Demeter

Demeter

Lesser goddess
Pantheon: Olympian Pantheon
Titles: The Gift-Giver, Lovely-Haired Demeter, Demeter of the Splendid Fruit
Home Plane: Olympus
Portfolio: Agriculture
Alignment: Neutral
Worshippers: Farmers
Cleric Alignments: CN, LN, N, NG, NE
Domains: Earth, Plant, Protection
Holy Symbols: Mare’s head
Favoured Weapons: Shortspear or halfspear

Deity of agriculture and fertility, Demeter (dee-mee-ter) is an earth god whose very moods are reflected in the life and fertility of the earth. She appears as a motherly woman, draped in robes the color of vegetation: lush green in the spring and summer, gold in autumn, and brown or black in winter (when she mourns for her daughter, Persephone). She is one of the six children of the Titans Cronus and Rhea.

Dogma

Demeter holds sway over the earth’s yearly cycle of growth and decay. Farmers in particular revere her, offering special prayers and sacrifices to her at planting, throughout the growing season, and at harvest time. She urges her followers to treat the earth with care and respect, and she dictates agricultural procedures to ensure the continued fertility of the soil, such as rotating crops and leaving fields fallow. Demeter is also the central figure in a mystery cult called the Eleusinian Mysteries (after their origin in the city of Eleusis).

Clergy

Clerics devoted to Demeter are always members of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Wearing green, gold, or brown tunics, they preside at agricultural festivals, bless plantings and harvests, and lead new initiates into the Mysteries. Few are active in adventuring.

Temples

Demeter’s temples are widespread, and they range from elaborate structures to simple village shrines.

Aspects

Avatars: Demeter uses her avatars regularly in the rites of the Eleusinian Mysteries. They appear much like her divine form.

The Eleusinian Mysteries

Demeter is the center of an extremely important mystery cult centered in the city of Eleusis. The central myth of this cult, far more important than any tales of Zeus’s escapades or the labors of Heracles, is the story of Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, and her abduction by Hades.

According to this myth, Zeus gave Hades permission to take Persephone as his wife, which he did by kidnapping her as she gathered flowers with her friends. Her carried her into the underworld and made her his bride. Hearing Persephone’s cries of distress, Demeter ran off in search of her daughter, searching the earth for nine days before learning that Hades had taken her.

Upon learning Persephone’s fate, Demeter went into mourning, wandering listlessly until she came to Eleusis. There, disguised as an old woman, she entered the household of the king, Keleos, and reared his infant son, Demophoön. She anointed the baby with ambrosia and tucked him into the blazing fire at night, planning to make him immortal. His mother, Metaneira, discovered the baby in the fire and cried out, not realizing what Demeter was doing. Angered, Demeter left the household and ordered a temple to be built in her honor in the city. She brooded in that temple, preventing any crops from growing on the earth, for a year.

Finally, by ordering Persephone to be brought up from Hades, Zeus persuaded Demeter to rejoin the company of gods on Olympus. Because Persephone accepted food (a single pomegranate seed) in the underworld, she was bound by the laws of hospitality to return there. By Zeus’s decree, Persephone was to spend one-third of the year in the underworld with Hades, and the remaining two-thirds in Olympus with the other gods. While Persephone remains in the underworld, Demeter mourns and the earth bears no fruit. For the rest of the year, Demeter allows crops to grow and flourish.

This myth is the fundamental doctrine of the Eleusinian Mysteries, but even more important are the series of rites performed in the Mysteries that recreate the myth as a personal experience for each initiate. The initiates dance and celebrate as Persephone gathers flowers; then word comes that Persephone has been abducted, and all revelry ceases. Carrying torches, the initiates act the role of Demeter searching for her daughter. In the central act of the rite, the initiates identify with Demophoön, nurtured in Demeter’s arms and primed for immortality. They reenact descending to the underworld with Persephone and rising to Olympus with Demeter. Demeter’s avatar is said to appear to the initiates and bestow her blessing upon them at the climax of the ritual. Initiates of the Mysteries live their lives under Demeter’s blessing. They believe that when they die, they will not become mere shades in Hades, but will dwell on Olympus with Demeter in eternal bliss. The rituals of the Mysteries are utterly secret. No initiate may speak of what occurs in the inner sanctum of the temple during the rites, under penalty of death.

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