Demeter was the sister of Zeus and the goddess of the harvest. She ruled over all forms of agriculture, especially grains and cereals and was key in keeping the earth’s crops abundant and fruitful.
She was often called upon by farmers who were looking to secure blessings for the upcoming harvest season. Demeter chose the red poppy flower as her emblem and incorporated its hypnotic properties into her sacred mysteries.
The rich rosy tint of its petals optimistically brought the promise of life after death to the people of the ancient world.
Demeter is best known for being the mother of Persephone, the young maiden who was carried off by Hades, the god of the underworld. If you would like to read more about the abduction and learn how it divided the year into seasons please see my page titled Tales of Persephone .
Though she is usually portrayed as being without a husband, Demeter was not void of children. Along with her daughter Persephone who was sired by Zeus, (making the god both her father and her uncle) she also produced twin sons Plutus and Philomelus after laying with her paramour Iasion in a thrice plowed field.
It seems that after consuming a bit too much nectar at the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia , Demeter and her lover scurried off in search of a quiet place to accommodate their romantic desires. After laying together in a freshly tilled furrow, the drunken pair returned to the party suspiciously covered with muck and mire.
Zeus immediately guessed what had transpired between the two and in a jealous rage struck Iasion dead with one of his thunderbolts. The amorous affair brought about the birth of Demeter’s twin sons Plutus and Philomelus.
Though the brothers were identical in appearance, the two were granted very different stations in life.
Plutus, who is often seen holding a full cornucopia went on to be associated with bountiful harvests and the wealth of the earth. He is sometimes described as having certain physical ailments that creatively symbolize distinct aspects of his nature.
For instance it is written that Zeus took away his eyesight to allow the young god to distribute his gifts fairly without the threat of prejudice.
He was also said to be both lame and winged; a whimsical way of illustrating the notion that wealth is slow to arrive but often departs with speed. Unfortunately Philomelus did not share in his brother’s good fortune.
Unlike Plutus who lived a life of affluence, Philomelus was destined to live his life as a farmer. In order to sustain himself, Philomelus ingeniously invented the first plough (sometimes a wagon) which he used for cultivating his fields. Demeter was so proud of her son that she later placed him in the night sky as the constellation Bootes.