188-189 Threshold flower, women's handmade cloth, India
Persephone as Peplos Kore (Κόρη),
Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE
Metaneira as Mentor|
"The next female [after Hecate and the daughters] to play a mentoring role in the story is Metaneira, the mother of Demophoon. Metaneira is ignorant of the role of an accomplice in the process of Demeter's individuation. But the fact that she is oblivious to her role does not make her any less significant. In fact, Metaneira probably has as much to contribute to Demeter's growth and transformation as any other female in the story."
from "Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth," p. 18, by Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)
___ ___ ___
Clay Model of a Minoan House, ca. 1600 BCE, Heraklion Museum, Crete
"The daughters now seem utterly enraptured by their seemingly self-appointed task of bringing the crypto-goddess to their home. The poet sees their innocence in theriomorphic images — happy heifers and harts abounding on a meadow. They bring 'Doso' into the halls of their father, and there Demeter allows herself for a flashing moment to appear in her true form."
from "Persephone Unveiled: Seeing the Goddess and Freeing Your Soul," pp.37-38, by Charles Stein (2006)
___ ___ ___
Late Minoan "flying diamonds" pattern from Mycenae
(free graphic illustration by earlywomenmasters.net)
Three Phases in Tracing
the Myth of Demeter
"In the story of Demeter, as in all Greek myths, we may trace the action of three different influences, which have moulded it with varying effects, in three successive phases of its development. There is first its half-conscious, instinctive, or mystical, phase, in which, under the form of an unwritten legend, living from mouth to mouth, and with details changing as it passes from place to place, there lie certain primitive impressions of the phenomena of the natural world. We may trace it next in its conscious, poetical or literary, phase, in which the poets become the depositaries of the vague instinctive product of the popular imagination, and handle it with a purely literary interest, fixing its outlines, and simplifying or developing its situations. Thirdly, the myth passes into the ethical phase, in which the persons and the incidents of the poetical narrative are realised as abstract symbols, because intensely characteristic examples, of moral or spiritual conditions.
from "The Myth of Demeter and Persephone," in "Greek Studies: a Series of Essays, pg. 91, by Walter Pater (1875 / 1920)
Minoan Conical Rhyton, with roadside grasses, blowing in the wind, ca. 1600-1525, MMA.
___ ___ ___
Journey Home / Ritual Dance
"It is possible that the scene of the girls running down the road, and leading Demeter to Eleusis, may reflect part of the ceremonies at Eleusis, that is, a procession or ritual dance, led by the priestesses, of whom the daughters of Celeus may be the prototype. Their flowing robes and free-flowing hair are probably features of the cult, and the initiates may have worn white clothing, in contrast to Demeter's black. The following scene (L-188-211) definitely reflects the rituals of the Mysteries."
from The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," p. 201, by N. J. Richardson (1974)
___ ___ ___
At the Threshold
"The theology of Demeter's religion is learned through a reading of the myth, and by experiencing the seasonal festivals and the mysteries. One of the most important ideas in the theology is that the Goddess who gave birth to you, who created your life, made you a part of her divinity. As Demeter has given birth to Kore [Persephone] so you have come into existence through divine birth. The Maiden is new life. She is representative not only of the soul, but of its journeys. She is the child of divinity and so are you. The myth reveals the divine light that resides behind the external image of the Goddess Demeter. This is seen during the revelation of her true form..." [L-188-189]
from "Mysteries of Demeter, p.32,
by Jennifer Reif (1999)
___ ___ ___
Greek Cycladic Jar ca. 2300 BCE, MMA
Betwixt and Between —
Symbols of Liminality
"When the four daughters lead Demeter through the 'portico' to where their mother sits 'by a pillar, and then turn to watch the Goddess step across 'the threshold,' they are awestruck when her head touches the roof and she fills 'the doorway with divine radiance.' The doorway marks the incarnation of the divine into the mortal realm, a descent to the underworld from Mt. Olympus, for the Goddess Demeter, although an epiphany for humankind. In addition to the emphatic use of such images as the 'portico,' 'threshold,' and 'doorway,' the Homeric poet places the 'lady mother' beside a 'pillar,' which as Marija Gimbutas has shown, is another archaic icon of the Great Goddess [....] Arnold Van Gennep suggests that such threshold symbols represent liminality, a state of being betwixt and between, and hence often found in association of rites of passage."
from "The Hero Journey in Literature: Parables of Poesis," p. 48,
by Evans Lansing Smith (1997)
___ ___ ___
from Wikipedia, Square Koch Fractal
as a meander, similar to many Geometric period "self-same" duplicated motifs.
___ ___ ___
Eleusis & Demeter's "Going"
— "Ritual is Tenacious"
"It would be doubly astonishing if the town of Eleusis sent forth its name in early days but only later evolved the Mysteries for which we know it. [....] It is not then the town of Eleusis, but the ceremonial "going" [eleusin-] that gives its name to those many instances of the goddess, the shrine, the festival. [...] That step was taken very early [....] Demeter was honored by a general procession of men and women long before the Mysteries of Eleusis acquired a reputation. And when they did, the procession was still the outstanding feature. And when Athens and the Mysteries were at their height, the procession was merely reduplicated. Ritual is tenacious."
from "The Two Processions to Eleusis and the Program of the Mysteries," in "American Journal of Philology," Volume 119, Number 4, pp. 547-575, by Noel D. Robertson (1998)
___ ___ ___
"Fortitude" by Agostino Busti (1483-1548)
Metaneira's pillar — a symbol
of the Goddess [L-186]
"[In Minoan palaces] pillar and plant are symbolically interrelated, both symbolizing the power of life or the power of the Goddess. [...] The Minoan and Old European pillar was not an axis of the universe, not the axis mundi of the Altaic and northern European cosmologies, but an incarnation of the Great Goddess in her aspect as the source of life-power. Most students of Minoan culture are bewildered by the abundance of cult practices. Shrines of one kind or another are so numerous that there is reason to believe that not only every palace but every house was put to some such use."
from "The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe, p. 80, by Marija Gimbutas (1974)
___ ___ ___
Conscious & Unconscious
"The psychological capacity symbolized by Persephone's eternal cycle of ascent and descent is multifaceted; it is personal and transpersonal capacity for liminality. Liminal literally means 'of the threshold'; in this case the threshold is between the conscious and the unconscious, the personal and the impersonal, Upperworld and the Underworld. The willingness to enter a liminal state and to be affected by symbolic communication from within is the gateway to the transpersonal dimension of the Self."
from "Persephone Returns: Victims, Heroes and the Journey from the Underworld," p. 45, by Tanya Wilkinson (1996)
___ ___ ___
Homeric Hymn to Demeter
edited & adapted from the 1914 prose translation
Hugh G. Evelyn-White
Art & Photo Illustrations
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Homeric Hymn to Demeter |
English Ancient Greek Transliteration
• Greek-English Glossary
AT THE THRESHOLD : 171-189
Swiftly* they came to the great palace of their father,
and quickly told their mother,
___ ῥίμφα δὲ πατρὸς ἵκοντο μέγαν δόμον, ὦκα δὲ μητρὶ
___ rhimpha de patros hikonto megan domon, ôka de mêtri
accordingly, as they had seen and heard.* And so
she [Metenaira] bade them
___ ἔννεπον, ὡς εἶδόν τε καὶ ἔκλυον. ἣ δὲ μάλ' ὦκα
___ ennepon, hôs eidon te kai ekluon. hê de mal' ôka,
to set out quickly and offer her [Demeter]
a measureless* hire.
___ ἐλθούσας ἐκέλευε καλεῖν ἐπ' ἀπείρονι μισθῷ.
___ elthousas ekeleue kalein ep' apeironi misthôi
As young deers or calves in spring time,
___ αἳ δ' ὥστ' ἢ ἔλαφοι ἢ πόρτιες εἴαρος ὥρῃ
___ hai d' hôst' ê elaphoi ê porties eiaros hôrêi
when sated* with pasture,* bound about a meadow,
___ ἅλλοντ' ἂν λειμῶνα κορεσσάμεναι φρένα φορβῇ,
___ hallont' an leimôna koressamenai phrena phorbêi,
so they, holding up the folds of their lovely* garments,
___ ὣς αἳ ἐπισχόμεναι ἑανῶν πτύχας ἱμεροέντων
___ hôs hai episkhomenai heanôn ptukhas himeroentôn
darted down the hollow path, and their hair,
___ ἤιξαν κοίλην κατ' ἀμαξιτόν: ἀμφὶ δὲ χαῖται
___ êixan koilên kat' amaxiton: amphi de khaitai
Crocus Flower Fresco, ancient Crete, Heraklion Museum
like a crocus flower, streamed about their shoulders.
___ ὤμοις ἀίσσοντο κροκηίῳ ἄνθει ὁμοῖαι.
___ ômois aissonto krokêiôi anthei homoiai.
And they found the great* goddess there near the wayside
___ τέτμον δ' ἐγγὺς ὁδοῦ κυδρὴν θεόν, ἔνθα πάρος περς
___ tetmon d' engus hodou kudrên theon, entha paros per
where they had left her before, then to their father's house
___ κάλλιπον: αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα φίλου πρὸς δώματα πατρὸς
___ kallipon: autar epeita philou pros dômata patros
they led her. But she, distressed in her dear heart,
___ ἡγεῦνθ': ἣ δ' ἄρ' ὄπισθε φίλον τετιημένη ἦτορ
___ hêgeunth': hê d' ar' opisthe philon tetiêmenê êtor
walked behind, with her head veiled and wearing a cloak,
___ στεῖχε κατὰ κρῆθεν κεκαλυμμένη: ἀμφὶ δὲ πέπλος
___ steikhe kata krêthen kekalummenê: amphi de peplos
deep-dark, swirling round the slender feet of the goddess.
___ κυάνεος ῥαδινοῖσι θεᾶς ἐλελίζετο ποσσίν.
___ kuaneos rhadinoisi theas elelizeto possin.
Soon they came to the house of heaven-nurtured* Celeus
___ αἶψα δὲ δώμαθ' ἵκοντο διοτρεφέος Κελεοῖο,
___ aipsa de dômath' hikonto diotrepheos Keleoio,
and went through the portico* to where their queenly mother
___ βὰν δὲ δι' αἰθούσης, ἔνθα σφίσι πότνια μήτηρ
___ ban de di' aithousês, entha sphisi potnia mêtêr
sat by a supporting-pillar* of the close-fitted roof,*
___ ἧστο παρὰ σταθμὸν τέγεος πύκα ποιητοῖο
___ hêsto para stathmon tegeos puka poiêtoio
holding her son, a tender shoot* in her bosom. And to her
___ παῖδ' ὑπὸ κόλπῳ ἔχουσα, νέον θάλος: αἳ δὲ πὰρ αὐτὴν
___ paid' hupo kolpôi ekhousa, neon thalos: hai de par autên
they ran. And the goddess walked to the threshold:*
and up to the roof-beam*
___ ἔδραμον: ἣ δ' ἄρ' ἐπ' οὐδὸν ἔβη ποσὶ καὶ ῥα μελάθρου
___ edramon: hê d' ar' ep' oudon ebê posi kai rha melathrou
which reaching-bumped* her head, as she filled* the doorway with
___ κῦρε κάρη, πλῆσεν δὲ θύρας σέλαος θείοιο.
___ kure karê, plêsen de thuras selaos theioio.
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171 ῥίμφα / rhimpha|
swiftly - lightly - flying
172 ἔκλυον / ekluon
have heard - heard spoken of - learnt - know
173 ἀπείρονι / apeironi
measureless - boundless - endless - circular
175 κορεσσάμεναι / koressamenai
sated - satisfied - filled - glutted
175 φορβῇ / phorbêi
pasture - grazing - foraging
176 ἱμεροέντων / himeroentôn (ἱμερό-εις)
exciting desire - lovely - charming - (in Homer, always of things)
179 κυδρὴν / kudrên
great • famed • noblest • good • most honored
184 διοτρεφέος / diotrepheos (Διο-τρεφής)
heavenly-nurtured - fostered - cherished by Zeus - god-cherished
185 αἰθούσης / aithousês
portico - verandah - to catch the sun - loggia
186 σταθμὸν / stathmon
upright standing-post - bearing pillar - doorpost -
(metaphorically, see note on pillar as Goddess)
186 τέγεος / tegeos
at or near the roof - roof - covered hall or chamber
187 θάλος / thalos
child - metaph., scion - shoot - offshoot
188 οὐδὸν / oudon
threshold - threshold of a house - entrance to - the end of - lintel
188 μελάθρου / melathrou
roof-beam, ridgepole, rafters —
Compare with Sappho [Campbell #111]:
"Raise the rafters! Hoist
them higher! Here comes a bridegroom
taller than Ares!" (trans. Mary Barnard)
189 κῦρε / kure
reached - hit - met - as far as - proved to be
189 πλῆσεν / plêsen
fill - fill to the full - satisfy - become pregnant
189 σέλαος / selaos
light - radiance - torchlight - flash of lightning
The Four Daughters' Return
to the Goddess
"[The four daughters of Celeus] run home, after filling their jugs, get their mother's persmission, and return to the goddess [L-174-178]:
'they leapt like deer or calves in the springtime
in the meadow, satisfying their appitites with food,
so they ran, holding the folds of their lovely clothes,
along the hollow wagon-road and their hair streamed
about their shoulders like the crocus flower.'
The contrast between the young girls and the sedentary, mourning goddess is most effective. But even this delightful description suggests some of the limitations of the lives of young girls: for safety they went out in groups, and only to public places, though even at wells girls might be accosted. [...] By contrast the old woman "who is excluded from childbearing and the gifts of Aphrodite who loves garlands" [L-101-102 ] is safe though sitting alone."
from "Women in Greek Myth" by Mary R. Lefkowitz, p.107 (1966)
"The House is apparently too small for someone as gigantic as a goddess, for Demeter hits her head on the roof [...] This is the common theme of the alternating dimensions of the creatures of the otherworld, at once surpassingly tall and then no bigger than a dwarf, the shift in size, as in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland."|
___ ___ ___
from "Sacred mushrooms of the Goddess
and the secrets of Eleusis" by Carl A. P. Ruck, p.20, (2006)
more on Alice and Persephone
Rebirth — the Threshold prepares for the power|
of Baubo/Iambe's vitality
"The Threshold is a time of rebirth, and throughout these stories from myth and scripture we...see that blood and sexuality contain the power that is required to
traverse the Threshold. [...] Demeter and the initiate [in the next episode] must now [prepare to] absorb the power of Baubo. This is why the atmosphere on the road from Athens to Eleusis [during sacred processions] was filled with the vitality of Baubo, as participants and onlookers screamed and shouted obscenities and dirty jokes, and laughed like Demeter herself."
from "Return to Meaning: The American Psyche in Search of its Soul."
p. 151, by Andrew Cort (2008)
Cult & First Manifestation of Divinity
[I]nstitution of cult is closely linked to that of the god's epiphany, [...] in true form [...]. When Aphrodite comes in disguise to Anchises his first response is to assume (correctly) that she is a goddess, and to promise to set up an altar and make regular sacrifices to her, in return for which he prays for her favour (H. Apr. 91-106). Later, after their union, Aphrodite reveals her true identity, but in this case, instead of this leading to cult, she foretells the birth of Aeneas and his future kingship (168-99). [...] When Demeter in disquise as an old woman sets foot on the threshold of the palace at Eleusis, her divinity is momentarily [L-188-189] revealed in language very similar to that of Aphrodite's epiphany. Queen Metaneira is overcome by awe, reverence and fear and the following scene actually foreshadows some of the prelimenary rituals of the Mysteries (H. Dem 187-211).
from "The Homeric Hymns: A Selection," p. 6, by Nicholas Richardson (2010)
Their rites at Eleusis create,
Wordsworth insists, “bonds” informed
by a unifying “spirit”
"[T]he myth of Persephone contains and attempts to resolve the anguish of disconnection. Unlike most Greek gods, Demeter and Persephone are dynamic, capable of essential change in status, power, and temperament. Having lost her daughter to death, Demeter moves from a state of Olympian detachment—of privilege and ignorance—to a Wordsworthian sympathy with human struggles and griefs; Persephone, torn from her sheltered innocence, endures disconnection directly. Mother and daughter are severed by mortality in a way that connects these divinities with mortals; their later reunion embodies for all mortals a promise of reconnection, and their rites at Eleusis create, Wordsworth insists, “bonds” informed by a unifying “spirit” affecting city and country, art and religion."
from "Gods and Mysteries: The Revival of Paganism and the Remaking of Mythography through the Nineteenth Century" in Victorian Studies, Volume 47, Number 3, Spring, pp. 329-361, by Margot Kathleen Louis (2005)
Minoan, animated plant design from a Knossos fresco, illustration from the "Palace of Minos," by Arthur Evans (1921)
Persephone & Demophoôn
"There are interesting parallels drawn between seemingly disparate characters and seemingly disparate scenes in the hymn. For instance, Demeter refers to her daughter as thalos, [L-066] shoot or offshoot, and the poet later refers to Demophoôn as thalos [L-187] . While it is true that the same or a comparable image is used to refer to children in the Iliad and Odyssey, the use of the image here still serves to draw a parallel between the child Demeter has lost and the child she nurses in her absence. An additional reason for connecting Demophoôn to Persephone is that Demeter attempts and fails to save Demophoôn from death[L-260-61], 'I would have made your child immortal and ageless forever' [...] [and thus] strikingly similar to her loss of Persephone to the underworld."
from "Powerful Mysteries: Myth and Politics in Virginia Woolf," p.32, by Amy Charlotte Smith. (2007)
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Illustrations: (Left Panel) Peplos Kore (Κόρη), Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE, (Top) Photo: earlywomenmasters.net, Threshold flower, women's handmade cloth, India, contemporary|
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