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Wrath of Demeter - Greek Goddess of Earth Avenges Persephone

Updated on February 11, 2017
Phyllis Doyle profile image

Mythology is a wonderful world that Phyllis can escape to when her mind needs a break from daily life.

Persephone, Goddess of Spring

Statue of Isis-Persephone with a sistrum. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete
Statue of Isis-Persephone with a sistrum. Heraklion Archaeological Museum, Crete | Source

A Mother's Love

A mother's love is stronger than the wrath of all mythological gods. The wrath of Demeter could destroy all on Earth.

When Persephone, goddess of Spring, was kidnapped, Demeter, goddess of Earth, faced two of the most powerful gods in Greek mythology.

Demeter's vengeance became too strong for Zeus, Father of gods and men, the god of sky, the god of thunder and lightning -- and his co-conspirator Hades, lord of the underworld and king of the dead.

Persephone!

Queen of the dead no more -- my child! Thine eyes

Again were human -- godlike, and the Sun

Burst from a swimming fleece of winter gray,

And robed thee in his day from head to feet --

"Mother!" and I was folded in thine arms.

- from Demeter and Persephone

— Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809 - 1892)

Mount Olympus Where Demeter Reined

Mount Olympus, between Thessaly and Macedonia in Greece.
Mount Olympus, between Thessaly and Macedonia in Greece. | Source

Mount Olympus

High on Mount Olympus, Demeter, goddess of the Earth, Agriculture, Harvest, and Forests, reined over all that grew from Earth. Without her blessings and care, no plants, nothing with roots, flourished or even grew -- all would die and cause the mortals to eventually die. Without the mortals, the gods would have no one to worship them or bring offerings to them.

In the eyes of the gods, Demeter was all important and necessary for life on Earth to continue. Yet there were two gods, Zeus, Demeter's husband, and his nephew Hades, who had the audacity to overlook the importance and powers of Demeter.

Although Persephone had no great stability at Olympus, nor did she have a position of power, she was lovely and her beauty enticed other gods to court her and win her love. Demeter would have none of that. She rejected the gifts of these gods and the gods themselves.

To keep Persephone from the gods that pursued her and a life of temptation, Demeter chose to spirit her daughter away where she would be safe. Far from the influence of powerful gods, Persephone lived a peaceful life with only nymphs for companions.

However, there existed one god who found the way to Persephone. Hades, Lord of the Underworld and King of the Dead, so desired Persephone that he went to Zeus.

Between the two of them, a plan to take Persephone from her mother became a reality for the lovestruck king of the dead. Zeus gave Hades leave to abduct the young beauty for his wife, to reign with him in the underworld.


Demeter, Goddess of Earth

Demeter, enthroned and extending her hand in a benediction toward the kneeling Metaneirat (c. 340 BC)
Demeter, enthroned and extending her hand in a benediction toward the kneeling Metaneirat (c. 340 BC) | Source

Hades Kidnaps Persephone

Persephone's greatest joy was to wander in the meadows in search of lovely flowers. With the company of the nymphs, laughing and dancing, Persephone spent her days of bliss. It was this joy that led her to her downfall. For Hades had contrived to have the most beautiful flower ever there to entice the lovely Persephone.

Upon seeing the profoundly beautiful plant with a hundred blooms, Persephone forgot all else. She reached out with both hands to take hold of the lovely plant and pull it from Earth. When she pulled and the soil lifted, a great yawning gap opened up.

From this gap the powerful immortal horses of the King of the Underworld came rushing towards her, pulling the chariot from the Underworld, with Hades driving them. He snatched Persephone up into his chariot and took her back to his kingdom where no Heaven could be seen with stars glowing brightly, no waters of the sea, no shining rays to fall upon her lovely face from the sun, and where she would not see her mother or people she so loved.

When Demeter found out her daughter had gone missing, she roamed the Earth in search of her. Her heart was torn asunder.

Bitter pain seized her heart, and she rent the covering upon her divine hair with her dear hands: her dark cloak she cast down from both her shoulders and sped, like a wild-bird, over the firm land and yielding sea, seeking her child.
- from the Homeric Hymn Rape of Persephone.

During her search for Persephone, Demeter's travels took her to Eleusis in ancient Greece, where she revealed to initiates the rites, ceremonies, and beliefs that she had kept secret. The initiated believed that they would have a reward in the afterlife.

The Eleusinian Mysteries, as they became known in ancient times, were initiation ceremonies for the followers of Demeter. Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times, these were held to be the ones of greatest importance. It is here where Demeter could find solace.

Hades Kidnaps Persephone

Oil painting of Hades abducting Persephone.
Oil painting of Hades abducting Persephone. | Source

Devastation Touched the Lands

When Demeter found out what had happened to Persephone, her anger had no limits. She forbade all on Earth to grow and devastation touched the lands. With no foods, the mortals were starving and dying. Demeter was unforgiving and Earth became barren.

Finally, Zeus could not put up with the dying Earth and forced Hades to return Persephone by sending Hermes to retrieve her. Hades agreed, but said he could send her up only if she had not eaten any food in the underworld.

Before Persephone was released, she had eaten a number of pomegranate seeds. This was yet another way Hades could keep Persephone, if for only part of the year. Because she had eaten of the food of the dead, Persephone must return to Hades and the underworld for four months every year. The rest of the year she was allowed to spend on Earth with her mother.

Spring is when all Earth flourishes, flowers and all manner of plant life bloom and grow. Demeter did not get her daughter back full time, but she enjoyed most of each year with Persephone.

Not only was Demeter the goddess of the harvest, she also controlled the seasons, and because of that she was capable of destroying all life on earth. Zeus and Hades not just underestimated the powers and potential of Demeter as a goddess, but also the love a mother carries in her heart for her child. Demeter's love for Persephone was strong -- the powers of two mighty gods was no match for the mother's love.

It seems as if Zeus and Hades messed with the wrong woman!

Return of Persephone to Demeter

The return of Persephone, by Frederic Leighton (1891)
The return of Persephone, by Frederic Leighton (1891) | Source

Wrath of Demeter, Poem by Phyllis Doyle

Zeus, mighty god of heaven and earth

Seek your place among the pitiful wrong

For the mother who had given birth

Will not be under your powers for long


A babe she gave you, her only child

Yet you conspired to defeat her

To find devastation gone wild

When you saw the wrath of Demeter


Zeus - Father of Gods in Greek Mythology

Zeus in his chariot, from the 1879 Stories from the Greek Tragedians by Alfred Church
Zeus in his chariot, from the 1879 Stories from the Greek Tragedians by Alfred Church | Source

© 2013 Phyllis Doyle Burns

Comments

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    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      TMDHemsley17, Thank you so very much. I am really glad you found it engaging. I appreciate you visit and comment.

    • TMDHemsley17 profile image

      Thomas M D Hemsley 

      5 years ago from Leeds

      A very interesting hub! Greek mythology has always been such a fascinating topic for me, so this was quite an engaging read! Keep it up.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Genna, thank you for reading and commenting on this hub -- mythology is one of my greatest passions to read and write about. You are so right about the powers of a mother to defend her young. Thanks again, Genna and have a great day.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 

      5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      "..the powers of two mighty gods was no match for the mother's love." I find this true throughtout nature as well. Excellent reading, Phyllis.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Ha hahahaha! Me, tool. I love mythology and cannot stay away from it for too long. It is what prevents me from getting 'writers block'.

    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 

      5 years ago

      I just happened to glance at the screen when it popped up in my feed and the title caught my eye. I'm a bit of a history/mythology buff.

    • Phyllis Doyle profile imageAUTHOR

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      5 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Ah! JG -- I just submitted this and it is pending. You are quick ! Thanks for the comment.

    • JG11Bravo profile image

      JG11Bravo 

      5 years ago

      This was always one of my favorites. Well done!

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