A mother has a unique bond with her child, a deep connection which is established when a woman becomes pregnant. Ten months of nurture before the birth unites both mother and child. No matter what happens afterwards, whether life deals good cards or bad cards, that connection is what binds, forever. Even our planet is referred to as Mother Earth or Gaia, the giver of life. A mother’s love will always see the good, like our planet who keeps giving us the ability to breathe, sustain and live no matter what we do to her. And like Demeter, whose unconditional love for her daughter, showed us the way of motherhood and parenthood.
Demeter was the Olympian goddess of agriculture, the cycle of life and death and the bringer of seasons. Like Hera, she and her daughter – Persephone or Kore—predated the Olympian Gods. Evidence of graffiti at the ruins of Pylos during the Mycenaean period (circa 1600 BC) written in Linear B have been found.
(A side note: Pylos was where the ruler Nestor, one of the kings who fought at Troy, resided.)
Out of all the Olympian Gods she had the greatest number of mysteries and temples dedicated to her. In Athens, there was a festival where only women were allowed to attend. It related to marriage customs. According to ancient historian Pausanias, there was a seven-day festival held at Pellene in Arcadia but he didn’t know too much about it, except it was attributed to Mysius who revered Demeter.
The Eleusinian Mysteries was the most famous of all festivals. It arose from when Demeter went searching for her daughter, Persephone who was kidnapped by Hades, god of the underworld. While she looked for her daughter, the land became barren. As Demeter mourned the loss of her daughter, she refused to allow the seasons to change. Nothing would grow, food was scarce and people were frightened. They didn’t understand what was happening.
Zeus stepped in. He couldn’t allow the people to suffer anymore and told his brother to let Persephone go. Hades wasn’t keen but did let her go but before she left, he gave her the fruity seeds of a pomegranate. She ate a few before leaving which condemned her to return to Hades for three months of the year (winter/fall) and the rest of the year she remained with her mother.
According to mythology, Demeter taught mankind the arts of agriculture and in turn was venerated by the people who farmed the land. Votive clay pigs have been found in shrines dedicated to her. In Hesiod’s Works and Days, he explained when to grow and harvest crops, which reflected the ‘teachings’ of Demeter.
To give a more complete picture of Demeter, I will post articles about Persephone and the Eleusinian Mysteries. For further information about Demeter you may want to check out this site: http://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Demeter.html