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the Odyssey quoted above there are, so
far as I am aware, only two instances
of its association with marriage or the
marriage-bed in Greek literature, PluL
p. 138 A (quoted R. 72), and Ael. Far.
J/ist. I a. 47 (the others quoted by
Bloch, Roscher*s Lex. 2, p. 1329 are not
to the point). But English would
supply us with endless instances of

'Law' or 'Ordinance ' applied explicitly
to the marriage-rite, yet neither word is
an equivalent for marriage.

*» CoUitz, Dialect. Inscr, (Blass) 1154 ;
Hell, Joum, 2, p. 365 (Comparetti) ;
Meister, Die griech. Dial, 2, p. ax :
Blass's interpreution of the word as «
tcrijfm seems to me more probable than
Meister's, who explains it as ' sacrifice,'
for the obscure inscription seems cer-
tainly to refer to property rather than
to ritual.

• Cauer, Delect,^, 295. 1. 65.

* Bcrgk, Poet, Lyr. Frag. 68.

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of the Thestnophoria is predominantly Ionic*. Being well
aware of the danger of etymologizing on the prehistoric
meanings of words, I venture the suggestion that d€a-iio<t>6pos
originally bore the simple and material sense of * the bringer
of treasure or riches/ a meaning which is appropriate to the
goddess of corn and the lower world, which accords with
a ritual that obviously aimed at purely material blessings,
and which explains the occasional association of Demeter
&€<Tfxo<f>6f)09 and KapTTo<f>6poi. \

There is one last question to consider, and to solve if
possible, concerning the Thesmophoria. Why were the men
excluded, and the mystery-play and the agrarian ritual wholly
or almost wholly in the hands of women? In considering it
we must also ask why female ministration was predominant
in other Attic Demeter- festivals of an agrarian character, such
as the Skirra, Haloa, and Kalamaia ? The problem is more
important than may at first sight appear to the student of
Greek religion, for it is part of a larger one that continually
confronts him, the relations of the sexes in classical ritual and
their historical significance. Without raising the larger ques-
tion for the moment, we may feel inclined to accept the
solution that Dr. Jevons offers in his Introduction to the Study
of Religion : the invention of agriculture and the cultivation
of cereals, whereby society advanced beyond the hunting-
stage, was the achievement of women ; they discovered the
value of wild oats, they first broke the ground, and still among
modern savage tribes as, to some extent, according to Tacitus
among the ancient Germans, the warrior despises the tilling
of the soil and leaves this hard and important occupation in
the hands of the women : therefore even under a more ad-
vanced system of civilization the women still retain their
privilege of administering the agrarian ritual ^ It is an

* There is reason for believing that alone: according to this writer, some

the Dorians were expressly exdnded at kind of cereal plant happened to become

Paros from the ritual of Demeter and the women's totem : hence, he supposes,

Kore, vide Geogr. Reg. /. v. Paros. the origin of agriculture and the women's

^ The theory gams in plausibility if worship of an agrarian divinity : this

we leave the totemistic hypothesis, on part of his theory is one of the many

which Dr. Jevons bases it, severely instances among modem students of

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attractive view for students of Hellenic religion, because it
seems to explain the Demeter- legend and the phenomenon
of the Thesmophoria, Skirra, and similar festivals.

But it cannot claim to be more than an a priori hypothesis,
because in regard to the civilizations of the past the beginnings
of agriculture lie remotely beyond our ken ; and as regards
our contemporary wild races, we have not as far as I am
aware detected any in the actual process of inventing agricul-
ture, and we have only a few legends for our evidence*. For
the fact that lazy and demoralized men in any stage of society
have been prone to leave the hard work in the fields to the
women can hardly help us to prove the actual origins of all
tillage. Nor is it hard to find a priori reasons against the
assumption : it seems scarcely credible that in every part of
the globe the unaided strength of women was able successfully
to battle with the immense difficulties in the way of converting
swamp and forest into tilth-land : or that the importance of
the new food-supply would not soon have been so obvious
that male industry would have been attracted to the work
before a religious taboo could have had time to arise. Again,
Greek religious legend has preserved no remembrance of
women as the apostles of the new agriculture : it was natural
to believe that the earth-goddess had revealed it, and the
pious myth concerning Demeter was accepted in most parts
of Greece, though Hera's claim to the honour was preferred
in Ai^olis ^ and perhaps Athena's at Athens ; but it was
to men not women that the mystery was first shown, to
Triptolemos at Eleusis or to the hero Argos in the Ai^olid.
And Greece and the adjacent lands have many other heroes

Comparative Religion of inordinate through the female generally prevailing

totemistic bias : as regards Greece there according to Peabody Museum Reports ^

is not the shadow of any evidence for vol. 3, p. 207. We note also the cnrions

a com-totem. story told by the Basntos that com-

^ It is supposed that the cultivation cultivation was discovered through the

of maize among the Iroquois was only jealousy of a woman who gave some

begun a short time before the arrival of ears of wild com to a rival supposing

the Europeans, and the art was appa- them to be poison, but found to her

lently entirely in the hands of the women: disappointment that they were very

and the women claimed to own the land, nutritious, Casalis, Les BassoiUos^ p. 255.
a kind of gynaecocracy with descent ^ Vide Hera, R. I3^

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of agriculture and horticulture, Eunostos, Kyamites, Ari-
staeus, Lityerses, the robust pair of the Aloadae, perhaps Linos,
Skephros, Leimon, and Hyacinthos, and some of these were
inventors in their special domains ; here and there we find
one or two vegetation-heroines, a Charila or Erigone,that may
assist growth but are not said to have invented anything at all.
Finally the legends concerning the propagation of the vine
recognize only men as the apostles of the new science. It
seems then that Greek folk-lore is^against Dr. Jevons' hypo-
thesis ; and this negative evidence is important because in the
fact which he assumes to explain this important feature of the
Thesmophoria, if it were a fact, would be just one of those
which would imprint itself upon legend. Those who favour
the hypothesis can say that the legends have been tampered
with and retold by a patriarchal society, in which woman has
lost her rights. But this at least is to confess that the hypo-
thesis draws no support from Greek legend ; meantime no
historical record is likely to come to its aid. As regards the
legends of other countries* and the primitive races of our
own time, I can find none that favours it, while the culture-
myths of the Iroquois and the Zunis mentioned by Mr. Lang ^
are decidedly against it. In fact the male contempt for
agriculture, which has been used as an argument bearing on
this question of origins, though doubtfully attested by Tacitus
of the ancient Germans ^, cannot be taken as characteristic of
the primitive Aryan society in general ; at least it does not
appear in the earliest literature that may be supposed to
reflect something of early Aryan feeling, for instance, in the
Icelandic, Homeric, and Vedic sagas. And if many modern
savages are glad enough to make the women work, yet others

* The pathetic legend of Bormos do not point to women, Antkrop.JoutTt.

among the Maryandyni seems to be 1902, p. 183.

a harvest-story of the vegetation-youth ^ Germaniay 15. The passage proves

who dies like Attis and Linos : women nothing about the exclusive prerogatives

are not mentioned in the Bormos-ritual, of the women : it merely says that the

nor are they so prominent as the men in most warlike men despised peaceful

that of Attis. pursuits, and that the care of the houses

^ Afythf I^itua/f and RtUgion^ vol. a, and fields was delegated to women, old

pp. 54 and 63 ; the Maori myths con- men. and the weakest members of the

ceming the introduction of the potato family.

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are quoted » who will not allow them to touch the cattle, and
who therefore keep the ploughing to themselves.

The hypothesis does not seem then entitled to rank as
a vera causa explaining the problem of the Thesmophoria.

Another explanation which touches the one just examined
at certain points is supplied by a somewhat popular theory
that has been already incidentally mentioned, and has been
elaborated in one of Mr. Karl Pearson's essays ^ It may be
briefly stated thus : the matriarchal period — believed by some
anthropologists to have everywhere preceded the patriarchal —
implies descent through the female and the supremacy of
women ; these had the whole of the religion in their hands,
and were specially devoted to the worship of a goddess who—
in Europe at least — was usually an earth-goddess, and whose
rites were orgiastic and marked with sexual licence, of which
the object was to promote the fertility of the fields and the
human mother-family ; this system was gradually displaced
by the patriarchal with its male deity, but the women still
retained certain prerogatives in religion, especially in the
worship of the earth-goddess ; fossilized relics of the matri-
archal society in fact still survive in the exclusion of men from
certain ceremonies, in the occasional predominance of a god-
dess over a god, in the antipathy that certain female divinities
still retained to marriage, and in the gross sexual freedom of
certain religious carnivals.

Now the theory is very attractive, and, if it were sound,
the sociological results of the study of ancient religions would
not only be of the highest importance— as they are — but
would also be fairly easy to collect : for the mother-goddess
is nearly always a prominent figure in the worship, female
ministration is tolerably frequent, and the apparent proofs of
the matriarchate are here ready to hand. But the theory

* Crawley, iT^j//V^tf/tf, p. 49 (Bechu- 1 70-1 71 : the matriarchal hypothesis is

analand'. advocated most eothasiastically by Miss

^ Chances of Death' and other Studies Harrison in Yitt Prolegomena in respect

in Evolution^ vol. 2, pp. 1-50, * Woman both of the Thesmophoria and most

as Witch ' : that his theory is intended other phenomena of early Greek re-

to apply to the Thesmophoria and other ligion.
Demeter-ritaal appears on pp. 150,

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does not stand . the test, when examined in the light of
evidence which may be gleaned from the study of ancient
and primitive religions, and ancient and contemporary records
of ' matriarchal ' societies *.

The discussion of the matriarchate question, even when
confined to the evidence from Greek religion, yet extends far
beyond our present limits ; and it is connected with many
special questions of ritual, as, for instance, the reason for the
custom, found in different parts Of the world, of the inter-
change of garments between the sexes in certain ceremonies,
the reason for the self-mutilation of the priest in Anatolian
worships. For the present it is enough to mention certain
results which a more comprehensive inquiry will be found
to yield, and which decidedly weaken the force of the
theory. It is not true, in the first place, that the male
imagination and the male supremacy tend always to engender
the god and the female the goddess; on the contrary,
the religious-psychological bias of the female is sometimes
towards the male divinity, and even under the * matri-
archal' system the god is often more frequent than the
goddess ^ In the next place the * matriarchal ' system by no
means appears to carry with it of necessity the religious
supremacy of the woman ; on the contrary, it is quite usual to
find among modern savages, whose social system is based on
descent through the female, that women are excluded under
pain of death from the important tribal mysteries. Again,
the sexual distinction of divinities, when anthropomorphism
had made such a distinction possible and necessary, might
often be worked out under the pressure of ideas that have
nothing to do with the social organization of the worshippers ;
for instance, the earth would be naturally regarded as a
goddess both by the patriarchal and the * matriarchal * society,
and the religious imagination under either system might
conceive that the goddess required a male partner. Finally,

*• The objections urged against it in the position of women in ancient re-

the text are the risumi of my article in ligion.'

Archiv Religionswissensch, 1904, p. 70, ^ This seems true generally speakmg

on ' Sociological hypotheses concerning of Africa, Australia, and North America.

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.the fully developed * Aryan ' system might still require, or at
least admit, the priestess *, and may relegate certain important
religious ministrations to women : and other causes than the
surviving instinct of a vanished social organization may have
been at work in this. For in certain departments of the
religious activity of the old world, and in certain realms of
the religious consciousness, the female organism may have
been regarded with psychological truth as more efficacious
and more sensitive than the male. Many ancient observers
noted that women (and effeminate men) were especially prone
to orgfiastic religious seizure, and such moods were of particular
value for prophecy and for the production of important results
in nature by means of sympathetic magic. The Shamaness
is often thought more powerful than the Shaman, and there-
fore the latter will sometimes wear her dress, in order that
literally * her mantle may fall on him.' Hence in the Apolline
divination, where it worked through frenzy, the woman was
often regarded as the better medium for the divine afflatus.
And, to apply these reflections to the problem of the Thesmo-
phoria, we may believe that the psychological explanation is
more probable than the sociological : that the women were
allowed exclusive ministration because they held the stronger ;
magic, because they could put themselves more easily into
sympathetic rapport with the earth-goddess, because the
generative powers of the latter, which the ritual desired to
maintain and to quicken, resembled more nearly their own \
And those who may think that the Thesmophoria can be
better explained as the survival of a licentious worship of the
earth-goddess, practised by a polyandrian society in which
women were the dominant sex, are confronted by two facts
that make against their theory : the Thesmophoria was no
* Walpurgisnacht ' ; for in spite of the olayjioKoyixi, chastity was

^ It is a very noteworthy fact that Zauber^ p. 70.
she is absolutely unknown in Vedic ^ Cf. Roscoe, ' Manners and Costoms

ritual: in certain cases the husband of the Baganda,' W^Ar<»/.y27«r». 1902,

might depute his wife to sacrifice for p. 56, 'The work of cultivating these

him, but according to one text ' the (banana) trees is entirely done by women

gods despise the offering of a woman/ ... a sterile wife is said to be injurious

vide Hillebrandt, Vedische Opftr und to a garden.'

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strictly enforced both before and during the festival ; secondly,
the Thesmophoria was performed by married women only, and
is thus markedly distinguished from those sex-carnivals that
are regarded by Mr. Karl Pearson as the heritage of a matri-

The cults of Artemis appear at certain points to reflect the
social phenomenon known as 'Amazonism/ which may be,
but is not necessarily, a concomitant of the 'matriarchal'
organization ; but we cannot discern the impress of either of
these phenomena in the Demeter-worship.

Outside the Thesmophoria there was nowhere any rigid
exclusion of men from the ritual of the goddess. Only at
Megalopolis in the worship of Despoina, the temple to which
women had always access, was open to men not more than once
a year^^^. On the other hand, in the record of the Great
Mystery of Demeter at the Arcadian town of Pheneus, no
priestess is mentioned : it is the priest who by assimilation
assumes the powers of the goddess, and works the magic ; who
wears the mask of Demeter Ktfiapta, and smites the ground
with rods to evoke the divine earth-powers -^^ And in the
cult of greatest prestige, the Eleusinian, the male ministrant
predominates over the female. No doubt the later prejudices
of the patriarchal monogamic system, accompanied by a cooler
and saner temper in matters of ritual, generally hampered the
woman in the free exercise of her natural religious gifts and in
the province of ecstatic magic : we shall see the austere
domestic rule taming and conventionalizing the Bacchae. In
such matters much must be attributed to the agency of social

A more difficult and still more important part of the whole
study is the examination of the Eleusinian mysteries. But
before approaching that investigation, we must look more
closely at the figure of Kore-Persephone, and pass her various
cults and cult-characteristics in rapid review.

The polytheistic imagfination of the Greeks tended inevitably
towards the multiplication of forms. And this tendency was
most certain to operate in the development of the personality
of Gaia, a deity so manifold in attributes and works. Thus

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a plurality of divine beings arises, as we have already seen,
of whom the mutual relations are not always clean It is
possible that the divine pair worshipped in Epidauros, Troezen,
Aegina, Laconia, Tarentum, and Thera ^, who were usually
known as Damia and Auxesia, arose merely as vaguely con-
ceived duplicates of the earth-goddess, whose mutual affinity
the primitive worshipper did not care to define ; and we might
compare the mysterious and nameless Cretan MrjWp^y, whose
worship was powerful in Sicily, an undifferentiated group of
beings worshipped in one temple *. On this view the identifi-
cation of Damia and Auxesia with Demeter and Kore, which
was of course certain to come, was an afterthought of the
Greeks. Certainly the functions of the two pairs are closely
allied. They are goddesses of the corn-field, for as Demeter and
Kore are 'Afjyn-^ai"^^*** so the Aeginetan-Epidaurian divinities
are styled O^aX 'Afemat, an epithet which probably alludes to
the dry grain ^•^ : they are deities of child-birth, being them-
selves represented, like Xvyr) iv yovaa-iv, as on their knees in
the act of bringing forth ; we hear of ribald choruses of women
in their service, which remind us of the Attic Thesmophoria,
only that the women have men leaders ; and the significance
of the At^o/3o\ta in the Troezenian ritual has already been
pointed out \ It is reasonable therefore to regard Damia
and Auxesia as originally mere appellatives of Demeter and
Kore themselves, and this opinion seems to draw support from
the apparent affinity of the names Damia and Demeter. But
this linguistic evidence may be deceptive, for the proper form
of the first name seems rendered doubtful since the discovery
of a fifth-century (B. C.) inscription in Aegina, in which we find
Mifca instead of AajxCa ^^. The explanation, therefore, of the
origin of the Epidaurian-Aeginetan pair, who belonged no
doubt to pre-Dorian cult, must remain doubtful ^

* Vide Rhea-Cybele, R. 38*. of 0/ 2</ira2 etai on the Areopagus

* Vide supra, pp. 93-94. and of Dcmeter-Kore to point to an
" What has been here suggested about original identity; but there are also

the original nature of Damia and Aax- important differences between the con-

c^ia might conceivably be true about ception of the former and the latter

that of the Athenian Semnae : there is group, and there are no real grounds

sufficient resemblance between the rituals for believing that the Semnae were ever


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. But there is no vagueness about Demeter and Kore. In
them the single personality of the earth-goddess is duaUzed
into two distinct and clearly correlated personalities. We must
try to trace the origin and growth of the belief in the daughter ;
and the inquiry is of some interest even for the history of
Christianity, for she may be believed to have bequeathed, if
not her name, yet much of her prestige to the Virgin Mary.
It has been supposed that the corn-field sufficiently explains
the cult-figures Demeter and her Korj ; for peasants in different
parts of the world speak of the corn-mother *, and sometimes
the last sheaf that is carried is called the * maiden,' or grains
from it are made into the form of a little girl and eaten as
a sacrament ^ Anddess. And as the literary evidence is usually very
late in proving anything, she had probably won her special
name and independent personality long before the sixth
century B.C. The myth of the daughter's rape and the
mother's bereavement appears to have been ancient and wide-
spread in the Greek world ». The ritual of the Thesmophoria
enacted it in some kind of passion-play; and though this
theme need not have been the original kernel of the mystery,
we know that Greek ritual was slow of growth, and most
conservative in form. The cult of Demeter, *Ax€a or *Axai<£ ^^
was an ancient inheritance of Tanagra and the Gephyraioi,
and the probable interpretation * of the title as * the sorrowing
one ' implies the legend of the abduction. Again, Kopiy or
ATy/utTp-po? KopTj is no mere popular and affectionate sobriquet,
but the official and formal title of the goddess in many a state-
cult, attested by inscnptfons or the careful notice of authorities
I such as Pausanias : in fact the only instances that I have been
able to find of the official use of the name * Persephone * for
the public cult of the goddess are in the cults of Athens ^^*,
Cyzicos '*•, Messoa in Laconia ** ; probably also in the
Heraeum of Elis^*^, for the name appears here in the text
of Pausanias, who habitually uses KopTj instead, and probably

• Sec Forstcr, J^aub dcr Persephone, pp. 2-iq. ^ Vide sapra, pp. 70-71.

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among the Locri Epizephyrii ^** ; and this very scanty evi-
dence is further weakened by the fact that both at Athens
and Cyzicos the other and milder name was obviously para-

As further indication, wc have such names of her festivals
as Kopeia (more properly Kopata) in Arcadia ^*^**, and Syracuse ^*,
the Kopdyta, the procession of the Kora-idol at RIantinea,
where the sacred house was called Kopdytoj; ^w. jfow festival
names belong usually to a very ancient period of Greek
religious nomenclature; and it may well be that the name
of Kore was widely known and stamped upon the formulae
of Greek ritual and festivals before the Dorian invasion. The
law at Paros, preserved in an archaic inscription, forbidding
a Dorian to share in the civic sacrifice to *Kore/ seems to
carry us back to very ancient days^ Therefore, though
in the chronology of Greek religion precise dating is usually
impossible, we may maintain that the divine daughter was
a creation of the pre-Hesiodic period. Of this at least we
are sure, that before Homer, probably long before, the
earth-goddess had become pluralized. To two such divine
beings the ancient city of Potniae owed its name, and perhaps
at its very origin the * lady-goddesses ' were already known
and called by the names 'Demeter' and *Kore,* as they
were called and worshipped there in later times "^ As
pte-Homefte ufliihuocs of Qala^- we mu^t rec ognize Demeter,
Persephone, and Themis. In nature the two former are
/identical, for each in the earliest period of which we can gain
I a glimpse has a double character as chthonian and vegetative
\Voddess^. But from the two distinct names two distinct
personalities arose, according to the law of the popular Hel-
lenic imagination which tended to convert the^^n^ju^ff^nto
^ ;/ww£^^_jrhen as these two personalities were distinct and

Online LibraryLewis Richard FarnellThe cults of the Greek states → online text (page 12 of 40)