The Special Powers of Demeter in Greek Mythology

Demeter taught humans the secret of agriculture and controlled the growth of plants.
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As the Greek goddess of agriculture, Demeter was associated with fertility and plenty. Though she was a kind and generous goddess, she was just as prone to vengeance as the other Olympian gods. And though Demeter empowered humankind to take advantage of her gift of agriculture, she refused to allow crops to grow in the absence of her daughter Persephone.

1 Beauty or Crone

Demeter could take the form of a young or an aged woman, depending on the needs of the moment. Before Hades, god of the underworld, kidnapped her daughter Persephone, Demeter was a beautiful goddess with blonde hair, who decorated herself with flowers. But when her beloved daughter was taken, Demeter fell into despair. She ate no ambrosia and disguised herself as an old woman to live among humans.

2 Immortality through Fire

Demeter revealed her ability to make humans immortal when she cared for Demophon, the son of King Keleos and Queen Metaneira. Rather than feeding the child milk, Demeter secretly gave the baby ambrosia, the food of the gods. She also allowed him to inhale her immortal breath. At night, Demeter would place Demophon in the hearth to forge his immortality. One night, Metaneira was horrified to see her son in the fire. Fearing for his life, she screamed, angering the goddess. Demeter revealed that she had nearly succeeded in making the boy immortal, but Metaneira had interrupted the process.

3 Famine or Feast

Demeter controlled the growth of the plants, but she could also halt the growth entirely when she felt wrathful or bereaved. When her daughter Persephone was held captive in the underworld, Demeter stopped all seeds from sprouting. Humanity was plunged into a state of famine. Only after Persephone was returned did Demeter allow plants to grow again. She continued in her generosity during the duration of Persephone's visit, but halted growth again when she was forced to return to the underworld for a part of each year. In this manner, Demeter controlled not only the growth of plants, but the seasons as well.

4 Transformation as Punishment

Demeter often used her powers of transformation in a punitive manner. Demeter entrusted Triptolemos to teach agriculture to humans and offered him her protection. When King Lynkos attempted to kill Triptolemos, Demeter turned him into a lynx. In addition to changing the forms of those who wronged her, Demeter could alter their bodily functions. When a human king felled the oaks in her sacred grove, she cursed him with eternal hunger.

Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.