Ancient Greek mythology presented any natural phenomenon as the activity of various deities. That is why the cultural heritage of Greece combines fairly accurate historical information about events occurring at different periods with a set of myths. The Greek goddess Demeter, personified fertility and the patron of grain ears, was considered one of the most gracious goddesses. She was also the patroness of legal marriage. Many myths are connected with this heroine of myths, which affect such aspects of human life as sedentary life, change of seasons and justice in relation to all earthly beings.
According to legends, Demeter was the first earthly creature who harnessed a bull to a plow and plowed a field. Then she threw oat seeds into the soil. People who watched the actions of the goddess were sure that the grains would rot in the ground under torrential rains. But, contrary to their expectations, the friendly seedlings of oats appeared above the surface of the plowed field. Later, Demeter taught people how to care for their crops. She also gave people such plants as dates, figs and figs.
The origin of Demeter, her brothers, husbands and children
The Greek goddess of fertility, who was Demeter, was the daughter of the god Crohn and the goddess Rhea. She was the only daughter in the family. The brothers Hades, Zeus and Poseidon were completely different from the young maiden, who was originally destined to patronize farming. The relations between them were not quite ordinary: Aida, the goddess Demeter, did not like to be frank, and she was completely indifferent to Poseidon. The only of the brothers who honored her homage was Zeus.
Demeter, despite her divine origin, was a mother and marriage. Her first husband was the Cretan patron of farmers Iacion. A marriage between them was concluded on a thrice-plowed field. From Iasion, the goddess Demeter gave birth to Plutos, who originally personified abundant harvests. A little later, the son of Demeter began to associate with the wealth hidden under the ground.
Plutos was not the only child of the goddess of fertility. Marriage with Zeus, half-brother Dmetera, brought her great joy - she became the mother of a beautiful daughter, who was given the name of Persephone. According to myths, the goddess Demeter loved her daughter very much, protected her from all kinds of unrest and troubles. Persephone answered the mother with tenderness, she sincerely idolized nature and everything that the earth gave birth to.
Little is known about the son of Demeter, but the ancient storytellers paid much attention to the daughter of the goddess. One of the most large-scale stories explaining the reason for the change of seasons, describes the myth of Demeter and Persephone. It was he who was set forth by Homer in the form of a hymn.
Persephone Abduction Myth
As the story goes, Zeus promised to give Persephone a wife to Pluto. During the walk of the young goddess, the god of the kingdom of shadows takes her. The goddess Demeter heard a call for help, rushed into the field, but Persephone was gone. Days and nights in complete despair, she rushed around the world, but never found her daughter. At night, she lit torches on Etna (apparently, it was with this event that the writer explained one of the volcanic eruptions). Only nine days later, Helios told her who had abducted Persephone, and also that all this happened with the permission of Zeus.
The fertility goddess falls into great grief and dresses in mourning clothes. In a fit of anger, Demeter states that she will no longer care about the fertility of the land. Started hunger, which lasted several months. The earth did not give birth to a single spike, people suffered without bread and fruit. But it is impossible to return Persephone, because the marriage has already been concluded between her and Pluto.
Seeing that all this can turn into thousands of victims, Zeus decides that the daughter of Demeter will be with her mother 9 months a year, and spend the rest of the time with her husband. Since then, with the return of the daughter of the fertility goddess, the earth begins to bloom. People grow bread and vegetables. And when Persephone returns to Pluto, the goddess of fertility and agriculture Demeter puts on mourning, winter comes. So the myths explain the change of seasons. Only in a later period are works created that touch upon the theme of personal experiences and the motives of Demeter, Zeus, and Persephone herself.
Demeter in European literary works
But not only in the works of the ancient masters of the word these ancient Greek goddesses are mentioned. On Persephone and Demeter written many poetic works. For example, the famous European poet Schiller wrote a content poem “Eleusinian Feast”. Tennyson retold the myth of Persephone and Demeter in a language understandable by medieval Europeans in a rather large work “Demeter and Persephone”. A lot of operas, operettas and even ordinary songs are devoted to both of these goddesses. The most famous of them is Yommelli's opera “Demeter pacified”.
Demeter giving and punishing
As is known, the ancient Greek gods and goddesses could not only give humanity knowledge, skills, or some kind of benefits. For the indecent behavior, any of them could punish the guilty person before the gods. Despite the good temper and concern for people, the goddess of fertility is mentioned in the myths about the punishment of people for their hard-heartedness, betrayal and greed. Recall at least the story of Erysichton, whom she punished for greed and disrespect for the gods. He punished severely, but he really deserved it, since his heart was hard, like last year's slice of bread.
Here I would like to recall two legends describing the period when the ancient Greek goddesses Demeter and Persephone were separated.
The story of Demeter and Triptolem
In the days of wandering around the world in search of Persephone, Demeter, exhausted and hungry, entered Elvisin. She was warmly welcomed by the king there, called Keley. Little Tsarevich Triptolem was sick, and the king's wife did not depart from his cradle. In gratitude for food and shelter, the patroness of agriculture heals the baby from the ailments.
While living for some time in Elvisina and watching little Triptolem, Demeter begins to feel maternal love for him. Wanting to reward him with immortality, she puts him in a fire to cleanse the body and soul of the boy from earthly sins. But the ritual was not brought to the end, since the mother of the prince, frightened for her son, removed him from the flame. Nevertheless, Demeter endowed Triptolemus with a divine principle.
Since then, the young man traveled throughout the land, teaching people the art of farming. Later, he will be called the patron saint of tillers. The temple in his honor will be rebuilt near the temple of Demeter in Elvisine. Thus, the goddess really made his name immortal.
The situation is somewhat different in the myth of Demeter and Erisichton. In the days of wandering, when Persephone was in the realm of Pluto, the goddess of fertility and agriculture rested in the shade of a sacred grove planted in her honor. Erysichton, confident of his impunity, wanted to cut down trees to build a palace. Demeter tried to appeal to the conscience of the man, but he swung at her with an ax and ordered to free the way for his slaves.
Angry at such disrespect for her divine person, the goddess Demeter laid a curse of eternal famine on Erysichton. From that moment on, the greedy man does not leave the table, eating all the supplies in the house. Soon they ended, and Erysichton had to sell all his property in order to buy food and satisfy unbearable hunger. So he becomes a beggar. But hunger does not subside, and Erysichton decides to sell his daughter into slavery. Distraught with grief girl runs away from their masters. Time after time she returns to her father's house, but her father sells her again. In the end, Erysichthon eats itself. So Demeter punished him for greed.
Elvis Mysteries: Feasts Dedicated to the Goddess of Fertility
Like other ancient Greek gods and goddesses, Demeter was revered by the common people and nobility. Holidays were held in her honor, at which her kindness and generosity were glorified. Initially, only Elvisin residents participated in the events. After several decades, the cult of the goddess of agriculture and fertility spread throughout ancient Greece, and people from all over the state began to gather in the town.
Later, the feast of Demeter was celebrated in the temple of the goddess in Athens in two stages: in the spring there were the Little Elfisins, dedicated to the beginning of spring, and in the fall - the Great Elfisins, lasting 9 days and nights. On the first day of the festival, sacrifices were made to Demeter, the inhabitants of Greece performed ablutions and cleansing with rituals. A prerequisite for the celebration was the post. Then for 5 days it was decided to go through a large colorful procession from the temple to the sea. Athletic competitions were also held.
On the sixth day of the celebration a mass march was organized from Athens to Eleusis. The participants of the holiday put on elegant clothes, their heads were decorated with myrtle wreaths. In their hands, people carried torches and agricultural implements of labor. On the way, the procession often stopped. Young girls performed ritual dances, and young men competed in dexterity and strength.
At nightfall, Elvisine played a very realistic view on the myth of the abduction of Persephone. The crying and moans of Demeter, distraught with grief, depicted sounds played by brass instruments. From the darkness now and then came unclear voices and rustles. Spectators of this action covered mystical horror. The return of Persephone to Demeter entailed the flashes of light from numerous lamps and torches, joyful chants and dances.
Helpers of Demeter
Demeter, although she was the patroness of agriculture and fertility, according to the beliefs of the Greeks could not keep track of order throughout the territory of ancient Greece. Therefore, she acquired some kind of assistants in various branches of agriculture. Ancient Greek mythology tells about several deities personifying the plant world. Since they were considered secondary and often of human origin, their names were rarely mentioned in literary sources. But preserved bas-reliefs and murals depicting Demeter and his retinue.
It is assumed that all of them were spirits of forests, fields, flowers and trees. They were the ones who helped the fertility goddess to hear the "whisper of the earth", and also conveyed to her the pleas of farmers for a harvest or requests for help.
Sculptures and other images of the goddess of fertility
Unfortunately, at the present time there are practically no authentic images of Demeter, created in the times of ancient Greece. Today, sculptural images of this goddess of ancient Greek mythology are often a fake or image of very different deities or representatives of noble families. Archaeologists identify parts of the statues of Demeter on such grounds as the presence of a wreath of ears on the head, as well as a piglet and a basket filled with ears and fruits in their hands. Often the sculptural or fresco ancient Greek gods and goddesses stand out for Demeter only because the poppy flower is depicted in their hands or on their clothes.
Strange as it may sound, authentic images of the goddess of fertility from ancient Greece are most easily found on ancient coins, frescoes in the lost city of Pompeii, and also in crypts near the city of Kerch in the Crimea.
The gods of fertility in the culture of other countries
Not only the ancient Greek goddesses kept order in the plant world and helped people to master all the subtleties of tillage and crop cultivation. An example of this can serve as a deity from Roman mythology, which by their characteristics are not much different from the ancient Greek gods. The full equivalent of Demeter in this culture is Ceres. She, as well as the Greek patroness of agriculture, first plowed a strip of land and showed how to plant seeds and care for plants.
Just like Demeter, Ceres had several gods-helpers who were responsible for individual elements and plants. For example, Flora was the patroness of flowers. She was depicted in a wreath and with a magnificent bouquet in her hands. Her images are preserved in Herculaneum, as well as in the Capitol and Rome.
Forests and fields in the understanding of the Romans were under the auspices of Sylvan. He was also considered a protector of gardens and arable land. Images of Sylvanas are partially preserved, but it is clear from them that they depicted him with a sickle in one hand and a branch of a tree in the other. Woodworking artisans also worshiped this god.
The orchards of ancient Rome were under the protection of two gods at once - Vertumn and Pomona, who were each other's spouses. Vertumnu, the god of vegetables and fruits (that is, fruits), was depicted as a handsome man with a broad beard holding a cornucopia in his hands. The images of Pomona, the goddess of orchards, have not been preserved, but it can be seen on the bas-reliefs created in the 18th century, surrounded by other gods of ancient Rome.