434-437 The Blue Zephyr (Brachyscome) blooming in April: among the Greek gods, Zephyr (Ζέφυρος) was the gentle wind of the west, and interceder between the World of the Living and the Underworld. In regard to Demeter, Walter Pater calls the Zehpyr wind the "sweet breath with which she nourishes the child Demophoon" {L-237-238]. The reunion of goddesses Demeter and Persephone initiates the return of spring flowers, providing "relief from grief" as well as "cheering the soul and spirit."
___ ___ ___

"The name Persephone (Περσεφόνη) means 'Spring'" (~ Tamara Agha-Jaffar).

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

Every mother must have longed
for the power of Demeter

"The loss of the daughter to the mother, the mother to the daughter, is the essential female tragedy. We acknowledge Lear (father-daughter split), Hamlet (son and mother) and Oedipus (son and mother) as great embodiments of the human tragedy: but there is no presently enduring recognition of the mother-daughter passion and rapture. There was such a recognition, but we lost it. It was expressed in the religious mystery of Eleusis, which constituted the spiritual foundation of Greek life for two thousand years. [...] The separation of Demeter and Kore is an unwilling one; it is neither a question of the daughter's rebellion against the mother, nor the mother's rejection of the daughter. [...] Each daughter, even in the millenia before Christ, must have longed for a mother whose love for her and whose power were so great as to undo rape and bring her back from death. And every mother must have longed for the power of Demeter, the efficacy of her anger, the reconciliation with her lost self."

from "Of Woman Born," p. 237,
by Adrienne Rich (1976)
___ ___ ___

Naming the Nymphs
of the Twenty-Four Hours

"The separation phase of Persephone's journey begins with the famous abduction by Hades, Lord of the Underworld, while she is picking flowers in a field with twenty three nymphs attending her [and which are only named here at the time of her reunion with Demeter L-418-424]. This yields twenty-four nymphs total, counting Persephone, which suggests the diurnal symbolism of the hours, a motif we find again in Wolfram's Parzival. As an image of totality, the number implies the all-embracing domain of the Great Goddesses of antiquity, and also establishes a cosmic parallel for Persephone's journey: like the sun, moon, seasons and hours, she periodically undertakes the descent into Hades."

from "The Hero Journey in Literature: Parables of Poesis," p.46 by Evans Lansing Smith (1997)
Minoan Pattern
Middle Minoan plant pattern, Platanos,
after "Decorative Patterns of the Ancient World for Craftsmen," by Flinders Petrie (1930/1974)

___ ___ ___

Reunion —
Persephone's Reach
"for Joy" Attained

"The Hymn's narrative of separation and reunion begins when Persphone playing with her girlfriends, reaches out to pick the narcissus. [...] The symbolism of the narcissus is rich and varied and is not altogether consistent. Later, Persephone renders the event 'we were all...playing and picking flowers...and the narcissus.... Moreover, I was picking for joy' [L-417-429]. It is unclear if Persephone actually picked the narcissus; she was about to, certainly, but it seems she was interrupted by Hades' arrival. Her motive for wanting to pick the narcissus is also unclear. 'For joy' (περὶ χάρματι, peri kharmati [L-429]) is all she tells us; the poet says nothing."

from "The Narcissus and the Pomegranate," pp. 25, 54, by Ann Suter (2002)
___ ___ ___

"Stepping Lightly" —
The Cretan Grass Dance

"Thus Cretan women once danced in measure round the fair altar, treading softly on the delicate bloom of the grass."

Κρῆσσαί νύ ποτ' ὦδ' ἐμμελέως πόδεσσιν ὠρχεῦντ' ἀπάλοις ἀμφ' ἐρόεντα βῶμον πόας τέρεν ἄνθος μάλακον μάτεισαι.

Fragment [Bergk #54] attrib. to Sappho
___ ___ ___

"Reunion" with the Goddess
as Temple of the Devotee

"The private devotions of solitary worship can fill the heart with loving emotion, a kind of inner magical elixir that those in India call bhava. This arises from the devotee, and is returned manyfold from the Goddess. The solitary devotee is free to worship in both structured and unstructured ways, making changes spontaneously as need arises. [...] As an individual devotee it is important to remember that there are many kinds of personalities in the world that require different forms of religion."

from "Mysteries of Demeter: Rebirth of the Pagan Way," pp.259-60, by Jennifer Reif (1999)
___ ___ ___

Greatest Eleusinian Mystery —
Why is Female Bonding the
Plot of Fertility?

"[In the Book of Ruth] one may well wonder why the plot of female bonding is the plot of fertility. This somewhat paradoxical combination calls to mind the myth of [the two goddesses] Demeter and her daughter Persephone. [...] Demeter springs annually to meet her daughter, and upon their happy reunion restores fecundity to the land. Interestingly, this is the only Greek myth which deals with the mother-daughter bond, allowing it to maintain a pivotal position in the triangle of Persephone-Demeter-Hades (so clearly represented in the ratio of the months Persephone stays with Hades vs. those spent with Demeter). What I think is at stake in both cases — and I am not suggesting that there is necessarily a historical link between the two texts (the differences are unmistakable) — is male awe concerning female bonding and a reassurance that such bonding need not neccessarily hinder the continuation of the line or the growth of grain. Ironically — and this is perhaps the greatest Eleusinian mystery — quite the contrary is true."

from "Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach" (p.106-107), by Ilana Pardes (1992)
___ ___ ___

Ancient Crete, bronze tripod (with abacus above the scrolls), from "Excavatons at Vrokastro," by Edith H. Hall, 1914
___ ___ ___

Eleusinian Triple Goddess
"In this Mystery, Demeter unfolds as a Triple Goddess, her three facets being Demeter, Persephone and Hecate, each facet reveals itself at different stages of the cycle. The Demeter facet represents vegetative forces above ground level, the ripened grain, the swollen fruits of the Earth. Her Hecate aspect is seen in the dark chthonic forces, immanent, stirring deep within the earth. Persephone is the aspect that mediates between these two realms, who must belong to both realms. She is the seed that must be sown, that bears the archetypal energy of vegetation. The myth records the development of a dynamic relationship between the three facets. [...] If we worked in the spirit of the Demeter-Persephone mythos, as Eleusinian initiates in a sense, we would come to experience our being not as polarized into conscious / unconscious, upper world / underworld, but as a plant growing at the interface of these two realms and mediating between them, allowing a flow of energy from below to above and in the opposite direction, which is the basis of a relationship."

from "The Triple Goddess: an Exploration of the Archetypal Feminine," pp 57-58, by Adam McLean (1989)
___ ___ ___

Poetic Hints of Sappho
as Author of the Hymn
Female Companionship, Sappho,
& the Hymn to Demeter

"Sappho, more or less contemporary with the Hymn to Demeter [...] furnishes an important female voice that can reveal something about the institution of marriage in ancient Greek society. For example, in the extant fragments of one poem, Sappho's speaker and her dear friend grieve when the friend must depart (fr. 94) [...] In both the Hymn to Demeter and Sappho's poetry fragments (frs. 94 and 31), the brides-to-be leave unwillingly and in despair, and intense sorrow also comes from Demeter's and Sappho's speakers, the ones who have been left or abandoned. All the female figures in the poems experience emotional pain as a direct result of male-constructed ideology. However, the hymn is mythological, prescriptive, and persuasive; it concludes with an assertion of the marriage contract. On the other hand, the experience of Sappho's speaker is historically realistic, and it therefore reveals her private despair over losing an intimate friend to marriage."

from "Divided Consciousness and Female Companionship: Reconstructing Female Subjectivity, on Greek Vases," pp. 45 ff., in Arethusa 30.1 (1997), by Lauren Hackworth Petersen.

Amphora, from Excavations in Vrokastro, Ancient Crete, by Edith H. Hall, 1914
___ ___ ___

Back to Joy
"where the Myth begins"

"Northrop Frye has treated comedy as reflecting a 'myth of spring' and...in the Homeric Hymn [to Demeter], we find such a myth in which laughter plays a part. [...] [Here] the hymn moves to the joyful reunion of Demeter and Persephone, to the restoration of the earth's fertility [...] In a way, the heartwarming mutual joy of mother and daughter, and the springing forth of leaves and flowers out of deadness, bring us back to that springtime of innocence and play where the hymn began. (The verb for "warmed each other's heart" [L-435] is iainon, recalling Iambe; and among Persephone's playmates were Ianthe, Iache, and Ianeira.) On this level the myth portrays the rebirth of innocence, of the child's power to laugh and play that seemed dead forever. Iambe's jesting shares in advance in that rebirth."

from "Aristophanes' Old-and-New Comedy: Six Essays in Perspective," p. 51, by Kenneth J. Reckford (1987)
___ ___ ___

Important Tensions in the Myth
"In the triad of Kore/Persephone, Demeter and Hecate, goddesses themselves reflect the trifold categorization of [mortal] women as prefertile (the virgin), fertile (the mother), and postfertile (the crone). [...] But the specific rites accomplish far more than magical guarantees of fertility. They ensure women's transitions from one sociosexual category to the next, even asserting that these roles are fundamental to the preservation of the cosmos: in short they keep women in their particular place. But they are not without subversive elements that may have played significant roles for women. As we have seen, the myth of Demeter and Persephone expresses important tensions in Greek society."

from "Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions among Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Greco-Roman World," (1994) p. 29,
by Ross Shepard Kraemer

___ ___ ___

Fragment of a fresco depicting a procession of women, from the later palace at Tiryns in Greece, 13 cent. BCE.

Persephone's Ineffable Conception
"[...] Demeter of the Eleusinian mysteries, the Roman Ceres. Her very name signifies "mother" probably gê mêtêr, Mother Earth. Euripides says, in the Bacchanals, that the Greeks honor chiefly two deities,— one being Demeter (who is the Earth, he says, if you prefer to call her so), and the other the son of Semele [Dionysus]. Demeter is, like Hera, both sister and in a manner wife of Zeus, to bring her into equality with him. Yet she is a virgin, even when she bears a child, Persephone, or Proserpine. In a sense this maiden is the child of Zeus, but not in a mortal manner, — by an ineffable conception [Ἀρρήτοισι γοναῖς], says the Orphic Hymn."

from "The Greek Goddesses," Atlantic Essays, Thomas W. Higginson (1871), p.282


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
 THE REUNION (414-440)
As for how [Hades] stole me away, planned by son of Kronos,
___ ὡς δέ μ' ἀναρπάξας Κρονίδεω πυκινὴν διὰ μῆτιν
___ hôs de m' anarpaxas Kronideô pukinên dia mêtin

my father, and carried me off beneath the depths of the earth,
___ ᾤχετο πατρὸς ἐμοῖο, φέρων ὑπὸ κεύθεα γαίης,
___ ôikheto patros emoio, pherôn hupo keuthea gaiês,

I relate* the whole matter as you ask.
___ ἐξερέω, καὶ πάντα διίξομαι, ὡς ἐρεείνεις.
___ exereô, kai panta diixomai, hôs ereeineis.

All of us were playing in a lovely meadow,
___ ἡμεῖς μὲν μάλα πᾶσαι ἀν' ἱμερτὸν λειμῶνα,
___ hêmeis men mala pasai an' himerton leimôna,

Leucippe and Phaeno and Electra and Ianthe,
___ Λευκίππη Φαινώ τε καὶ Ἠλέκτρη καὶ Ἰάνθη
___ Leukippê Phainô te kai Êlektrê kai Ianthê

Melita also and Iache with Rhodea and Callirhoe
___ καὶ Μελίτη Ἰάχη τε Ῥόδειά τε Καλλιρόη τε
___ kai Melitê Iakhê te Rhodeia te Kalliroê te

and Melobosis and Tyche and Ocyrhoe, fair as a flower,
___ Μηλόβοσίς τε Τύχη τε καὶ Ὠκυρόη καλυκῶπις*
___ Mêlobosis te Tukhê te kai Ôkuroê kalukôpis

Chryseis, Ianeira, Acaste and Admete
___ Χρυσηίς τ' Ἰάνειρά τ' Ἀκάστη τ' Ἀδμήτη τε
___ Khrusêis t' Ianeira t' Akastê t' Admêtê te

and Rhodope and Pluto and charming Calypso;
___ καὶ Ῥοδόπη Πλουτώ τε καὶ ἱμερόεσσα Καλυψὼ
___ kai Rhodopê Ploutô te kai himeroessa Kalupsô

Styx too was there and Urania and lovely Galaxaura
___ καὶ Στὺξ Οὐρανίη τε Γαλαξαύρη τ' ἐρατεινὴ
___ kai Stux Ouraniê te Galaxaurê t' erateinê

with Pallas who rouses battles and Artemis delighting in arrows.
___ Παλλάς τ' ἐγρεμάχη καὶ Ἄρτεμις ἰοχέαιρα,
___ Pallas t' egremakhê kai Artemis iokheaira,

We were playing and gathering sweet flowers in our hands,
___ παίζομεν ἠδ' ἄνθεα δρέπομεν χείρεσσ' ἐρόεντα,
___ paizomen êd' anthea drepomen kheiress' eroenta,

soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths,
___ μίγδα κρόκον* τ' ἀγανὸν καὶ ἀγαλλίδας ἠδ' ὑάκινθον
___ migda krokon t' aganon kai agallidas êd' huakinthon

and rose-blooms and lilies, marvellous to see,
___ καὶ ῥοδέας κάλυκας καὶ λείρια, θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι,
___ kai rhodeas kalukas kai leiria, thauma idesthai,

and the narcissus which the wide earth caused to grow,
[yellow] like a crocus,*
___ νάρκισσόν θ', ὃν ἔφυσ' ὥς περ κρόκον εὐρεῖα χθών.
___ narkisson th', hon ephus' hôs per krokon eureia khthôn.  

and that I picked* for joy*; but the earth parted beneath,
___ αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ δρεπόμην περὶ χάρματι: γαῖα δ' ἔνερθε
___ autar egô drepomên peri kharmati: gaia d' enerthe

and there the strong* lord, the Host of Many, sprang forth —
___ χώρησεν: τῇ δ' ἔκθορ' ἄναξ κρατερὸς Πολυδέγμων:
___ khôrêsen: têi d' ekthor' anax krateros Poludegmôn:

and he bore me away, all unwilling, beneath the earth:
___ βῆ δὲ φέρων ὑπὸ γαῖαν ἐν ἅρμασι χρυσείοισι
___ bê de pherôn hupo gaian en harmasi khruseioisi

and then in his golden chariot I cried with a shrill* cry.
___ πόλλ' ἀεκαζομένην: ἐβόησα δ' ἄρ' ὄρθια φωνῇ
___ poll' aekazomenên: eboêsa d' ar' orthia phônêi.

All this is true,* sore though it grieves me to tell.
___ ταῦτά τοι ἀχνυμένη περ ἀληθέα πάντ' ἀγορεύω.
___ tauta toi akhnumenê per alêthea pant' agoreuô.

Minaon terracotta with abstract plant forms, ca.2000 BCE
In this way all day long kept with hearts* at one,*
___ ὣς τότε μὲν πρόπαν ἦμαρ ὁμόφρονα θυμὸν ἔχουσαι
___ hôs tote men propan êmar homophrona thumon ekhousai

many times they greatly warmed* each the other's heart and spirit
___ πολλὰ μάλ' ἀλλήλων κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἴαινονε
___ polla mal' allêlôn kradiên kai thumon iainon

with a loving embrace:* their hearts finding relief from grief
___ ἀμφαγαπαζόμεναι: ἀχέων δ᾽ ἀπεπαύετο θυμός.
___ amphagapazomenai: akheôn d' apepaueto thumos.

while each took and gave back joyousness.*
___ γηθοσύνας δ' ἐδέχοντο παρ' ἀλλήλων ἔδιδόν τε.
___ gêthosunas d' edekhonto par' allêlôn edidon te.

Then Hecate with bright headband came near to them,
___ τῇσιν δ' ἐγγύθεν ἦλθ' Ἑκάτη λιπαροκρήδεμνος:
___ têisin d' enguthen êlth' Hekatê liparokrêdemnos:

and often did she embrace the daughter of holy Demeter:
___ πολλὰ δ' ἄρ' ἀμφαγάπησε κόρην Δημήτερος ἁγνήν:
___ polla d' ar' amphagapêse korên Dêmêteros hagnên:

and from then, the Lady [Hecate, the Moon], became her
attendant* and companion.*
___ ἐκ τοῦ οἱ πρόπολος καὶ ὀπάων ἔπλετ' ἄνασσα.
___ ek tou hoi propolos kai opaôn eplet' anassa.

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416 διίξομαι / diixomai
go through - penetrate - relate - tell of

420 καλυκῶπις / kalukôpis
fair-as-a-flower, flower-faced (blushing, romantic in tone, cf. Gaisser, HDem Epithets)

428 κρόκον / krokon
crocus - [yellow] crocus - [possibly Narcissus tazetta, acc. to Allen & Sikes]

429 δρεπόμην / drepomên
pick - gain possession or enjoyment of - pluck for oneself - cull

429 περὶ χάρματι / kharmati
for joy - in a concrete, ongoing sense, as a source of joy - delight
(περὶ / peri = for - lit. "compassed by")

430 κρατερὸς / krateros
strong - mighty - stern - rough - fierce

432 ὄρθια / orthia
straight up, steep, high-pitched, shrill

433 ἀληθέα / alêthea (ἀ-ληθής)
un-concealed - true - real - genuine

434 ὁμόφρονα / homophrona / (ὁμό-φρονα)
of like mindedness - [their hearts, spirit] agreeing - united - at one
translator, Gregory Nagy, says: "It is a religious principle that Demeter and Persephone, on the occasion of their mother-daughter reunion, are 'like-minded'"

434 θυμὸν / thumon
soul, spirit, as the principle of life, feeling and thought, heart, esp. of strong feeling and passion

434 ἀμφαγαπαζόμεναι / amphagapazomenai
loving embrace - ἀμφί=both sides + ἀγαπάζω=treat with affection - show signs of love - caress - from ἀγάπη / agapé=divine love

440 πρόπολος / πρόπολος
attendant, minister, one who interprets and serves a deity

440 ὀπάων / opaôn
companion, attendant, follower, comrade

435 ἴαινονε / iainon
warm - cheer - unfold - melt - relax by warmth

437 γηθοσύνας / gêthosunas
joyousness - delight - gladness

Woman Spinning, Athens
Woman spinning, Athens, Brygos Painter,
detail from an Attic white-ground oinochoe,
ca. 490 BCE, British Museum

The Hymn to Demeter
& Sappho's Audience
"The Hymn to Demeter [...] becomes very much more vivid if we presuppose a social context in which the life of women was marked by intense bonds between mother and daughter and between coeval girls. Such a social context seems required, too, if we are to come to terms with the poetry of Sappho. [...] The historical importance of the poems does not depend on the (unknowable) degree to which the experiences described in the poems is autobiographical, but upon the experience with which the poems require the audience to be familiar and the nature of the audience which the poems presuppose. The poems of Alkaios and Arkhilokhos between them demand an audience experienced and interested in fighting, drinking and sexual conquests. Sappho's poems demand an audience concerned with relationships, uncertain courtship, passion and appreciative of the sensuousness of the natural world."

from "Greece in the Making, 1200-479 BC, p. 217, by Robin Osborne (2009)

"She does not spin or weave."
"If the purpose of these [coming of age] rites [in the Hymn's narrative] is, as anthropological study has shown, the production of an adult female with the appropriate training and habits to help in the reproduction of her community, Persephone is a singular misfit. She does not stay in her husband's oikos (household); rather, she spends most of her time with her premarital family and associates, traveling to and from them while her husband stays at home. She does not spin or weave, the typical occupations of the proper Greek wife, nor are we told that she is ever taught these skills. Finally she never has children which is the final stage of female coming-of-age and is essential to the perpetuation of the community."

from "The Narcissus and the Pomegranate, An Archaeology of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, pp. 95-96, by Ann Suter (2002)

In Sappho, the Moon (Hekate)
also Helps to Bridge Reunion
"Many of the archaic lyrics of Sappho also address the pain caused by the departure of the beloved and loving women from her circle. [...] The most likely explanation is marriage. [...] In the following fragment (frag. 94), Sappho soothes the acute suffering of a departing woman by reminding her of the pleasures she experienced under Sappho's care:"

      "Honestly I wish I were dead."
      Weeping many tears she left me behind
      and said this also:
      "Oh what terrible things we have suffered.
      Sappho, I leave you against my will, I swear."

      And I made this reply to her.
      "Go in joy and remember me,
      for you know how we cherished you.

      If not, I want
      to remind you...
      of the beautiful things we shared."

"[...] Even women who have been separated by great geographical distances can be united, as in Frag. 96, by the simile of the moon whose light bridges their two worlds. [...]

      [...] the rosy-fingered moon
      surpasses all the stars; its light
      stretches equally over the salty sea
      and over fields with many flowers."

from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," p. 135-6, by Helene P. Foley (1994)

Black-figure, ceramic "Siana" cup with double band ivy above and spring buds (closed and opening) below. Greek, 6th c. BCE
Demeter Strongest in the Oldest
Surviving Version of the Myth
"To me, the most striking effect of comparing a range of ancient and modern versions of the Demeter myth is the revelation that the oldest surviving version, that of the Homeric Hymn, gives Demeter the strongest role in the story's outcome and makes her anger as important as her grief. Although her resistence to Zeus may be passive by comparison to her quarrel with him in Ovid, she demonstrates in a spectacular way that he cannot do without her and that her approval should therefore be sought in decisions that affect her. The paradox that Demeter is strongest in the oldest surviving version is expressed by some scholars as reflecting an actual loss of status for women at some point in prehistory. [...] Yet the same paradox should caution us against assuming that women in what we consider oppressively patriarchal systems are unconscious of their oppression and unable to protest against it."

from "Gender and the Interpretation of Classical Myth," pp. 32-33, by Lillian E. Doherty (2001)

One in Spirit - Demeter - Sappho - de Beauvoir
[B]eing one in spirit, | they warmed each others hearts and minds in many ways | with loving embraces, and an end to sorrow came for their hearts | as they took joys from each other and gave in return. – (L-434-437).

"This is an excellent example of the mutuality, the interconnectedness, the intertwined receiving and giving which is so often cited as characteristic of the narrator’s perspective and stance towards her addressee in Sappho’s poetry. Demeter and Persephone are “positioned as both subject and object of desire.” In the same way, de Beauvoir comments on lesbian love: “there is no struggle, no victory, no defeat; in exact reciprocity each is at once subject and object, sovereign and slave; duality becomes mutuality.” To be sure, the “desire” in the Hymn is not erotic. But psychologists remark on the narcissistic impulse in mothers and daughters who see and love themselves in each other. This impulse, as it appears in the core story, is aptly described by the words of M. Williamson [Sappho's Immortal Daughters] and de Beauvoir [see in Foley ed., Reflections of Women in Antiquity, 1981, p. 54]."

from Beyond the Limits of Lyric: The Female Poet of the Hymn to Demeter by Ann Suter, in Études 18 (2005)

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