Rainbow Sky for Iris
314-324 Landscape visited by Iris, messenger of the gods and winged goddess
of rainbows and iridescence, women's handmade cloth, India import

  Persephone as Peplos Kore (Κόρη),
Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE

Rainbow as Messenger
"Iris, a granddaughter of Okeanus, was the personification of the rainbow, which stretched from sky to earth [see L-317] and, as such, was a natural messenger of the gods. Like other winged figures in Archaic art, she was portrayed with wings on her ankles ['sped with swift feet']. The use of this Homeric formula ['So he spoke,' L-316], which regularly follows a direct speech, seems odd here since Zeus' actual words to Iris are not given. Similarly, Iris's speech to Demeter (L-320-322] ends abruptly without giving the details of Zeus' message. In Homer, Zeus's original speech to Iris would have been given in full and repeated again by Iris to Demeter."

from commentary on "The Homeric Hymns," p.50, by Susan C. Shelmerdine (1995)
Iridescent Amphora
The word "iridescent," or "rainbow-like," derives from the name of the Greek goddess, "Iris." This 2nd c. BCE, Roman, iridescent amphora, from the Toledo Museum, transformed into these colors while buried in the earth, due to the glass itself leaching alkali.
 The appearance of the rainbow in the Hymn to Demeter is the first sign to the people too, that Zeus's hardness as regard's Persephone's fate in Hades (unable to rebirth or re-sprout the crops) is weakening and the famine will soon end.

___ ___ ___

Pantheon of Messengers
"Greek goddesses were powerful figures in mythology. But, traditionally their powers were limited in scope. In a surprising departure from this tradition, Demeter brings gods, goddesses and mortals to their metaphorical knees when she demands Kore’s return from the marriage Zeus, Kore’s father, has arranged for her. Angry and mourning, Demeter leaves Olympus and hides the seed for the next harvest far below the ground, bringing famine to the land of mortals. Zeus, concerned that the entire mortal race will die, leading to a lack of sacrifices and gifts to all the gods and goddesses, sends the entire pantheon to individually beg Demeter, in seclusion at her newly erected temple in Eleusis, to relent."

from "Nuturing Images: Demeters," by
Jennifer Bandola (1997)

___ ___ ___

"Veil of Introspection"
"Demeter dons the veil again when she enters the temple at Eleusis. Coming at the heels of the Demophoön episode, the veil represents Demeter's successful attempt to re-connect with her true nature — a re-connection that brings about a new awareness of the grieving process and a corresponding ability to strategize about the male-dominated power structure that deprived her of her daughter. [...] She dons the veil of introspection (L-319). This is the veil of turning inward with the understanding that denial and displacement serve only to delay the healing process. It is the inner perspective that provides clarity."

from "Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth," p. 64, By Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)

Olympus type mountains (covered with vegetation, possibly trees above and flowering meadows below), abstract pattern from Gournia, Late Minoan, illustration from "Decorative Patterns of the Ancient World for Craftsmen," by Flinders Petrie (1930/1974)
___ ___ ___

The Sitting Goddess
"Demeter chooses to remain seated to signify her paralyzing withdrawal from gods and men. As soon as her temple has been built, 'she sat there apart from all the gods and stayed, consumed with longing for her daughter of the deep girdle' (L-303-4). As long as she remains seated in the temple, the earth will bring no fruit but will 'stay' as immobile as she. The sitting goddess embodies the immobility of nature caused by her anger. As the gods themselves acknowledge, Demeter's remaining seated in the temple is synonymous with the end of mankind and the honors for the gods themselves."

Wandering in Ancient Greek Culture, p.63, by Silvia Montiglio (2005)
___ ___ ___

Angry Demeter —
"Aloof and Apart"

Demeter's second withdrawal, when she remains aloof in her temple, is connected to the rest of the poem [...], being foreshadowed in the first section by the passage where Persephone calls on her father for help, but he does not hear her, for he 'sits apart, far away in his temple of many prayers, receiving sacrifices from men.' [...] Demeter's second withdrawal takes place after the completion of her temple by the workmen of Eleusis, and is a withdrawal from both gods and men. There is even less communication between Demeter and the people of Eleusis, whom she now abandons, than there was between her and the other characters in the first withdrawal. The workmen leave without speaking; the poet does not even tell us if Demeter is in the vicinity when they finish, though we presume that she is."

from "Traditional Themes and the Homeric Hymns," pp. 112-3, Cora Angier Sowa (1984) 

Mycenaean wild goat

(Above) Wild goat sprouting branches and leaves, possibly symbolizing the common life force in all creation, detail from a Mycenaean gold signet ring. (Below) Wild goat with its horns transformed into the sacred journey of life or meander, Hagia Triada, ivory seal, (Early Minoan II). See wild goat symbolism also as crescent moon.

Early Minoan Seal with Goat
___ ___ ___

To See, Oneself, Directly —
to See!
(L-333)

"As Aristotle wrote when describing the sights one viewed at the Eleusinian Mysteries, “to experience (physically) is to learn” (pathein mathein [παθείν μαθεĩν] fragment 15). Vision was central not simply to the learning experienced at the Mysteries, but also to such institutions as the Athenian drama that reached its height in Plato’s youth. Even the word theory, which for us today has the most abstract and disembodied meaning, in the fourth century [BCE] had quite a concrete meaning: it meant to travel as a pilgrim to a religious site to see (theaomai) things related to the gods and to the sacred realm."

from "Diotima and Demeter as Mystagogues in Plato’s Symposium" (in Hypatia, Volume 21, Number 2), p. 19. by Nancy Evans (2006)
___ ___ ___


Late Minoan II, Knossos, seeds budding above and below the Earth, stylized and realized, after "Decorative Patterns of the Ancient World for Craftsmen," by Flinders Petrie (1930/1974)
___ ___ ___


Krater with multi-faceted meander, from Excavations in Vrokastro, Ancient Crete, by Edith H. Hall, 1914

All Its Embassadors =
The Whole System
(L-325-333)

"This part of the myth especially addresses the need to refuse the whole system, refuse to support it until its values and methods are reintegrated with the service of life and an older and more organic life cycle. Demeter accomplished this on a mythic-religious level but human history embodied the opposite path, moving further and further into the clutches of patriarchy. It remains for us to this day to recognize and repeat the path that Demeter laid out for us before the Hades forces have swallowed not only the Greeks and ourselves but the entire planet."

"Life's Daughter/Death's Bride: Inner Transformations through the Goddess Demeter / Persephone," p.32, by Kathie Carlson (1997)
___ ___ ___

 

Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Interlinear Translation
edited & adapted from the 1914 prose translation
by Hugh G. Evelyn-White

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Homeric Hymn to Demeter
English • Ancient Greek • Transliteration 
• Greek-English Glossary
 IRIS & THE MESSENGERS (310-333)
310
And she would have destroyed* the whole race of mortals
___ καί νύ κε πάμπαν ὄλεσσε γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
___ kai nu ke pampan olesse genos meropôn anthrôpôn

311
with cruel famine, and stolen the glorious right of gifts*
___ λιμοῦ ὑπ' ἀργαλέης, γεράων τ' ἐρικυδέα τιμὴν
___ limou hup' argaleês, geraôn t' erikudea timên

312
and sacrifices, from those who dwell on Olympus,
___ καὶ θυσιῶν ἤμερσεν Ὀλύμπια δώματ' ἔχοντας,
___ kai thusiôn êmersen Olumpia dômat' ekhontas

313
had not Zeus perceived and marked* this in his heart.
___ εἰ μὴ Ζεὺς ἐνόησεν ἑῷ τ' ἐφράσσατο θυμῷ.
___ ei mê Zeus enoêsen heôi t' ephrassato thumôi.

314
First he sent golden-winged Iris to summon
___ Ἶριν δὲ πρῶτον χρυσόπτερον ὦρσε καλέσσαι
___ Irin de prôton khrusopteron ôrse kalessai

315
rich-haired Demeter, so lovely* in form possessing.
___ Δήμητρ' ἠύκομον, πολυήρατον εἶδος ἔχουσαν
___ Dêmêtr' êukomon, poluêraton eidos ekhousan.

316
So he spoke: and she obeyed dark-clouded Son of Cronos,
___ ὣς ἔφαθ': ἣ δὲ Ζηνὶ κελαινεφέι Κρονίωνι
___ hôs ephath': hê de Zêni kelainephei Kroniôni

317
and she [Iris] sped with swift feet across the space between.*
___ πείθετο καὶ τὸ μεσηγὺ διέδραμεν ὦκα πόδεσσιν
___ peitheto kai to mesêgu diedramen ôka podessin.

318
She arrived at* the citadel* of incense-laden Eleusis,
___ ἵκετο δὲ πτολίεθρον Ἐλευσῖνος θυοέσσης
___ hiketo de ptoliethron Eleusinos thuoessês,

319
and there, finding dark-veiled Demeter in her temple,
___ εὗρεν δ' ἐν νηῷ Δημήτερα κυανόπεπλον
___ heuren d' en nêôi Dêmêtera kuanopeplon

320
she spake to her and uttered winged words:*
___ καί μιν φωνήσασ' ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα
___ kai min phônêsas' epea pteroenta prosêuda:

321
Demeter, father Zeus, whose wisdom is imperishable,
calls* you
___ Δήμητερ, καλέει σε πατὴρ Ζεὺς ἄφθιτα εἰδὼς
___ Dêmêter, kaleei se patêr Zeus aphthita eidôs

322
to come join the tribes of the eternal gods:
___ ἐλθέμεναι μετὰ φῦλα θεῶν αἰειγενετάων
___ elthemenai meta phula theôn aieigenetaôn.

323
come therefore, let not Zeus' message pass unobeyed.
___ ἄλλ' ἴθι, μηδ' ἀτέλεστον ἐμὸν ἔπος ἐκ Διὸς ἔστω
___ all' ithi, mêd' ateleston emon epos ek Dios estô.

324
So said Iris imploring her. But Demeter's heart was not moved.
___ ὣς φάτο λισσομένη: τῇ δ' οὐκ ἐπεπείθετο θυμός
___ hôs phato lissomenê: têi d' ouk epepeitheto thumos.

325
Then the father sent in turn the blessed immortal gods —
___ αὖτις ἔπειτα πατὴρ μάκαρας θεοὺς αἰὲν ἐόντας
___ autis epeita patêr makaras theous aien eontas

326
all, one by one after another, kept coming
___ πάντας ἐπιπροΐαλλεν: ἀμοιβηδὶς δὲ κιόντες
___ pantas epiproïallen: amoibêdis de kiontes

327
and offering many very beautiful gifts and whatever
___ κίκλησκον καὶ πολλὰ δίδον περικαλλέα δῶρα
___ kiklêskon kai polla didon perikallea dôra

328
honors she might be pleased to choose among the immortals.
___ τιμάς θ', †ἅς κ' ἐθέλοιτο† μετ' ἀθανάτοισιν ἑλέσθαι
___ timas th', has k' etheloito met' athanatoisin helesthai.

329
Yet no one was able to persuade* Demeter's mind or will,
___ ἀλλ' οὔτις πεῖσαι δύνατο φρένας οὐδὲ νόημα
___ all' outis peisai dunato phrenas oude noêma

330
so angered* in her heart; she stubbornly rejected all
their words:
___ θυμῷ χωομένης: στερεῶς δ' ἠναίνετο μύθους.
___ thumôi khôomenês: stereôs d' ênaineto muthous.

331
for she vowed never on [the side of] fragrant Olympus
___ οὐ μὲν γάρ ποτ' ἔφασκε θυώδεος Οὐλύμποιο
___ ou men gar pot' ephaske thuôdeos Oulumpoio

332
again to set foot, nor let fruit spring out* of the ground,
___ πρίν γ' ἐπιβήσεσθαι, οὐ πρὶν γῆς καρπὸν ἀνήσειν,
___ prin g' epibêsesthai, ou prin gês karpon anêsein

333
until she beheld* with her own* eyes her fair-faced daughter.
___ πρὶν ἴδοι ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ἑὴν εὐώπιδα κούρην.
___ prin idoi ophthalmoisin heên euôpida kourên

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310 ὄλεσσε / olesse
destroy - bring to ruin - make an end of

311 γεράων / geraôn
gift - gift of honor - privilege - prerogative

311 τιμὴν / timên
honor - dignity - right - office - magistracy

313 ἐφράσσατο / ephrassato
mark - think or muse upon - consider - ponder

315 πολυήρατον / poluêraton (πολυ-ήρᾰτος)
very lovely - so lovely - much loved

315 ἵκετο / hiketo
arrive, arrive at, come, come upon, reach, attain to

317 τὸ μεσηγύ / to mesêgu
the part between, the space between

318 πτολίεθρον / ptoliethron = πόλις
the citadel - stronghold - city

320 πτερόεντα προσηύδα / pteroenta prosêud
winged words - swift - spoke quickly or urgently

321 καλέει / kaleei
call - summon - call by name - to be called

329 πεῖσαι / peisai
persuade - win over - obtain consent - prevail upon - a goddess (see Sappho: τὴν Πειθὼ Ἀφροδἰτης θυγατέρα — "‘Persuasion’ is the daughter of Aphrodite")

330 χωομένης / khôomenês
bereaved - recoiled - drawn back - χ. θυμῷ - angry - be angry at
- be angry with (see L-091)

332 ἀνήσειν / anêsein
spring out - send up - let come up - give access to - unfasten

333 ἴδοι / idoi
see - perceive - behold - behold!

333 ἑὴν / heên (fem. sg.)
her own - her selfsame - [comparable to Sappho: Ἔγων δ' ἔμ' αὔτᾳ τοῦτο σύνοιδα" — "And this I know myself directly," or in Zen Buddhism — "to sew one's own cloth."]
 


Cup-strainer, ca 775–725 BCE (Athens, Late Geometric), Louvre

"The Aptitude of their Genius"
"Eleusinian mysteries were not restricted to Attica, but it was due to long tradition in an undisturbed seat, no doubt also to the religious sensibilities of the people and to the aptitude of their genius for elaborating symbolical and significant ritual, that the antique celebrations were organised here to the highest degree of dignity and impressiveness; and so they became — clothed as they were still with the character of a national institution — more extensively venerated throughout all Greece than any others. It was something more than mere appliance of the resources of fine art, that could so transform into dignity the inventions that in baser hands were fraudulent or vulgar — the affectation of seclusion and reservation and secrecy, the promulgation of inexplicable dumb-show, or explanations the more insisted on as the more paradoxical, the requirement of faith in moral, if not material, changes which are destitute of all proof whatever except the invincible imperturbable assurance of the assertors."

from "The Age of Pericles: A History of the Politics and Arts of Greece from the Persian to the Peloponnesian War," pp. 207-8, by William Watkiss Lloyd (1875)

Iris & Rheia: Even Messengers —
Gender-Specific Tasks
"[In ancient Greece] most forms of work were gender-specific [....] The women of a household, slave and free, thus spent much of their time together and apart from the men [....] This gender separation is reflected throughout the Hymn: Persephone is gathering flowers with other women when she is abducted; in her mortal disguise, Demeter has contact only with the female members of the household she visits; and while Zeus employs the male Hermes as messenger to Hades, he sends the goddess Iris and later Demeter's (and his own) mother Rheia as envoys to Demeter."

from "Gender and the Interpretation of Classical Myth," p. 26, by Lillian E. Doherty (2001)

The Messengers & the Children
"One can suggest a parallel function between the messengers and the children. In the divine world, the messengers mediate between the strong-willed antagonists, Zeus, Demeter, and Plouton [Hades]. In the divine-humanworld, the children provide the opportunity for Demeter to express her different roles — the loss of Persephone permits Demeter to become a "human mother" and the loss of Demophoon enables Demeter to reveal herself as a goddess. In broader terms, the messengers [Iris and Rheia] and the children perform the functions of transforming conflict into resolution..."

from "Mythical and Cosmological Structure in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter," by Larry J. Alderink, Numen, Vol. 29, Fasc. 1, pp. 1-16 (1982)

Method as Message: Persuasion Not Force
"[Here] the focus of the action shifts from the interior of the home, the female realm, to the male world of the assembly, where Keleos had called the people together to build Demeter's temple. This shift of interest in Eleusis foreshadows the widening of the compass of the poem to include the wider patriarchally governed world order. Zeus, the divine counterpart to Keleos, reenters the poem at this point. He, like Keleos, attempts to propitiate Demeter. In this section of the poem both he and Hades (on Zeus's instructions) employs persuasion rather than force in their approaches to the two goddesses. Zeus sends first Iris and then 'every one of the blessed gods.'"

from "Politics and Pomegranates," by Marilyn Arthur, in "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," ed. by Helene P. Foley, p.235 (1994)

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Illustrations: (Left Panel) Peplos Kore (Κόρη), Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE. Wild goat hybrid emblem, adapted from an illustration in Marija Gimbutas, "The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe," and Arthur J. Evans, The Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult (1901). Ivory cube with goat, from the Palaces of Crete and their Builders, Angelo Mosso (1907). Photo (top) earlywomenmasters.net
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