A Hellenic goddess of sowing, cultivating, harvesting and the birth – death-rebirth cycle, the second child of Cronus and Rhea and the mother of Kore Persephone. When the Olympic gods seized the power over the Earth, she became responsible for maintaining its fertility. She was taking care of the soil and the crops and it was Demeter who taught people how to grow grains, how to make bread and how to cultivate vegetables and fruit. Her name may be derived from the words ‘deus/dyeus’ and ‘meter’, when put together this signifies ‘goddess – mother, divine mother’. In Rome she was venerated as Ceres.
ABOUT THE GODDESS
The cult of Demeter was one of the oldest in the Hellenic world, she is mentioned together with Kore and Poseidon in the tablets at Pylos dated around 1400-1200 before Christ (‘two mistresses&the king’). There is also an assumption that she was forming the Triple Goddess as Mother together with Kore (Maiden) and Hekate (Crone). Demeter has been associated with Kore, her daughter with Zeus to the point that they were known as ‘two goddesses’.
Kore was a young girl when she was playing on the meadow with fellow nymphs on a sunny day. Her mother allowed her to weave wreaths from all the flowers but a narcissus dedicated to the gods of the Underworld. Unfortunately, Kore forgot her mother’s warning and picked this flower. It brought the darkness over the meadow, the ground cracked and a chariot led by black horses emerged from the abyss. It was Hades, the lord of the Underworld, he captured Kore and abducted her to his realm below the surface of the earth. It was all so sudden that nobody was able to react or even realise that Demeter’s daughter disappeared. Only Cyane (Kyane), a water nymph and Kore’s companion, heard her friend’s cry and hurried to save her. However, it was too late and one of the horses kicked her in the shoulder so she could only massage the sore spot and cry after Kore. Terrified Demeter kept searching for her daughter everywhere but she did not realise that Zeus had promised his daughter as a wife without her mother’s knowledge and consent.
When Demeter found out about the conspiracy (either from all-seeing Helios the sun god or Hekate, goddess of the night and witchcraft), she became so furious that she cursed the earth and told her not to raise crops until her daughter comes back to her. This interrupted the order of the seasons so plants began to wither and people started to complain they would not be able to gather them and they would suffer from hunger. Zeus had no option but to return Kore to her mother. However, the girl was lured to eat a couple of grains of pommegranate in the Underworld and this made her belong there forever. In the end the gods and goddesses entered into a compromise: Kore was to spend one third of the year with her husband as Persephone the Queen of the Underworld but for the remaining two thirds she could return on the surface and enjoy the time with her mother. This is how the Hellens understood the seasons change: in winter the earth was saddened by the absence of Kore Persephone together with Demeter and in spring and summer when she was coming back, the earth was showing joy by letting leaves and blossoming the flowers.
Eleusis was the goddess’ sacred place and this is where the Eleusinian mysteries were established. For more than two thousand years the history of Demeter and Kore Persephone was celebrated in secret ceremonies and it was one of the most important cults in the whole Hellenic world. It is impossible to recreate these rites now but they were probably concentrating on fertility and rebirth and some symbols may have been taken by Christianity (such as accepting bread or drinking wine; also the holiday of the Assumption of Mary has a pagan character, she is venerated as Our Lady of Herbs in Poland). To find more about the ceremonies please visit this site. It is also believed that the first letter of Demeter’s name (Delta in the Greek alphabet) has the shape of the womb and therefore is the symbol of life, conquering death and bliss.
Demeter does not often appear in epic poems but apart from the story of Kore she is mentioned in some other myths. In the story of Tantal, the king of Phrygia who invited the Olympians to the feast and served them the body of his son to check if they recognize the meat, Demeter is so plunged in grief after the loss of Kore that she eats a piece but vomits immediately when she realizes what she ate. In another myth she is pursued by Poseidon but she is so disguised by his desire that she assumes the form of mare to avoid any contact with him. Poseidon finds her, however, and takes the form of stallion to cover her. She later gives birth to a daughter Despoina (Mistress of the House) whose name was not allowed to be pronounced and a horse Arion with black mane and tail. Demeter becomes furious and goes to the river to wash her anger away. During the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia she drinks too much wine and sleeps with Iasion in a ploughed furrow which later results in the birth of their son Ploutos (or in another version twins Ploutos&Philomeus and another son called Korybas). However, jealous Zeus kills Iasion with a thunderbolt.
It is also believed that because of her nickname Thesmosphoros (Giver of Customs) Demeter was associated with the sanctity of marriage and with the religious law in the earliest times. The goddess has also her vengeful aspect as Demeter Erinys.
Personally I like and respect this goddess a lot because of her uncompromising attitude, standing up for her child, serenity and friendliness towards mortals. She never hurt any of them and was very fond of people, she even wanted to give immortality to one of them. When she refused to protect the Earth after Kore’s abduction, she assumed the human body and moved in to the royal court of Eleusis as the nanny of Prince Demophon (Triptolemus). To make him immortal she put him into a sacred fire one evening to burn out his mortal weakness but this ritual was broken by the queen, boy’s mother so he never fully acquired divine powers. He was, however, initiated as the first human being into the Eleusinian mysteries.
IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS
Demeter’s attributes were ears of grain, daffodils (Kore was captured by Hades when she cut a daffodil), poppies, sheaves, siecles and plows. The bird mostly associated with her was a crane and the most common sacrifice was made of sow.
She was also traditionally associated with horses, one of the aspects of her cult was Aganippe (Night-Mare, The Mare who destroys mercifully), a black winged horse, and some of her idols showed her as mare – headed with a mane entwined with snakes, holding a dolphin in one hand and a dove in another one.
Demeter was usually depicted sitting and either holding a torch (because she was searching for her daughter day and night) or snakes. She is also portrayed riding a chariot driven by horses.
The person who is shown by this card is mostly concentrating on family and house. Children’s material needs are important for her. In negative her whole life revolves around children, she is overprotective and does not let her children grow up.
This is the time to take care of your family, either on material or emotional level. Show affection to your loved ones. Children are very important for you. You feel separation from your child. Help your children but do not live their lives. Everything and everyone has to grow up.
If you are thinking about starting a family, this card confirms it is a good choice.
In its negative aspect the card of Demeter tells about family issues, especially with children, relationships between parents and children growing apart and economic problems.
Mother. Maturity. Possible pregnancy. Childbirth. Natural law. Marriage. Abundance. Protection. Help. Journey. Contact with nature.
If you’re in the relationship: this card suggests you have big maternal needs and if you do not have your own children yet, this inner yearning for a child will be growing. If you have children, this card may suggest you are concentrating on them and neglecting your partner. Marriage.
If you are single: your strong relation with mother may disturb you in establishing a healthy and long-term relationship. This card may also suggest you want to have a child rather than a relationship with another person. Single parenting.
Investments in land or stock exchange. Your company is undergoing changes. Profit gained thanks to secret knowledge. Insecure moment.
Time to change your diet. Eat more unprocessed, natural food like vegetables, fruit and grains. Lack of nutrients. Digestive system. Insomnia and problems with sleeping. Emotional tension.
Endangered parts of the body: digestive system.
Demeter is also one of the most popular goddesses and she appears in nearly all the decks I came across, the only exception is the deck of Doreen Virtue.
Demeter in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky, a beautiful picture full of symbols associated with Demeter and Kore Persephone
Demeter in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews
Demeter in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark
Demeter in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason
Demeter (with Kore Persephone as Two Goddesses) in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton
…and Ceres in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst (the author made a huge faux pas and no one corrected her: Ceres WAS NOT a Greek but Latin goddess…what is the point of making a distinction between Demeter and Ceres if it may seem they are both from the same country??? I like the idea of pregnant Demeter though)
Demeter in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr
Demeter in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé
Demeter in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took (as Ceres)
Demeter as Magician in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano, I have to disagree with such assignment because the card of Magician the first Major Arcane is traditionally associated with the element of Fire&the energy of Mercury while Demeter clearly represents the element of Earth
Two cards of Xena-like Demeter from Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan
Based on Mity Greków i Rzymian by Wanda Markowska, Dictionnaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine by Pierre Grimal, The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, Wikipedia and http://www.pantheon.org/articles/e/eleusis.html.