Goddess of the Week: Demeter

Motherhood is not a television sitcom. It is not twenty-minute segments of hilarity followed by the perfect and permanent resolution of problems. Motherhood is a hard business. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. Just ask the Greek goddess Demeter.

When her own brother Hades, lord of the underworld, kidnapped and married her beloved daughter Persephone, Demeter wandered the earth searching for clues to her disappearance. When she finally discovered the truth of her brother's crime, she found no sympathy on Mount Olympus. No goddesses cried for her. No gods came running to her aid. Accustomed to the sexual politics of conquest, at which most of them excelled so well, the immortals of ancient Greece threw Demeter and Persephone straight under the bus.

But Demeter was no June Cleaver or Carol Brady. She did not put her faith in laugh tracks and meatloaf. She put it in vengeance. The goddess of all green and growing things, she threatened to let the natural world die if she didn't get her daughter back. (Not a total psycho-bitch she secretly taught humans how to harvest grain so they could survive lean times.) Well, even the gods knew that there was no fun in omnipotence if there was no around to worship you, so the king of the gods, Zeus (Demeter's other brother), eventually capitulated and told Hades he had to give Persephone back.

Alas, Persephone had eaten three pomegranate seeds and once one eats in Hades one belongs to Hades. (Remember that the next time you're deciding where to dine.) A deal was made. Persephone would spend three months a year in Hades (one for each seed) and the rest of the time with Demeter. Each winter trees and plants wither and die because Demeter is once again mourning the loss of her daughter, and then Spring returns because Persephone is given back.

Isn't that motherhood right there? Sunny days interspersed with sadness and mourning. One day everything is lollipops and blue skies, and the next day you're cleaning vomit out of your ear or wondering how your charming offspring can be so consistently under-appreciated by teachers, peers and college admission officers. And that's if you're lucky. That's if your lollipops and blue skies aren't interspersed with demons like chemo or drugs or depression or whatever ugly hobglobbin is invading your happy home.

Channel the goddess Demeter: When overwhelmed by the demands of caregiving. She's been feeling your pain for thousands of years and she understands good times and bad times are always cyclical, which means the bad times always pass, but, then, so do the good ones.

Need a goddess? Is there an issue that plagues you? Is there a place in your life where you need more inspiration? More appreciation? More support? Tell me your need and I will find you your goddess.


Desiree said...

I always loved this myth. Domestic drama goes global--

Cafe Observer said...

Motherhood is not ______
Motherhood is __________

MF, all I know is after seeing you , this time w/daughter @ EuroPane, she is one lucky girl to have you as her mom & feeding her EP!
I'm a jealous dog...can I be your family dog? Just take me along when you go out to eat. I bet you serve great canine food!
I was gonna say, "we gotta stop meeting like this", but who doesn't wanna meet @ eateries!

My need?? Hmmmm...well, can you tell me what the Goddesses Karin & Petrea could do for me?

Susan C said...

Just read another great blog essay called Mother Mythology that I think you'll like:


Shawna said...

I always loved this story, too :)

And how do you get vomit in your ear?! Ayayay motherhood sounds a bit daunting all of a sudden.

Shawna's Study Abroad

Anonymous said...

Yet again another brother whose taken up residence in the basement.

A little off topic but your post reminds me of a story told to me by a woman who worked at Sybil Brand. She said that if you went to Mens Central in downtown you'd find a host of women (girlfriends and wives) showing up on visitors day. On the other hand, If you went to Sybil Brand on there visiting day, the guest consisted of the prisoner's mothers and their children.

A mother's love ain't no disco but it's often unconditional.

Margaret said...

Dez: "Domestic drama goes global." What a great phrase. I think I will steal it.

Pup: The Finnegans do like their desserts. As for Karin and Petrea, they can always provide you with excellent blog posts because they smart and witty.

Susan: I'll check it out.

Shawna: Let's just say that when you hold a baby or toddler when they have stomach flu, you are tempting fate.

PA: Another great phrase: A mother's love ain't no disco but it's often unconditional. I think I might steal that one too.

altadenahiker said...

I find I have ever so much to complain about today. Including the fact that you never once gave me my own goddess. (And I don't want one with snakes crawling out of her head or who wipes the earth with her bloody carcass.)

Margaret said...

Ah: I gave you Calypso! http://margaretfinnegan.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2009-05-30T13%3A48%3A00-07%3A00&max-results=7

Jean Spitzer said...

I think you can always tell the non-parent because they still have the ability to be creeped out by vomit or poop.

Petrea said...

Margaret, this is one of your best. Beautifully written, heartfelt. Gorgeous. Wow.

altadenahiker said...

You're right, you're right. Although I didn't get the pagentry the others got. I was just mentioned in passing, as a by the way.

But I won't complain so long as the sun stays out.

Margaret said...

Petrea: Thank you.

AH: If you think you were mentioned in passing, then I apologize and assume all responsibility. I will get you another goddess to make up for my error, and I will present her to you will fanfare and glory. Stay tuned.

Cafe Observer said...

MF, since KB wants another goddess, give her the oddess Petrea.

Shell Sherree said...

Vomit in your ear? Yikes. I'm sure it's all worth it, though. Another great one, Margaret.

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MamaJosephine said...

Recently discovered your blog, and I am LOVING this Goddess of The Week theme! I especially love this one about Demeter!! Thankyou so much!

Margaret said...

MJ: Thank you for visiting. Demeter is a good goddess to keep in your pocket.

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