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A field of yellow stems of wheat

Greek goddess Demeter: A field of wheat growing

What does “Demeter” mean?

The Greek goddess Demeter is an earth goddess; her name is De, which means earth (the same word as Gaia) and meter, which means mother. Demeter is the goddess of growing things, especially of grains like wheat and barley and millet.

History of wheat
Where does barley come from?
More Greek gods
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Demeter and Persephone

Demeter’s daughter, Persephone, is the grain itself, so Demeter is the earth giving birth to the grain. Demeter and Persephone together are a metaphor for the earth that grows grain. That made them super important, because most Greek people ate a lot of bread and barley soup.

Persephone and Hades
A Persephone project
Earth in Greek astronomy

Demeter, Persephone, and Triptolemos (the boy), an 1899 drawing from a stone carving found at Eleusis .

Greek goddess Demeter, Persephone, and Triptolemos (the boy), an 1899 drawing from a stone carving found at Eleusis .

Demeter is the daughter of Gaia

In Greek stories, Demeter is the sister of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, and Hera. So, like them, she is the daughter of Gaia, or Earth. This makes a lot of sense for a goddess of growing crops, because that is exactly what produces crops: earth.

Who is Gaia?
The invention of farming

Demeter and Tantalus

The most important story about Demeter is that of her daughter Persephone. She’s also a minor character in the story of Tantalus and his son Pelops.

What did Tantalus do?
That Persephone story again

The Eleusinian Mysteries

Demeter also plays an important part in the Greek religious mystery cult at Eleusis. (To find out more about Triptolemos, read about Eleusis.). Demeter’s related to the Roman goddess Ceres.

What’s a mystery cult?
More about Eleusis

Did you find out what you wanted to know about the Greek goddess Demeter? Let us know in the comments!

Learn by doing: bake a loaf of bread
More about Persephone

Bibliography and further reading about the Greek goddess Demeter:

D’aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D’Aulaire.

Greek Religion, by Walter Burkert (reprinted 1987). By a leading expert. He has sections on each of the Greek gods, and discusses their deeper meanings, and their function in Greek society.

Ancient Mystery Cults, by Walter Burkert (reprinted 1989). More about Demeter at Eleusis and other mystery cults.

Eleusis and the Eleusinian Mysteries, by G.E. Mylonas (1961).

Watch out! On Demeter, there are a lot of books which are more neo-pagan religion, or Freudian theory, than they are historical facts. The books we recommend have been selected for their strict historical accuracy.

More about Persephone
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