Greek Goddesses - Demeter - A Thanksgiving Story

As the Goddess of Agriculture and of the Harvest, Demeter's legend lives on in each and every Thanksgiving celebration. She holds reign over grains, the earth's fertility, the changing of the seasons, the sacredness of marriage, sacred law and the neverending cycle of life and death. Demeter is also recognized as the Goddess of Society, Grain and Bread. In ancient Athenian culture, Her greatest gifts were viewed as cereal or corn; because the harvesting of grains separated man from wild animals, gaining them some civility. This all important Mother Goddess brought to mankind the very knowledge of the arts of agriculture, inclusive of the sowing of the seeds, the art of ploughing the earth in preparation for the planting and harvesting procedures. Demeter is commonly invoked as the “Bringer of the Seasons.” She is represented by the poppy, which is a beautiful red flower often found growing among the barley.

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This particular Goddess is found in many different cultures and is respected in many different aspects. She is the “Corn-Mother” who lays blessings upon the harvesters, “Mother-Earth,” “The Mare who destroys mercifully,” “The Crone” who is the bringer of death, Kore or “The Virgin” who is the bringer of life, Potnia or “Mistress,” The Mother or “Abundance” who is the bringer of long life and abundant harvests, Despoina or “The Mistress of the House,” Thesmophoros or “The Giver of Customs” and/or “The Legislator” who oversees unwritten law and the Thesmophoria (a festival of secret, women only rituals in connection with the marriage customs in Athens), Erinys or “Goddess of Moral Justice” who is the bringer of retribution with a vengeance, Chloe or “The Green Shoot” who is the bringer of neverending fertility, Chthonia or “In the Ground” who is popular in Sparta, Anesidora or “Sending up Gifts from the Earth” as applied to Demeter in Pausanias 1.31.4, Europa or “Broad Face or Eyes” who is known as the nurse of Trophonios for which a cult and oracle was at some point dedicated in the Phoenecian culture and as Kidaria in Arcadia.

She may also be invoked as Malophoros which means “Apple Bearer” or “Sheep Bearer,” Lusia which means “Bathing” and shows that She is respected as a Goddess of Cleansing or Clearing, Thermasia which means “Warmth” as shown in the three seasons Demeter shares with Her beautiful daughter, Achaea which is the name She is known to have been most widely worshiped as by the Gephyraeans of Athens who had migrated from Boeotia and “The Poppy Goddess.” According to Theocritus in Idyll vii. 157, “For the Greeks, Demeter was still a Poppy Goddess, Bearing sheaves and poppies in both hands.” In ancient Roman times, a sow was sacrificed to Demeter immediately following a death in the family in order to cleanse the household of negative energies.

In the Heraklion Museum stands a clay statuette from Gazi in representation of the Great Mother Goddess, Demeter. She is wearing poppy seed capsules, which are known sources of nourishment and narcosis. A quote from Kerenyi, 1976 in pertinence to this particular statuette says that it is quite possible that She “brought the poppy with Her from Her Cretan cult to Eleusis, and it is certain that in the Cretan cult sphere, opium was prepared from poppies.” In Arcadia, a seven day festival is held in Her honor. Major cults dedicated to this particular Goddess have also been found, located in Eleusis, Sicily, Hermion, Crete, Megara, Celeae, Tegea, Selinus, Pergamon, Iasos, Akragas, Priene, Delos, Corinth, Munychia, Aegila, Lerna, Thoricus, Dion, Macedonia, Lykosoura, Mesembria, Enna and Samothrace. Apparently, She is very widely known and greatly respected.

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A Thanksgiving Story - Demeter and Persephone

Demeter is popularly recognized as “The Fierce Mother.” Her only child was a daughter named Persephone who was kidnapped by the lonely King Hades and taken into his darkest of realms, the Underworld. In the state of a devastatingly painful period of depression, Demeter's tireless search and woeful mourning for the loss of Her beautiful daughter led to Her abandonment of care for the world. In the wake of Her grief, a multitude of crops and animals were lost. A great famine, drought and the most bitter of winters fell upon the land and its people also began to fall ill and die off.

Demeter was too busy, too sorrowful to hear the people's cries for intervention. She needed Her lovely daughter to come home to Her. The people needed Persephone to come home to Her.

Finally, it is revealed that Persephone has been kidnapped by King Hades. At this discovery, Demeter is absolutely furious! She demands of Zeus, the King of the Gods, that Her daughter be returned to Her. Zeus had no alternative but to intervene in the situation due to the dire consequences the world was suffering because of Hades selfish act. The King of the Gods ordered Hades to return the girl child to Demeter promptly in order to restore peace and prosperity throughout the land.

However, Hades alerted Zeus that the girl child had in fact eaten seven pomegranate seeds, which in the ancient world symbolized marriage. Henceforth, Persephone was now Hades wife and must remain with Him in the Underworld.

At this, Zeus was forced to come up with a clever compromise. From that day on, Lady Persephone came to live with Her mother for two-thirds of the year. For the remaining one-third of the year, She would return to the Underworld to be with Her now husband each and every year after the Harvest.

Upon the returning of Persephone to Her mother, Demeter proved to be quite content. Summer came and then spring, followed by the most bountiful Harvests ever. The Great Harvests made for the greatest Thanksgiving celebrations ever!

After the Great Harvests, Persephone traveled back into the Underworld to return to Her awaiting husband, King Hades. At this time, Greece would experience the winter season with new found hope in the people's hearts. For they knew that, at winter's icy end, Persephone will return to Demeter and The Fierce Mother's blessings will return to the land. This became a great cause for celebration and Demeter became known as the Goddess of Abundance.

As we draw near the Thanksgiving holiday, let us give thanks to the Greek Goddess and fearless Mother. Happy Thanksgiving, Demeter! We look forward to seeing your great artistic expression again in the spring!

To Invoke Demeter

For those who wish to, bringing the wonderful qualities of Demeter into your own life is really quite simple. Anything and everything that you ever do to nurture yourself and others greatly pleases Demeter and brings Her to your assistance. Here are some simple ways to do exactly that.

Always be compassionate towards others. Pay close attention to someone else, listening to them with all of your heart. Prepare a great, bountiful feast, created with your very own tender love and special care and share it with family and friends. Cook with intention, infusing your food with multitudes of love for the nourishment of those who will partake of your feast. Focus on adding this key ingredient to each of your dishes with every stir of your spoon. Watch "Babette's Feast." Encourage a young child. Plant, maintain and harvest a garden. Use honey and cinnamon lavishly. Surround yourself with daisies. Invite the Great Mother to live and breathe through you. Dress in her colors. Walk through a freshly ploughed field barefooted. Carry yourself as any Goddess should. Love and respect yourself and others. Speak your mind. Insist on respect and gratitude. Bake bread. Do not be a doormat. Take your time. Be caring.

How do you know if what you're doing is working? Are you rejoicing while providing your loved ones with physical, spiritual and emotional nurturing? Are you honoring your own Power? Flowing through all of the seasonal changes with little to no effort?

Focus on the Great Mother Goddess to ground yourself, nurture your physical body and create a spiritual/physical balance. Act on Her behalf, implementing your own strengths in activism for environmental issues.

And, above all else, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Love and Light until next time,

Windy Grace <3

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