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DEMETER-MYTHS of FERTILITY. FEMALE GAIA (GE)=Mother Earth came from sexless CHAOS. From Gaia sprang the world: Sky, Mountains, Sea, and the Olympians and humans

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demeter myths of fertility
  • FEMALE GAIA (GE)=Mother Earth came from sexless CHAOS. From Gaia sprang the world: Sky, Mountains, Sea, and the Olympians and humans
  • No single goddess of fertility (Artemis for wild life, Aphrodite for sexuality, Hera for family and marriage, Demeter goddess of grain and earth fertility)
homeric hymn to demeter
  • Structure
  • Demeter-Persephone-abduction by Hades
  • Return from the Underworld
  • Embedded Story of Demeter while looking for her daughter
  • Metaneira, the queen, and Demophoon, the son.
the myth of demeter and persephone
The Myth of Demeter and Persephone
  • Abduction by Hades
  • Hecate and Helius
  • Demeter’s grief, anger and retaliation
  • Demeter comes to Eleusis and the palace of Celeus.
  • The Maiden Well
  • Queen Metaneira
  • Iambe
  • Demeter breaks her fast.
  • Demeter Nurses Demphoön.
Hades and Persephone and her eating of the pomegranate
  • Demeter’s ecstatic reunion with Persephone
  • Demeter restores fertility and establishes the Mysteries.
  • The Interpretation of the Hymn
  • Death and rebirth of vegetation
  • Spiritual metaphor or allegory
  • Kore (“girl”)
  • Hades (Pluto or Dis among the Romans)
interpretation of the myth
Interpretation of the Myth
  • Allegorical Interpretation- seasons change
  • Family experience, the daughter’s marriage (voluntarily takes the flower, symbol of marriage, separation from natal family)
  • Symbolic interpretation
  • Loss from child, as so many children are lost to war and disease. Lamentation rituals around this myth. Demeter is mater dolorosa.
  • Myth of Demeter becomes the etiology for the presence of death. Thus the cult becomes an experience of afterlife.
eleusinian mysteries
Eleusinian Mysteries
  • Eleusis, near Athens
  • Mystery < Mystes =the one who closes (the eyes, mouth) Latin translation initiatus (thus, modern English to initiate)
  • Origin of mysteries
  • Two families in Charge the EUMOLPIDS, Eumolpos, the ancestor, mythical ruler of ELEUSIS received the mysteries from Demeter and the KERYKES (heralds), descendants of Eumolpus’ son KERYX (=herald)
Eleusinian Mysteries
  • Special position of Athens
  • Initiates
  • Secrecy of rites
  • Mystery religions
  • Connection with Orpheus
structure of eleusinian mysteries
Structure of Eleusinian Mysteries
  • High Priest (Hierophant= he who reveals the hiera sacred things), always a Eumolpid
  • From the family of the Kerykes, always the torchbearer and the herald.
  • Priestess of Demeter, who, like the hierophant lived in the sanctuary
  • Time of festival- FALL every year
  • The Hiera (=sacred things) removed from TELESTERION and carried to Athens, Procession.
  • All who could speak Greek (Except murderers) eligible for initiation including women and slaves)
Rituals- Nine day interval
  • Fasting- Torches- Jests
  • Kykeon: drink of barley and water
  • Revelation of divinity
  • Stages of initiation
  • Lesser Mysteries: preliminary to initiation
  • Greater Mysteries: full initiation
  • Participation in the highest mysteries
  • Procession
  • Stages of Greater Mysteries
  • Dramatic enactment of myth
  • Revelation of sacred objects
  • Utterance of certain words
  • The Final revelation: the hiera
architecture of telesterion

TELESTERION Temple of Demeter

Unique in Architecture. Ordinary Greek temple to be viewed from exterior, the interior was to hold the god’s statue

-THE TELESTERION was built to receive thousands of people under its roof

  • One of the princes of Eleusis to whom Demeter taught her sacred rites. More important after the 5th century.
  • He was said to have traveled over the world teaching the art of growing grain. Popular in art, supporting Athenian claims for cultural supremacy.
what were the eleusinian mysteries
What were the Eleusinian Mysteries?
  • Group experience
  • Personal experience (afterlife)
  • Ritual purity, fasting
  • Magical rite ensuring the growth of grain
  • Political significance

Departure of Triptolemos Makron Painter, 490-480 BC. Attic red-figured skyphos. The eleusinian prince on the chariot. Persephone stands in front of with a torch and an oinochoe. Behind her nymph Eleusis, and behind Triptolemos, Demeter.


Demeter on the left (holding a staff in her left hand, authority emblem, more restrained)-Triptolemos-Kore Relief 440 BC- Athens Archaeological Museum


Attic red-figured bell-krater. Hecate with torches leads Persephone accompanied by Hermes from the underworld while Demeter, holding a sceptre, waits. The moment of reunion. With Inscriptions to identify figures. C. 440 B.C. (41 cm)


Plaster cast: Height: 51cm. Copy of a fragment of marble relief. 425-400 BC. probably from the Temple of Nemesis at Rhamnous. was purchased for Munich in 1853 now in Munich, Glyptothek/

Hellenistic Painting Abduction of Persephone by Hades (ca. 330), from Tomb I at Vergina (Pliny mentions such a painting, by Nikomachos)
abduction of persephone benton american painter early 20 th century museum of art kansas missouri
Abduction of Persephone- Benton- American painter, early 20th century Museum of Art, Kansas Missouri