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The Abduction of Persephone and The Eleusinian Mysteries

Updated on May 22, 2014
Eleusina Archaeological Site
Eleusina Archaeological Site | Source

Eleusina

Someone that visits the city of Eleusina today can not really comprehend the power of this place. Ancient ruins, most of the still buried underneath, reveal the magnificence of this place. Their existence is the proof of mystical ceremonies that took place and to this day, not many things have been revealed. The oath the people took at that time is never to be broken.

Every September, 30.000 and more people, would travel from Athens to Eleusina to take part in the Eleusinian Mysteries. Since 1350 BC the Eleusinian Mysteries were used as a bridge between God (Zeus) and people. Zeus’s commands were revealed and people, satisfying their God, would ensure their psychic peace and blessedness in the after life.

The Abduction of Persephone

The Eleusinian Mysteries were initiated through the tragic myth of the Goddess Demeter and the abduction of her daughter Persephone.

According to Homer, Hades (Ploutonas) with the approval of Zeus abducted Persephone the daughter of Goddess Demeter.

Demeter heard the screams of her daughter and tried to find her. Nobody could give her any information and she cried and searched for her lost daughter. She was so devastated that did not want to return to Mount Olympus, knowing that Zeus was behind this tragedy. She disguised as an old woman and was wandering around, until she reached Eleusina.


the abduction of Persephone
the abduction of Persephone | Source

She sat under an olive tree, close to a water well (ΑγέλαστοςΠέτρα). Shortly after that, the four daughters of the king of Eleusina came to get some water.

One of them asked Demeter what happened to her and she lied about it. She said that she was from Crete and that she escaped after being captured by pirates. She asked if she could find work as a nanny. Demeter was accepted by one of the daughter’s to help her raise her son, Demophon.

Since then, she was raising this boy to be a God himself. She did not give him milk but instead, she gave him ambrosia and at night would hold him form one foot upside down and pass him through fire. This would make him into a God. Unfortunately, one night his mother saw what Demeter was doing and screamed in horror. Demophon lost the opportunity to become God and Demeter told his mother that it was too late to do anything and that she was lucky to have a Goddess in her home.

After these tragic events, Demeter was so sad about her own daughter and cried so much so that everything seized to grow. The earth stopped producing, despite all the efforts of the people. Everyone was getting hungry and desperate. Zeus tried to convince Demeter to change and return to Mount Olympus with the rest of the Gods. Demeter did not want to go anywhere, she only wanted her daughter.

the return of Persephone
the return of Persephone | Source

The return of Persephone

Zeus sends then Hermes to Hades to convince him to bring back Persephone to her mother. Hades accepted that but, in order for Persephone to return to him, he gave her a special fruit to eat. Persephone finally arrived and appeared in front of her mother, Demeter. The joy that they both felt did not last long, because Demeter soon realized that her daughter ate the special fruit that obliged her to return to Hades.

The Gods of Mount Olympus were not that pleased with this situation. Rea, the mother of Zeus intervened and made a special arrangement that would satisfy all involved. Persephone was to spend 1/3 of each year with her husband and the other 2/3 of the year with the Gods and her mother, Demeter.

Demeter & Persephone
Demeter & Persephone | Source
triptolemos initiation
triptolemos initiation | Source

The Eleusinian Mysteries

Demeter was pleased with this arrangement that decided to return to Mount Olympus and the earth was covered in green grass and beautiful flowers. The crops started to produce seeds and fruit and she initiated all the masters of Eleusina on how she would like to be honored. Demeter appointed Triptolemus as the High Priest and gave him the holy seed of Demeter and initiated him in order to teach others the skill of agriculture.

The Goddess Demeter through this myth gave to humanity the knowledge of agriculture and production of wheat and bread. Persephone, as another very important character in this myth, symbolizes the freeing of the soul after the death of the physical body. The worship for Demeter took shape and form through the natural cycle of plants.

Therefore, to honor the Goddess every year the Eleusinian Mysteries would take place and thousands of people would attend. It was so closely related to people’s basic need for food that it became on of the most well-known ritual mysteries in the whole wide Hellenism, from Minor Asia to Italy and the Caspian Sea, even to Africa.

The purpose of the Mysteries was to teach, purify, atone and heal. Despite the fact that nobody was allowed to reveal anything about the Eleusinian Mysteries, it has been discovered through scripts that a) the whole that surrounds us is not visible at all levels and b) a new and better life starts after our death.

© 2014 DemiT

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