Demeter by Varrese Painter
Symbols: Wheat, cornucopia, torch, swine
Parents: Cronus and Rhea
Children: Persephone, Arion, Plutus
Spouse: none (but had children with Zeus and Poseidon)
Abode: Mount Olympus
Roman name: Ceres
Demeter is the Greek goddess of the harvest, grain, and fertility. She is one of the Twelve Olympian gods that live on Mount Olympus. Because she was the goddess of the harvest, she was very important to the farmers and peasant people of Greece.
How was Demeter usually pictured?
Demeter was often pictured as a mature woman sitting on a throne. She wore a crown and carried a torch or sheaves of wheat. When Demeter was traveling she rode a golden chariot pulled by dragons.
What special powers and skills did she have?
Like all the Olympian gods, Demeter was immortal and very powerful. She had control over the harvest and the growing of grains. She could cause plants to grow (or not grow) and had control over the seasons. She also had some control over the weather and could make people hungry.
Birth of Demeter
Demeter was the daughter of the two great Titans Cronus and Rhea. Like her brothers and sisters, she was swallowed by her father Cronus when she was born. However, she was later rescued by her youngest brother Zeus.
Goddess of the Harvest
As goddess of the harvest, Demeter was worshiped by the people of Greece as they depended on good crops for food and survival. The main temple to Demeter was located a short distance from the city of Athens in a sanctuary at Eleusis. Secret rites were held each year at the sanctuary called the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Greeks believed these rites were important in insuring good crops.
Demeter didn't marry, but she had a daughter named Persephone with her brother Zeus. Persephone was the goddess of springtime and vegetation. Together, Demeter and Persephone watched over the world's seasons and plants. One day, the god Hades took Persephone to the Underworld to make her his wife. Demeter became very sad. She refused to help the crops grow and there was a great famine in the world. Eventually, Zeus said that Persephone could return to Mount Olympus, but had to spend four months each year in the Underworld with Hades. These four months are when nothing grows during winter.
When Persephone was first taken by Hades, Demeter wandered the world disguised as an old woman mourning and searching for her daughter. One man was particularly kind to her and took her in. As a reward, she taught his son Triptolemus the art of agriculture. According to Greek Mythology, Triptolemus then traveled across Greece on a winged chariot teaching the Greeks how to grow crops and farm.
Interesting Facts About the Greek Goddess Demeter
- She gave birth to a flying and talking horse named Arion.
- As a reward to a kind man, she tried to make his baby immortal by placing him in a fire. The mother, however, caught her in the act and pulled the baby from the fire.
- She is often pictured with flaming torches because she used these in her search for her daughter.
- She carried a long golden sword in battle which earned her the nickname "Lady of the Golden Blade."
- Animals that were sacred to Demeter included the serpent, gecko, and pig.
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