chapter  6
MISTRESSES OF GRAIN AND SOULS: Demeter and
ByKore/Persephone
Pages 17

Demeter’s origins as a grain goddess must lie in the Neolithic period with the advent of agriculture. Her name contains the Greek word for “mother,” but whether the initial syllable means “earth,” “grain,” or something else has long been debated. Homer had little interest in Demeter and none in her relationship with Kore (the Maiden), though Persephone appears in epic poetry as the bride of Hades. The queen of the dead (Attic Pherephatta) has a non-Greek name and must have been in origin a deity separate from Demeter’s daughter. Even after the two were firmly and inextricably identified, they were often paradoxically represented in cult as two distinct personages. Eleusinian iconography and terminology, for example, juxtaposed Thea, the underworld goddess, with Kore, the daughter. The Greeks avoided pronouncing or inscribing the ominous name Persephone in cult contexts, replacing it with Kore or other euphemisms, though such caution was less often exercised by the poets. Demeter and Kore were frequently worshiped together under such names as the Two Goddesses, the Thesmophoroi, or the Great Goddesses.