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Greek Goddess Demeter

Goddess of Harvest, Agriculture and the Seasons

Dearest Demeter. One of the Twelve Olympians. She is a very important Greek Goddess and there are many myths that surround her. She is the goddess of grain, agriculture and harvest and the fertility of the Earth, but it is as her role as a maternal goddess that we learn the most. The Myth of Demeter and Persephone is a well known tale of a Mothers grief and is also a creation myth of the seasons.

Goddess Demeter linocut print on wodden background
Demeter Linocut by The Coventina Press

The Story of Demeter

Demeter was the third born child of Kronos and saw swallowed by her Father and saved by the youngest son, Zeus. She became the Goddess of Agriculture and taught humans how to harvest and look after the land and learn agricultural skills to never go hungry. She was a kind, maternal, nurturing goddess who loved humankind.

Demeter had a daughter with her brother Zeus, named Persephone and they were extremely close. Persephone was the Goddess of Springtime and was worshiped alongside her mother as an agricultural goddess. One day she out collecting flowers in the meadows when she disappeared. Demeter searched the world for her and could not find her anywhere. She was completely distraught and the world around her became to die. Demeter has stopped caring for the outside world and in her sorrow the plants, the harvest began to suffer. Unbeknownst to Demeter, the other Gods knew where Persephone was. Hades, God of the underworld had asked Zeus for Persephone had in marriage and Zeus had agreed. Eventually Helios and Hecate took pity on Demeter and told her what Zeus had done. She was aghast and the world around feel into a deep cold winter.

Goddess Demeter, hands on her head grieving painting
Demeter Mourning

Zeus, began to fear for the human race and asked Demeter to stop her affect on the land but Demeter refused and told Zeus if he did not return her daughter, the cold famine would continue. Zeus had no choice but to try and get Persephone back! Hades relented for the sake of humankind and Persephone was released from the Underworld. However before she left, Hades give her a gift of a pomegranate. Now it was common knowledge that if you eat whilst in the land of the dead you could not leave. The question of whether Persephone knew this and choose to eat a third of the pomegranate or whether it was a trick will never be answered. Persephone returned to the land of the living but as she had eaten a third of the pomegranate she had to leave for a third of the year and this is where we get the cycle of the seasons. The cycle of grief and acceptance, of happiness and sorrow.

Winter alone Demeter lets the world around her die. Spring arrives with hope and Persephone once again walks the earth beside her mother and the world blooms. Eventually the time of her return to the land of the dead approaches and as Demeter begins to grieve the leaves fall from the trees until Persephone once more as gone to back to Hades. I choose to believe Persephone knew what she was doing and wanted both worlds. Her mother and her new home independent of her.

Painting - Hades given persephone back to Demeter
Demter and Persephone

This myth was an important one for the women of ancient Greece as they often had no choice on their daughters husband and would have understood Demeter grief and her rage.

Demeter is a loving, caring nurturing goddess. he is generous, helpful and you feel the warmth of her emotional and physical support whenever you need it. Her maternal persistence will make her stand up for her child regardless of the consequences, and her perseverance can change the mind of even the most powerful man.

One last point to make, is that Demeter lived for and through her Daughter. Another way to look at this myth is through a lens of 'leaving the nest' What if Persephone wanted to leave? and Demeter through her own grief could not imagine her life without her daughter and therefore left no space for her daughter to grow. Persephone may have wanted to marry and travel to the underworld and live her own life. Sadly in the end she had no choice but to divide her life in two instead of sharing her life with both her mother and her husband. This is of course a different take on the same myth and either could be true.

For more Goddess posts please check out the Directory, I'm working hard on it. I now have an information post for most of my linocut prints. You can shop for my hand printed Demeter linocuts here, greeting cards here.



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