467-469 Rheia to Demeter: "Come, my child, obey, and be not too angry unrelentingly with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos; increase forthwith for mortals the fruit that gives them life."
Illustration: Great Mother Goddess Rheia / Rhea, Figurine, Crete, ca. 1200 BCE

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

Importance & Priority of Rhea / Rheia
"It is important the wrath of Demeter is mediated by Rhea, the mother of Demeter, Zeus and Hades. Rhea is a daughter of Gaia, and as such she springs from a world order that predates Zeus's domination. She enables Demeter and Zeus, functional opposites in this conflict, to come to a working compromise. Rhea is a mediating mother, one who bridges conflict with connection."

from "Persephone returns: Victims, Heroes and the Journey from the Underworld," p. 37, by Tanya Wilkinson (1996)
___ ___ ___

Symbols or Cymbals
The hymn [to Demeter] leaves no doubt that whatever [religious practice] went on at Eleusis dealt with the mystery of life and regeneration as well as with the impenetrable secret of death and the hope for some ray of light in the tenebrous underworld. Furthermore the hymn teaches us that the cult was chthonic, most likely pre-Hellenic in origin and indigenous to Eleusis. By this I do not mean that similar cults did not exist elsewhere. Far from it, I only mean that the Eleusinian version of what is in essence a human universal and a religious archetype had its own distinct identity, which need not have been imported from somewhere else. As Jane Harrison aptly put it, 'Demeter at Eleusis did not borrow her cymbals from Rhea, she had her own.'"

from "The Homeric Hymns, Translation, Introduction, and Notes," pp. 73-74, by Apostolos N. Athanassakis 1976. (Jane Harrison quote from "Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion," p. 561, 1908)
___ ___ ___

Rheia, Mother of the Gods
Detail from a bronze sculpture of "Cybele," Roman name for Rheia, Demeter's mother and "Mother of the Gods," by Mihail Chemiakin, 1993
___ ___ ___

The first sitdown strike in history!
"We need the rage of Kore's mother, the rage that will not submit, that rises out of despair, that brings results. Demeter, who called the first sitdown strike in history, who invented passive resistance, who said, 'Nothing will grow until my daughter is returned' — whose demands must be met. Demeter — who always refuses to ignore the horror of Her loss and continue with business as usual. Demeter — our own power to grieve and yet make that grief a force that compels change, that brings about renewal."

from "Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics," p.84, by Starhawk (1997)
___ ___ ___

Alphabet Kylix
Attic ceramic kylix (drinking cup),
inscribed with Greek alphabet, wave forms and ivy, 5th c. BCE, National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Photo & Sound: Wikipedia

(Click console to listen to the
Greek alphabet pronounced)


___ ___ ___

The Unknown Goddess
Alpha & Omega

"The secret at Eleusis was not only a secret of which it was forbidden to speak (aporheton), but a secret which could not be spoken (arrheton). The secret was the Kore herself, the errhetos koura, the Ineffable Maiden," the only deity to be so called. Is it possible that we can find here a hint as to our own Agnosta Thea [Unknown Goddess], the feminine principle which is rising again in our consciousness? Harrison insists that Demeter and Kore are not so much mother and daughter as mother and maiden, two phases of one being, and also notes that Demeter tends to be associated with the things of this world, while Kore belongs to the kingdom of the spirit and is concerned with things "beyond." The mother aspect of the "thea" is the everyday world, our mater-ial and multiple world, our technical world, our restless world in quest of its 'maiden' aspect, integral being and meaning. Now we can begin to see why the 'mother' and the 'daughter' are such ambiguous figures. The mother seeks the maiden as her own earlier state, her original being, her source. But as her final integral meaning, the maid is her offspring, her fruit,' her goal.' (At Eleusis the building in which the mysteries were celebrated was called the Telesterion, from telos, 'goal')."

from "The Unknown Goddess," by Beatrice Bruteau, in "The Goddess Re-awakening: the Feminine Principle Today," p. 71, edited by Shirley J. Nicholson (1989)
___ ___ ___

Minoan lotus ceramic design
Late Minoan, detail from a ceramic lotus design, illustrated in Edith Hall Dohan's "Decorative Art of Crete in the Bronze Age" (1907)
___ ___ ___

Persephone's Spring Mysteries
"Modern science explains the changes of the natural world by the hypothesis of certain unconscious forces; and the sum of these forces, in their combined action, constitutes the scientific conception of nature. But, side by side with the growth of this more mechanical conception, an older and more spiritual, Platonic philosophy has always maintained itself, a philosophy more of instinct than of the understanding, the mental starting-point of which is not an observed sequence of outward phenomena, but some such feeling as most of us have on the first warmer days in spring, when we seem to feel the genial processes of nature actually at work; as if just below the mould, and in the hard wood of the trees, there were really circulating some spirit of life, akin to that which makes its energies felt within ourselves. Starting with a hundred instincts such as this, that older unmechanical, spiritual, or Platonic, philosophy envisages nature rather as the unity of a living spirit or person, revealing itself in various degrees to the kindred spirit of the observer, than as a system of mechanical forces."

from "The Myth of Demeter and Persephone," in "Greek Studies: a Series of Essays, pg. 96, by Walter Pater (1875 / 1920)
___ ___ ___

On Spiral Symbolism —
Metaphysical Realities

"The function of symbolism is to go beyond the 'limitation of the fragment' and link the different 'parts' of the whole or alternatively the worlds in which these parts manifest: these worlds are successive windings of the spiral. Each symbol is a link on the same 'cosmic rhythm' or different planes of reality. [...] We, like Plato's prisoners in the cave, can see merely the shadows of the real objects, which themselves are only the manifestations of the Ideas and Archetypes (or Immutable Essences). In other words, even the 'originals,' let alone the physical manifestation of nature, are but symbols of the metaphysical realities...."

from "The Mystic Spiral, Journey of the Soul, " p. 10, by Jill Purce (1974)
___ ___ ___

Ancient Crete Necklace, 1200-700 BCE (possibly prayer beads, notice the tactility of each bead, and pacing of repeated refrains), from "Excavations in Vrokastro" by Edith H. Hall, 1914

Rites of "Enduring Love"
"The rites of Demeter and Persephone speak to the experiences of life that remain through all times the most mysterious — birth, sexuality, death — and also to the greatest mystery of all, enduring love. In these ceremonies, women and men expressed joy in the beauty and abundance of nature, especially the bountiful harvest; in personal love, sexuality and procreation; and in the rebirth of the human spirit, even through suffering and death. Cicero wrote of these rites: 'We have been given a reason not only to live in joy, but also to die with better hope.' [...] My reading of the testamonia and archaeological data finds that the mysteries of the mother and daughter goddesses were essentially mysteries of love."

"The Eleusinian Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone: Fertility, Sexuality and Rebirth," by Mara Lynn Keller, in "Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion," pp. 31-32 (Spring, 1988)
___ ___ ___

 Rhea / Rheia — the Might of
Motherhood by Motherhood

"All Demeter's existence is concentrated on this motherhood. She feeds the human race, but when she is deprived of her daughter, she stops the course of the seasons for one year, till the beloved be restored. Nor is there for a time any change even after her daughter's return, until Zeus sends Demeter's own mother to persuade her, thus controlling the might of motherhood by motherhood alone. [...] This is the central symbol of the Eleusinian mysteries, ranking first among the religious ceremonials of Greece. The Mother and Daughter, on Athenian lips, mean always Demeter and Persephone; and through them this relation is glorified, as wifehood becomes sublime in Hera, love in Aphrodite, and maidenhood, active or contemplative, in Artemis and Athena."

from "The Greek Goddesses," 1869, by Thomas Wentworth Higginson, republished in Atlantic Essays (1871)
___ ___ ___

Demeter's Choice —
Erased and Returned

"The [Demeter] myth says in fact that maternal power is the full power both to generate and not to generate: she does not have to generate, but she has generated already and she can generate again. This is because she carries in her womb the past and future infinity of human existence, as well as nothingness in the future sense of "no longer." And right here lies the deepest meaning of the feminine 'secret' of life, which archaic cultures attribute to the Great Mother: to generate is an exclusively female experience, but it is not an automatic and obligatory process where women are mere vehicles."

from "In Spite of Plato: a Feminist Rewriting of Ancient Philosophy," p. 64, by Adriana Cavarero, (1995)
___ ___ ___

Rheia / Cybele, Mother of the Gods,
by Mihail Chemiakin, 1993,
Photo: earlywomenmasters.net


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

Art & Photo Illustrations
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Homeric Hymn to Demeter • (Google) Search
English • Ancient Greek • Transliteration 
• Greek-English Glossary
And all-seeing, loud-thundering Zeus sent a messenger to them —
___ ταῖς δὲ μέτ' ἄγγελον ἧκε βαρύκτυπος εὐρύοπα Ζεὺς
___ tais de met' angelon hêke baruktupos euruopa Zeus

rich-haired Rheia — [and thusly] dark-cloaked Demeter
___ Ῥείην ἠύκομον, Δημήτερα κυανόπεπλον
___ Rheiên êukomon, Dêmêtera kuanopeplon

to bring back to join the company of the gods: promising honor,
___ ἀξέμεναι μετὰ φῦλα θεῶν, ὑπέδεκτο δὲ τιμὰς
___ axemenai meta phula theôn, hupedekto de timas

awarding her [any] she should choose among the immortals
___ δωσέμεν, ἅς κεν ἕλοιτο μετ' ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι:
___ dôsemen, has ken heloito met' athanatoisi theoisi:

and agreed that her daughter when the season came round
___ νεῦσε δέ οἱ κούρην ἔτεος περιτελλομένοιο
___ neuse de hoi kourên eteos peritellomenoio

should go down for the third part into darkness and gloom,
___ τὴν τριτάτην μὲν μοῖραν ὑπὸ ζόφον ἠερόεντα,
___ tên tritatên men moiran hupo zophon êeroenta,

but for two parts should live with her mother and
other immortals.
___ τὰς δὲ δύω παρὰ μητρὶ καὶ ἄλλοις ἀθανάτοισιν.
___ tas de duô para mêtri kai allois athanatoisin.

So he spoke: the goddess [Rheia] did not disobey the news
of Zeus.
___ ὣς ἔφατ': οὐδ' ἀπίθησε θεὰ Διὸς ἀγγελιάων
___ hôs ephat': oud' apithêse thea Dios angeliaôn.

Hurrying she rushed* down from the peaks of Olympus
___ ἐσσυμένως δ' ἤιξε κατ' Οὐλύμποιο καρήνων,
___ essumemws d' hixe kat' oulumpoio karhnwn,

and came to the Rarian plain, rich, fertile life-bringing* land
___ ἐς δ' ἄρα Ῥάριον ἷξε, φερέσβιον οὖθαρ ἀρούρης
___ es d' ara Rharion hixe, pheresbion outhar arourês

once, but then in nowise fruitful, for it lay idle
___ τὸ πρίν, ἀτὰρ τότε γ' οὔτι φερέσβιον, ἀλλὰ ἕκηλον,
___ to prin, atar tote g' outi pheresbion, alla hekêlon

and utterly leafless.* The bright grain of wheat stayed hidden
___ ἑστήκει πανάφυλλον: ἔκευθε δ' ἄρα κρῖ λευκὸν
___ hestêkei panaphullon: ekeuthe d' ara kri leukon

by the design of trim-ankled Demeter. But afterwards,
___ μήδεσι Δήμητρος καλλισφύρου: αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
___ mêdesi Dêmêtros kallisphurou: autar epeita

it was soon to be waving with long ears of corn
___ μέλλεν ἄφαρ ταναοῖσι κομήσειν ἀσταχύεσσιν
___ mellen aphar tanaoisi komêsein astakhuessin

and its rich furrows to be laden with grain upon the ground,
___ ἦρος ἀεξομένοιο, πέδῳ δ' ἄρα πίονες ὄγμοι
___ êros aexomenoio, pedôi d' ara piones ogmoi

while others would already be bound in sheaves.
___ βρισέμεν ἀσταχύων, τὰ δ' ἐν ἐλλεδανοῖσι δεδέσθαι.
___ brisemen astakhuôn, ta d' en elledanoisi dedesthai.  

There first she [Rheia] landed from the fruitless upper air:
___ ἔνθ' ἐπέβη πρώτιστον ἀπ' αἰθέρος ἀτρυγέτοιο:
___ enth' epebê prôtiston ap' aitheros atrugetoio:

and well-pleased* the goddesses to see each other,
rejoicing* in heart.
___ ἀσπασίως δ' ἴδον ἀλλήλας, κεχάρηντο δὲ θυμῷ.
___ aspasiôs d' idon allêlas, kekharênto de thumôi.

Then Rheia with the bright headband* said to Demeter:
___ τὴν δ' ὧδε προσέειπε Ῥέη λιπαροκρήδεμνος:
___ tên d' hôde proseeipe Rheê liparokrêdemnos:

Come, child, Zeus, loud-thunderer, far-seeing, summons you
___ δεῦρο τέκος, καλέει σε βαρύκτυπος εὐρύοπα Ζεὺς
___ deuro tekos, kaleei se baruktupos euruopa Zeus

to join the company of the gods, promising honor
___ ἐλθέμεναι μετὰ φῦλα θεῶν, ὑπέδεκτο δὲ τιμὰς
___ elthemenai meta phula theôn, hupedekto de timas

which he offers to give you, among the immortals,
___ [δωσέμεν, ἅς κ' ἐθέλῃσθα] μετ' ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι.
___ [dôsemen, has k' ethelêistha] met' athanatoisi theoisi.

and has agreed that your daughter, of the circling* year
___ [νεῦσε δέ σοι κούρην ἔτεος π]εριτελλομένοιο
___ [neuse de soi kourhn eteos p]eritellomenoio

for a third part* shall go down to darkness and gloom,
___ [τὴν τριτάτην μὲν μοῖραν ὑπὸ ζόφον ἠ]ερόεντα,
___ [tên tritatên men moiran hupo zophon ê]eroenta,

but for the two parts shall be with you and the other immortals.
___ [τὰς δὲ δύω παρὰ σοί τε καὶ ἄλλοις] ἀθανάτοισιν.
___ [tas de duô para soi te kai allois] athanatoisin.

He has said yes* to all* this with the nod of his head.
___ [ὣς ἄρ' ἔφη τελέ]εσθαι: ἑῷ δ' ἐπένευσε κάρητι.
___ [hôs ar' ephê tele]esthai: heôi d' epeneuse karêti.

So come, my child, consent,* and be not overly
___ [ἀλλ' ἴθι, τέκνον] ἐμόν, καὶ πείθεο, μηδέ τι λίην
___ [all' ithi, teknon] emon, kai peitheo, mêde ti liên

angry unrelentingly with the dark-clouded Son of Cronos;
___ ἀ[ζηχὲς μεν]έαινε κελαινεφέι Κρονίωνι.
___ a[zêkhes men]eaine kelainephei Kroniôni.

and increase forthwith for mortals the fruit* that gives them life.*
___ α[ἶψα δὲ κα]ρπὸν ἄεξε φερέσβιον ἀνθρώποισιν.
___ a[ipsa de ka]rpon aexe pheresbion anthrôpoisin.

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Ancient GreekOther Meanings
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449 ἐσσυμένως / essumemws
hurrying - impetuous - eager - yearning for

450 φερέσβιον / pheresbion / (φερές-βῐος)
life-bringing - life-bearing - life-giving

452 πανάφυλλον / panaphullon (πᾰν-άφυλλος)
all-leafless - utterly leafless

458 ἀσπασίως / aspasiôs
well-pleased - welcome - with glad welcome

458 κεχάρηντο / kekharênto
rejoicing - taking pleasure - joyful - delighting in

459 λῐπᾰροκρήδεμνος / liparokrêdemnos (λῐπᾰρο-κεφᾰλό-δεσμος)
with bright headband or headband of light
(also Hecate's epithet at L-438)

463 περιτελλομένοιο / peritellomenoio
go or come round - circle - of the sun and stars, rise above the horizon

464 τριτάτην / tritatên
in the third place - third part

466 ἔφη / ephê
say yes - affirm - assert

466 τελέεσθαι / teleesthai
in all things - grant in full - work out - bring to an end

467 πείθεο / peitheo
be persuaded - consent - trust and consent - believe - obey

469 καρπὸν / karpon
fruit - the fruits of the earth - corn - harvest - seed - seed with seed vessel

469 φερέσβιον / pheresbion / (φερές-βῐος)
life-bringing - life-bearing - life-giving
(inclusio with L-450, when Demeter's mother Rheia enters the scene)
Pebble Labyrinth, Finland
Looking like a large tree in full bloom, a pebble labyrinth from Weir Island, from the coast of the Gulf of Finland, discovered (in 1838, uninhabited) and illustrated by Dr. Von Baer. Reminiscent of the Cretan labyrinth design which appears on coins from Knossos, but with a difference. A labyrinth is distinguished from a maze by having only one route, you must always wind up in the center, you can't get lost, as is possible in a maze. But the center represents the beginning, a labyrinth leads you back to the beginning. In the Weir labyrinth, after entering, you have two choices — you can go to the right and end up in the center or go left and return to the beginning — either way metaphorically (that's the point) the journey returns you to the start or brings you back home (to your true self), where end and beginning meet. (Click image to zoom.)
The evening star
brings home
to their beginning
all that shining morning scattered
in the eight directions.
It brings back the sheep,
brings back the goat,
brings back the child to her mother's hand.

~ Sappho (7th c. BCE)
Sappho translation from "A Poet's Anthology: The Range of Japanese Poetry," p.84, by Ôoka Makoto (1994)

Skyphos Drinking Cup, ca 750 BCE, Athens, Greece, BMFA
Rhea's Joyful Meeting with Demeter —
"the Spine of the Story"

"There first she [Rheia] landed from the fruitless upper air: and well-pleased the goddesses to see each other, rejoicing in heart."

"Final reconciliation between daughter, mother, and Olympian Zeus is brought about through the agency of another goddess, Rheia, the mother of Demeter and grandmother of Persephone. Rhea's role is to ask her daughter to forgive her husband [Zeus] and to return with her to him and to the other gods at Olympus. For Demeter to acquiesce in this request, therefore, is to obey her own mother. Appearing thus as a crucial agent at the very end of the story, Rhea represents the fertility of the previous generation. Her presence bears special meaning for our theme because it marks a crucial axis of the myth — namely, a powerful matriarchal lineage — an axis of intergenerational gendered bonding — a line that may, in fact, be read as the spine of the story, etched fossil-like into the softer ground surrounding it. It is a line, moreover, that may easily escape those focused only on an oedipal reading."

from "Mothers and Daughters: Ancient and Modern Myths," by Ellen Handler Spitz, in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 48, No. 4, Feminism and Traditional Aesthetics (Autumn, 1990), pp. 411-420
Gaia vs. Rhea in the Hymn to Demeter
The shadowy goddess Earth (Ge or Gaia) […in the Hymn to Demeter] is typical of the Indo European tradition. That she is distinct from the Minoan great goddess is obvious later in the poem with the entrance of Rhea, Mother of Demeter, Hades, and Zeus. Rhea is clearly more of the Minoan tradition, most often with Cybele in Phrygia but also appeared in Crete. In the poem she enters in the final stages of the conflict to intercede with her daughter and Zeus, who has been unable to compel Demeter to cease her revenge on gods and men. In this role Rhea is the Minoan mother, she is symbolic of the connections of the tribe and her intercession with her daughter is what finally does move Demeter to rejoin the Olympians. […]

"Rhea can be seen as an attenuation of the original goddess of matriarchal tradition, while Earth, as she appears in the Hymn to Demeter is the amorphous abstraction."

from "The Heroine in Western Literature: The Archetype and Her Reemergence in Modern Prose," p.34, by Meredith A. Powers (2000)

Reunion of Demeter and Rheia
"Rheia, Demeter's mother joins [Demeter and Persephone]: 'Joyfully they [Rheia and Demeter] beheld each other and rejoiced in their hearts [L-458]'. The line suggests, by its echoes of the description of the reunion of Demeter and Persephone on equal terms, that Demeter has finally resolved her relation with her own mother, by permitting Persephone to separate successfully and by accepting her as an adult. She does not take it amiss that Rheia reminds her to keep her part of her bargain with Zeus. She restores fertility to the earth [L-470-472]."

from "The Narcissus and the Pomegranate," p.68, by Ann Suter (2002)

Rheia's Role
& Salvaging Relationships
"Rheia is a fitting illustration for Carol Gilligan's claim in her influential work In a Different Voice that, because she is a female, she values relationships over abstract honor. Rheia is not concerned with who is right and who is wrong in this situation. Instead, she focuses on salvaging the torn relationship between her offspring and restoring harmony. As an agent of reconciliation, she works by advocating a compromise — one in which neither side emerges as the total victor or the absolute loser. And like her female counterparts in this tapestry of collaboration and support, Rheia is ideally suited for the role she has to play."

from Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth, P. 90, by Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)

Mycenaean stirrup jar, 14th-13th c. BCE, Staatliche Antikensamm
Freedom in Mystery —
through Symbolism's Obscurity
"The main features of the Mystery-system which passed [...down from the Greeks] are the notions of [...], above all, the three stages in the spiritual life, ascetic purification, illumination, and epopteia* as the crown. The secrecy observed about creeds and liturgical forms had not much to do with the development of Mysticism, except by associating sacredness with obscurity (cf. Strabo, x. 467 ...), a tendency which also showed itself in the love of symbolism. This certainly had a great influence both in the form of allegorism [...], which Philo calls 'the method of the Greek Mysteries,' and in the various kinds of Nature-Mysticism. The great value of the Mysteries lay in the facilities which they offered for free symbolical interpretation."

from "Christian Mysticism," p. 354-355, by William Ralph Inge (1899)

*Note: epopteia (εποπτεια) (to see with one's own eyes) the direct revelation of truth via contemplation of the Forms, or divine realities.

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Illustrations: (TOP) India import handmade cloth and Rheia sculpture, Photo: earlywomenmasters.net
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