Garner's Greek Mythology

EP 23: Demeter - Best Gift Ever

June 01, 2021 Patrick Garner Season 2 Episode 23
Garner's Greek Mythology
EP 23: Demeter - Best Gift Ever
Show Notes Transcript

... Welcome to Episode 23, DEMETER -  BEST GIFT EVER

The Greek gods do everything humans can do, but on a grander scale. When Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, gives bountiful harvests, all rejoice.

How do you top that? When her kidnapped daughter is returned, the grateful goddess gives Greeks the promise of a happy afterlife. Talk about the BEST GIFT EVER...

This episode is narrated by mythologist and best-selling author, Patrick Garner. His Garner's Greek Mythology is unlike any other Greek history series. Here the Greek gods are viewed as if they were anything but mythical.

If you love these podcasts, you'll also enjoy new stories about the gods in Garner's novel Homo Divinitas, now available as an audio book on Amazon.com and Audible.com.

Support the show

PODCAST #23 ... DEMETER- BEST GIFT EVER!

IMAGINE BEING AN OLYMPIC GODDESS. YOU LUXURIATE WITHIN THE PRIVILEGED PANTHEON OF THE GREATEST DIVINITIES, CONVERSING EASILY WITH ZEUS & ARTEMIS & APOLLO.

IT SOUNDS GOOD IN THEORY. IN REALITY IT JUST MEANS YOUR PROBLEMS ARE BIGGER THAN WHAT MORTALS FACE.

AND WHEN YOUR NAME IS DEMETER, IT MEANS YOU'RE AS BEAUTIFUL AS YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN BECAUSE YOU DON'T AGE BEYOND YOUR EARLY 20s ...

AND THAT POWERFUL GODS INSIST ON YOUR COMPANY ... AND THAT BAD THINGS THAT HAPPEN ARE UNUSUALLY BAD ... LIKE HAVING YOUR DAUGHTER KIDNAPPED BY THE GOD OF THE UNDERWORLD.

WHEN YOUR SWEET PERSEPHONE DISAPPEARS, YOU'RE BESIDE YOURSELF WITH GRIEF. YOU WANDER THE EARTH IN SEARCH OF HER, WILLING TO LISTEN TO ANYONE WHO CLAIMS TO HAVE SEEN THE GIRL.

IMAGINE YOU'RE DEMETER.

AND AS YOU WANDER, YOU NOTICE YOU'RE BEING FOLLOWED ... WHAT?! IT'S POSEIDON, THE SEA-GOD. YOU SEE HIM AT A DISTANCE — HIS EYES BURN. HE SEEMS OBSESSED.

ONE OF THE OTHER GODS WHISPERS, "I THINK THE SEA-GOD LUSTS AFTER YOU. EVERYONE ON OLYMPUS IS TALKING ABOUT IT."

YOU RESPOND, "DOESN'T HE KNOW I GRIEVE FOR MY DAUGHTER?"

BUT POSEIDON IS UNDETERRED. TO ESCAPE HIM, YOU CHANGE YOURSELF INTO A HORSE, A MARE, & HIDE IN A VAST HERD IN ARCADIA.

BUT POSEIDON IS NOT FOOLED ... HE CHANGES INTO A STALLION & TAKES HIS ENJOYMENT OF YOU ANYWAY.

FROM THIS CURIOUS & UNWANTED UNION, YOU GIVE BIRTH TO A PONY & TO A SECOND DAUGHTER.  BUT ALL OF THIS IS A MERE DISTRACTION. 

YOU'RE STILL GRIEVING OPENLY FOR THE LOST PERSEPHONE. YOU WEAR BLACK CLOTHES & RETREAT INTO A CAVE.

AS YOU MOURN & WEEP, THE EARTH BEGINS TO PERISH. ALL OF THE GRAINS & FRUITS YOU'VE ALWAYS BLESSED ARE WITHERING AWAY.

YOU VOW THAT ALL WILL DIE UNLESS PERSEPHONE IS FOUND!

THIS IS EPISODE 23 OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY. WE HAVE LISTENERS FROM 118 COUNTRIES & COUNTING. WELCOME TO EVERYONE, WHEREVER YOU ARE.

I'M YOUR HOST, MYTHOLOGIST & BEST-SELLING AUTHOR, PATRICK GARNER. 

THESE STORIES ABOUT THE GODS HAVE BEEN TOLD FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. BUT NOW THERE ARE NEW STORIES THAT ARE AS COMPELLING.

IF YOU HAVEN'T DONE SO ALREADY, CHECK OUT MY BOOKS ABOUT THE GODS IN THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD. 

YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT THEM & ABOUT THIS PODCAST AT PATRICKGARNERBOOKS.COM. 

AND AS ALWAYS, THIS PODCAST WILL FOCUS ON ONE THING ... GREEK GODS, OF COURSE.

HERE THE ANCIENT GODS ARE NOT CONSIDERED IMAGINARY. HARDLY. INSTEAD, THEY, LIKE YOU, ARE HERE, NOW ...

DEMETER WAS THE PROTECTRESS OF GRAIN & NUTS, FRUITS & ALL THINGS AGRICULTURAL.

HER NAME WAS DERIVED FROM THE ANCIENT GREEK GÉH-METER, WHICH MEANT MOTHER EARTH. IT WAS COMBINED WITH THE CRETAN WORD, DE-AI, FOR BARLEY.

THE DE & THE METER TOGETHER FORMED DE-METER, SHE OF THE EARTH & GRAINS. ALL THINGS THAT GREW FROM THE GROUND WERE DEPENDENT ON HER BLESSINGS.

THE VERY BREAD THAT ALL GREEKS ATE WAS DEPENDENT ON HER SENDING RAIN & SUN & FAVORABLE TEMPERATURES.

SHE WAS AN OLYMPIAN & HER BLOODLINE WAS IMPECCABLE. SHE WAS THE DAUGHTER OF TITANS. HER FATHER WAS KRONOS & HER MOTHER RHEA.

DEMETER WAS THE SISTER OF HESTIA, HERA, HADES, POSEIDON & ZEUS. WHAT AN ENTANGLED BUNCH — BROTHERS & SISTERS, HUSBANDS & WIVES. 

LIKE THE OTHER CHILDREN OF KRONOS, DEMETER WAS DEVOURED BY HER FATHER, WHO FEARED A PROPHESY THAT ONE OF HIS CHILDREN WOULD KILL HIM.

HE WAS FORCED TO SPIT THEM ALL OUT WHEN HE SWALLOWED A BITTER MEDICINE. WHAT HAPPENED?

METIS, A TITAN-GODDESS KNOWN FOR HER CUNNING & WISDOM, TRICKED KRONOS, TELLING HIM THAT THE DRINK WAS SWEET. 

SHE DID SO BECAUSE KRONOS HAD SWALLOWED ZEUS AS WELL AS DEMETER, & METIS BELIEVED FOOLISHLY THAT HER FUTURE WAS TIED TO THE SUCCESS OF THE THUNDER-GOD.

ZEUS, UPON BEING FREED AT THE SAME MOMENT AS DEMETER, FULFILLED THE DREADED PROPHESY & OVERTHREW KRONOS.

HE THEN IMMEDIATELY SWALLOWED METIS, AS ANOTHER PROPHESY HAD WARNED THAT SHE WOULD BEAR A CHILD WHO IN TIME WOULD OVERTHREW ZEUS.

AND SO HE BECAME THE MIGHTIEST OF THE OLYMPIANS & DEMETER BECAME ONE OF HIS SEVEN WIVES.

BUT ZEUS HAD LITTLE FONDNESS FOR ANY OF THEM, AS HE QUICKLY HAD AFFAIR UPON AFFAIR ... HIS EYE WAS ALWAYS WANDERING.

HIS LACK OF SENTIMENTALITY WAS NOT JUST FOR DEMETER. HE CARED LITTLE FOR THEIR DAUGHTER, PERSEPHONE, AS WE'LL SEE.

HIS CHILD SIMPLY BECAME AN OBJECT TO BE SWAPPED OFF TO ONE OF HIS BROTHERS. 

ZEUS DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO TELL DEMETER THAT HE WAS GIVING PERSEPHONE AWAY. SO MUCH FOR TENDERNESS.

DEMETER & HER DAUGHTER WERE EVENTUALLY REUNITED, BUT THERE WAS MUCH SUFFERING FOR A YEAR BEFORE THAT OCCURRED.

BEFORE WE GET INTO THE DETAILS, LET'S LOOK AT ANOTHER INCIDENT IN DEMETER'S LIFE. THIS OCCURRED YEARS BEFORE PERSEPHONE WAS SNATCHED. 

IN THIS INSTANCE, AFTER ZEUS HAD MOVED ON TO ANOTHER WIFE, DEMETER FELL IN LOVE WITH A HERO FROM THE ISLAND OF CRETE WHO WAS A SON OF ZEUS & A NYMPH.

FROM THEIR UNION DEMETER GAVE BIRTH TO A DIVINE SON NAMED PLOUTOS, WHO IN TIME GREW UP TO REPRESENT THE WEALTH & GOOD FORTUNE YIELDED FROM THE EARTH.

HE WAS OFTEN DEPICTED WITH A CORNUCOPIA, GRAIN SPILLING FROM ITS OPENING.

THE ANCIENT WRITER HESIOD DESCRIBED HIM AS A KINDLY GOD WHO TRAVELED OVER THE EARTH BESTOWING FORTUNE WHEREVER HE WENT. 

AND WHAT BECAME OF DEMETER'S LOVER? THOUGH ZEUS HAD LONG AGO GIVEN DEMETER THE BOOT, THE THUNDER GOD'S JEALOUSY KNEW NO END.

DEMETER'S LOVER WAS ZEUS' SON, BUT STILL, HE WAS A LESSER GOD WHO HAD DARED TO LOVE AN OLYMPIAN.

HEARTLESSLY, ZEUS STRUCK HIM DOWN WITH A CRACKLING CASCADE OF THUNDERBOLTS. THERE WAS NOTHING DEMETER COULD DO ... BUT BEAR HER SHARE OF THE THUNDER-GOD'S BAD BEHAVIOR.

THINK OF IT: SHE WAS REJECTED AS HIS WIFE. LATER HE INCINERATED HER LOVER. THEN ZEUS GAVE AWAY HER BELOVED DAUGHTER. 

BUT SHE HAD HER REVENGE, AS WE'LL SEE.

NOW LET'S RETURN TO DEMETER IN HER CAVE & HER GRIEF ... PERSEPHONE HAS DISAPPEARED.

AND THE CROPS & FIELDS & HARVESTS THAT FEED ALL OF ANCIENT GREECE ARE DYING. THE GODS BEG DEMETER TO RELENT.

SENT BY ZEUS, ONE BY ONE THEY VISIT HER. BUT SHE SPURNS THEIR PLEAS. SOON, ZEUS FEARS, ALL MEN WILL DIE & THERE'LL BE NO ONE TO OFFER SACRIFICE TO THE GODS.

SHE HERSELF HAS STOPPED EATING, REFUSING NECTAR & AMBROSIA. IT'S EVEN WHISPERED AMONG THE OTHER GODS THAT SHE SPURNS BATHING.

BUT THEN A BREAKTHROUGH OCCURS.

WHAT HAPPENED? HEKATE — GODDESS OF SORCERY WITH THE POWER TO MOVE BETWEEN EARTH & THE UNDERWORLD — REACHED OUT TO DEMETER. 

SHE THOUGHT SHE KNEW WHO HAD KIDNAPPED THE GIRL. 

"HOW DO YOU KNOW?" DEMETER ASKED.

HEKATE, HUSHING THE HELLHOUNDS THAT SNAPPED AT HER HEELS, SAID QUIETLY, "A NYMPH WHO GUARDS A SACRED POOL SAW THE LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD SUDDENLY DESCEND INTO THE WATERS WITH HIS CHARIOT ...

"HE HIT THE WATERS LIKE A METEOR. THE NYMPH RETREATED BUT AS SHE STEPPED BACK, SHE SAW A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMAN IN THE CHARIOT.

"THE GIRL WAS STRUGGLING, BEATING HER FISTS AGAINST HADES' CHEST, SCREAMING & CRYING "NO!" THEN THE CHARIOT SANK BELOW THE WATERS & INTO HADES' REALM."

DEMETER WAS SILENT, TEARS STREAMING DOWN HER FACE. FINALLY SHE SAID, "SO IT WAS MY BROTHER, HADES."

HEKATE SAID, "THERE'S MORE THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW." SHE LOOKED AROUND, SAYING, "ARE WE SAFE FROM ZEUS' EARS?"

DEMETER NODDED.

HEKATE SAID. "LORD ZEUS WAS OVERHEARD PROMISING HADES THAT PERSEPHONE WOULD SOON BE HIS."

"WHAT?!" SCREAMED DEMETER. "HE HAS NO RIGHT!"

HEKATE WENT ON, "THE TWO OF THEM WERE SAID TO BE LAUGHING & SCHEMING. HADES SAID HE'D HAD HIS EYE ON THE GIRL FOR MONTHS."

DEMETER SHOOK HER HEAD, SAYING, "SHE MUST BE BROUGHT BACK."

HEKATE NODDED. "HERMES & I CAN TRAVEL EASILY BETWEEN THE TWO WORLDS. I'LL RECRUIT HIM TO HELP. 

"AND I'LL NEED ZEUS' BLESSINGS OR ALL OF THIS WILL BACKFIRE. HOW WILL WE GET HIM TO RETRACT HIS PROMISES TO HADES?"

DEMETER SAID, "OH, HE'LL COOPERATE. HE NEEDS MORTALS TO MAKE SACRIFICES. IF I WIPE OUT THE CROPS, NO ONE WILL LIVE TO DO SO ..." 

HEKATE NODDED, SAYING, "IN THE MEANTIME, WAIT IN ELEUSIS. THERE'S A SACRED WELL THERE CALLED THE WOMEN'S WELL WHERE THE VILLAGE WOMEN GET THEIR DAILY WATER.

IF HERMES & I SUCCEED, WE'LL BRING PERSEPHONE BACK & EMERGE FROM A CAVE NEAR THE WELL."

DEMETER AGREED ... YES, WAITING IN ELEUSIS FOR PERSEPHONE MADE SENSE. 

SHE HASTENED TO THE SACRED WELL. THERE, IN THE SHADE OF AN OLIVE TREE, SHE WAITED PATIENTLY, DISGUISED AS AN OLD WOMAN.

THE DAUGHTERS OF THE LOCAL KING SAW HER, PITYING HER GREAT AGE & APPARENT NOBILITY. HERE, THEY THOUGHT, WAS A HIGH-BORN WOMAN WHO HAD FALLEN ON HARD TIMES.

ASSUMING SHE NEEDED WORK THEY INVITED HER TO CARE FOR THEIR MOTHER'S BABY SON, A CHILD NAMED DEMOPHON, TO WHICH SHE AGREED.

THE HOME WAS FRIENDLY & DEMETER FOUND HERSELF LAUGHING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MONTHS. THE BOY THRIVED UNDER HER CARE, GROWING RAPIDLY.

IN GRATITUDE FOR THE KINDNESS THEY SHOWED HER, DEMETER BEGAN TO SECRETLY MAKE DEMOPHON IMMORTAL.

SHE DID SO BY BURNING OFF HIS MORTAL PARTS IN THE HEARTH FIRE EACH NIGHT & BATHING HIM WITH AMBROSIA IN THE DAY. 

BUT ONE NIGHT THE CHILD'S MOTHER INTERRUPTED HER & CRIED OUT, HORRIFIED TO SEE HER CHILD BURNING LIKE A TORCH IN THE FIRE.

DEMETER INSTANTLY REBUKED HER & REVEALED HER TRUE IDENTITY IN ALL HER DIVINE SPLENDOR.  AS THE ANCIENT HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER STATES, QUOTE,

"The goddess snatched the boy from the fire ... and cast him from her to the ground; for she was terribly angry in her heart. 

Forthwith she said ... ‘I am Demeter! Witless are you mortals and dull to foresee your lot, whether of good or evil ... 

For now, in your heedlessness, you have gone too far; for I would have made your dear son deathless & unaging all his days & would have bestowed on him everlasting honour, but now he can in no way escape death & the Fates. 

Yet shall unfailing honour always rest upon him, because he lay upon my knees & slept in my arms ...'

FOLLOWING THIS OUTBURST, DEMETER RETURNED TO THE WELL. 

IN THE MEANTIME, HADES HAD CROWNED PERSEPHONE AS QUEEN OF THE UNDERWORLD WHERE SHE LIVED WITH ZEUS' BROTHER IN HIS VAST PALACE.

BUT PERSEPHONE WAS FAR FROM HAPPY. SHE PRETENDED TO BE TO AVOID THE RAGE OF HADES. BUT THE GIRL LONGED FOR SUNSHINE & FOR HER LOVING MOTHER.

THEN IN A WONDROUS FLASH, HERMES & HEKATE APPEARED BEFORE HER. 

IT HAD TAKEN LITTLE TO PERSUADE ZEUS. HE KNEW HE HAD BEEN OUTMANEUVERED & TOLD THE TWO TO FETCH THE GIRL.

THEY DESCENDED IN HERMES' GOLDEN CHARIOT, THE MANES OF HIS MAGNIFICENT HORSES FLYING AS THEY SPED INTO THE GLOOM.

HADES, UPON HEARING THE COMMAND TO RETURN HER, WAS OF COURSE FURIOUS. NOT ONE TO EASILY GIVE UP, HE TRIED TO HIDE HIS REACTION. 

SMILING & WISHING HIS NEW QUEEN THE BEST, HE TOOK HER HAND & ASKED, "YOU'LL COME TO SEE ME SOON?"

PERSEPHONE BENT HER KNEE, SAYING, "MY LORD, WHETHER & WHEN I VISIT WILL BE DICTATED BY THE MIGHTIEST OF US, ZEUS HIMSELF. BUT I WILL ASK HIM TO LET ME COME ..."

"HERE," HADES SAID. "SOME FOOD IF YOU GET HUNGRY ON YOUR TRIP." HE SLIPPED A FEW POMEGRANATE SEEDS INTO HER PALM.

AND AT THAT, HEKATE TOOK PERSEPHONE BY THE ELBOW & GUIDED HER ONTO THE CHARIOT. HERMES CRACKED HIS WHIP & THE THREE BEGAN THEIR ASCENT.

NOT KNOWING THAT HADES HAD SET A TRAP, PERSEPHONE CASUALLY CHEWED ON THE SEEDS, THINKING THAT PERHAPS, ALL IN ALL, HER GLOWERING HUSBAND WAS NOT SO BAD.

WHEN THEY BROKE FROM THE DARK CAVE INTO THE SUN, THEY ENCOUNTERED DEMETER, WHO WAITED NEAR THE WELL.

SHE LET OUT A CRY OF DELIGHT UPON SEEING THE CHARIOT. INSIDE WAS HER DAUGHTER, HER HAIR BLOWN BACK BY THE WIND, LAUGHING AT HER FREEDOM.

HERMES DREW THE CHARIOT UP TO DEMETER & THE THREE STEPPED OFF. "YOUR DAUGHTER," HE ANNOUNCED AS EVEN THE STERN HEKATE SMILED.

THE MOTHER & DAUGHTER HELD EACH OTHER. DEMETER BROKE FROM THE EMBRACE TO WAVE HER ARMS IN A VAST CIRCLE. 

IN THE BRIGHT SUN THE TREES LEAFED OUT & NEARBY FIELDS BECAME FLUSH WITH TALL BARLEY & WHEAT. APPLE TREES SUDDENLY HUNG HEAVY WITH FRUIT.

SHE TURNED BACK TO PERSEPHONE AND ASKED, "ARE YOU HUNGRY AFTER THE TRIP?"

HER DAUGHTER SHOOK HER HEAD, SAYING, "NO, MOTHER. LORD HADES GAVE ME FOOD. SEE —?" SHE OPENED HER HAND TO SHOW DEMETER THE REMAINING SEEDS.

HER MOTHER STEPPED BACK IN SHOCK, SAYING, " DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT IF YOU HAVE EATEN IN THE UNDERWORLD, YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE IT COMPLETELY?"

PERSEPHONE BROKE OUT IN TEARS. SHE'D BEEN TRICKED & WAS NOW OBLIGATED FOREVERMORE TO SPEND A PART OF EACH YEAR BELOW THE EARTH.

NEVERTHELESS, DEMETER WAS GRATEFUL ... SHE HAD BEEN WILLING TO MAKE THE BABY BOY IMMORTAL FOR BRINGING JOY BACK INTO HER LIFE.

IN THE SAME WAY, SHE WANTED TO GIVE THE GREEKS AN IMMEASURABLE GIFT TO CELEBRATE THE RETURN OF HER DAUGHTER.

SHE GAVE THEM A SERIES OF REVELATIONS IN THE FORM OF AN ANNUAL FESTIVAL THAT GUARANTEED PARTICIPANTS A HAPPY AFTERLIFE.

THEY WERE CALLED THE ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES, AFTER THE CITY WHERE PERSEPHONE EMERGED.

IN TURN THE PEOPLE OF ELEUSIS BUILT ONE OF GREECE'S LARGEST TEMPLES IN HER HONOR.

FOR THE GREEKS, THE DEMETER-PERSEPHONE STORY REPRESENTED LOSS & RECOVERY, DEATH & THE MIRACLE OF REBIRTH.

PERSEPHONE'S REBIRTH — REPRESENTED BY SPRING’S RETURN EVERY YEAR — PROMISES THE SAME FOR THOSE WHO TAKE PART IN THE MYSTERIES. 

THAT PROMISE WAS DEMETER'S BESTOWAL TO MANKIND ...

YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT THE ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES IN MY NOVEL HOMO DIVINITAS. THERE, THE GREAT GODDESS REVIVES THEM IN MODERN TIMES, BUT, WITH A TWIST ...

JOIN ME ... FOR THE NEXT EPISODE OF GARNER'S GREEK MYTHOLOGY. THIS IS YOUR HOST, PATRICK GARNER ...

IF YOU LOVE WHAT YOU HEAR, BE SURE TO VISIT Patrick-Garner-Books-dot-com OR FIND ME ON AMAZON ... 

MY NOVELS ABOUT THE GREEK GODS ARE AS ENTERTAINING AS MY PODCASTS!