Feb 14, 2013

Demeter’s Offerings

by Syeda Anjum

How many people do you know are sort of like Greg Heffley from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series? When I say this, I specifically mean their hobbies. Do they like staying indoors isolated from “annoying” family members playing the latest video game on Xbox? Or is it that they find the outdoors too “icky”? Despite many protests, people are drawn to technology one way or the other. But that’s beside the point. What I really want to get into is gardening. How many times have you heard that before? We see people going around bragging that they’re helping the world by growing mushrooms or something, but are they really that into it? Most of the time, probably not. But why? What’s so boring about gardening other than the fact that you can get dirt on your brand new jeans? Maybe it’s because not many people know about its history. However, it’s definitely not my job to go back to lessons about farmers of the past. I’d rather talk about a particular Greek goddess we know should know of (I’ll give you a hint: it’s Demeter).

For all those Greek mythology (and Percy Jackson) lovers, you may appreciate this little tale... somewhat. Anyway, Demeter was known as the Greek goddess of fertility, grain, and agriculture. Most of us usually see her as the mother of Persephone, bride of Hades. So as you can see, she practically promotes our whole gardening campaign. Even if gardening doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, don’t take Demeter lightly. In fact, the ancient Greeks explained that the summers and winters were caused by her. You see, Persephone was a young, beautiful goddess who tended to the fields, picking flowers most of the time. It was during such an event when Hades, god of the underworld, took notice of her. Just like any other romance story, it was love at first sight... for Hades. Unfortunately for Persephone, Hades practically captured her, and the two were swept to the underworld where Persephone would be made his queen. But Persephone detested his actions; she wept and wept and struggled not to eat any of the food grown underground for it would seal the person’s fate as a prisoner forever. Much to her dismay, she eventually starved and forcibly ate six pomegranate seeds as a last resort. Now Persephone would be stuck in the underworld forever, which meant that the crops would wither and die. That’s when Zeus came into the picture; who would worship the king of the Greek gods if he couldn’t provide care to his people? Therefore, Hermes, the messenger, was sent down to Hades to negotiate. According to his compromise, Persephone would be made queen of the underworld only if she stayed six months underground (representing the six pomegranate seeds eaten) and six months above. Everyone consented to this. So, in the end, vegetation would bloom when Persephone returned above, but Demeter would make the crops die when her daughter went back to the underworld.

I hope the story was slightly amusing. Perhaps if people would see gardening as something other than a tedious task, it would make the experience much more interesting. In this way, something as common as growing plants can be connected to outside topics. And come on, everyone’s got to have a favorite story, even if you don’t particularly like reading. Maybe this one about Demeter and Persephone can be yours.

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