To better understand the cult of Ceres and Proserpine, in the district of Enna, not coincidentally also called “The land of Ceres”, it should be mentioned the legend that lingers for centuries.
Ceres (Mother Earth) for the Latins, Demeter for the Greeks in Sicily was venerated since the days when the Greeks dominated Sicily. Goddess of the harvest, the earth, the fields, depicted as a noble matron with Doric robe, a crown of spikes on the head, a torch in one hand and a scepter in the other, gave birth to Proserpine, corresponding to the goddess Persephone or Kore worshiped by the Greeks, which represented the rebirth.
According to a legend Proserpine, while picking flowers near Lake Pergusa, where today stands the Park of Persephone, was abducted by Hades, the god of the dead, and thrown into hell. For that is also known as the goddess of the underworld. Ceres, heard the cry of the daughter, covering with a black veil and clutching hands burning torches, for nine days wanders to his research. Tired and grief-stricken, stopped to rest at Eleusis taking on the appearance of an old woman. The daughter of King Celeus, seeing her sad, danced for her and took her to the palace of his father, in the presence of Metanera, their mother and queen. Ceres is offered as a nurse’s little son of the queen.
Helios, god of the star solar rival of Hades, revealed to the goddess that her daughter had been kidnapped by him because Zeus decided to give her in marriage.
Angry, Ceres drops a terrible famine on Earth, preventing the seeds sprout.
Zeus realizing that if he had done something to appease his sister, the human race would have died out and the gods would not have received more sacrifices, asked Hades to return Persephone to her mother.Hades, before you return it, did eat the girl a pomegranate seeds, so having shared food with the dead, Persephone was not to be detached from the underworld. And so it was: Persephone will live six months to Olympus with her mother in the spring, then return to the underworld with her husband at the time of sowing for another six months.
The legend is an allegory of nature and the cycle of vegetation, which dies and is reborn.
Indeed, Demeter, revives flowers and seeds in the fields. Proserpina was venerated as a girl Kore, and as Queen of the Underworld.
Kore was a young, slender and beautiful goddess, symbolizing fertility: the pomegranate, wheat, cereals, youth, rebirth, depicted with a flaming torch and sheaves of wheat in a hand.
The myth of the two goddesses has lasted for centuries in Sicily. A witness, various exhibits and altars.
Both are often depicted in productions clay and vase paintings, in a manner very similar, so as to make them indistinguishable.
The two goddesses are flanked to the mysteries of Eleusis, an ancient pre-Hellenic cult linked to the death and rebirth, born at Eleusis in 1600-1100 BC.
The Eleusinian mysteries – including religion, beliefs and earthly esotericism
The Eleusinian mysteries are closely related to wheat as the symbolism of Mysteria conveyed messages of life and hope. Demeter was the Mother Earth and Persephone was the breath of life found inwheat.The dead came back in the womb of Mother Earth. Ears of gold were buried with the dead. The ear of corn made by the Hierophant represents the cycle of life: conception, growth, death and new life. In the mysteries of Eleusis, the ierofante was the highest priest.
The Christians were aware of the fact that, at the height of the celebration, was shown in silence an ear and knew the words that were spoken by mystes:”Rain”, looking at the sky, and “Bringt fruit”, looking at the ground. Did not understand, and scoffed atMysteria. Ippolito wrote: “touto … estì tò mèga kai àrreton Eleusinìon mystèrion” (“Ecco il grande ed indicibile mysterion elusino”) Ippolito, Philosophumena V 7, 34. Note that the two sentences, deemed secret, appeared on the writing in a well near the gate of Dipylon in Athens and that all initiates wore ears of corn. To the Eleusinian Mysteries were allowed men and women, free and slave, able to speak the Greek language. Were excluded only those who had shed the blood of other men and, therefore, considered impure.
Participation in the sacred mysteries not constitute entry into particular organizations or sect. It was a free participation, so the adept, after the celebrations of the sacred nights, could return to normal life and attend worship other gods.
The mysteries were celebrated by civil magistrates and members of two tribes Athenians: the Ceric and Eumolpidi. These two tribes continued to participate in the celebrations until the end of the fourth century, when Christians suppressed the worship.
A king saidbasileus,was commissioned by the polis of Athens to oversee the organization of the Mysteries.
A college epistatai (civil magistrates) took care of the finances.
In the family of Eumolpidi was chosen the first priest told him hierophàntes ovvero ““one who shows the sacred objects.”
The Ceric covered charges lower daduchos (torch bearer), who accompanied the Hierophant in the most solemn and hierokerux (sacred herald), which had the task of opening the Mysteries.
The beginning of Mysteria is lost in the mists of time. As reflected in the documents of the seventh century BC The cult of pre-Hellenic origin, leads back to the Mother Goddesses, present throughout the Mediterranean for several millennia before Christ. Came to an end following a decree issued by the Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great, as he declared Christianity the state religion. Therefore, between the 391 and the 393 AC intensified persecution against the pagans, they destroyed their temples including the sanctuary of Eleusis, burned in 396 AC from Goths led by Alaric.
Reconnecting to Mother Goddesses, they depict motherhood cosmic, generating fertility and abundance. The cult of the Great Mother dates back to the Neolithic period, if the female figures found in Europe and in the Mediterranean, can be read as sacred. In the Hellenic world Demeter and Persephone, Ceres and Proserpine for the Latins, the worship of the goddesses marks the turning of the seasons, but also the rebirth as the seed reborn from the land.