worshipped in these festivals.
Thesmophoria was held annually to promote both human and agricultural fertility. This festival occurred when seeds were sown in late autumn and somewhere at harvest time.
Only women were allowed to participate in this festival, and the rites practiced during the festival were kept secret.
Unlike Thesmophoria, The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiations or a set of secret initiation rituals held every year in Eleusis. These ceremonies were held for the sacred cult of Demeter and Persephone.
According to Homer, Demeter herself taught humans the Eleusinian Mysteries as the secret rites. He has mentioned that those initiated into Eleusinian Mysteries would go to Mount Olympus after death and dwell among the gods.
On the contrary, those who stayed uninitiated had to go to the Underworld and live in darkness. Homer also believed that Plutus (God of Wealth) bestowed significant investment and wealth for the initiates in the Eleusinian Mysteries cult.
3. Demeter was also the goddess of the Underworld
Besides being the goddess of agriculture and harvest, Demeter was also known as the goddess of the earth. In Arcadia, Demeter was represented as the goddess with snakes’ hair, holding a dove and dolphin.
Such representation symbolized Demeter’s power over the underworld, the air, and the water. In the cult of Flya, Demeter was depicted as Anesidora, who sent gifts from the underworld.
According to an Agrarian belief in ancient Greece, a new life always comes from the dead body’s remains, just like a new plant bud from buried seed.
In this sense, the dead body was called Demetrioi by Athenians, and in the city of Sparta, the goddess. Demeter was also uttered by the word, Demeter-Chthonia.
In ancient Greek religion, Chthonia suggests that spirits or deities are related to the underworld. Thus, Demeter is also called the goddess of the underworld.
Besides the underworld goddess, Demeter was also identified as the Khrysaoros or the Lady of the Golden Blade. She was nicknamed the golden blade lady after she had wielded the golden sword or sickle.
2. Demeter had taught Triptolemus the secrets of agriculture
There are several examples of Demeter’s favor on humans in ancient times. The Homeric hymns to Demeter tell how she served the palace of Celeus, the King of Eleusis in Attica.
While Demeter was wandering in search of her daughter, she came to the palace to nurse two princes; Demophon and Triptolemus. Demeter appeared there as the older woman, and the king warmly welcomed her.
She decided to make the elder prince, Demophon, immortal for the favor she received from the King. One night, Demeter secretly made the prince consume ambrosia (divine nectar) and took him on a flaming hearth to burn his mortal soul.
But when the queen, Metanira saw her son burning in flames, she screamed aloud and Demeter had to drop her plan. Then, Demeter decided to teach the secret techniques of agriculture to the younger prince, Triptolemus.
When Triptolemus finished learning the knowledge of Agriculture from Demeter, he promised to teach the same knowledge or secrets to anyone and everyone who wished to learn. That’s how the tradition of agriculture came to humans.
1. Demeter is depicted in art as the goddess with sheaves of wheat and a torch.
Demeter is depicted in numerous forms, depending on the person or city she is depicted by or at.
She is sometimes depicted as a goddess holding corn in one of her hands or wearing a headdress made of sheaves of corn along with a torch.
The torch, cornucopia, lotus staff, wheat, barley, mint, poppy, and a chariot pulled by winged dragons are Demeter’s attributes.
She also appears with her sacred animals and birds such as Serpents, pigs, spotted lizards, a screech owl, crane, and the turtle dove.
Most often, the goddess is shown as a mature woman wearing a long robe and a veil. She is either portrayed sitting on the throne or proudly standing with an extended hand.
Her beloved daughter Persephone also accompanies her in the portrait and statue. Riding a chariot containing Persephone is one of the famous depictions of Demeter.
Though Demeter was the goddess, she experienced lots of ups and downs, which became the source of interesting facts later about her. I am moved by the strong bond between Demeter and Persephone as mother-daughter.
Demeter had left nothing to show how much she loved her daughter. She didn’t desert her quest for her daughter even though she was raped and was in distress when Persephone was abducted.
Have you gone through a similar experience reading the above list of facts about Demeter? Beyond the above, several fascinating facts associated with Demeter are still left. Can you put some more facts about Meter? Please comment below.