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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011
  • First published in: 1907



The worship to which this chapter is devoted is one of the most important and fascinating in the whole Hellenic religion. In the study of it we seem to have a picture revealed to us in outline of the early agrarian life, of the social usages on which the family was based, and also of the highest religious aspirations of the people. The folk-lorist and the student of primitive anthropology can gather much from it; and it also contributes largely to our knowledge of the more advanced religious thought in Europe. The primitive element in it is bright and attractive, there is scarcely a touch of savagery, and it is connected at many points with the higher life of the state. The mythology of the cult enthralled the Hellenic imagination and inspired some of the noblest forms of art, and it appeals to the modern spirit with its unique motives of tenderness and pathos, with the very human type of the loving and bereaved mother.

The attempt to explain the name Demeter has been only partly successful: there can be little doubt but that the latter part of the word means ‘mother,’ and this is a fact of some importance, for it shows that the name and the worship is a heritage of the Aryan population, and its universality in Greece gives evidence against the theory that the presence of the female divinity betrays the non-Aryan stock.

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