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DEMETER & PERSEPHONE/KORE PowerPoint Presentation
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  2. GAIA • Mesopotamia, - Inanna, Ishtar, or Astarte • Phrygian goddess CYBELE • Egyptian goddess ISIS. • Represent single religious figure whose cults and myths spread across racial and linguistic lines to exert enormous influence – The GREAT GODDESS. • Greek goddess closest to Great Goddess = DEMETER.

  3. Mother goddess who oversaw fruitfulness of agriculture, especially wheat. • “wheat mother” • Demeter and Persephone “the goddesses”. • Persephone = KORE, “daughter” or “girl”. • Aspects of a single figure - often called the Two Demeters or the Two Goddesses.


  5. Observations: • Ancient times – interpreted as agricultural allegory. Hades = the earth & Persephone (or Kore) = grain buried in the earth. Kore’s return = growth of the wheat crop. • Modern scholars – does not correspond with facts of Greek agriculture. In hymn P/K returns in spring. Wheat crop does not sprout in spring. • One level – human story exemplifies condition of Greek women. • Parallels to Near Eastern myths suggest further interpretations of the story of Demeter and Persephone AND of the dual nature of Dionysus.

  6. FERTILITY & Roots of Classical Myth: • Development of Classical Myth’ • Prior to earliest alphabetic (classical) written records – poems of Homer c. 750 B.C., scholars have attempted to reconstruct myths or religious beliefs of prehistoric times. • Comparative material, both archaeological and linguistic. • Figurines with exaggerated sexual organs and plump buttocks and breasts. • Oldest free standing sculptures in the world • Male figures with erect penis are also found, in far fewer numbers.

  7. Catal Huyuk figure. • C. 6500-5700BC • Perhaps oldest agricultural community in the world. • Woman giving birth while sitting in a throne. Leopards.

  8. Catal Huyuk figure. C. 6500-5700BC. Poss. oldest agricultural community in the world. Woman giving birth in throne.

  9. Elements of classical mythology developed from myths of neighboring and earlier cultures – especially in the Middle East • Tradition of prehistoric female figurine attested from the Aegean islands of the Cyclades. • Cycladic Mother figurine. C. 3000BC, 3rd millennium. • Sharp angles, planes. Found in graves of both men and women, may have been believed to have had magical power to produce new life. Possible parallel to egyptian afterlife beliefs?

  10. Early Cycladic

  11. Cycladic

  12. Fertility, Blood and Death:

  13. Mesopotamian:INANNA and DUMUZI • INANNA “Queen of heaven”, Goddess of Love and War • Lover: shepherd God DUMUZI

  14. Inanna in the underworld • ERESHKIGAL • INANNA • NINSHUBUR • UR city of the moon-god NANNA • ERIDU, city of the clever god ENKI who knows the “food of life and the “water of life”.

  15. lapis lazuli (VERY important in the ancient world). • Threatened gatekeeper to be allowed in. Gives gatekeeper a false explanation. • GK consulted with Ereshkigal. • She instructed the GK to lead I inward through the 7 gates of the underworld, but he was to follow “the ancient rites.” • Stripping • Inanna tries to take throne • Annanunaki gods, the seven dread judges of the underworld, condemned her to death and she at once turned into a side of meat, green with decay and was hung on a stake. Meanwhile, on earth, all sexual activity came to a halt.

  16. When I. did not return, her minister N., did as he was instructed, rejected by both Enlil and Nanna, he finally went to the clever Enki. • Enki created 2 sexless creatures • KURGARRA and • KALATURRA, gave them the food and water of life (AMBROSIA to the Greeks?) and instructions.

  17. Buzzing over the gates of the underworld like flies or slipping under like lizards they came to E’s chamber. • Queen of the dead grieving for the little children of the world who had died before their time, • Joined her in lamentation. • In gratitude for their sympathy E offered them anything they wanted (folktale motif of the hasty oath) • replied that they wanted the piece of green meat hanging in the corner, E. tried to dissuade them with other offers but they insisted. • They threw the water and food of life on the meat, and Inanna was brought back to life.

  18. Allowed to leave underworld, only if she found someone else to take her place. (Folktale motif of the substitute sacrifice). • Demons followed to ensure that she complied. • In 1st 2 cities, local gods mourning for her in sackcloth and dirt. • In country of DUMUZI, Inanna’s husband, instead of mourning for her or grieving he was dressed in finery and sitting on a throne. • Inanna looked at him with a look of death and shouted to the demons, “take this one!”

  19. Dumuzi cried out for help to the sun god UTU, lord of justice, Inanna’s brother, but demons got him anyway – trapped in his own sheepfold – one struck him with a piercing nail and the second with a shepherd’s crook. Butter churns overturned. Dumuzi struck dead and sent to underworld. One day each year her could return to the world above where rituals would be performed in his honor.

  20. DYING GOD AND SACRED MARRIAGE: • Irrigation agriculture. • Impregnating water, receptive life-giving earth. From earth grow life-sustaining crops, cut down at harvest only to grow again. Cycle of life, death and renewal of life. • Cycle of life, death & renewal of life embodied ion Inanna, descent to underworld – end of fertility on earth – return = resurrection of herself AND life on earth. Renewed life can be purchased only at price of another’s death – consort DUMUZI  logic of ritual sacrifice.

  21. Metaphor: water/earth = semen/womb. Dumuzi connected to milk – overturning of butter churns – flowing milky white stuff like semen. Inanna like earth sequentially fruitfull and barren and fertile again. Dumuzi like necessary but expendable stuff that makes it fertile.

  22. Association between human sexuality and agricultural productivity acted out in fact in important ritual of Mesopotamian religion. SACRED MARRIAGE (Greek hieros gamos) • king took on identity of Dumuzi and a priestess enacted the role of Innanna. • within the temple on top of the ZIGGURAT, “Dumuzi” and “Inanna” really did have sexual intercourse to guarantee a rich natural harvest


  24. Holy Mother and Infant