Homeric Hymns Hymn to Demeter

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Homeric Hymns: Hymn to Demeter
The name Demeter refers to a person with an introvert temperament and a kid gentle soul.
Demeter was one of the goddesses whose purpose was to provide the earth with fertility and
agriculture. She had a regenerative power over the earth’s living things and controlled everything
that grows on it. She was also referred to as the corn goddess corn was one of the greatest gift
that she gave humans. Demeter’s daughter is abducted by the underground god; Hades, by the
help of his brother Zeus and make her his wife. Her mother is grieved and stops working
resulting to a famine that nearly demise humanity and the subsequent impact to the immortals.
However, Demeter finally get to reunite with her beloved lost daughter and accept to restore
fertility and growth on earth (Cook 53).This essay will critically examine the Demeter’s reaction
to the event of hymn, how she descends to madness and resolution.
The Abduction of Persephone
Persephone was the daughter of Demeter and Zeus and she was also referred to as KOLE.
Clay (236) cited that, Persephone was a sweet, glamorous and a beautiful girl and her beauty
lured and fascinated everyone who came across as well as those who wanted to conquer her.
Hades was not exceptional as for the first time he saw her, he thought of making her his wife.
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Despite the respect of family bond they shared with Demeter, the underworld god went on to
consult Zeus and they collaborated in kidnapping her without the consent of her mother.
Persephone went out to play in a meadow that was full of flowers when Hades made a
wondrous and radiant narcissus which caught her attention. As she reached to uproot the flower,
the earth opened and the underworld god sprung out with his golden chariot and kidnapped
Persephone who tried to resist but it was in vain. Demeter was able to hear the echo of her
daughter but it was too late as she was already gone. Demeter being a tender loving mother, she
was really upset and worried about her daughter and made her rush in pursuit.
Demeter’s Grief and Anger
According to Swift (423), Demeter wondered the world from the land to the in search of
he daughter but it was all in vain. For nine days she did not eat, drink, sleep or take bath. She got
frustrated as she did not know the truth and there was no omen that was revealed. On the tenth
day she met with Hecate on the road who happened to have also hear the creaming voice of her
daughter but she did not know the reason or the offender. Noticing her grief, she decides to help
her by seeking help from Helios as he was the spy of the gods and humans who were not ready to
tell her the truth.
Helios is moved seeing Demeter in grief and sympathizes with her by revealing the
perpetrator of the incident. He identifies Hades as the kidnapper and also accuses Zeus of playing
part in the abduction of her daughter and giving the underworld god to take her as his wife.
Demeter is furious and returns to Olympus to ask for explanation. The glowing god tries to
comfort her but her words are unyielding and makes here more stubborn and she continues with
the search for her daughter.
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Demeter in Eleusis
Demeter arrived at Eleusis grieving and exhausted and decides to sit beside the well of
Virgo. She is confronted by four daughters who had gone to the well to fetch water. Demeter
transformed into an old woman to avoid being noticed and to get help from the girls. She lies to
the girls about the fairy tale when she was asked about her ancestry. She reaches the palace and
welcomed by queen who had a baby boy named Demophon who needed extra care from
experienced woman (Tomaszewski and Kim)
Demeter Nurses Demophon
Demeter felt that she had to appreciate their hospitality by announcing the intention of
nursing and educating Demophon. The queen agrees and trusted her only son in the hands of
Demeter. Demeter promises that nothing bad will happen to him and that he will never get sick.
According to Hendriksma, Demeter tries to make the baby immortal by immersing him in fire
and by the use of ambrosia. The procedure could have worked if it was not for the queen and the
old nurse who spied on her suspending the baby over the fire. Demeter is forced to reveal herself
and orders the building of a temple where she will be teaching her worshipers some of special
Demeter Descends To Madness
After the abduction of her daughter, Demeter was filled with range as she expected to be
treated better by the humans. Through her search for her daughter, she went through a lot that
made her become vengeful and angry. Demeter is angered when Triopas who was the king of
Thessalians destroyed her temple. She cast famine upon him and ensured that he was never
satisfied with any amount of food. She later send a snake to kill him while he was almost dying.
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Demeter also descends her wrath on gods such as Zeus and Poseidon as well as to the humans
such as the Ascalabus (Ferguson).
After the temple was completed, Demeter resided at Eleusis and refused to work as she
grieved the demise of her daughter. She no longer feed the earth by producing grains resulting to
the most dreadful and cruel year for the mortals as the ground could not sprout seed. The oxen
that drew many curved plough in the field and many white barley that was unsuccessful.
Demeter could have wiped out humanity regardless of the innocent humans if it was not for Zeus
who saw the need for the mortals who praised them.
Zeus watch the mortal starving and suffering from the great feminine unleashed by
Demeter and realized that humanity would demise if he did not take any action. He sends the
graceful Irish who was at Eleusis to talk to Demeter and convince her to return to Olympus but
she was not ready to change her attitude and behavior. The goddess was unmoved by other
goddess who brought her gift hoping she will change her mind but they too were sent back.
According to Tully, the father of gods decided to confront a real impasse the efforts he made
ended in vain. He decides to send Hermes to Hades and successfully manages to persuade him to
release Persephone. Hade listens to his younger brother and agrees to set free her wife but he did
not disclose his sincere intention of letting her go.
Before releasing Persephone, Hades offered her a sweet pomegranate seed that she eats
so that she does not permanently return to her mother and leave him lonely. Immediately after
the farewell, the ruthless underworld god prepares for her his chariot that takes her to meet her
mother in Eleusis.
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On facing her daughter, Demeter is filled with joy and falls in her arms not believing that
arrival of her beloved lost daughter. However, Demeter understanding the stubbornness and
selfishness obsession that Hades possess, she asked her daughter whether she was given anything
to eat by her brother before she left. Her daughter innocently describes into details how Hades
offered her the pomegranate seed that she ate. Demeter sadly understands the impact of the
incident and she says to her daughter that she will have to stay with her husband one third of the
time of the year and the other two third of the year with her mother (Shelmerdine).
After a long period of suffering and adventure, Zeus finally sends Rhea to Demeter who
is satisfied with the reunion with her daughter. Rhea propose to both Demeter and her daughter
to return to Olympus and they accept. Demeter accepted the call by Zeus and ends the calamities
she brought upon the humanity. Upon reaching Olympus, everything is restored and nature
bloomed and started bear fruits.
The myth depicts the plight of women in our society in different stages of their live from
teenager to a powerful old woman. For instance Persephone who was a virgin reaches maturity
and become a woman when she eats pomegranate seed. On the other hand, Demeter symbolizes
oppressed mother who goes a lot in taking care of child as well as accepting the fact that her
daughter has a new role of a woman. Contrary, men seem to enjoy the privileges they have and
goes further in oppressing women who are unable to protect themselves. Women have no right in
this society as depicted when Zeus denies Demeter to mingle with mortals and goes ahead to
struck Iasion with thunderbolt. However, Demeter is able to fight for her justice and finally get it
through a ruthless act.
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Work Cited
Clay, Jenny S. "The Homeric hymns as genre." The Homeric hymns. Interpretative essays,
Oxford (2011): 232-253.
Cook, Erwin F. "Epiphany in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the Odyssey." (2012): 53.
Ferguson, J. LaRae. "τιµή and the Nurturing Principle in the Iliad and the Homeric Hymn to
Demeter." (2016).
Hendriksma, J. A. A Woman's Withdrawal: a Gendered Analysis of Demeter's Withdrawal in the
Homeric Hymn to Demeter. BS thesis. 2017.
Shelmerdine, Susan C. The Homeric Hymns. Hackett Publishing, 2012.
Shelmerdine, Susan C. The Homeric Hymns. Hackett Publishing, 2012.
Swift, L. A. "How to make a goddess angry: making sense of the Demeter ode in Euripides’
Helen." Classical Philology104.4 (2009): 418-438.
Tomaszewski, Zach, and Kim Binsted. "Demeter: An Implementation of the Marlinspike
Interactive Drama System." AAAI Spring Symposium: Intelligent Narrative Technologies
II. 2009.
Tully, Caroline. "Demeter’s Wrath: How the Eleusinian Mysteries Attempted to Cheat Death."

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