Demeter is the archetypal mother goddess. In Greek mythology she was goddess of the harvest and mother to Persephone. When her daughter was abducted to Hades Demeter went to the ends of the earth to get her back, and during Persephone’s absence she let nothing grow. The situation became so bad that Zeus demanded the return of her daughter, after which Demeter restored fertility to the land.
This story symbolises the dual side of the Demeter goddess, one of nurturer and life giver, and also destroyer when her natural instincts are thwarted. She represents the yearning for motherhood, through which she can nourish the mind, body and souls of her children. If she is unable to express this desire then she can fall into depression.
The Demeter woman is extremely maternal, and this extends to everyone. She is caring, generous, altruistic, and steadfast in her support of those she loves. She gives all of herself; whether its a hug, a friendly ear, her last £5, or an open invitation’ to come home to Mum’s’. Nothing is too small or too great for her. She is dependable and fiercely loyal, to the point of appearing stubborn. If she has made a promise to a loved one then she delivers whatever the cost.
The Demeter Character
Nurturer: The Demeter goddess represents the instinct to nurture her children, to provide food as the goddess of grain, and also to give spiritual nourishment through the Eleusinian Mysteries. A Demeter woman shares this drive to protect and provide for people. Her instinct to love and nurture extends beyond motherhood and she would make an exceptional nurse, teacher or counsellor; any profession that requires genuine connection, love and warmth is an ideal pursuit for her.
Maternal instinct: The Demeter woman has an abundance of maternal instinct, and for her there is a definite drive to have children. She may fall pregnant at and early age, and if the Demeter archetype is strong in her she will choose to have the baby and alter the course of her life. Many Demeter woman go on to foster or adopt children as an expression of their strong maternal instinct.
Food provider: The Demeter woman loves to nourish people through providing food. She enjoys making big suppers and inviting everyone to tea, she likes to make people teas and coffees at work, and if she lives in the country she enjoys growing and canning her own foods to share with others. Food is just another way she can extend her nurturing hand to people.
Persistent mother: The Demeter mother can be unrelenting in her fight on behalf of her children. All of the special needs centres in schools can thank the perseverance of Demeter mothers demanding the best an refusing to give up. Many Demeter women throughout history have placed themselves in significant danger to stand up for their children.
Generous: Demeter women are characterised by their generosity, which extends to everyone they meet. Even when it costs them personally. They respond to need in others, and enjoy providing physical care through food and warmth, and emotional and psychological support. Many also provide spiritual care and insights in later life.
Grieving mother: Many Demeter woman make huge sacrifices for their children, and being left with an ’empty nest’ can be quite difficult. She may sink into a depression and become obsessed by feelings of loss. She may reduce her interests, and any psychological development will halt;, she will not let anything grow.
Destructive mother: As the child becomes more autonomous the Demeter woman can feel threatened, fearing an emotional loss on which they are dependent. She may become destructive to herself and others; withdraw all emotional support and turn inwards.
Fostering dependency: The caring Demeter woman thrives when she is needed and feels most secure when others depend on her. Because of this she may try to foster people’s dependence on her, which in turn can effect their self esteem. She may see people’s attempts at autonomy as a personal slight to her, but she can learn to transform her need for dependency into mutual respect and love.
Passive aggressive behaviour: The Demeter women often takes on too much and can easily become overburdened. When it becomes too much, rather than say ‘no’ or change the situation she will likely feel ungenerous and try to work harder, which leads to burn out.At this stage she tends to resort to passive-aggressive behaviour and feels martyred when her pain isn’t acknowledged. She may ‘forget’ to go to the shop for a friend, instead of being direct. The Demeter woman must communicate her own needs, and lay down clear rules about how much she gives and to whom.
Depression: The Demeter woman can experience depression when her children leave home. This can be characterised by restless pacing and hand wringing, grieving for the return of her children. In some extreme cases hospitalisation is needed. To protect herself from this the Demeter woman can do four things; learn how to express anger instead of bottling it up, learn to say ‘no’ and create boundaries so that she doesn’t overextend herself, learn to let go of her children and allow them to grow, and to develop other goddesses with herself, so that she can extend her identity beyond that of a mother.
Women: Demeter women don’t feel competition with other women, unless it is about children. They usually have very close female friendships, and will go to friends for emotional support rather than their husbands. Demeter women make wonderful friends and are steadfast in their loyalty.
Partners: Demeter women don’t have high expectations of their partners and many fall into mother/ son relationships. Typically their partner feels misunderstood by the world and that his ‘specialness’ isn’t appreciated. The Demeter woman will ignore his many downsides, and the fact he takes her for-granted. Some Demeter women may fall into relationships with abusive partners that they feel unable to walk away from because of this dynamic.
Sexuality: If the Demeter woman does not have other archetypes active then sex will not be all that important to her. She is very loving, affectionate and likes to cuddle.
Work: Demeter woman may be drawn to typically nurturing roles, but she can excel at anything. Her care-giving qualities make her particularly good at founding organisations, pouring everything she has into it. She is impressive on a personal level and people look up to her. She may find ‘top level’ duties conflict with her natural care-giving nature and finds it difficult to fire or reprimand people. She makes an excellent manager and her staff will come to her with their personal problems.
Marriage: Marriage is seen as a necessary route to having children rather than yearned for in itself.
Children: The principal drive of the Demeter woman is to have children, for whom she makes great sacrifices. However her love can become all consuming, resulting in varying levels of maladaption and putting a strain on their relationship. This all depends on whether she acts like the Demeter goddess before or after her daughters abduction to Hades. Before the abduction she loves life and trusts that everything is well; afterwards she is full of anger, grief and depression. At the core of her anxiety is a fear of the loss of her children’s affection. If she is able to let her children grow independently of her, then their relationship will be a healthy one of mutual love and respect.
Child: Young Demeters are clearly very maternal. They love looking after their dolls and mothering younger siblings. If they have a difficult upbringing their self esteem can suffer, and this can activate their susceptibility to develop a victim attitude. Unless this patter is broken, it can persevere throughout their life.
Adolescent and young adult: The young Demeter woman will likely have yearnings to have children. She may fall pregnant at a young age and find herself making life changing decisions. She will likely enjoy a wide group of friends from all social classes and will go out of her way to include social misfits.
Mid-life: This is a crucial time for a Demeter women. If she has not had children yet then she will be aware that her biological clock is ticking. She may visit fertility clinics, adopt, or if she’s single she will consider bringing up a child alone. If the Demeter women has children they will be growing up and her ability to let go as their independence grows will be tested.
When her children reach adulthood, is a time that she can focus on herself and grow in others areas that she has perhaps neglected. Many Demeter women have gone back to school and used their caring giving gifts to transform the lives of others. If she is able to do shift her focus from her child to herself and the world then wonderful things are possible. If she cannot let go however, then her love can turn destructive and and halt her psychological and spiritual growth.
Later years: There are two routes open to the Demeter woman. In her positive aspect she will have worked through the shadow of her archetype and doesn’t seek to tie anyone to her, nor allow herself to be taken advantage of. She is well loved for her generosity and wisdom, and has become the goddess Demeter at the peak of her cycle, all bountiful and loving.
She may even have developed her spiritual capabilities and explore the mystical side to her nature. If she does not break through her challenges however, then she will stay in her negative aspect. She may feel victimised and defeated by life, allowing nothing to grow, and become more bitter as the years go on.
Rooting your Demeter
Acknowledge: Demeter women have a difficult time acknowledging their negative behaviours. This makes them defensive, and likely to focus more on their intentions; ‘I was only trying to help’. In order to grow past their negative behaviours they need to acknowledge that they may be over-controlling, fostering dependency, or engaging in passive aggressive behaviour.
The Demeter woman can often admit to feeling depressed, and under-appreciated, but she tends to have a blind spot where her own behaviours are concerned. If she can acknowledge these then huge avenues for growth are open to her. The hardest bit is accepting that they exist; changing behaviour from there on is the easy bit.
Become your own good mother: The Demeter woman can become easily exhausted, constantly responding to the needs of others. Instead she needs to learn how to call on Demeter to help nurture herself. When she’s in a situation where she can feel herself giving too much she needs to ask, ‘is this what I want?’ and ‘do I have enough energy right now?’. She needs to reassure herself that she deserves better treatment, and learn to communicate her needs clearly so that other people can meet them.Learn to say ‘no’.
The Demeter woman is over-abundant in her capacity to give, and feels it her duty to always say ‘yes’, no matter the cost to herself. She is always willing to stay on the phone that extra hour, look after her elderly relative, or give up her lunch break to run an errand for someone else. All this giving can leave her feeling quite burnt out, which is compounded with feelings of martyrdom and upset when people take her for-granted.
Tiredness, headaches, high blood pressure, cramps, and ulcers, are all psychosomatic symptoms that can arise when a Demeter woman gives too much of herself and experiences repressed anger. She must learn to set boundaries and decide who she will help and when. This may mean that she has to say ‘no’ sometimes, but this is vital for her own well-being and ability to continue giving.
Expand beyond Demeter: The Demeter woman risks experiencing an ’empty nest’ depression when she is no longer needed. Whether that’s by her children, partner or work. Really the fact that she has created something that has independence is something to celebrate, because it means that she has fulfilled her duty as Demeter. But often this is experienced as a loss.
For the Demeter woman to fortify herself against this she needs to grow beyond the role of being ‘just Demeter’. This can be done by activating other goddesses within her psyche, so that she can enjoy her own alone time, take up a cause, or develop creative aspects of herself. This in turn will enable her to become Demeter in her more positive aspect, and to better nurture others.
Recovering from depression: When a Demeter woman suffers a significant loss she can sink into depression. The loss can be of a person, a relationship, a project, or anything she greatly values and gives her meaning. Some Demeter women never recover from their depression, but two possible routes are open to her. The first is by fostering another nurturing relationship, and the second is through the return of her own innocence and youth, represented by the return of her daughter Persephone from Hades. In this case the Demeter woman may feel stirrings of spring after a long depression, she may notice how beautiful the grass is, or the warmth in a strangers smile.
This return of her youth and love for life brings with it a wisdom in the ebb and flow of all things. An understanding that growth can come from great suffering, and that she has found within herself an invincible summer. She is able to transform her own suffering into a deep joy for life, and help others to find their own strength through their pain. Such a women is a source of profound wisdom to the world.
Movement: The Demeter woman has little time for herself. She is either looking after others, or so burnt out that she doesn’t have the energy to do anything. Making time to connect with her body through movement can be extremely grounding and rewarding. Group exercising can be especially fun as she gets to interact with other women and make new friends. Grounding and meditative movements can also be very rewarding, as they give her a chance to let go of the outside world and focus inwards. For this reason, swimming, tai chi, qigong, yoga, jogging and walking are all fantastic ways to work some much needed ‘me’ time in.
Nourishment: Unless the Demeter woman is cooking for others it is unlikely that she’ll have the drive or energy to do so for herself. It’s easy for her to get into bad habits around food, and also to mindlessly overeat if she is trying to fill an ’empty nest’ hole. The best thing she can do is to become more conscious about the food that she eats by keeping a food diary. If time and energy are issues then focus on eating quick nutrient dense foods in the form of smoothies and thrown together salads. Just by tweaking a few small changes over time she can experience a huge increase in energy and self awareness.
Demeter’s gifts: The Demeter woman’s gift are many. She has the capacity to foster deep and meaningful connections with her children, family and friends. She has a deep compassion for all things, and she excels at anything to do with the cycles of rebirth and death. She is especially gifted at looking after people when they transition out of this life.
Demeter’s wound is the grief and anger she feels at the loss of her children when they leave home, and her loved ones when they pass on. This can be the loss the different phases of her life. But with each phases passing she has the potential for new growth and a higher consciousness. To heal her wounds the Demeter woman must face her feelings and allow herself to experience her grief and pain fully. Avoidance and repression only makes it grow stronger. When she is able to surrender to her emotions she can let them go. A good mantra for this is; Surrender to what is, for god is in all things.
Like the goddess Demeter, she will learn that the spring always returns after the winter, and that there will always be people to love and nurture. She must also understand that her greatest achievements are not that people depend on her, but that through her love they have become dependent on themselves. This is her greatest gift.