BECK index
Contents and Introduction

Eleusis and the Goddesses

Origins of Eleusis
Persephone: Maiden and Queen of the Underworld
Demeter: Mother of the Mysteries and the Grain

Origins of Eleusis

When Erichthonius died and was buried
in the same precinct of Athens, Pandion became king
in whose time Demeter and Dionysus came to Attica.
But Demeter was welcomed by Celeus at Eleusis,
and Dionysus by Icarius, who received from him
a branch of a vine and learned the process of making wine.
(Apollodorus III, xiv, 7)

The reign of Pandion, the son of Erichthonius, is placed by the Parian Chronicle about 1462-1423 BC. The same Chronicle states that Demeter came to Athens in the reign of Erechtheus (about 1409) and also refers to the first sowing of wheat in the Rharian Plain and the first celebration of the Mysteries at Eleusis by Eumolpus.

The situation of the Aegean world in the fifteenth century BC was extraordinarily different than it was to be in the following centuries, chiefly because this marked the apogee of the Cretan civilization. This magnificent, fertile civilization which developed from its Neolithic beginnings around five thousand years ago, had by this time several large cities with beautiful palaces, the chief one being Knossos whose population approached 100,000. The year 1400 BC is archaeologically accurate as an approximate date for the worst destruction in Crete's history, the cause due to earthquake, foreign invasion, or internal rebellion, or some combination of these. The legend of Theseus slaying the Minotaur probably accounts for this great event in early Greek history. Mycenae was at the early palace stage of its history but was soon to take over the responsibility left dangling by a falling Crete. Egypt was thriving under Amenhotep III, and the religious reforms of Akhenaten were only a generation away. The legendary ruler and king at Knossos was Minos (after whom the Minoan civilization is named); he controlled the Aegean Sea keeping it safe from pirates for trade. Homer gives this description of the greatness of the Minoan empire.

There is a fair and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete;
it is thickly people and there are ninety cities in it;
the people speak many different languages
which overlap one another,
for there are Achaeans, brave Eteocretans,
Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi.
There is a great town there, Knossos, where Minos reigned
who every nine years had a conference with Zeus himself.
(Homer Odyssey XIX, 172-178)

Homer's description is of slightly later times (between 1400 and 1200 BC), as it was after Dorian invasions and piracy from the north when Minoan power was crumbling and the Aegean world was re-organizing itself. Arthur Evans' careful study of the archaeological remains at Knossos, Phaistos, Hagia Triada and other cities shows an intensely religious people who had cults of the dead, tree and pillar cults, ritual bull sacrifices, doves symbolizing the presence of the gods, butterflies the soul, ritual dancing with bulls, bare-breasted women wearing beautiful flouncy dresses (these taking place in the open court or theatre arena), colorful fresco paintings, and architecture and sculpture attributed to the legendary Daedalus. The sudden collapse of such a rich culture might very well have led to the spread through colonization of certain religious practices, just as the destruction of Atlantis may have added to the Egyptian and ancient American civilizations. Such possibilities must be left open, for we certainly cannot deny them with our limited knowledge. Diodorus, who also mentions the Atlanteans, says this of Crete:

Such, then are the myths which the Cretans
recount of the gods who they claim were born in their land.
They also assert that the honors accorded to the gods
and their sacrifices and the initiatory rites observed
in connection with the mysteries were handed down
from Crete to the rest of men, and to support this
they advance the following most weighty argument,
as they conceive it: the initiatory rite which is celebrated
by the Athenians in Eleusis, the most famous
one may venture, of them all, and that of Samothrace,
and the one practiced in Thrace among the Cicones,
whence Orpheus came who introduced them--
-these are all handed down in the form of a mystery,
whereas at Knossos in Crete it has been the custom
from ancient times that these initiatory rites should be
handed down to all openly, and what is handed
down among other people as not to be divulged,
this the Cretans conceal from no one
who may wish to inform himself upon such matters.
Indeed, the majority of the gods, the Cretans say,
had their beginning in Crete and set out from ther
to visit many regions of the inhabited world,
conferring benefactions upon the races of men
and distributing among each of them the advantage
which resulted from the discoveries they had made.
Demeter, for example, crossed over into Attica
and then removed from there to Sicily
and afterwards to Egypt;
and in these lands her choicest gift was that of the corn
and instructions in the sowing of it, whereupon she received
great honors at the hands of these whom she had benefited.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 77)

According to Professor Wace examples of Linear B, the language of fifteenth century Knossos, have been found at Eleusis. Jacquetta Hawkes found a continuity from Knossos to Mycenae and later Greece, as the gods named at Knossos and Pylos include the Olympian pantheon of Homer, namely Poseidon, Zeus, Hera, Athena, Artemis, Demeter, Eileithyia, Aries, Hermes, Dionysus, and Paieon (who later was merged with Apollo. (Dawn of the Gods, p. 233) Demeter is derived from meter meaning mother, and the Linear B word for barley deai. Homer has this to say on Cretan customs:

Moreover, I fed the men who were with him with barley mea
from the public store, and got subscriptions of wine and oxen
for them to sacrifice to their heart's content.
(Odyssey XIX, 196-198)

In the same passage he mentions the cave of Eileithyia near Amnisos, the harbor town for nearby Knossos.

Hence it was in Crete that I saw Odysseus
and showed him hospitality, for the winds took him there
as he was on his way to Troy, carrying him off his course
from cape Malea and leaving him
in Amnisos off the cave of Eileithyia,
where the harbors are difficult to enter
and he could hardly find shelter from the winds
that were then raging.
(Odyssey XIX, 185-190)

The cave of Eileithyia at Amnisos was first inhabited in the third millennium BC and was a venerable cult-place until the fifth or sixth century CE. (Marinatos, S. Crete and Mycenae, p. 36)

According to Willetts the name Eileithyia is not Indo-European and thus may be of direct descent from a Minoan goddess of childbirth. (Cretan Cults and Festivals, p. 169) Evidence of Eleusinian worship was found high in the mountains of Crete on Mount Taleton. (Ibid., p. 52)

A beautifully carved ivory of two women kneeling with a child on their laps was found in Mycenae and dates from the fifteenth century BC. (Marinatos Crete and Mycenae, plate 219) This is the characteristic pose of Eileithyia, the goddess of childbirth, and they could very easily represent Demeter and Persephone and the birth of the divine child in the mysteries. In 1955 Professor Doro Levi found at Phaistos a cup dating from the nineteenth or twentieth century BC with two women dancing around a Snake Goddess. (Kerenyi Eleusis, p. xix-xx) Demeter herself is associated with a snake by Hesiod.

The snake of Cychreus:
Hesiod says that it was brought up by Cychreus,
and was driven out by Eurylochus as defiling the island,
but that Demeter received it into Eleusis,
and that it became her attendant.

(Hesiod Catalogues of Women and Eoiae 77)

Snakes were venerated in Crete, perhaps reminding them of the spinal cord and symbolizing immortality and life after death. Snakes lived in their homes as they made special dishes to feed them. Some of the most striking figurines known are the Minoan Snake Goddesses. They are narrow-waisted and beautifully dressed, leaving the breasts exposed; they either hold snakes in their hands or have them wrapped around them. Their phallic quality merges the underworld and fertility into one living symbol.

Initiation was a central part of Cretan life as every individual at the age of puberty died to his parents, leaving them to be re-born a member of the tribe with the knowledge and responsibility that that entailed. Willetts found a memorial from Kydonia in western Crete mourning the abduction of the fair Mattia by Hades, stating, "I die at twelve years of age, unmarried ... I have left the light and lie in the depths in Persephone's murky chamber." This chamber (thalamos) implies a store-room where seed-corn was often put in underground pits so that it might be fertilized by contact with the dead. (Willetts Cretan Cults, p. 149)

Being a goddess of the underworld has certain darker functions in association with the Erinyes, or Furies who guard the tombs of the dead. These subterranean deities, according to Willetts, were associated with Demeter and Persephone, indicating their Cretan origin. (Ibid. 197-198) Homer gives an example of how deities are misused.

But my father soon came to know, and cursed me bitterly,
calling the dread Erinyes to witness.
He prayed that no son of mine might ever sit upon my knees
—and the gods, Zeus of the world below
and awful Persephone, fulfilled his curse.

(Iliad IX 454-457)

Maiden (Kore) and Queen of the Underworld

A Hymn to Proserpine by Orpheus:

Daughter of Jove, Persephone divine,
Come, blessed queen, and to these rites incline:
Only-begotten, Pluto's honored wife,
O venerable Goddess, source of life:
'Tis thine in earth's profundities to dwell
Past by the wide and dismal gates of hell.
Jove's holy offspring, of a beauteous mien,
Avenging Goddess, subterranean queen.
The Furies' source, fair-hair'd, whose frame proceeds
from Jove's ineffable and secret seeds.
Mother of Bacchus, sonorous, divine,
And many-form'd, the parent of the vine.
Associate of the Seasons, essence bright,
All-ruling virgin, bearing heav'nly light.
With fruits abounding, of a bounteous mind,
Horn'd, and alone desir'd by those of mortal kind.
O vernal queen, whom grassy plains delight,
Sweet to the smell, and pleasing to the sight:
Whose holy form in budding fruits we view,
Earth's vig'rous offspring of a various hue:
Espous'd in autumn, life and death alone
To wretched mortals from thy pow'r is known:
For thine the task, according to thy will,
Life to produce, and all that lives to kill.
Hear, blessed Goddess, send a rich increase
Of various fruits from earth, with lovely peace:
Send Health with gentle hand, and crown my life
With blest abundance, free from noisy strife;
Last in extreme old age the prey of Death,
Dismiss me willing to the realms beneath,
To thy fair palace and the blissful plains
Where happy spirits dwell, and Pluto reigns.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )

Nonnus of the fifth century CE gives this poetic premonition:

Not the Father alone felt desire;
but all that dwelt in Olympus had the same,
struck by one bolt,
and wooed for a union with Deo’s divine daughter.
Then Deo lost the brightness of her rosy face,
her swelling heart was lashed by sorrows.
She untied the fruitful frontlet from her head,
and shook loose the long locks of hair over her neck,
trembling for her girl;
the cheeks of the goddess were moistened
with self-running tears, in her sorrow
that so many voters had been stung with one fiery shot
for a struggle of rival wooing, by maddening Eros,
all contending together for their loves.
(Nonnus Dionysiaca VI, 3-12)

The most significant poetic work recounting the mythology behind the Eleusinian Mysteries is the Homeric Hymn to Demeter of the seventh century BC.

I begin to sing of rich-haired Demeter, awful goddess—
of her and her trim-ankled daughter whom Aidoneus
rapt away, given to him by all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer.

Apart from Demeter lady of the golden sword
and glorious fruits, she was playing
with the deep-bosomed daughters of Oceanus
and gathering flowers over a soft meadow,
roses and crocuses and beautiful violets, irises also
and hyacinths and the narcissus, which Earth made to grow
at the will of Zeus and to please the Host of Many,
to be a snare for the bloom-like girl—
a marvelous, radiant flower.
It was a thing of awe whether for deathless gods
or mortal men to see:  from its root grew
a hundred blooms, and it smelled most sweetly,
so that all wide heaven above and the whole earth
and the sea’s salt swell laughed for joy.

And the girl was amazed
and reached out with both hands to take the lovely toy;
but the wide-pathed earth yawned there in the plain of Nysa,
and the lord, Host of Many, with his immortal horses
sprang out upon her—the Son of Cronos,
He who has many names. 

He caught her up reluctant on his golden car
and bare her away lamenting.
Then she cried out shrilly with her voice,
calling upon her father, the Son of Cronos,
who is most high and excellent.
(Homeric Hymn To Demeter 1-21)

Later reunited with her mother, Persephone tells Demeter how Hades took her by force.

Also I will tell how he rapt me away
by the deep plan of my father the Son of Cronos
and carried me off beneath the depths of the earth,
and will relate the whole matter as you ask.
All we were playing in a lovely meadow, Leucippe and Phaeno
and Electra and Ianthe, Melito also and Iache with Rhodea
and Callirhoe and Melobosis and Tyche
and Ocyrhoe, fair as a flower, Chryseis, Ianeira, Acaste
and Admete and Rhodope and Pluto and charming Calypso;
Styx too was there and Urania and lovely Galaxaura
with Pallas who rouses battles
and Artemis delighting in arrows:
we were playing and gathering sweet flowers in our hands,
soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths
and rose-blooms and lilies, marvelous to see,
and the narcissus which the wide earth
caused to grow yellow as a crocus.
That I plucked in my joy; but the earth parted beneath,
and there the strong lord, the Host of Many,
sprang forth and in his golden chariot he bore me away,
all unwilling, beneath the earth: then I cried with a shrill cry.

(Homeric Hymn To Demeter 411-432)

The innocence of sweet youth is a flower until plucked. Then sex and death separate the daughter from the mother. Just as maidenhood dies in sex, conceiving a birth to be, so death ends life promising eventual resurrection. The cycles of nature depend upon the fertilization of the old by death bringing new life to birth. As flowers are indicative of the richness of natural life, so beautiful girls are the greatest boon to human reproduction. Diodorus of Sicily gives this account:

Again, the fact that the Rape of Kore took place in Sicily is,
men say, proof most evident
that the goddesses made this island their favorite retreat
because it was cherished by them before all others.
And the Rape of Kore, the myth relates,
took place in the meadows in the territory of Enna.
The spot is near the city,
a place of striking beauty for its violets
and every other kind of flower and worthy of the goddess.
And the story is told that,
because of the sweet odor of the flowers growing there,
trained hunting dogs are unable to hold the trail,
because their natural sense of smell is balked.
And the meadow we have mentioned is level in the center
and well watered throughout, but on its periphery
it rises high and falls off with precipitous cliffs on every side.
And it is conceived of as lying in the very center of the island,
which is the reason why
certain writers call it the navel in Sicily.
Near to it also are sacred groves, surrounded by marshy flats,
to the north, and through it, the myth relates,
Pluton, coming out with his chariot, effected the rape of Kore.
And the violets, we are told, and the rest of the flowers
which supply the sweet odor continue to bloom,
to one’s amazement, throughout the entire year,
and so the whole aspect of the place
is one of flowers and delight.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 3)

Sicily was renowned for its fertility in antiquity as Pindar also associates Persephone's abduction with this island.

Sow then some seed of fame athwart the isle,
that Zeus, the lord of Olympus, gave to Persephone,
and shook his locks in token unto her that,
as queen of the teeming earth, the fertile island of Sicily
would be raised to renown by the wealth of her glorious cities.
(Pindar The Nemean Odes I, 14)

Ovid's version:

Within this grove Proserpina was playing,
and gathering violets or white lilies.
And while with girlish eagerness
she was filling her basket and her bosom,
and striving to surpass her mates in gathering,
almost in one act did Pluto see and love and carry her away:
so precipitate was his love.
The terrified girl called plaintively on her mother
and her companions, but more often upon her mother.
(Ovid Metamorphoses V, 391-398)

Orpheus sings the praises of Hades, or Pluto, lord of the underworld and host to the many that pass through the veil of death.

To Pluto

O mighty daemon, whose decision dread,
The future fate determines of the dead,
With captive Proserpina, through grassy plains,
Drawn in a four-yoked car with loosened reins,
Rapt o'er the deep, impelled by love, you flew
Till Eleusina's city rose to view:
There, in a wondrous cave obscure and deep,
The sacred maid secure from search you keep,
The cave of Atthis, whose wide gates display
An entrance to the kingdoms void of day.
Of works unseen and seen thy power alone
To be the great dispensing source is known.
All-ruling, holy God, with glory bright,
Thee sacred poets and their hymns delight,
Propitious to thy mystics' works incline,
Rejoicing come, for holy rites are thine.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus )

Pausanias gives these two descriptions of Pluto's door to the underworld:

At Eleusis flows the Cephisus, a more impetuous stream
than the Cephisus mentioned before.
Beside it is a place which they call Erineus.
They say that Pluto,
when he carried off the Maid, descended here.
(Pausanias Description of Greece I, 38:5)

Having returned to the direct road,
you will cross the Erasinus and come to the Chimarrhus river.
Near it is an enclosure of stones:
they say that when Pluto, as the story goes,
ravished Demeter’s daughter, the Maid,
he here descended to his supposed subterranean realm.
Lerna is, as I said before, beside the sea,
and they celebrate mysteries here
in honor of Lernaean Demeter.

(Pausanias II, 36:7)

Diodorus again:

That the rape of Kore took place
in the manner we have described
is attested by many ancient historians and poets.
Carcinus the tragic poet, for instance,
who often visited in Syracuse and witnessed the zeal
which the inhabitants displayed in the sacrifices
and festive gatherings for both Demeter and Kore,
has the following verses in his writings:

Demeter's daughter, her whom none may name,
By secret schemings Pluton, men say, stole,
And then he dropped into earth's depths, whose light
Is darkness. Longing for the vanished girl
Her mother searched and visited all lands
In turn. And Sicily's land by Aetna's crags
Was filled with streams of fire which no man could
Approach, and groaned throughout its length; in grief
Over the maiden now the folk, beloved
Of Zeus, was perishing without the corn.
Hence honor they these goddesses e'en now.

But we should not omit to mention the very great benefaction
which Demeter conferred upon mankind;
for beside the fact that she was the discoverer of corn,
she also taught mankind how to prepare it for food
and introduced laws by obedience to which
men became accustomed to the practice of justice,
this being the reason, we are told, why she
has been given the epithet Thesmophoros or Lawgiver.
Surely a benefaction
greater than these discoveries of hers one could not find;
for they embrace both living and living honorably.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 5)

Mother of the Mysteries and the Grain

Teiresias: Two things there are, young prince,
That hold first rank among men, the goddess Demeter,
that is, the earth, call her which name you please;
she it is that feeds men with solid food.
(Euripides The Bacchantes 274)

Ceres was the first to turn the glebe
with the hooked plow-share; she first gave laws.
All things are the gift of Ceres;
she must be the subject of my song.
(Ovid Metamorphoses V, 341-344)

To Ceres

O universal mother, Ceres fam'd,
August, the source of wealth, and various nam'd:
Great nurse, all-bounteous, blessed and divine,
Who joy'st in peace; to nourish corn is thine.
Goddess of seed, of fruits abundant, fair,
Harvest and threshing are thy constant care.
Lovely delightful queen, by all desir'd,
Who dwell'st in Eleusina's holy vales retired.
Nurse of all mortals, whose benignant mind
First ploughing oxen to the yoke confin'd;
And gave to men what nature's wants require,
With plenteous means of bliss, which all desire.
In verdure flourishing, in glory bright,
Assessor of great Bacchus, bearing light:
Rejoicing in the reapers' sickles, kind,
Whose nature lucid, earthly, pure, we find.
Prolific, venerable, nurse divine,
Thy daughter loving, holy Proserpine.
A car with dragons yok'd 'tis thine to guide,
And, orgies singing, round thy throne to ride.
only-begotten, much-producing queen,
All flowers are thine, and fruits of lovely green.
Bright Goddess, come, with summer's rich increase
Swelling and pregnant , leading smiling Peace;
Come with fair Concord and imperial Health,
And join with these a needful store of wealth.
(Taylor Mystical Hymns of Orpheus)

Diodorus gives this general account of Demeter and the bestowal of agriculture:

And Demeter since the corn still grew wild together
with the other plants and was still unknown to men,
was the first to gather it in,
to devise how to prepare and preserve it,
and to instruct mankind how to sow it.
Now she had discovered the corn
before she gave birth to her daughter Persephone,
but after the birth of her daughter
and the rape of her by Pluton,
she burned all the fruit of the corn,
both because of her anger at Zeus
and because of her grief over her daughter.
After she had found Persephone, however,
she became reconciled with Zeus
and gave Triptolemus the corn to sow,
instructing him both to share the gift with men everywhere
and to teach them everything
concerned with the labor of sowing.
And some men say that it was she also who introduced laws,
by obedience to which men have become accustomed
to deal justly one with another,
and that mankind has called this goddess Thesmophoros
after the laws which she gave them.
And since Demeter has been responsible
for the greatest blessing to mankind, she has been accorded
the most notable honors and sacrifices,
and magnificent feasts and festivals as well,
not only by the Greeks, but also by almost all barbarians
who have partaken of this kind of food.

There is dispute about the discovery
of the fruit of the corn on the part of many peoples,
who claim that they were the first among whom
the goddess was seen and to whom she made known
both the nature and use of the corn.
The Egyptians, for example,
say that Demeter and Isis are the same,
and that she was first to bring the seed to Egypt,
since the river Nile waters the fields at the proper time
and that land enjoys the most temperate seasons.
Also the Athenians, though they assert that
the discovery of this fruit took place in their country,
are nevertheless witnesses to its having been brought
to Attica from some other region; for the place
which originally received this gift they call Eleusis,
from the fact that the seed of the corn came from others
and was conveyed to them.
But the inhabitants of Sicily, dwelling as they do on an island
which is sacred to Demeter and Kore, say that it is reasonable
to believe that the gift of which we are speaking
was made to them first, since the land they cultivate
is the one the goddess holds most dear;
for it would be strange indeed, they maintain,
for the goddess to take for her on, so to speak,
a land which is the most fertile known and yet to give it,
the last of all, a share in her benefaction,
as though it were nothing to her,
especially since she has her dwelling there, all men agreeing
that the Rape of Kore took place on this island.
Moreover, this land is the best adapted for these fruit,
even as the poet also says:

But all these things grow there for them unsown
And e’en untilled, both wheat and barley.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 68-69)


Zeus entered also into the bed of fruitful Demeter
who bore him Persephone of the white arms,
she that Aidoneus ravished away from her mother,
and Zeus of the counsels granted it.
(Theogony 912-914)

Demeter, shining among goddesses, after the embraces
of the hero Iasion in the sweetness of love,
brought forth Ploutos in a thrice-plowed field there
in the fertile countryside of Crete,
a good son, who walks over earth
and the sea’s wide ridges everywhere,
and he who meets him with the giving of hands between them
is made a prosperous man, to whom great wealth is granted.
(Theogony 969-974)

Crete was also the locale for this version from Homer's Odyssey :

So again when Demeter fell in love with Iasion,
and yielded to him in a thrice-ploughed fallow field,
Zeus came to hear of it before so very long
and killed Iasion with his thunderbolts.
Odyssey V, 125

Diodorus recounts elaborations of these myths, giving insights into the mysteries.

But Zeus desired that the other of his two sons
might also attain to honor, and so he instructed him
in the initiatory rite of the mysteries,
which had existed on the island since ancient times
but was at that time, so to speak, put in his hands;
it is not lawful, however,
for any but the initiated to hear about the mysteries.
And Iasion is reputed to have been the first
to initiate strangers into them
and by this means to bring the initiatory rite to high esteem....
And Demeter, becoming enamored of Iasion,
presented him with the fruit of the corn....
To Iasion and Demeter, according to the story
the myths relate, was born Plutus or Wealth,
but the reference is, as a matter of fact,
to the wealth of the corn, which was presented to Iasion
because of Demeter’s association with him
at the time of the wedding of Harmonia.
Now the details of the initiatory rite are guarded
among the matters not to be divulged
and are communicated to the initiates alone;
but the fame has traveled wide
of how these gods appear to mankind
and bring unexpected aid to those initiates of theirs
who call upon them in the midst of perils.
The claim is also made that men who have taken part
in the mysteries become both more pious and more just
and better in every respect than they were before.
And this is the reason, we are told, why the most famous
both of the ancient heroes and of the demi-gods
were eagerly desirous of taking part in the initiatory rite;
and in fact Jason and the Dioscuri,
and Heracles and Orpheus as well, after their initiation
attained success in all the campaigns they undertook,
because these gods appeared to them.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 48, 49)

Diodorus also recounts the myth which stands behind the symbolic birth of the divine child.

Plutus, we are told, was born in Cretan Tripolus to Demeter
and Iasion, and there is a double account of his origin.
For some men say that the earth, when it was sowed
once by Iasion and given proper cultivation,
brought forth such an abundance of fruits
that those who saw this bestowed a special name
upon the abundance of fruits when they appear
and called it plutus (wealth);
consequently it has become traditional
among later generations to say that men
who have acquired more than they actually need have Plutus.
But there are some who recount the myth that
a son was born to Demeter and Iasion
whom they named Plutus, and that he was the first
to introduce diligence into the life of man
and the acquisition and safeguarding of property,
all men up to that time having been neglectful
of amassing and guarding diligently any store of property.

Diodorus Siculus V, 77

These accounts of Iasion and Plutus jump ahead of our story, for we left Persephone screaming for help as the Lord of the Underworld carried her off. The Homeric Hymn continues:

But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men,
heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit:
only tender-hearted Hecate, bright-coifed,
the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her care,
and the lord Helios, Hyperion’s bright son,
as she cried to her father, the Son of Cronos.
But he was sitting aloof, apart from the gods,
in his temple where many pray,
and receiving sweet offerings from mortal men.
So he, that Son of Cronos, of many names,
who is Ruler of Many and Host of Many,
was bearing her away by leave of Zeus
on his immortal chariot—
his own brother’s child and all unwilling.

And so long as she, the goddess, yet beheld earth
and starry heaven and the strong-flowing sea
where fishes shoal and the rays of the sun,
and still hoped to see her dear mother
and the tribes of the eternal gods,
so long hope calmed her great heart for all her trouble,
and the heights of the mountains and the depths of the sea
rang with her immortal voice:
and her queenly mother heard her.

Bitter pain seized her heart, and she rent
the covering upon her divine hair with her dear hand:
her dark cloak she cast down from both her shoulders
and sped, like a wild bird, over the firm land and yielding sea,
seeking her child.
But no one would tell her the truth,
neither god nor mortal man;
and of the birds of omen none came with true news for her.
Then for nine days queenly Deo wandered over the earth
with flaming torches in her hands, so grieved that
she never tasted ambrosia and the sweet draught of nectar,
nor sprinkled her body with water.
(To Demeter 22-50)

Callimachus indicates how these legends may have been incorporated into rites of initiation:

As the basket comes, greet it, you women,
saying “Demeter, greatly hail!
Lady of much bounty, of many measures of corn.”
As the basket comes, from the ground you shall see it,
you uninitiated, and gaze not from the roof or from aloft—
child nor wife nor maid that has shed her hair—
neither then nor when we spit from parched mouths fasting.
Hesperus from the clouds marks the time of its coming:
Hesperus, who alone persuaded Demeter to drink, that time
she pursued the unknown tracks of her stolen daughter,

Lady, how were your feet able to carry you to the West,
to the black men and where the golden apples are?
You did not drink nor did you eat during that time
nor did you wash.
Thrice did you cross Achelous with his silver eddies and as
often did you pass over each of the ever-flowing rivers,
and thrice did you seat yourself on the ground
beside the fountain Callichorus,
parched and without drinking, and did not eat nor wash.

Nay, nay, let us not speak of that
which brought the tear to Deo!
Better to tell how she gave to cities pleasing ordinances;
better to tell how she was the first to cut straw
and holy sheaves of corn-ears and put in oxen to tread them,
that time Triptolemus was taught the good craft.
(Callimachus To Demeter 1-24)

The Homeric Hymn recounts how Demeter finally gets some information:

But when the tenth enlightening dawn had come,
Hecate, with a torch in her hands met her,
and spoke to her and told her news:

Queenly Demeter, bringer of seasons
and giver of good gifts, what god of heaven
or what mortal man has rapt away Persephone
and pierced with sorrow your dear heart?
For I heard her voice, yet saw not with my eyes who it was.
But I tell you truly and shortly all I know.”

So, then, said Hecate.
And the daughter of rich-haired Rhea answered her not
but sped swiftly with her,
holding flaming torches in her hands.
So they came to Helios,
who is watchman of both gods and men,
and stood in front of his horses:
and the bright goddess inquired of him:
“Helios, do you at least regard me, goddess as I am,
if ever by word or deed of mine
I have cheered your heart and spirit.
Through the fruitless air I heard the thrilling cry
of my daughter whom I bare,
sweet scion of my body and lovely in form,
as of one seized violently; though with my eyes I saw nothing.
But you—for with your beams you look down
from the bright upper air over all the earth and sea—
tell me truly of my dear child, if you have seen her anywhere,
what god or mortal man has violently seized her
against her will and mine, and so made off.”

So said she. And the Son of Hyperion answered her:
“Queen Demeter, daughter of rich-haired Rhea,
I will tell you the truth; for I greatly reverence and pity you
in your grief for your trim-ankled daughter.
None other of the deathless gods is to blame,
but only cloud-gathering Zeus who gave her to Hades,
her father’s brother, to be called his buxom wife.
And Hades seized her and took her loudly crying
in his chariot down to his realm of mist and gloom.
Yet, goddess, cease your loud lament
and keep not vain anger unrelentingly:
Aidoneus, the Ruler of Many, is no unfitting husband
among the deathless gods for your child,
being your own brother and born of the same stock:
also, for honor, he has that third share
which he received when division was made at the first,
and is appointed lord of those among whom he dwells.”

So he spoke, and called to his horses:
and at his chiding they quickly whirled the swift chariot along,
like long winged-birds.

But grief yet more terrible and savage
came into the heart of Demeter,
and thereafter she was so angered
with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos
that she avoided the gathering of the gods and high Olympus,
and went to the towns and rich fields of men,
disfiguring her form a long while.
And no one of men or deep-bosomed women knew her
when they saw her, until she came to the house
of wise Celeus who then was lord of fragrant Eleusis.
Vexed in her dear heart, she sat near the wayside
by the Maiden Well, from which the women of the place
were used to draw water,
in a shady place over which grew an olive shrub.
(Homeric Hymn to Demeter 51-100)

This well is mentioned by Callimachus:

You sat at the well Callichoron, without news of your child.
(Fragment 611)

Pausanias also describes the well which must have given the initiates a great sense of historicity to the plight of Demeter, and was the focal point for ritual dancing at the celebrations.

Another road leads from Eleusis to Megara.
Following this road we come to a well called the Flowery Well.
The poet Pamphos says that Demeter sat on this well
in the likeness of an old woman
after the rape of her daughter;
and that thence she was conducted,
in the character of an old woman,
by the daughter of Celeus to their mother Metanira,
who entrusted her with the upbringing of the boy.
A little way from the well is a sanctuary of Metanira.
(Pausanias I, 39, 1-2)

The Hymn continues, soon to come to Metaneira's part, but first Demeter's disguise:

And she was like an ancient woman who is cut off
from child bearing and the gifts of garland-loving Aphrodite,
like the nurses of king’s children who deal justice,
or like the house-keepers in their echoing halls.
There the daughters of Celeus, son of Eleusis, saw her,
as they were coming for easy-drawn water,
to carry it in pitchers of bronze to their dear father’s house:
four were they and like goddesses
in the flower of their girlhood, Callidice and Cleisidice
and lovely Demo and Callithoe who was the eldest of them all.
They knew her not—
for the gods are not easily discerned by mortals—
but standing near by her spoke winged words:

Old mother, whence and who are you
of folk born long ago?
Why are you gone away from the city
and do not draw near the houses?
For there in the shady halls are
women of just such age as you, and others younger;
and they would welcome you both by word and by deed.”

Thus they said. And she,
that queen among goddesses answered them saying:
“Hail, dear children, whosoever you are of womankind.
I will tell you my story;
for it is not unseemly that I should tell you truly what you ask.
Doso is my name, for my stately mother gave it me.
And now I am come from Crete over the sea’s wide back—
not willingly; but pirates brought me thence
by force of strength against my liking.
Afterwards they put in with their swift craft to Thoricus,
and there the women landed on the shore in full throng
and the men likewise, and they began to make ready
a meal by the stern cables of the ship.
But my heart craved not pleasant food,
and I fled secretly across the dark country
and escaped my master,
that they should not take me unpurchased across the sea,
there to win a price for me.
And so I wandered and am come here:
and I know not at all what land this is or what people are in it.
But may all those who dwell on Olympus
give you husbands and birth of children as parents desire,
so you take pity on me, maidens,
and show me this clearly that I may learn, dear children,
to the house of what man and woman I may go,
to work for them cheerfully at such tasks
as belong to a woman of my age.
Well could I nurse a new-born child, holding him in my arms,
or keep house, or spread my master’s bed
in a recess of the well-built chamber,
or teach the women their work.”

So said the goddess.
And straightway the unwed maiden Callidice,
goodliest in form of the daughters of Celeus,
answered her and said:

Mother, what the gods send us,
we mortals bear perforce, although we suffer;
for they are much stronger than we.
But now I will teach you clearly, telling you the name of men
who have great power and honor here
and are chief among the people,
guarding our city’s coif of towers
by their wisdom and true judgments:
there is wise Triptolemus and Dioclus and Polyxeinus
and blameless Eumolpus and Dolichus
and our own brave father.
All these have wives who manage in the house,
and no one of them so soon as she had seen you,
would dishonor you and turn you from the house,
but they will welcome you; for indeed you are godlike.
But if you will, stay here; and we will go to our father’s house
and tell Metaneira, our deep-bosomed mother,
all this matter fully, that she may bid you rather
come to our home than search after the houses of others.
She has an only son, late-born,
who is being nursed in our well-built house,
a child of many prayers and welcome: if you could
bring him up until he reached the full measure of youth,
any one of womankind who should see you
would straightway envy you,
such gifts would our mother give for his upbringing.”

So she spoke: and the goddess bowed her head in assent.
And they filled their shining vessels with water
and carried them off rejoicing.
Quickly they came to their father’s great house
and straightway told their mother
according as they had heard and seen.
Then she bade them go with all speed
and invite the stranger to come for a measureless hire.
As hinds or heifers in spring time, when sated with pasture,
bound about a meadow, so they, holding up the folds
of their lovely garments, darted down the hollow path,
and their hair like a crocus flower
streamed about their shoulders.
And they found the good goddess near the wayside
where they had left her before
and led her to the house of their dear father.
And she walked behind, distressed in her dear heart,
with her head veiled and wearing a dark cloak
which waved about the slender feet of the goddess.

Soon they came to the house of heaven-nurtured Celeus
and went through the portico to where their queenly mother
sat by a pillar of the close-fitted roof, holding her son,
a tender scion, in her bosom.
And the girls ran to her.
But the goddess walked to the threshold:
and her head reached the roof
and she filled the doorway with a heavenly radiance.
Then awe and reverence and pale fear
took hold of Metaneira, and she rose up
from her couch before Demeter, and bade her be seated.
But Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of perfect gifts,
would not sit upon the bright couch,
but stayed silent with lovely eyes cast down
until careful Iambe placed a jointed seat for her
and threw over it a silvery fleece.
Then she sat down
and held her veil in her hands before her face.
A long time she sat upon the stool without speaking
because of her sorrow,
and greeted no one by word or by sign,
but rested, never smiling and tasting neither food nor drink,
because she pined with longing
for her deep-bosomed daughter, until careful Iambe—
who pleased her moods in aftertime also—
moved the holy lady with many a quip and jest
to smile and laugh and cheer her heart.
Then Metaneira filled a cup with sweet wine
and offered it to her; but she refused it,
for she said it was not lawful for her to drink red wine,
but bade them mix meal and water with soft mint
and give her to drink.
And Metaneira mixed the draught
and gave it to the goddess as she bade.
So the great queen Deo received it to observe the sacrament.
(Homeric Hymn to Demeter 101-212)

This draught (kykeon) was drunk as a sacrament breaking the fast on the climactic day of celebrations. Nonnus gives a reason for Demeter's fast:

But Deo refused to drink,
being tipsy with Persephone’s trouble:
parents of an only child ever tremble
for their beloved children.
(Dionysiaca VI, 30-32)

Ovid's version:

Meanwhile all in vain the affrighted mother
seeks her daughter in every land, on every deep.
Not Aurora rising with dewy tresses,
not Hesperus sees her pausing in the search.
She kindles two pine torches in the fires of Aetna,
and wanders without rest through the frosty shades of night;
again, when the genial day had dimmed the stars,
she was still seeking her daughter
from the setting to the rising of the sun.
Faint with toil and athirst,
she had moistened her lips in no fountain,
when she chanced to see a hut thatched with straw,
and knocked at its lowly door.
Then out came an old woman and beheld the goddess,
and when she asked for water gave her a sweet drink
with parched barley floating upon it.
While she drank, a coarse, saucy boy stood watching her,
and mocked her and called her greedy.
She was offended, and threw what she had not yet drunk,
with the barley grain, full in his face.
(Metamorphoses V, 438-452)

The constant reference to torches in these tales adds authenticity to the torches used in the initiation rituals. Diodorus' account gives much useful information including the knowledge that the celebrations of Persephone are in gratitude for plentiful crops, those of Demeter in propitiation before the sowing.

After the Rape of Kore, the myth goes on to recount,
Demeter, being unable to find her daughter,
kindled torches in the craters of Mt. Aetna
and visited many parts of the inhabited world,
and upon the men who received her with the greatest favor

she conferred benefactions,
rewarding them with the gift of the fruit of the wheat.
And since a more kindly welcome was extended the goddess
by the Athenians than by any other people,
they were the first after the Siceliotae
to be given the fruit of the wheat;
and in return for this gift the citizens of that city in assembly
honored the goddess above all others
with the establishment both of most notable sacrifices
and of the mysteries of Eleusis,
which, by reason of their very great antiquity and sanctity,
have come to be famous among all mankind.
From the Athenians many peoples received
a portion of the gracious gift of the corn, and they in turn,
sharing the gift of the seed with their neighbors,
in this way caused all the inhabited world to abound with it.
And the inhabitants of Sicily, since by reason of
the intimate relationship of Demeter and Kore with them
they were the first to share in the corn after its discovery,
instituted to each one of the goddesses
sacrifices and festive gatherings, which they name after them,
and by the time chosen for these made acknowledgment
of the gifts which had been conferred upon them.
In the case of Kore, for instance, they established
the celebration of her return at about the time
when the fruit of the corn was found to come to maturity,
and they celebrate this sacrifice and festive gathering
with such strictness of observance and such zeal
as we should reasonably expect those men to show
who are returning thanks for having been selected
before all mankind for the greatest possible gift;
but in the case of Demeter they preferred that time
for the sacrifice when the sowing of the corn is first begun,
and for a period of ten days they hold a festive gathering
which bears the name of this goddess and is most magnificent
by reason of the brilliance of their preparation for it,
while in the observance of it
they imitate the ancient manner of life.
And it is their custom during these days to indulge
in coarse language as they associate one with another,
the reason being that by such coarseness the goddess,
grieved though she was of the Rape of Kore,
burst into laughter.
(Diodorus Siculus V, 4)

The Homeric Hymn continues the tale of Demeter's episode as a nurse:

And of them all, well-girded Metaneira
first began to speak: “Hail, lady!
For I think you are not meanly but nobly born;
truly dignity and grace are conspicuous upon your eyes
as in the eyes of kings that deal justice.
Yet we mortals bear perforce what the gods send us,
though we be grieved; for a yoke is set upon our necks.
But now since you are come here,
you shall have what I can bestow:
and nurse me this child whom the gods gave me
in my old age and beyond my hope, a son much prayed for.
If you should bring him up

until he reach the full measure of youth,
any one of womankind that sees you
will straightway envy you,
so great reward would I give for his upbringing.”

Then rich-haired Demeter answered her: “And to you,
also, lady, all hail, and may the gods give you good!
Gladly will I take the boy to my breast,
as you bid me, and will nurse him.
Never, I ween, through any heedlessness of his nurse
shall witchcraft hurt him nor yet the Undercutter:
for I know a charm far stronger than the Woodcutter,
and I know an excellent safeguard against woeful witchcraft.”

When she had so spoken, she took the child
in her fragrant bosom with her divine hands:
and his mother was glad in her heart.
So the goddess nursed in the palace Demophoön,
wise Celeus’ goodly son whom well-girded Metaneira bare.
And the child grew like some immortal being,
not fed with food nor nourished at the breast:
for by day rich-crowned Demeter would anoint him
with ambrosia as if he were the offspring of a god
and breathe sweetly upon him as she held him in her bosom,
but at night she would hide him
like a brand in the heart of the fire
unknown to his dear parents.
And it wrought great wonder in these
that he grew beyond his age;
for he was like the gods face to face.
And she would have made him deathless and unageing,
had not well-girded Metaneira in her heedlessness kept watch
by night from her sweet-smelling chamber and spied.
But she wailed and smote her two hips,
because she feared for her son
and was greatly distraught in her heart,
so she lamented and uttered winged words:

Demophoon, my son, the strange woman buries you
deep in fire and works grief and bitter sorrow for me.”

Thus she spoke, mourning.
And the bright goddess, lovely crowned Demeter, heard her,
and was wroth with her.
So with her divine hands she snatched from the fire
the dear son whom Metaneira had born
unhoped-for in the palace,
and cast him from her to the ground;
for she was terribly angry in her heart.
Forthwith she said to well-girded Metaneira:

Witless are you mortals and dull to foresee your lot,
whether of good or evil, that comes upon you.
For now in your heedlessness
you have wrought folly past healing; for—
be witness the oath of the gods, the relentless water of Styx--
I would have made your dear son deathless
and unageing all his day
and would have bestowed on him everlasting honor,
but now he can in no way escape death and the fates.
Yet shall unfailing honor always rest upon him,
because he lay upon my knees and slept in my arms.
But, as the years move round and when he is in his prime,
the sons of the Eleusinian shall ever wage war
and dread strife with one another continually.
Lo! I am that Demeter who has share of honor
and is the greatest help and cause of joy
to the undying gods and mortal men.
But now, let all the people build me a great temple
and an altar below it and beneath the city
and its sheer wall upon a rising hillock above Callichorus.
And I myself will teach my rites,
that hereafter you may reverently perform them
and so win the favor of my heart.”

When she had so said, the goddess changed her stature
and her looks, thrusting old age away from her:
beauty spread round about her and a lovely fragrance
was wafted from her sweet-smelling robes,
and from the divine body of the goddess a light shone afar,
while golden tresses spread down over her shoulders,
so that the strong house was filled with brightness
as with lightning.
And so she went out from the palace.

And straightway Metaneira’s knees were loosed,
and she remained speechless for a long while
and did not remember to take up
her late-born son from the ground.
But his sisters heard his pitiful wailing
and sprang down from their well-spread bed:
one of them took up the child in her arms
and laid him in her bosom while another revived the fire,
and a third rushed with soft feet
to bring their mother from her fragrant chamber.
And they gathered about the struggling child and washed him,
embracing him lovingly; but he was not comforted,
because nurse and handmaids much less skillful
were holding him now.

All night long they sought to appease
the glorious goddess, quaking with fear.
But, as soon as dawn began to show,
they told powerful Celeus all things without fail,
as the lovely-crowned goddess Demeter charged them.
So Celeus called the countless people to an assembly
and bade them make a goodly temple for rich-haired Demeter
and an altar upon the rising hillock.
And they obeyed him right speedily and harkened to his voice,
doing as he commanded.
As for the child, he grew like an immortal being.

Now when they had finished building
and had drawn back from their toil,
they went every man to his house.
But golden-haired Demeter sat there
apart from all the blessed gods and stayed,
wasting with yearning for her deep-bosomed daughter.
Then she caused a most dreadful and cruel year
for mankind over the all-nourishing earth:
the ground would not make the seed sprout,
for rich-crowned Demeter kept it hid.
In the fields the oxen drew many a curved plough in vain,
and much white barley was cast upon the land without avail.
(Homeric Hymn to Demeter 310-411)

Ovid's version of the famine:

She did not know as yet where her child was;
still she reproached all lands, calling them ungrateful
and unworthy of the gift of corn;
but Sicily above all other lands,
where she had found traces of her loss.
So there with angry hand she broke in pieces
the plows that turn the glebe, and in her rage
she gave to destruction farmers and cattle alike, and bade
the plowed fields to betray their trust, and blighted the seed.
The fertility of this land, famous throughout the world,
lay false to its good name: the crops died in early blade,
now too much heat, now too much rain destroying them.
Stars and winds were baleful,
and greedy birds ate up the seed as soon as it was sown;
tares and thorns and stubborn grasses choked the wheat.
(Metamorphoses V, 474-486)

The chorus of Euripides' Helen sings the tale and solves it with music.

Through wooded glen, o’er torrent’s flood,
and ocean’s booming waves rushed the mountain goddess,
mother of the gods, in frantic hate, once long ago,
yearning for her daughter lost,
whose name men dare not utter;
loudly rattled the Bacchic castanets in shrill accord,
what time those maidens, swift as whirlwinds, sped forth
with the goddess on her chariot yoked to wild creatures
in quest of her that was ravished
from the circling choir of virgins;
here was Artemis with her bow,
and there the grim-eyed goddess,
sheathed in mail, and spear in hand.
But Zeus looked down from his throne in heaven,
and turned the issue over whither.
Soon as the mother ceased from her wild wandering toil,
in seeking her daughter stolen
so subtly as to baffle all pursuit,
she crossed the snow-capped heights of Ida’s nymphs;
and in anguish cast her down
amongst the rock and brushwood deep in snow;
and, denying to man all increase to his tillage
from those barren fields, she wasted the human race;
nor would she let the leafy tendrils yield luxuriant fodder
for the cattle wherefore many a beast lay dying;
no sacrifice was offered to the gods,
and on the altars were no cake to burn;
yea, and she made the dew-fed founts of crystal water
to cease their flow, in her insatiate sorrow for her child.
But when for god and tribes of men alike
she made an end to festal cheer,
Zeus spoke out, seeking to smooth the mother’s moody soul,
“Ye stately Graces, go banish from Demeter’s angry heart
the grief her wanderings bring upon her for her child,
and go, ye Muses too, with tuneful choir.”
Thereon did Cypris, fairest of the blessed gods,
first catch up the crashing cymbals, native to that land,
and the drum with tight-stretched skin
and then Demeter smiled, and in her hand did take
the deep-toned flute, well pleased with its loud note.
(Euripides Helen 1303-1361)

The Hymn moves toward reconciliation:

So she would have destroyed the whole race of man
with cruel famine and have robbed them who dwell
on Olympus of their glorious right of gifts and sacrifices,
had not Zeus perceived and marked this in his heart.
First he sent olden-winged Iris
to call rich-haired Demeter, lovely in form.
So he commanded.
And she obeyed the dark-clouded Son of Cronos,
and sped with swift feet across the space between.
She came to the stronghold of fragrant Eleusis,
and there finding dark-cloaked Demeter in her temple,
spoke to her and uttered winged words:

Demeter, father Zeus, whose wisdom is everlasting,
calls you to come join the tribes of the eternal gods:
come therefore, and let not the message
I bring from Zeus pass unobeyed.”

Thus said Iris imploring her.
But Demeter’s heart was not moved.
Then again the father sent forth
all the blessed and eternal gods besides:
and they came, one after the other,
and kept calling her and offering many very beautiful gifts
and whatever rights she might be pleased
to choose among the deathless gods.
Yet no one was able to persuade her mind and will,
so wrath was he in her heart;
but she stubbornly rejected all their words:
for she vowed that she would never set foot
on fragrant Olympus nor let fruit spring out of the ground,
until she beheld with her eyes her own fair-faced daughter.

Now when all-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer heard this,
he sent the Slayer of Argus whose wand is of gold to Erebus,
so that having won over Hades with soft words,
he might lead forth chaste Persephone to the light
from the misty gloom to join the gods,
and that her mother might see her with her eyes
and cease from her anger.
And Hermes obeyed, and leaving the house of Olympus,
straightway sprang down with speed
to the hidden places of the earth.
And he found the lord Hades in his house
seated upon a couch, and his shy mate with him,
much reluctant, because she yearned for her mother.
But she was afar off, brooding on her fell design
because of the deed of the blessed god.
And the strong Slayer of Argus drew near and said:

Dark-haired Hades, ruler over the departed,
father Zeus bids me bring noble Persephone forth
from Erebus unto the gods,
that her mother may see her with her eyes
and cease from her dread anger with the immortals;
for now she plans an awful deed,
to destroy the weakly tribes of earth-born men
by keeping seed hidden beneath the earth,
and so she makes an end of the honors of the undying gods.
For she keeps fearful anger
and does not consort with the gods,
but sits aloof in her fragrant temple,
dwelling in the rocky hold of Eleusis.”

So he said. And Aidoneus, ruler over the dead,
smiled grimly and obeyed the behest of Zeus the king.
For he straightway urged wise Persephone, saying:

Go now, Persephone, to your dark-robed mother, go,
and feel kindly in your heart towards me:
be not so exceedingly cast down;
for I shall be no unfitting husband for you
among the deathless gods,
that am own brother to father Zeus.
And while you are here,
you shall rule all that lives and moves
and shall have the greatest rights among the deathless gods:
those who defraud you and do not appease your power
with offerings, reverently performing rites and paying fit gifts,
shall be punished for evermore.”

When he said this, wise Persephone
was filled with joy and hastily sprang up for gladness.
But he on his part secretly gave her
sweet pomegranate seed to eat,
taking care for himself that he might not remain
continually with grave, dark-robed Demeter.
Then Aidoneus the Ruler of Many openly got ready
his deathless horse beneath the olden chariot.
And she mounted on the chariot,
and the strong Slayer of Argus took reins and whip
in his dear hands and drove forth from the hall,
the horses speeding readily.
Swiftly they traversed their long course,
and neither the sea nor river waters nor grassy glens
nor mountain-peaks checked
the career of the immortal horses,
but they clave the deep air above them as they went.
And Hermes brought them to the place
where rich-crowned Demeter was staying
and checked them before her fragrant temple.

And when Demeter saw them, she rushed forth
as does a Maenad down some thick-wooded mountain,
while Persephone on the other side,
when she saw her mother’s sweet eyes,
left the chariot and horses, and leaped down
to run to her and falling upon her neck, embraced her.
But while Demeter was still holding her dear child in her arms,
her heart suddenly misgave her for some snare,
so that she feared greatly and ceased fondling her daughter
and asked of her at once: “My child, tell me,
surely you have not tasted any food while you were below?
Speak out and hide nothing, but let us both know.
For if you have not, you shall come back from loathly Hades
and live with me and your father
the dark-clouded Son of Cronos
and be honored by all the deathless gods;
but if you have tasted food,
you must go back again beneath the secret place of the earth,
there to dwell a third part of the seasons every year:
yet for the two parts you shall be with me
and the other deathless gods.
But when the earth shall bloom
with the fragrant flowers of spring in every kind,
then from the realm of darkness and gloom thou shalt come
up once more to be a wonder for gods and mortal men.
And now tell me how he rapt you away
to the realm of darkness and gloom,
and by what trick did the strong Host of Many beguile you?”

Then beautiful Persephone answered her thus:
“Mother, I will tell you all without error.
When luck-bringing Hermes came, swift messenger
from my father the Son of Cronos
and the other Sons of Heaven,
bidding me come back from Erebus that you might see me
with your eyes and so cease from your anger
and fearful wrath against the gods,
I sprang up at once for joy;
but he secretly put in my mouth sweet food,
a pomegranate seed, and forced me to taste against my will.”

(Homeric Hymn to Demeter 31-411)

Ovid also mentions the pomegranate seeds, and Jove divides the year in two instead of three.

Proserpina shall return to heaven,
but on one condition only:
if in the lower-world no food has as yet touched her lips.
For so have the fates decreed.”

He spoke; but Ceres was resolved
to have her daughter back.
Not so the fates; for the girl had already broken her fast,
and while, simple child that she was
she wandered in the trim garden,
she had plucked a purple pomegranate
hanging from a bending bough, and peeling off the hard rind,
she had eaten seven of the seeds...

But now Jove, holding the balance
between his brother and his grieving sister,
divides the revolving year into two equal parts.
Now the goddess, the common divinity of two realms,
spends half the months with her mother
and with her husband, half.
(Metamorphoses 530-538, 564-567)

Persephone tells her mother of abduction by the "Host of Many," and then the Hymn draws to a close joyfully.

All this is true, sore though it grieves me to tell the tale.”
So did they then, with hearts at one, greatly cheer
each the other’s soul and spirit with many an embrace:
their heart had relief from their griefs
while each took and gave back joyousness.

Then bright-coifed Hecate came near to them,
and often did she embrace the daughter of holy Demeter:
and from that time the lady Hecate
was minister and companion to Persephone.

And all-seeing Zeus sent a messenger to them,
rich-haired Rhea, to bring dark-cloaked Demeter
to join the families of the gods:
and he promised to give her what rights she should choose
among the deathless gods and agreed that
her daughter should go down for the third part
of the circling year to darkness and gloom,
but for the two parts should live with her mother
and the other deathless gods.
Thus he commanded.
And the goddess did not disobey the message of Zeus;
swiftly she rushed down from the peaks of Olympus
and came to the plain of Rharus rich,
fertile corn-land once, but then in nowise fruitful,
for it lay idle and utterly leafless, because the white grain
was hidden by design of trim-ankled Demeter.
But afterwards, as springtime waxed,
it was soon to be waving with long ears of corn,
and its rich furrows to be loaded with grain upon the ground,
while others would already be bound in sheaves.
There first he landed from the fruitless upper air:
and glad were the goddesses to see each other
and cheered in heart.
Then bright-coifed Rhea said to Demeter:
“Come, my daughter;
for far-seeing Zeus the loud-thunderer calls you
to join the families of the gods,
and has promised to give you
what rights you please among the deathless gods,
and has agreed that for a third part of the circling year
your daughter shall go down to darkness and gloom,
but for the two parts shall be with you
and the other deathless gods:
so has he declared it shall be
and has bowed his head in token.
But come, my child, obey, and be not too angry unrelentingly
with the dark-clouded son of Cronos;
but rather increase forthwith for men
the fruit that give them life.”

So spoke Rhea.
And rich-crowned Demeter did not refuse
but straightway made fruit to spring up from the rich lands,
so that the whole wide earth
was laden with leaves and flowers.
Then she went, and to the kings who deal justice,
Triptolemus and Diocles, the horse-driver,
and to doughty Eumolpus and Celeus, leader of the people,
she showed the conduct of her rites
and taught them all her mysteries,
to Triptolemus and Polyxeinus and Diocles also—
awful mysteries which no one may
in any way transgress or pry into or utter,
for deep awe of the gods checks the voice.
Happy is he among men upon earth
who has seen these mysteries;
but he who is uninitiated and who has no part in them,
never has lot of like good things once he is dead,
down in the darkness and gloom.

But when the bright goddess had taught them all,
they went to Olympus to the gathering of the other gods.
And there they dwell beside Zeus
who delights in thunder, awful and reverend goddesses.
Right blessed is he among men on earth
whom they freely love:
soon they do send Plutus as guest to his great house,
Plutus who gives wealth to mortal men.

And now, queen of the land of sweet Eleusis
and sea-girt Paros and rocky Antron,
lady, giver of good gifts, bringer of seasons, queen Deo,
be gracious, you and your daughter all beauteous Persephone,
and for my song grant me heart-cheering substance.
And now I will remember you and another song also.
(Homeric Hymn to Demeter 433-495)

Copyright © 1996, 2020 by Sanderson Beck

DIVINE MOTHER & the Veil of Death: Eleusiian Mysteries has been published.
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Contents and Introduction
Eleusis and the Goddesses
Agricultural Background and History
Mysteries Preliminaries

BECK index