Demeter, “the mother of the union”, is the power that supports the effort of perfecting our nature in order to realize union of spirit and matter.
Demeter and Persephone – Louvre Museum
Demeter, the goddess of domesticated nature and crops – especially of wheat, the most noble amongst grains – has little affinity with untamed nature and its wild, tumultuous expressions. Daughter of Cronos, she bore her brother Zeus a daughter named Core, later also known as Persephone when she was united with Hades, the god of the underworld.
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One day, when Core was frolicking with her nymph friends, Gaia made a wonderful flower spring from the earth before her as a favour to Hades. When Core leaned down to pick the flower, the earth parted before her. Hades surged forth from the gulf and dragged her away to his kingdom with the tacit complicity of his brother Zeus. The young woman only had time to utter a scream, heard only by Hecate and Helios.
Worried by her disappearance, her mother ran to find her, but Core proved to be impossible to find. Demeter then wandered the world for nine days and nine nights in her search, but in vain. On the tenth day she was led by Hecate to the sun Helios, ‘he who sees all things’, and who revealed the identity of the culprit. In despair and knowing that she had no hope of persuading her brother Hades, Demeter decided to quit Olympus. As soon as she did so, the earth was deprived of her influence and became sterile.
Then, lamenting the destiny of her vanished daughter, she took on the appearance of an elderly woman and went to Eleusis. There she was welcomed by the four daughters of king Keleos and was led to his palace before their mother, queen Metaneira. The latter had just given birth to a son, Demophon, who had been long wished for after the birth of her daughters. Intuiting uncommon gifts in the elderly woman, the queen employed her as the child’s nurse.
Wishing to render the child immortal, the goddess rubbed him with ambrosia during the day and plunged him in a purifying fire at night to burn all that was mortal within him.
Although the child was growing beautifully, curiosity led his mother to spy on the elderly woman (the goddess), and she beheld her magical operations. As the treatments alarmed the child’s mother, Demeter unwillingly returned him to her, uttering these awful words: ‘Witless are you mortals and dull to foresee your lot, whether of good or evil, that comes upon you.’ (Homeric Hymns- Hymn to Demeter). She predicted that the sons of Eleusis would undergo terrible battles.
Then, having regained her divine form, she revealed her identity to her divine hosts, ordered them to establish in her honour the mysteries of Eleusis and requested a temple to be built there for their celebration.
Core’s abduction. Altes Museum
Almost a year had passed since Core’s abduction, and the earth remained sterile, for deprived of the influence of Demeter nothing could grow or reach maturity. As all of Olympus worried for the survival of humankind, Zeus sent his messenger Iris followed by other gods in the role of his ambassadors to ask the goddess to return amongst them. Faced by her obstinate refusal to do so, Zeus ordered his brother Hades to allow Core to return to her mother. The latter agreed, but wishing to tie the young woman to himself forever he made her swallow a pomegranate seed. In so doing, she broke the fast necessary for anybody wanting to return definitively to the kingdom of the living.
And thus Core had to accept a compromise; she would remain for a third of the year in the underworld with her husband Hades, and would spend the rest of the year with her mother Demeter. The latter agreed to this arrangement, and on these terms agreed to take up her place in Olympus again.
Demeter and Core/Persephone held central roles in the initiation rituals of Eleusis, the teachings of which accompany the seeker throughout his progression. Through the structuring character Δ, the name Demeter signifies ‘the mother of union’ (Δ +μητηρ).
Let us remember that following their victory over the Titans, the three brothers, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, divided the world amongst themselves; Zeus ruled over the starry sky, Poseidon over the seas and Hades over the underworld. Mount Olympus and the surface of the earth remained their shared possessions.
Zeus ruled therefore over the supraconscious, Poseidon over the subconscious, essentially the vital, and Hades over what is of the underworld, the body and the unconscious.
A wider interpretation of the kingdom of Hades could include the domains of the deep subconscious, that of the deepest planes of the vital represented by the youngest children of Pontos. However, taking into account the fact that only the great heroes Heracles and Ulysses could access it, it has been in this work identified as corporeal consciousness associated with the inconscient, with which could correspond Nereus, “the old man of the sea”.
Persephone supervising Sisyphus – Staatliche Antikensammlungen
Linked to the yoga of the body, the legend of Persephone and Hades therefore only applies to a very advanced stage of the quest, the essential points of which develop with the abduction of Core who was named Persephone after her union with Hades. Let us note that the character (Δ) associated with the iota (I) of consciousness is also the structuring character of the name Hades (αΙΔης), which represents the power directing the process of yoga of “re-union” in the corporeal unconscious and responding to the work of Demeter in the conscious plane.
According to a legend not unanimously agreed upon amongst the ancient Greeks, Demeter, distracted by the grief caused by the disappearance of her daughter, ate the shoulder of Pelops, which she then replaced with a shoulder of ivory, thus bringing him partly across the ‘door of the gods’ just before the wedding of the hero with Hippodamia (In fact, in the Tree of Sephiroth, the clavicle corresponds to the ‘veil of the abysses’ or the ‘doorway of the gods’). In this version, vital mastery must imperatively be achieved before the seeker can entertain any ambition for corporeal yoga, which is to say the direct action of divine forces through the ‘doorway of the gods’ rendered permeable by its purification, for the new clavicle is made of ivory, a symbol of purity.
In Greek the name Core or Kore signifies ‘young woman’. The related verb Κορεω can induce the notion of the necessary purification for realising Union. Therefore, if Demeter represents the power which leads towards this union, her essential manner of operating, her daughter would represent ‘cleansing’ or ̵