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Goddess Archetype - Demeter


A brief psychological overview of Demeter

Demeter - possessing an introverted temperament (opposite to Aphrodite), a kind, gentle-soul, she re-paid people well for even the smallest favors. She is concerned with bearing, raising and nurturing children and family. Hers is a contained ‘mother love’. Her awareness is diffuse. Demeter belongs to the category of ‘vulnerable’ goddess--she was raped and impregnated by Poseidon as well as by Zeus. Her daughter, Persephone, was taken from her and, and although she was returned for awhile, she was forced to leave her mother, Demeter, for a portion of every year.

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Demeter was the goddess of earth, agriculture and fertility. Known as the corn goddess, she symbolizes regenerative earth power over all living things. A sheaf of ripe wheat was her primary symbol. She presided over the harvest and all the agricultural labors. She was often sculpted as a matronly figure, seated. Demeter is the mother archetype representing maternal instinct finding fulfillment through pregnancy and motherhood - or a parallel avenue providing nourishment (psychologically, spiritually), or caretaking. A predominantly Demeter type woman whose mothering urges are thwarted may be disposed to depression.

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Demeter was possibly the oldest of the gods/goddesses, and, like Hera who was born later, was swallowed by her father and, like Hera, was both a mate to Zeus as well as his sibling. Demeter is connected with the Eleusinian Mysteries--a ritual celebrating the annual birth and death of corn. She is connected with the perpetuation of the food supply for large populations. Demeter goddess pre-dates the Greeks--she was the ancient Earth Mother. Both Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, are said to be two different aspects of the same goddess--Persephone (Kore), the maiden and Demeter, the Mother.

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A primarily Demeter type woman seeks a man for security rather than for intellectual or sexual companionship. In this way, the security he offers provides her a means to direct her attention to that which matters most to her-- home, giving birth to children and nurturing them.

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The ancient Olympian Goddesses -
a deeper look

Demeter - represents the archetype of Mother. Her own grandmother was Gaia, the personification of Earth, itself. Her mother was Rhea and her father, Cronos. Archaeological evidence points to a significant Goddess cult in both the Minoan civilization of Crete (c.3000-1000 B.C.E); and the Mycenaean society of Greece (c. 1600-1400 B.C.E) suggesting her ancient matriarchal origins long before the ancient Greeks.

The expression of Demeter archetype in a woman is more than merely physical mothering; it is expressed in her instinctively obliging caring for any and all who are in need, particularly the young, needy and helpless.

Psychologically, Demeter belongs to the category of ‘vulnerable’ goddess. She was raped by Zeus. Her young daughter, Kore, was abducted--taken from her to be Hades’ consort. Demeter was powerless, initially, to affect Kore’s return. Demeter’s consciousness is diffuse.

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  • Mythological history:
    • To the Romans Demeter was known as Ceres
    • Demeter was the second child born to Rhea and Cronos (also swallowed by him)
    • She is known as the sorrowful mother whose daughter, Persephone (Kore), was stolen from her--abducted by Hades and kidnapped to the underworld to be his queen.
    • In her rage and grief at the abduction, Demeter forbade the earth to bring forth plants--nothing could grown, nothing could be born--until her daughter, Kore, was returned
    • Demeter restored fertility and growing on the earth; she offered the Eleusinian Mysteries through which the people gained insight into a reason to live in joy and to be able to face death without fear
    • She is celebrated with the Eleusinian Mysteries in early autumn and toward the end of winter coinciding with the loss and the return of her daughter, Kore. This celebration/ festival/ritual is more ancient than the Greek myths--possibly from 4000 - 1000 B.C.E.
    • She is the goddess of fecundity, fertility and regeneration.
    • Demeter symbolizes the dynamic cycles of nature that occur within the body of the Earth--death and rebirth--and within the body of every woman
    • She has a shared mystical identity with her underworld daughter, Kore, Queen of the Dead - and, in fact, is said to be one and the same goddess.
    • Known also as Terrible Mother and goddess of Death, she carries the opposite and complementary sides of Demeter--all Loving Mother
    • Demeter represents the archetype of childbearing, mothering/nurturing, growing/ the mystery of planting the seed

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  • Challenges facing Demeter
    • Although Demeter played a key role in the survival of all things that live and grow; she was powerless to prevent her daughter’s abduction nor was she able to affect her immediate return. Demeter had been ‘victimized’ and her pleas went ignored. She belongs to the category of the ‘vulnerable’ goddess.
    • Demeter type women face similar themes in their lives: they feel victimized by people or circumstances of their lives, they experience a lack of power to impact change in their distress, they either vent or repress their anger, their feelings of powerlessness leads them to depression
    • Demeter type woman, feeling compelled to help or having difficulty declining any request made of her, may over-commit and then feel overwhelmed in her life--another aspect of feelings of powerlessness. She may dismiss her own feelings, judging them as ungiving. She may be subject to self-pity until she examines her own instinctive responses to ‘giving’.
    • Demeter type woman, feeling over-committed, overwhelmed, ‘stuffing’ her anger and/or resentment may experience somatic symptoms such as back pain, high blood pressure, head aches, chronic fatigue and chronic depression due to her difficulty expressing her own needs and feelings - or in setting boundaries
    • Demeter woman struggling with these issues may become increasingly apathetic, leading her to deeper depression and meaninglessness. Anger may underlie the depression--anger at the ‘meaning’ she feels had been taken from her.
    • The Demeter archetype may have several possible expressions in a Demeter type woman:
      • As in Demeter’s myth, she gave to humanity spiritual knowledge which helped them live their lives more fully and joyously - this Demeter type will have learned from her own life experiences--discovered her own meaning through her life disappointments and losses; and, as a result, she is able to share her down-to-earth generosity and wisdom with others
      • Another aspect of Demeter, angry and mourning her daughter’s abduction, this Demeter type, most often feels disappointed that her life did not meet with her expectations of what she thought her life would be - she identifies with the loss and mourning aspect of Demeter, feeling a sense of betrayal and growing bitterness--allowing nothing on earth to grow

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  • Demeter’s dark side
    • When Demeter grieved her daughter’s abduction, she stopped functioning and demanded the earth stop producing--famine threatened humankind. This destructive aspect of Demeter in Demeter type women can be seen as withdrawal--withdrawing her interests from life, from her family and friends.
    • Some Demeter mothers may withdraw their approval from their child when the child begins exhibiting more autonomy than Demeter woman feels comfortable with--she needs to feel needed. She may inadvertently have a need to foster dependency.

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  • Demeter’s wound
    • Demeter’s grief and anger at the loss of her child, Kore (Persephone) and her feelings of powerlessness to stop the abduction or to influence her immediate return.
    • The Secret of Eleusis, for which Demeter is celebrated, has to do with the rebirth from death. Her daughter was lost to her (in the underworld) but returns to her every Spring.
    • Another aspect of Demeter’s wound is the loss, for every woman, of a particular phase of her life cycle: Maiden (innocent, untouched daughter); Mother--loss of her emerging adult children into their own marriages; Crone--biological loss at menopause. Each of these phases holds opportunity for emergence into a new phase of consciousness.
    • For Demeter type women, healing the wound may involve acknowledging ‘unpleasant’ feelings, feeling the ‘loss’ (whatever it is--interpersonal or conceptual), going through the grieving process, feeling the anger and, ultimately reuniting with self on a deeper level.

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    • Another aspect of Demeter’s wound is cultural in its effect: Modern European/ American cultures have devalued the role that Mother/family plays in society as evidenced by ever-increasing single-parent families, 60-plus hour work weeks, infants in daycare, ‘latch-key’ children, and most of all, the shift in values toward increased consumerism. As recently as the 19th century a Demeter type would enjoy a broadly fulfilling life with dignity and authority: she was an integral part of gathering, harvesting, canning and storing food for her family as well as for market. She baked bread; cooked nutritious, natural foods. She lived as part of a community rather than isolated in her house squeezed into a tiny lot next to identical houses in crowded sub-developments. Most mothers are also women working outside the home, as well. They are typically exhausted from ferrying their children to school, to sports, to music/dance lessons (and the list goes on)-- too exhausted and too burdened to even consider much less exhibit any Demeter interest in cultivating the art of planting & gathering of natural and healthy food preparation for their family. Dinner is grabbed at “MacHamburger”. Families are fragmented--members are on the go--no one is at home to sit down at the dinner table, together, as a family to share a meal and to discuss their day, together.

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  • Demeter’s gifts
    • The primeval love and unity creating a magical bond between mother and daughter.
    • Demeter nourishes spiritually as well as physically.
    • Matriarchal consciousness - nurturing the earth, celebrating the cycles of life, planting, tending, giving birth and assisting in the transition called death

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  • Demeter’s personality
    • As a child & adolescent:
      • As a young girl, very identified with her mother, young Demeter’s mother’s interests and preferences also become her own
      • She loves playing with and nurturing her dolls - she loves being her mother’s ‘little helper’.
      • Her nature is sweet and unassuming
      • As an adolescent she is eager to baby-sit for the neighbors
      • Young Demeter types who lack adequate mothering may yearn, in adolescence, for a child of their own upon which to lavish the mother-love they missed
      • Young Demeter types are typically not motivated to experience sex for sex sake. She may want to marry early so as to begin creating her own family. If she chooses college she will most likely prepare herself for a helping profession.

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    • As an adult woman:
      • Bringing children into the world is Demeter’s greatest joy.
      • Maternal and obliging nature--difficulty saying ‘no’ -- she never seems to think of her own needs
      • Demeter types excel at perseverance and patience. She is usually generous, loyal to individuals and principles, so much so that others may see her as stubborn. She is practical, warm and outer-directed
      • Demeter and Aphrodite are ‘opposites’ - both ruled by Love - the difference being that Demeter’s Love is for the child.
      • So caught up in mothering, Demeter woman hates the thought of leaving her home--she has little interest in dressing up or going out, she has little interest in reading, unless it’s a cookbook or a how-to-do book enhancing her skills around the house
      • Demeter type loves time spent knitting, sewing, gardening
      • Demeter types love finding new recipes to cook for others - she does not enjoy cooking for herself, alone.
      • In relation to her children she is endlessly resourceful, tolerant, selfless.
      • Demeter type would love to have more children than less and, if she could, would continue making babies as late as she could-therefore, avoiding a change in focus required in the next stage of her maturing life.
      • Demeter type finds her fulfillment in the wonder of her children--watching them grow and emerge into happy individuals.
      • Demeter type woman’s friendships tend to span a wide social class range - she tends to view social status as irrelevant - she cares about people from all walks of life.
      • A predominantly Demeter consciousness typically does not express a strong sex drive - she tends to be more desirous of cuddling, expressing emotional warmth.
      • Demeter type woman reaching her midlife phase often feels a keen sense of loss as her children leave home and create lives of their own. Some Demeter types find themselves pregnant at forty - an opportunity to avoid facing the next segment of their life and the opportunity of experiencing a different goddess archetype - therefore, she delays/avoids exploring what else she might discover in life that she could find fulfilling.
      • The archetype of earth mother/nurturer can be expressed in other ways not limited to child-bearer/motherhood. Demeter types can be drawn to any number of careers in the helping profession: nursing, teaching (especially younger children), counseling, (particularly children), cook, baker, caterer, special education, dressmaker, gardener.


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  • Historic females embodying the Demeter archetype: Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Mary Baker Eddy, founder of the Christian Science religion; spiritual leader of Aurobindo Ashram in India known simply as ‘Mother’

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