LLT 121 CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY: Demeter and the Eleusinian Mysteries
Copyright  2001, Joseph J. Hughes
Last reviewed: 13 August 2001

I.   "Olympian View"
     A. sources for the Greeks' original outlook on the afterlife
        1. Homer, Odyssey (750 BC) = katabasis of Odysseus
        2. Vergil, Aeneid (25 BC) = katabasis of Aeneas
     B. lots of cheerless details: not NECESSARILY underground
        1. Charon = ferryman of the River Styx
        2. Cerberus = three headed hound of Hell
        3. Minos, Rhadamanthys, Aeacus = judges
        4. 53 top sinners of the afterlife
     C. no purpose to human existence
        1. humans created for no particular reason
        2. humans die for no particular reason
        3. you go the same place no matter how good you are
     D. Ways of addressing this problem
        1. philosophical
        2. mystery religions such as Demeter's and Bacchus's
           a. organized or semi-organized group of worshipers
           b. hope for some sort of satisfactory afterlife
           c. practice some sort of ritual, lifestyle, or both

II. Demeter and Persephone
     A.	DEMETER (Ceres), The "Great Goddess"
        1. primary embodiment of the female
        2. the creator and renewer of life,
        3. patterned after the Eastern earth-mother goddesses				
           a. Cybele and Attis			
           b. Isis and Osiris				
           c. Aphrodite and Adonis		
     B.	from death (spilled blood) comes new life
        1. Demeter and Persephone	
        2. Demeter = Grain(?) or Earth(?) - Mother			
     C.	Persephone, or sometimes Kore (= "girl"); daughter by Zeus

III. The Hymn to Demeter
     A.	The Kidnapping/Rape = the "death" of Persephone
        1. Zeus gives his daughter to his brother in marriage				
        2. Earth (Gaia) sets the trap with the narcissus  
        3. Hades comes in chariot and the earth swallows them up									
        4. Helios is the only eyewitness	
     B.	Demeter's (Earth Mother's) initial response						
        1. wanders for 9 days searching for Persephone			
        2. neither eats nor drinks		
        3. "dies" to the normal world			
        4. Hecate is Demeter's sole sympathizer
        5. Helius' reply to Demeter: don't worry, be happy	
        6. Demeter goes deeper into mourning (death)				
     C.	becomes like an old mortal woman
        1. becomes nurse for nobles at Eleusis
        2. finally takes nourishment			
        3. laughs at Iambe's jokes
        4. would make the son, Demophon, immortal
        5. feeds him ambrosia; breathes upon him			
        6. Metaneira's humanly ignorant reaction			
     D.	Demeter establishes her temple at Eleusis	
        1. Demeter refuses to do her job
        2. terrible famine ensues
     E. Zeus attempts to summon Demeter
        1. Demeter won't return until she sees Persephone again	
        2. Zeus commands Hades to give up Persephone				
        3. Hades tries to induce Persephone to return			
        4. Persephone eats pomegranate seed= impregnation
     F. Resolution of conflict between Demeter and Zeus
        1. Persephone returns to Hades for 1/3 year
        2. Rhea, Demeter's mother, summons her back to Olympus	
        3. Demeter regenerates the vegetation; famine ends					
        4. Demeter explains the rites of her cult to Triptolemus		
        5. Eleusinian Mysteries established			  

IV.  The Eleusinian Mysteries	
     A. centered at Eleusis, a village near Athens	
        1. mystery cult: must be initiated
        2. divulging cults secrets punishable by death	
     B.	in origin designed to promote growth of grain
        1. principal ceremony held annually in the fall		
        2. procession from Athens and back; initiation
     C.	Details
        1. Day 0: Holy objects brought in procession from Eleusis to Athens
        2. Day 1: All pure Greek speakers invited by proclamation to participate
        3. Day 2: Participants clean themselves in the sea; pigs purified, sacrificed
        4. Day 3: Sacrifices on behalf of individuals and institutions
        5. Day 4: Celebration in honor of Asclepius; latecomers allowed in
        6. Day 5: Procession back to Eleusis; ribaldry in honor of Iacchus
        7. Day 6: Fasting and ritual
        8. Day 7: Pageant (dromena, legomena, deiknumena ); break fast (kykeion)
        9. Day 8: the rest of your life
     D. no specific doctrine advocated	
	1. experience which united diverse groups	
        2. ensured the growth of grain	
        3. promised a happy afterlife

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