The goddess of the Earth, in its capacity as a fruitful, growing thing, Demeter (also known as Ceres), was a daughter of Kronos and Rhea, and was looked upon by the Greeks as the all-nourishing mother of the Earth. The way life evolves from the seed which is cast into the ground and allowed to rot was the principle tenet of the belief in her. The seed was in the keeping of her daughter, Persephone, Queen of Hades, and the life that sprang forth from that seed was Demeter’s. In this way the two goddesses were inseparable, and were styled as ‘the two in one’, or ‘the great deities’.
When Hades carried off Persephone, to make her his bride, Demeter, with a mother’s grief, mounted her car drawn by winged snakes and travelled through all lands searching for her, leaving traces of her blessing, in the form of instruction in the art of agriculture, wherever she was kindly received. But the person who treated her with the utmost hospitality was Keleos, in the district of Attica, where she in return taught him the use of the plough, and on departing presented Keleos’ son, Triptolemos with the seed of the barley, plus her snake-drawn car, so that the boy could travel the lands, spreading the knowledge of agriculture to all men. In Arcadia, in Crete, she bore to Jasion, the first sower of grain, a son, Plutos, while in Thessaly she battled Erysichton, ‘the earth upturner’, or ‘the ploughman’, and Aethon, the personification of famine.
When Poseidon threatened to manhandle her, she turned herself into a horse and fled, but the sea god pursued her, turning also into a horse. He caught her, and together they produced the winged horse Arion. Horrified at this deed, Demeter hid for a long time in a cave, finally emerging to purify herself in the river Ladon, and rejoining the other gods and goddesses. Demeter’s sigils were ears of corn and poppies, and her sacrifices were cows and pigs.