Demeter- The Harvest Goddess

Demeter - General Information

Daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and sister of Zeus, Demeter was the goddess of health, agriculture, fruits and vegetables, and grain. She was the main food source for everybody, so when her daughter, Persephone, the queen of the Underworld, was stolen and Demeter forgot about the harvest, it created a famine. Harvesting was the most important part of the year for her, and that was the time at which she was happiest. Even all of the festivals worshiping her were around the harvest. Held every five years for nine days, her most important festival included processions, sacrifi- /graphics/demeter17.jpg /graphics/demeter17.jpg

ces, dances, and songs. The main part of the festival was only attended by the wealthy, and thought to be special, so no record of it was ever written down. Her name, Demeter (Ceres for the Romans), literally means grain mother or mother earth.


Demeter was often seen as a beautiful and tall woman. Most descriptions of her include her carrying some sort of food, usually grains or fruits. Her hair was normally blond, to resemble grain and corn. Sometimes she would be portrayed as a calm and peaceful woman, and she was usually sitting. Her hair was braided to show her connection to the natural world (braids sometimes would resemble corn husks). Her sacred animals are the pig and the snake.


Cronus (father)
Rhea (mother)
Zeus (brother)

Demeter's Daughter - Persephone

When Demeter gave birth to Persephone, there was said to be an immediate bond. Their relationship was extremely close. One legend was that when Hedes, God of the Underworld, stole Persephone as she was picking flowers in the meadow with the Oceanids, the daughters of Oceanos and Tethys. She failed to get Zeus' attention, but as she was calling for help, Hekate and Helios heard her. She was so determined to rescue her daughter, that she roamed the earth for nine days without food or sleep. She first went to Hekate, who sent her to Helios, who told her that the blame for her daughters kidnapping was Zeus', who told Hedes that he would marry Persephone. Demeter finally got her mind off of her daughter, but when thought returned, she decided to stop all of the grain production on earth. Other gods, including Zeus, begged her to keep the grain growing, but she refused until she saw her daughter again. Zeus got Hermes, the messenger god, to bring Persephone up from the Underworld. Hades let Persephone see her mother, and told her to eat pomogranite seeds, a symbol of "unbreakable wedlock". Zeus decided that Persephone would get two thirds of each year with her mother on Olympus, and the rest of the year would be with Hades in the winter, which is probably why the winter is bad for crops.

Fun Facts

  • Demeter always connected to the erosion and creation of nature
  • She was thought to be the most generous of the gods and goddess'
  • People from all around the Mediteranean would come to Demeter's biggest celebration; Mysteries at Eleusis

Work Cited

Willis, Roy. World Mythology. New York: Henry Holt and Company, inc., 1993