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Demeter the Mother from Tales of the Ancient Greeks

Updated on December 25, 2015

An Ancient Goddess with a Timeless Message

Demeter, the ancient Greek Goddess of Agriculture, is perhaps best known for the abduction of her daughter Persephone, but she is much, much more.

She has a powerful message for modern times.

The ancient story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone has been used to explain the cycle of the seasons, but a closer examination reveals insights on living and dying, loss and reconciliation, and, importantly, on suffering and healing.

Myths can be read as symbols, and can be used as working templates for modern times. Indeed, this may have been just the way they were used in bygone days. The ancient tale of Demeter helped me recover from the death of a child and gave me the strength to pick up my life again. I'm sure it's been used in this way for thousands of years.

The Abduction of Persephone

The story of Demeter has come down to us more as the story of her daughter, Persephone. This was my first meeting with the tale as a child and it could be used to explain the changing seasons of the year.

The abduction of the beautiful Persephone is the reason behind the sweetness of Spring and the bitterness of Winter.

One day this little girl of life and laughter, Persephone, was collecting flowers on the plain of Enna when the earth opened beneath her feet. Up from the gap rose Hades, grim God of the Underworld, and abducted her.

And only Zeus, the All-Seeing, knew what had happened.

Broken hearted, Demeter wandered the earth, her hair unbound, wailing into the wind, searching for her little daughter until - at last - Zeus told her what had happened.

Now Demeter was angry as well as heart broken! She demonstrated her rage by punishing the earth's inhabitants with fierce cold, bitter winds and an end to all fertility. Unless Persephone was returned, the earth would surely perish.

Finally Herakles the Hero went down to the kingdom of Hades to negotiate the return of Persephone. But, before she was released, the God of the Underworld tricked Persephone into eating six pomegranate seeds - thus she would always be connected to his realm.

For part of the year Persephone must stay in the Underworld and for part of the year she returns to her mother.

When Demeter and her daughter are together, the earth flourishes with vegetation, but, for four months of the year, when Persephone goes back to Hades, the earth is a barren realm.

To Everything there is a Season

To everything there is a season,

a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die

a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted

a time to weep and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn and a time to dance

a time to lose and a time to seek

a time to rend and a time to sew

a time to keep silent and a time to speak

a time to love and a time to hate

a time for war and a time for peace.

Message from Demeter - Letting go

A time to lose ......

One important lesson from Demeter is not to place all of our life into our children. It's a trap that any mother can fall into, putting her talents of spontaneity, creativity, playfulness, wonder, curiosity, love of story and all that we call imagination into her children - forgetting that these belong also to her own inner child.

When her daughter is abducted, the loss causes Demeter to go into deep depression. A depression in which she ceases to bathe, ceases to eat, disguises her beauty, neglects her daily duties, denies her future and becomes self absorbed, angry, resentful and lost in torrents of incessant weeping.

If we hold on to our children too tightly, if we weave our lives totally around them, we are then at a loss when they mature and become independent. We can suffer very real and very deep pain. Like Demeter, our own inner child has been displaced onto our actual children.

If we place all of our eggs into one basket, if a friend grows away from us, if we place all of our love into one partner and that relationship ends, we can be shattered until we realise that what has passed, has passed.

We can't go back.

For everything there is a season.

And there is a time for letting go.

image :Frederic Leighton 1891

Message from Demeter - Laughter

A time to laugh ...

Demeter shows us the value of laughter in our life. In the midst of her deep depression, she is approached by the minor Goddess, Baubo, who dances in front of her telling bawdy jokes. Then Baubo lifts her skirts and bares her belly to Demeter.

And Demeter laughs!

Mirth breaks through Demeter's despair, she shakes off the blackness of her depression and resolves to continue her search.

Demeter's laughter grounds her, and gives her the strength to seek, and to reclaim, her daughter. As she does this, abundant life returns to the earth. By lifting her skirts, Baubo demonstrates to Demeter the centre that they share, returning the Goddess to her own centre of being.

Demeter's relief from unbearable stress and depression comes via the fanciful realm of humour and theatrics. We can all benefit from cultivating a little light imagination, and from sharing a joke with friends.

The Art of Being a Woman: A Simple Guide to Everyday Love and Laughter
The Art of Being a Woman: A Simple Guide to Everyday Love and Laughter

Practical and whimsical lessons in the art of womanhood and in the joy of loving life as only a woman can.

"You have to be willing to get rid of your self-doubts and acknowledge your innate gifts and talents."

A fabulous celebration of how to live and celebrate the life of being female.

 

Message from Demeter - Seasons of Life

To everything there is a season

Demeter shows us the March of the Seasons through our life. We can be in the icy grip of despair but we know that Spring will return, our sadness will ease, and we can smile in the warmth once more.

Her message reminds us of these seasons of life, she tells us that though there are times of great sorrow there is also great joy to be found.

Like Demeter, we learn to live through the ups and downs, the sorrows, heartaches and bereavements knowing that it's possible to reach for the light again.

The story of Demeter illustrates the tremendous capacity of a woman to love and nurture within her own family - and in the world at large.

Demeter also reminds us to stand firm for what is good and right, even in the face of adversity when powerful forces are aligned against us.

Persephone, Acropolis Museum

Mothers Day began with Demeter

An Ancient Celebration

Mothers' Day is certainly not new. It's one of the oldest celebrations known to us.

Celebrations in honour of Mothers were held in Ancient Greece during the Spring and were dedicated to the worship of Demeter. The Spring of course, that happy time when Demeter turns her attention to the outer world again, she smiles on the Earth .. and the new green life appears. (She is stronger now, from the pain).

Later, in Rome, the celebrations were enjoyed just as much. The honour was given to Demeter in the Roman version of her name; they called her Ceres.

So we could make Mothers' Day, with all of its commercialism, into a day for remembering the Goddess of Mothers as the source of all the nurturing strengths of all mothers.

To all of the Mothers in All of the World in All Places and in All Times.

We could have a Demeter's Day instead!

I stood on Demeter's ancient Sanctuary

Yes! I was so fortunate to visit Enna, in the heart of Sicily and stand on la Rocca di Cerere, an ancient site dedicated to the goddess.

This is where Persephone returned to the world.

© 2008 Susanna Duffy

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    • profile image

      ariya 4 months ago

      this story or stories have givin me a hope that i thought had long gone. But of corse,

      Hope always remains.

      quote from pandora's vase [NOT BOX!!!!!]

    • profile image

      sam 5 months ago

      LOL THAT was awesome

    • profile image

      Tara 7 months ago

      The Greek myth of Demeter and the abduction of her daughter Persephone is my absolute favorite story. I enjoy it more each time I read about it, and I love learning about how it connects to our world today. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story in Greek Mythology! :-)

    • profile image

      Hiii 7 months ago

      The story is longggggg

    • profile image

      Titania 14 months ago

      can you please talk about zelus and his relation with hades if there is any?, I can't seem to link both of them. thank you

    • SusannaDuffy profile image
      Author

      Susanna Duffy 3 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @jmchaconne: Exactly!

    • jmchaconne profile image

      jmchaconne 3 years ago

      I believe all myths are based in universal truths and uncommon sense. It's unfortunate that because they are thought of as myths, the wisdom in the is often overshadowed.

    • Lionrhod profile image

      Lionrhod 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Excellent lens! Linking to you from my lens in progress!

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Its amazing how the ancients were just like us. They didn't have all the modern trappings but they had the same feelings.

    • SusannaDuffy profile image
      Author

      Susanna Duffy 4 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      @othellos: Thank you so much Othellos! I'm honoured by your comment

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Excellent lens, very well invastigated and presented. You proceeded your topic like a real Greek! Thanks for sharing:=)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      P.S. It's #mythologymonday so I gave this lens a +1 on Google with the hashtag.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Good morning mam! Happy Monday! :) I found this lens because someone created a board on Pinterest called âGold Star Squidoo Lensesâ. (Not me. But wish I had though of it.) I repined the pin to my board called âLegends, Myths, Fables, Folklore, Cultureâ. [http://pinterest.com/newbizmau/gold-star-squidoo-l... ]

    • BlogsWriter profile image

      BlogsWriter 5 years ago

      Persephone and Demeter's story has a morale story and a message - everything is going to change. Summer, spring and winter are but phases of life; beautifully written lens.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 5 years ago

      Very interesting story. Good reminder to get on with life, not depend on others for our happiness.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 5 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I found the story of Demeter and her daughter Persephone fascinating. I never knew this story before.

      Your reminder that "For everything there is a season. And there is a time for letting go" really 'spoke to me'. I needed that reminder. Thank you.

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      Thank you for broadening my understanding of Demeter. I'm sorry for your loss. Very comprehensive lesn.

    • profile image

      SHorsburgh 6 years ago

      This is so touching Susanna. It certainly does apply to all women. Thank you so much. An amazing lens.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      Sorry to hear you lost your child

    • daoine lm profile image

      daoine lm 6 years ago

      Well-deserved Purple Star. I'm sorry to read that your child died. Much love to you.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      Wow! This is great! Love it! Blessed!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 6 years ago

      A thought-provoking and beautiful lens that is deserving of the Purple Star. Thank you Susanna for sharing this.

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 6 years ago

      This is one of the best lenses I have read here at Squidoo. It's an inspiration.

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 6 years ago

      Absolutely beautiful story. I agree humor is much needed in our lives to alleviate stress. Beautifully written article. i see why it received a Purple Star.

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      Echo Phoenix 6 years ago

      I love this... to engage my sense of humor in the worst of times is definitely how I make it through so I can identify with Demeter who laughs in the midst of despair;)

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 6 years ago

      The Portrait of Demeter is awesome. Any idea where that work is housed?

    • dannygator7790 profile image

      dannygator7790 6 years ago

      I always find greek mythology so interesting, and this lens just feeds the flames!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I THINK ITS GREAT THAT U STOOD UP FOR DAUGHTER

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This is sooooooo interesting, and a beautiful story,thank you for sharing :)

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      Great story, beautifully brought to life.

    • NoYouAreNot profile image

      NoYouAreNot 6 years ago

      Being a Greek who has studied ancient Greek mythology since my childhood years, I have to admit that you have really grasped the meaning of the Demeter-Persephone myth and have made a wonderful point on this lens. Great writing too! One of my favourites on the site!

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      kimmanleyort 6 years ago

      My my, I do need to learn more about the ancient Greeks. I love the way you have made the connection to mothers and daughters and will have to read one or more of these books. Fascinating lens.

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      whatsreal12 7 years ago

      I can't wait to share this with my home educating mama pals! Thank you so much for sharing this beauty and your personal connection. I wish you joy in each day, even the winter days.

      Thank you!

    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      This was a wonderful read. I enjoyed the new insights into the tale of Persephone and her mother.

    • profile image

      ulla_hennig 7 years ago

      Thanks for this awesome lens!

    • MSBeltran1 profile image

      MSBeltran1 8 years ago

      What an awesome page. Great info. 5* and lensrolled.

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 8 years ago

      I'm almost done with a new lens on the symbols and goddesses that represent motherhood. When finished, I will roll this to it and join your group too. 5 stars as always!

    • cryptid lm profile image

      cryptid lm 8 years ago

      This is a great lense. I love Greek mythology but I have not really gotten into it to deeply beyond the generic, well known figures. This lense is actually making me more interested in it! Great job! 5*s

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      WhiteOak50 9 years ago

      Great Lens! Thank you for joining The Pagan Path Group

    • profile image

      tdove 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining G Rated Lense Factory!

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      Carol Fisher 9 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      I love the interpretations you give to different aspects of Demeter's story because they apply to us all. It just goes to show human experience and emotions are timeless and eternal. 5* lens