Demeter

Demeter for kids
Discover the legends and myths surrounding Demeter. Demeter was the Greek goddess of nature. She was the sister of Zeus, and was the goddess who watched over the ear th and the plants and trees that grew out of it. Demeter taught men how to sow and cultivate grain, so she was worshiped as the goddess of agriculture. She is often depicted carrying bunches of grain and poppies in her hands. Demeter was not married, but had a beautiful young daughter named Persephone by Zeus.

Goddess Demeter

Picture of the goddess Demeter mourning the loss of Persephone

Demeter (Roman Counterpart was Ceres)
When the Roman Empire conquered the Greeks in 146BC, the Romans assimilated various elements from other cultures and civilisations, including the gods and goddesses that were worshipped by the Ancient Greeks. Many of the Greek gods and goddesses, such as Demeter, were therefore adopted by the Romans but were given Latin names. The Roman counterpart of Demeter was Ceres.

Demeter and the Earth Goddesses
In ancient Greek mythology there are three great earth-goddesses Gaia, Rhea, and Demeter.

  • Gaia represented the earth as a whole, with its subterranean forces
  • Rhea represented the productive power that caused vegetation to grow, sustaining men and animals
  • Demeter, by presiding over agriculture, directed and utilized Rhea's productive powers

Demeter, however, by introducing a knowledge of agriculture, put an end to the primitive nomadic lifestyles which led men to live a settled and civilised way of life.

Facts about Demeter
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Demeter:

  • Personality: Kind, peaceful, patient

  • Appearance: Abundant, golden hair, attractive

  • Role & Function: The function of Demeter is described as being the earth goddess and the goddess of fertility. She was also the goddess of agriculture, nature and the seasons

  • Status: A Major goddess and one of the Twelve Olympians

  • Symbols of Demeter: Torch, wheat, poppy and swine

  • Gender: Female

  • Roman Counterpart: The Roman name for this goddess was Ceres

  • Name of Husband: Unmarried

  • Name of Father: Cronus

  • Name of Mother: Rhea

The Family of Demeter, The Earth Goddess
According to Greek legends and myths the family of Demeter were as follows:

  • Father: Cronus
  • Mother: Rhea
  • Brothers: Zeus, Hades and Poseidon
  • Sisters: Hestia and Hera
  • Husband: Unmarried
  • Children of Demeter: Daughter by Zeus - Persephone. Despoina and Arion (by Poseidon) Plutus and Philomelus (by Iasion)

The Symbols of Demeter
In the sculptures, vases, mosaics and paintings of Greek Art the goddess Demeter was often illustrated with images representing her symbols - the torch, wheat, poppy and pig. Iconography include pictures of the Grain Sheaf, Winged Serpent, Lotus Staff, Torch, Cornucopia. The symbols of Demeter were:

  • The Torch
    • The symbol of the torch represents the pair of flaming torches she carried in her search for her daughter, Persephone
  • Wheat
    • The symbol of a sheaf of wheat and the cornucopia, horn of plenty reflects her role as the goddess of agriculture
  • The Pig
    • The symbol of the pig relates to the blood sacrifices of this animal ensuring the fertility of the earth
  • The Poppy
    • The symbol of the poppy refers to wild poppies which grew in the grain fields. A poppy was worn by the priestesses who served Demeter.
  • Winged Serpents
    • A pair of winged-serpents (dragons) drew her chariot
  • Lotus Staff
    • The symbolism of the Lotus staff is not clear, however, the fruit of the lotus plant induced apathy, a dreamy forgetfulness and an unwillingness to leave, hence the term 'Lotus Eaters'. It is possible that the use of this might relate to Demeter's wish to keep her daughter Persephone with her

Myths and Legends about Demeter in Greek Mythology
The most famous myths and legends relating to Demeter (Ceres) are:

  • The abduction of Persephone by Hades
  • The punishment of Erysichthon
  • The nursing of Demophoon
  • The journeys of Triptolemos
  • Her conflict with Poseidon

 


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