Demeter and Core: a significant Greek mith

The greek mith of Demeter and Core spread also to the greek colonies such as Selinunte.

 Myth in ancient Greece

Myth is the oldest cultural expression of the Greek world. It is a story (mythos means narration), of events and undertakings concerning gods and heroes. The myth reflects an era characterized by the absence of historical research and scientific speculation. However, it remained in Greek culture even when historical, scientific and philosophical research developed. The reason is that mythical tales have given voice to psychic contents, becoming symbols.

The mith of Demeter and Core

A prominent place in ancient Greece had the cult of Demeter, goddess of the earth fertility and of agriculture, particularly adored in Eleusis.

The cult of Demeter is similar to those of the Great Mothers in the religions of other Mediterranean populations. Demeter, in addition, has a transforming function. She has the ability to elevate man from a primitive condition to a civilized state. Basically the cult of Demeter symbolizes the civilizing function of agriculture.

eleusis and Eleusinian Misteries

Eleusis, currently a municipality of Greece located at the edge of Attica, was an independent city-state until the 7th century BC. Then it entered the Attica state, allying with Athens. The city became an important centre for the cult of the goddess Demeter. In the acropolis, a temple from Mycenaean era was dedicated to her. The temple was known for the celebration of initiation rites called Eleusinian Mysteries. References to the city and the Mysteries can be found in several Greek myths.

The “Eleusinian mysteries” were mysterious religious rites that were celebrated each year in the sanctuary of Demeter. They are the “most famous of the secret religious rites of ancient Greece“. At their base there was an ancient agrarian cult, and probably derived from the religious practices of the Mycenaean period.

Mysteries represented the myth of Core’s abduction by the king of the underworld Hades, in a three-phase cycle; the descent into the underworld, the search and the ascent, with the main theme as the rise of Core and the reunion with her mother.

In a way the rebirth of Core symbolized the eternity of life which flows from generation to generation. Initiates to rituals believed that they would have a reward in the afterlife. They believed in prospects after death more enjoyable than the final end at the gloomy space of the Hades.

rituals of eleusinian misteries

The rituals took place twice a year. The Lesser Mysteries took place in the spring. Those who had been purified earlier took part in September to the Greater Mysteries.

They walked the Sacred Way from Athens to Eleusis calling for Kore and re-enacting Demeter’s search for her lost daughter. At Eleusis they would rest by the well Demeter had sat down by, would fast, and would then drink a barley and mint beverage called Kykeon.

It has been suggested that this drink was infused by the psychotropic fungus ergot. It heightened the experience and helped transform the initiate. After drinking the Kykeon the participants entered the Telesterion, an underground `theatre’, where the secret ritual took place.

Most likely it was a symbolic re-enactment of the `death’ and rebirth of Persephone which the initates watched and, perhaps, took some part in. Whatever happened in the Telesterion, those who entered in would come out the next morning radically changed. And they would swear not to reveal the mysteries to anyone.

Core and Hades

In the mythological stories we often find Demeter and her daughter Kore or Core, which literally means girl. Another greek name of her is Persephone.
According to the myth told in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Zeus, father of Core, promised to marry the girl to his brother Hades, god of the underworld, Core,’s uncle. One day, Core together with the other goddesses was gathering flowers in a meadow. According to some versions the lawn was located near Mount Nisa in Geece or in the countryside around Enna in Sicily.
Suddenly an abyss opened in the ground from which Hades came out in his golden chariot. He kidnapped the girl and took her with him to the Underworld. Demeter heard the desperate crying of Core. For three days, with two torches at her hands, she desperately sought her daughter asking men and gods news of her.

On the third day she met Hecate, goddess of the Moon, another divinity of the Underworld carrying a torch, who accompanied Demeter to the chariot of Elio, the god of Sun.

the  vengeance of Demeter

So Demeter learned from Elio what had happened to her daughter. Angered, she turned away from the gods, retreating to Eleusis, and sent a terrible sterility to the earth. Everything was drying out.

Zeus then intervened and convinced Hades to bring Core back to earth to make her meet her mother.

But Hades induced the girl to eat a pomegranate grain, food of the dead. Therefore Core would have to spend part of the year in the underworld, just like the seed, which lives underground to sprout, later, in the light of the sun and bear fruit.

Then Kore returned to her mother, provided that she had to spend a third of the year with Hades in the realm of the dead.

Joyfully Demeter welcomed Core’s periodic return to Earth, reviving nature in spring and summer. The representation of her return to earth was located near the meadows of Lake Pergusa in Sicily, famous for its beautiful brightly colored flowers, and this is also evidenced by the numerous Greek statuettes found in the Enna territory.

After the pacification, Demeter returned fertility on earth and consented that every year her daughter would spent the autumn and winter in the Underworld together with Hades and spring and summer on earth together with her mother.

More Eleusinian Misteries

At Eleusis, they probably celebrated Core also as mother of a mysterious child, perhaps Dionysus. This mysterious motherhood of Core, who however does not lose her virginal nature, comes before another mystery, also revealed only to the initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries.

This mystery is the secret identity between Core and her Mother Demeter. In fact Core and Demeter are two aspects of the same female figure, who manifests herself as a virgin and a mother, as a fertility donor and at the same time a bearer of death. In the Greek religion this paradoxical ambivalence characterizes various female figures including Artemis and Athena.

source:Furio Jesi

from Selinunte – La medusa editrice