20 km south of Athens lies the ghostly remains of the cult of Demeter in the ancient site of Elefsis. The miserable goddess of grain, desperate for the return of her daughter from the clutches of the god of the underworld left Mount Olympus and came here, posing as a common woman seeking common jobs until she revealed her true identity and demanded a temple be built where she could lock herself up, left alone to wither in melancholia and all of the crops along with her. The starving people asked Zeus to intervene who finally convinced Hades to release the precious Persephone, but as she ate pomegranate seeds from his hand before ascending, she was doomed to return for one quarter of each year.
The story presented an idea of the cycle of life. The surrounding cult was said to have spread all the way to parts of Asia and Africa, initiates making the long journey to the elaborate temples and participate in the “Great Mysteries” and threatened with their lives to keep what happened inside secret. Still today experts can only guess at what took place.
A demure museum crowns the stacks of ruined columns and overlooking the industrial port of Elefsina. It offers fragmented pieces of the grandeur existed more than two thousand years ago. Straight back from the door, a figure dominates the space against a robin’s egg blue wall. The “Cistophorus Caryatid” had a twin sister and together they flanked the main gate to the temples. The rosettes in her ears are one of the symbols of the cult pertaining to life after death.