Demeter and Poseidon
Demeter and Poseidon's names are linked in the earliest scratched notes in Linear B found at Mycenaean Pylos, where they appear as and in the context of sacralized lot-casting.
In the myths of isolated Arcadia in southern Greece, Despoina (Persephone), is daughter of Demeter and Poseidon Hippios, Horse-Poseidon. These myths seem to be connected with the first Greek-speaking people who came from the north during the Bronze age. Poseidon represents the river spirit of the underworld and he appears as a horse as it often happens in northern-European folklore. He pursues the mare-Demeter and she bears one daughter who obviously originally had the form or the shape of a mare too. Demeter and Despoina were closely connected with springs and animals, related to Poseidon as a God of waters and especially with the mistress of the animals Artemis, the goddess of Nymphs.
Demeter as mare-goddess was pursued by Poseidon, and hid from him among the horses of King Onkios, but could not conceal her divinity. In the form of a stallion, Poseidon caught and covered her. Demeter was furious (erinys) at Poseidon's assault; in this furious form, she is known as Demeter Erinys. But she washed away her anger in the River Ladon, becoming Demeter Lousia, the "bathed Demeter". "In her alliance with Poseidon," Karl Kerenyi noted, "she was Earth, who bears plants and beasts, and could therefore assume the shape of an ear of grain or a mare." She bore a daughter Despoina (Δέσποινα: the "Mistress"), whose name should not be uttered outside the Arcadian Mysteries, and a horse named Arion, with a black mane and tail.
In Arcadia, Demeter's mare-form was worshiped into historical times. Her xoanon of Phigaleia shows how the local cult interpreted her: a Medusa type with a horse's head with snaky hair, holding a dove and a dolphin, probably representing her power over air and water.
The second mountain, Mt. Elaios, is about 30 stades from Phigaleia, and has a cave sacred to Demeter Melaine ... the Phigalians say, they accounted the cave sacred to Demeter, and set up a wooden image in it. The image was made in the following fashion: it was seated on a rock, and was like a woman in all respects save the head. She had the head and hair of a horse, and serpents and other beasts grew out of her head. Her chiton reached right to her feet, and she held a dolphin in one hand, a dove in the other. Why they made the xoanon like this should be clear to any intelligent man who is versed in tradition. They say they named her Black because the goddess wore black clothing. However, they cannot remember who made this xoanon or how it caught fire; but when it was destroyed the Phigalians gave no new image to the goddess and largely neglected her festivals and sacrifices, until finally barrenness fell upon the land.
— Pausanias, Description of Greece 8.42.1ff.
Famous quotes containing the word demeter:
“But the house of the prudent countryman will be, of course, a place of honest manners; and Demeter Thesmophoros is the guardian of married life, the deity of the discretion of wives. She is therefore the founder of civilised order.”
—Walter Pater (18391894)