In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of grain and fertility, and so nurtures the young and the earth from which food grows and regulates the cycle of life and death and the turning of the seasons. She also guards marriage and sacred law. The word “cereal” comes from the ancient Roman goddess Ceres, a renaming of Demeter. She has the power of renewed fertility and the ability to cause healthy crops to grow and was credited with teaching agriculture to mankind, so was typically more popular with farmers and rural people. Demeter was widely worshipped in ancient Greece.

Her origin is the daughter of Cronos and Rhea, therefore she is the older sister of Zeus. She is sometimes shown as a horse-headed woman, referring to a legend in which she, with a horse’s head, was raped by Poseidon, who had transformed himself into a horse. She may also have origins in earlier Mycenaean and Minoan goddess cults. Demeter is most recognized as the mother of Persephone, who also represents Demeter’s younger self. The myth recounts the abduction and rape of Persephone by Hades, god of the underworld. Demeter, overcome with grief and searching for her missing daughter, neglects her control of the seasons and plunges the world into a permanent winter where no crops will grow. Zeus finally intervenes and sends for Persephone, but not before she eats pomegranate seeds, forcing her to be returned to Hades for six months out of the year.

This explains the change of the seasons from summer to winter. When Persephone is with her mother, Demeter is happy and the earth is fertile and green and crops are abundant. When Persephone returns to the underworld, Demeter becomes depressed again and the world becomes dark and cold. Her personality is that of a stern mother and sometimes a strict keeper of laws and customs. She is sometimes represented as the mother in the triple-goddess of maid, mother, and crone. In art, she is often shown holding a handful of wheat or surrounded by flowers or fruits or riding in a chariot.

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