Re: Demeter and Persephone

From: John Croft
Message: 4486
Date: 2000-10-23

João wrote:
> There is similarities although I think this myth was not IE. The
rescue of a
> deity from Hell, whose ausence cause a decaying of nature is
present at
> Balder myth (Scandinavia), Osiris & Isis (Egypt), Inana, Dumuzi and
> Ereshkigal (Mesopotamia).
> Personally I think maybe the primitive form of Demeter and
Persephone legend
> was inverted: Demeter had to rescue the "god of grain", Dionysos-
> from Underworld Queen, Persephone, like Sumerian tale
> (Inana-Dumuzi-Ereshkigal).
> The Greek picked the tale of
> "goddess-rescuing-lover-boy-from-hellish-goddess" and inverted it,
> "mother-goddess-rescuing-daughter-from-hellish-husband".

There is also the tale of Anath rescuing Baal from Mot (Death) in
Canaan. I suspect we are deeling with a very old mythos here
concerning the planting of te grain in the ground and covering it
over, to have it grow as seed. The story of Haiwatha amongst the
Iroquois has similar parallels, despite no etymological connection.
The Goddess Swi Dewi in Java (the Rice Goddess who dies, and gets
reborn out of the Earth through the action of her devotees) is
another variant of the same motif.

I suspect that the story came with the original neolithic farmers.
Certainly it appears central to the Inanna story, and Inanna is pre-
Sumerian (Proto-Euphratean). Its widespread nature and the tieing in
of the great festivals that accompanied this myth into the seasonal
cycles, suggest it was universal elsewhere.

Of course it in part depended upon on what gender was the "grain".
If the grain was female (as in the Greek Kore-Demeter cycle) it was
the daughter of the Earth which needed to be liberated so the earth
could blossom again after the season of death (Summer in
Mediterranean climates - winter in Northern Europe). Where the grain
was perceived as male (eg as in many other cases) then it was the
male god who died and was resurrected (Attis, Adonis, Tammuz, Damuzi,
Baldr etc). It is interesting that the Sumerian tale has both a
female and a male who go to the underworld - first Inanna, then her
husband, then her husband's sister (Gestinanna = Inanna of the Grape).

The "setting free from death" motif appears in other contexts too -
Orpheus and Euridice, and even the Ramayana tale of Rama and Sita
have elements of the same story. Odin too is a god who died and was
resurrected. Dare I point to JC himself? In fact it was the
ubiquitous nature of the story of death and rebirth that was
exploited by early Christians to their advantage in spreading their
beliefs widely throughout pagan communities.