Demeter was goddess of grain and fertility. There are hints that she was the oldest of the gods
and goddesses, and, although she does not appear in the stories where the gods defeated the
Titans, she has power beyond many of the gods with more dramatic responsibilities.

But the most memorable story of Demeter has to do with her daughter, Persephone (who, in a mystical way, is also young Demeter herself). Persephone was beautiful, and beloved of all who met her. Stories of Persephone’s beauty and loveliness came to Hades, god of the underworld and ruler of the dead, who is, himself, the underworld. He broke open a crack in the earth, and stole Persephone to be his wife.

Persephone was heartbroken, and wept to be allowed back to the world of the living. But as sad as Persephone was, Demeter was even more bitter; she allowed the earth to fall into perpetual winter, and would not allow anything to grow. Finally, Zeus, most powerful of the gods, forced Hades to allow Persephone to return to the surface world. Before she left, however, Hades gave Persephone a pomegranate, and bid her eat it. It was a trap; too late, she swallowed six of the pomegranate seeds. Hades demanded that she return to his side for six months of every year, and allowed her to return to the land of the living and to her mother’s side.

Demeter was delighted to see Persephone, and once more, the crops grew and the world was in bloom. But every fall, as Persephone prepares to return to Hades, Demeter is lost in grief over her daughter, and allows the world to grow cold and wintry again… until the coming of spring when Persephone will return to her mother. Persephone herself is usually portrayed as melancholy, always aware, even in midsummer, that the day is coming all too soon when she will have to descend again to Hades.


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