After the abduction of Persephone, Demeter disguised herself as an old woman and sadly wandered from town to town. Upon reaching the city of Eleusis, the weary goddess decided to pause a moment and rest herself beside the edge of a stone well.
As she cooled herself in the gentle breeze she was joined by the four daughters of King Celeus who were out seeking water for the evening meal. Not recognizing the old woman as a goddess, the girls engaged Demeter in conversation, collectively asking questions about her homeland and her present-day journey.
Demeter dolefully explained that in order to avoid being sold into slavery she had been forced to flee from her home in Crete. The sisters took pity on the old woman and offered to provide her with a hot meal and a comfortable place to spend the night. Demeter graciously accepted the invitation and accompanied the girls back to the palace of the king.
Queen Metaneria took an instant liking to the gloomy old woman and swiftly adopted her as the caretaker of her infant son Demophon. Because Demeter was still grieving the loss of her daughter, she happily focused all of her attention on the baby prince.
Determined to make the boy immortal, each night the goddess gently anointed him with ambrosia and then placed his tiny body upon the flaming embers of the hearth. One evening Metaneira’s curiosity got the better of her and she decided to check up on the old nurse.
As she peeked through a crack in the door, the queen was horrified to see Demeter place the sleeping child upon the fire. Metaneria let out a shriek and along with her daughters frantically raced over the threshold and entered into the dimly lit bed chamber.
Demeter angrily cast the baby to the floor and with a powerful wave of her hand returned to her true and radiant form. The women stared in disbelief as the goddess chastised them for their doubting behavior.
She then sternly declared that in order to make amends, it was imperative for the people of Eleusis to erect a great temple and dedicate it in her honor. Celeus obeyed the commands of the goddess and a glorious sanctuary was built.
Here the goddess Demeter was worshiped and revered above all others. Though Prince Demophon never gained immortality, Demeter looked favorably upon the child and kindly blessed him with a life full of happiness and good fortune.