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Facts About Demeter – Goddess of Agriculture

By Yona Williams    4/29/10

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As goddess of the harvest, Demeter is known for presiding over grains, the fertility of the earth, and the seasons. She is also linked to the sanctity of marriage, the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death. In this article, you will learn about the artistic depictions and symbols used to represent Demeter.

Artistic Depictions

Demeter is depicted as a mature woman with pleasant-looking features. Many times, she is seen wearing a veil over her head with her face visible. In her hand, she is often carrying wheat or her Horn or Plenty (better known as Cornucopia). Wheat and barley are often associated with the goddess. Some depictions of Demeter have her on a chariot or surrounded by fruits and flowers. It is not uncommon to see her with her daughter, Persephone.

Demeter's Personality

The goddess in charge of all growth and life was a peace-loving deity, who taught humans how to tend to the earth and make their daily lives easier. One of the ways that Demeter played a role in separating man from beast was to introduce them to wheat, which made mankind very appreciative of the goddess.  

Roman Equivalent

In Rome, Ceres is the closest goddess to Demeter.

Temple Sites

Eleusis is the place where Demeter was most revered. Some people were lucky enough to be chosen to undergo initiatory rites (called the Eleusinian Mysteries), where secret actions were performed. Since no one ever broke their vows or breathed a word of the rites initiation, what took place is still up for debate. You will find Eleusis located close to Athens. While you can still visit the location, it is sadly, polluted by the surrounding heavy industry.

Strengths and Weaknesses

As the goddess of agriculture, Demeter is in control of the fertility of the earth. To the individuals that learn her 'Mysteries,' she bestows upon them life after death. However, crossing Demeter is ill advised. When her daughter was kidnapped, Demeter punished the earth by not allowing anything to grow – which we now know as winter.

Other Associations to the Goddess

Since Demeter was most linked to the earth, she was also connected to the female womb, as both subjects nurtured a seed until it was ready to push life forward. This is why she is also known as the goddess of marriage who blessed children. When weddings took place, couples would send prayers to the goddess in hopes of being lucky in conceiving many children.

Each year, Athenian women would celebrate Demeter and her daughter Persephone at the Thesmophoria – a festival that lasted three days and was dedicated to the fertility of both nature and humankind.

In Part II of "Facts About Demeter – Goddess of Agriculture," you will encounter her parents and siblings, as well as an infamous Greek myth that involves her daughter Persephone. This article is titled: "Demeter: Family Ties and Persephone."

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