Demeter reigns over the life cycle, from the fallow of winter to the bounty of the fall harvest. To the ancient Greeks, her dominion over agriculture extended her influence to civilization, including the mysteries of the life, death and rebirth. This fall, I’m honoring Demeter as a Goddess of Fury and Fertility, while following the ancient practice of creating an Inner Temple to contain my personal mysteries. I’ve included the new translation of The Orphic Hymn to Demeter that I’ll be using, along with Demeter’s themes, epithets, correspondences, animals, and more to help you connect with this impressive goddess.
She is above all else, Fierce Goddess in Control and not a timid deity at all. Honestly, when I see her portrayed as such, it really gets to me. Demeter, like her daughter Persephone and their companion, Hekate, is so often reduced to a narrowly defined weak or undesirable character. All three were revered as Soteira (Liberator). Both Demeter and Hekate were viewed as Kourotrophos, Guardian of Children.
I wish I could yield my magical golden sword to cut through these inaccurate portrayals, perhaps this article will help expand understanding of Demeter. She reminds us that we need to intentionally cultivate what we seek to grow and to impose order on chaos, whether it is all of humanity or our personal lives. She intimidates me far more than either Persephone, the goddess I feel closest to, and Hekate, who is my matron.
Demeter has no patience for weakness and does not suffer fools. She speaks to us, if we will only listen, telling us that we must develop our own thesmoi, what we call boundaries, in order to live a productive life. True understanding of the mysteries, the secrets of life and death, comes not from cavalier attempts but through rigorous self-discipline.
Her major themes beyond control include: civilization, determination, fertility, harvest, the life cycle, resistance, uncertainty and wholeness. Her act of resistance regarding her daughter’s marriage eventually resulted in the ordered structure of Persephone’s trek and the resulting annual seasonal cycle, permitting agriculture and civilization to flourish.
Her fury at the lack of order (when Persephone was abducted in particular but also in other stories) relates directly to her role as a Fertility Goddess.