Demeter is recognized in Greek mythology as the goddess of agriculture and
fertility. She played an important role in Ancient Greek society, since they relied heavily on agriculture to survive. The name “Demeter” means “ Earth Mother”. The Romans referred to her as Ceres Her parents are Cronus and Rhea, and her brothers and sisters are the rest of the twelve Olympians; Zeus, Poseidon, Hephaestus, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus, Hera, Hestia, Athena, Ares, and Aphrodite. Demeter has children, though not as many as some of the other gods. They are Persephone, Despoina, Arion, and Plutus. The father of Despoina and Arion is Poseidon. Plutus is the son of Demeter and an demigod called Iasion from Crete. Some of her symbols are the torch, the scepter, or the sheath of barley or wheat. Demeter is not usually symbolized by an animal, but the snake is considered sacred to her because it represents rebirth in nature. In Greek carvings and pictures, she is often portrayed sitting on a chariot, with fruit, flowers, grain, and other images associated with the harvest around her.
An important festival called the Thesmophoria was held for her in Greece during the month of Pyanopsion (October or November using the modern Gregorian calendar). This was a type of Thanksgiving for the Greeks. Historians believe that the festival was conducted to symbolize Demeter’s grief when she found out that her daughter Persephone had been kidnapped by Hades. The festival was complicated, including a three day long camp out, fasting, and a night time ceremony. The attendants prayed to Demeter for a bountiful harvest. Only women were allowed to attend.
The most famous and important story involving Demeter is probably the story of her daughter Persephone. Her myth is told in the Homeric Hymn of Demeter, one of the thirty-three epics that celebrated the gods and goddesses. This myth is the Ancient Greek’s explanation of why there are seasons. It is an origin story, used to explain a...