In ancient Greek religion and myth, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest, who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth. Though Demeter is often described simply as the goddess of the harvest, she presided also over the sanctity of marriage, the sacred law, and the cycle of life and death.
Generally recognized as one of the "faces" of the "triple goddess", Demeter represents the aspect of the middle age woman in the life cycle (the maid in the mother/maid/mature configuration). Persephone and Hecate feature as the young maiden and the wise old crone, respectively.
Demeter is usually represented as a woman of noble bearing and majestic appearance, tall, matronly, and dignified, with beautiful golden hair, which falls in rippling curls over her stately shoulders, the yellow locks being emblematical of the ripened ears of corn. Sometimes she appears seated in a chariot drawn by winged dragons, at others she stands erect, her figure drawn up to its full height, and always fully draped; she bears a sheaf of wheat-ears in one hand and a lighted torch in the other. The wheat-ears are not unfrequently replaced by a bunch of poppies, with which her brows are also garlanded, though sometimes she merely wears a simple riband in her hair.
Upon Demeter's wandering she traveled to the city of Eleusis, and the palace of King Celeus. The King's wife, Metaneria, welcomed Demeter into her home and hired her to look after her new son, Demophon. Demeter took excellent care of the infant by nourishing him on ambrosia, and at night placing him in the fire to burn away all that was mortal of him. One day Metaneria discovered the child in the fire and was horrified. Demeter revealed herself and demanded a temple be built there.
Demeter is also known for founding the Eleusinian Mysteries. These were huge festivels held every five years. They were importaint events for many centuries. Yet, little is known of them as those attending were sworn to secrecy. The central tenant seems to have been that just as grain returns every spring after its harvest and wintery death, so too the human soul could be reborn after the death of the body.
Hades, god of the underworld, abducted [Demeter's] daughter Persephone. Demeter asked Zeus, a brother of Hades, to return Persephone. When Zeus refused, Demeter withheld the harvest from man until Zeus relented. He agreed to allow Persephone’s return if she had not eaten while with Hades. However, since Persephone had eaten 6 pomegranate seeds in the underworld, Zeus determined that she would spend 6 months with her mother and 6 months with Hades. This is the mythic origin of the six months of spring and summer when Persephone walks the earth with her mother and the 6 months of fall and winter when Persephone must return to the underworld.
[Demeter] had numerous shrines throughout the ancient world, including a variety of regular temples and sanctuaries dedicated purely to her Mystery Cult. The foremost of these were the celebrated Mysteries of Eleusis overseen by the Athenians. Demeter was usually worshipped in conjunction with her daughter Kore (or Persephone), goddess of the underworld and the spring growth.
For an agrarian society like ancient Greece, this divinity was clearly of he utmost importance in daily life and religion. Unlike many other major Greek goddesses, Demeter seems to have been purely Greek in origin. Her name in Greek: "de-meter" probably means "spelt mother" (spelt is a type of grain).
Demeter inherited many of her mother, Rhea's, characteristics such as being, "an earth-mother goddess, becoming the goddess of vegetation and fruitfulness, [and] especially corn. She represented the products of soils and seasons, and the generative forces that directed their abundance."Demeter was the goddess of the harvest and she taught man how to grow crops. Traditionally, the first loaf of bread of the season was sacrificed to her. Demeter lived in the mountainous island of Sicily and was known as the protector of the fields. Demeter was also known as, "the fair haired earth goddess who blesses all phases of the harvest. She walks the furrowed fields dressed in green and displays her moods with feast and famine"
In Greek mythology, daughter of CRONUS and RHEA, one of the 12 deities of OLYMPUS. […] Demeter was the goddess of earth, agriculture and crop, especially corn, who in ancient rites presided over the harvest. Her Roman name is CERES.
Demeter is Goddess of the harvest and is most notably linked to the growing, preserving and harvesting of grain. As the grain Goddess she also became the patron Goddess of Millers and bakers. She not only represented the fertility of the land but as a Mother Goddess she was worshipped by woman hoping to have a child.