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Demeter

Demeter is the goddess of corn, grain, and the harvest. She is the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. It is Demeter that makes the crops grow each year. The first loaf of bread from the harvest is sacrificed to her. Demeter is the goddess of the earth, of agriculture, and of fertility in general. Sacred to her are livestock and agricultural products, poppy, narcissus and the crane.

Demeter is intimately associated with the seasons. Her daughter Persephone was abducted by Hades to be his wife in the underworld. In her anger at her daughter's loss Demeter laid a curse on the world that caused plants to wither and die, the land become desolate. Zeus became alarmed and sought Persephone's return. However, because she had eaten while in the underworld Hades had a claim on her. Therefore, it was decreed that Persephone would spend four months each year in the underworld. During these months Demeter greves her daughters absence, and withdraws her gifts from the world, creating winter. Her return brought the spring.

Demeter is also known for founding the Eleusinian Mysteries. These were huge festivals held every five years. They were important events for many centuries. Yet, little is known of them as those attending were sworn to secrecy. The central tenet 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.

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