11/2/09

Goddess of the Week: Demeter

Dem├ęter tipo Madrid-Capitolio (Museo del Prado) 01Image by Zaqarbal via Flickr

When my daughters were babies, I read many parenting books, and from these books I learned that I must always tell my children to use their words. So I did. "Use your words," was my mantra, and, lo-and-behold, one I turned around to discover that I couldn't shut my kids up. Every moment was, and is, talk-talk-talk-talk-bicker-bicker-bicker-bicker.

That, right there, is what you call unforeseen consequences -- which is the big lesson the parenting books don't cover.

The Greek goddess of the harvest, Demeter, knew all about unforeseen consequences. When her brother Hades -- lord of the underworld -- stole her daughter Persephone, Demeter played hardball to get her back. She threatened to let all plant life die unless her daughter was returned. Alas, Persephone had eaten the food of the underworld and could not permanently return to the world of the living, but a deal was struck. Persephone would stay winter with Hades and the rest of year with Demeter. And everyone lived happily after. Right?

Not quite. Here's the thing. Persephone like being queen of the underworld. Hades, for all his doom and gloom and lordship over the dead, wasn't such a bad guy. He didn't cheat on Persephone. He gave her good bling, a cool throne, a three-headed dog; she had a lot of power, and she liked having a lot of power. She even had this cool jar of everlasting beauty that she could dole out however she wanted. Goddesses asked to borrow it all the time. No one ever gave them jars of everlasting beauty.

That, right there, was the unintended consequence that smacked Demeter in the face. Demeter was willing to let the whole world die for Persephone; Persephone couldn't wait to get back to her jar of everlasting beauty.

If mothers are lucky and if they do things right, their children leave them. Their children go off to college or they get their own apartments and exciting jobs, and while they love us, we aren't so much the center of their universes anymore. We sacrifice the world. They hunt down cold cream. Again, that's if we are lucky. Demeter was lucky. Demeter got to let go yet know that her daughter was all right.

May you be so lucky, and may you always know spring when the seasons change and you and your Persephones are brought together again.

Channel this goddess: When your little ones leave the nest, when you're having a hard time letting go, when you wish your Persephones would at least peek over the nest, or when the hard work of mothering seems just that: work.

PaperTurtle: You did everything right. This goddess is for you.

Need a goddess: Leave a message in the comments section. Tell me what you need or what you'd like to honor. I'll do the rest.

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17 comments:

pasadenaadjacent.com said...

beautiful M

PaperTurtle said...

Thank you so much, Margaret. It's perfect!!! :o)

Joanne said...

Love the sentiment, may you always know Spring again ...

Petrea said...

Oh, Margaret! My WV is "didie!"

Georgie K. Buttons said...

I like it. I'll remember that for when I have my own family. :)

gaelikaa said...

Demeter and Persephone - my mother feels like Demeter since I came out here - this is the same story basically - except I don't get the great deals Persephone did.....lol!

Shell Sherree said...

That's a lovely one, Margaret. I have to say, that jar sounds pretty persuasive.

inkywasfat said...

How apropos for me this morning. My #1 son is in his second year of college, only speaks with me through Skype chat (hurray for Skype), and when I asked the other day if he misses us he replied, "Not really." That's good, right? Right?

Margaret said...

PaperTurtle: Glad you approve.

Gaelikaa: Then remind you're mom how lucky she is. I wouldn't mind some of that cream.

Inky: Right!

Bec said...

I've found, in my limited experience, to be careful what you wish for your children.

altadenahiker said...

Of course, never heard it told quite this way before, and like the story the better for it.

... daisy... said...

I was moved to tears reading this... I wish all mothers would know when to let go. Mine learnt it just now that I'm 34... I hope I am not doing the same mistake.
Wonderful post. Really.

Cafe Pasadena said...

A nice Manly name for a goddess.

Coppertop said...

Hi - NEED A GODDESS: Not feeling so wise lately. Mother of a three year-old and expecting another in April. Need more emotional support from my husband. Asking for help makes me feel not so strong...

Desiree said...

So I keep seeing your opening lines in my blog roll and keep thinking about demeter, demeter, demeter.
Do you think meter has some linguistic tie to mater? Just wonderin'

Big Fat Mama said...

How very strange. I just wrote an entry on my blog about my middle child leaving the nest--and then happened upon this. Lovely. Thank you.

Margaret said...

Coppertop: You bet. I'll see what I can find. And thanks for the visit.

Mama: Thanks for the visit. How serendipitous.