The Greek god of harvest is the goddess Demeter. In addition to harvest, she is also the Greek goddess of agriculture and the cycle of life and death. Demeter is credited for creating the seasons, which was a result of her daughter, Persephone, being stolen by Hades.
Demeter’s Daughter is Stolen
Hades, Greek god of the underworld, decides he wants the beautiful Persephone as his wife after he sees her picking flowers in a meadow. Being the god of the underworld, Hades opens up the earth where Persephone was picking flowers and abducts her, taking her back with him to the underworld.
Demeter Punishes the Earth
When Demeter discovers that Persephone has been stolen by Hades, she inflicts a great drought and famine upon the earth. Demeter vows she will not restore the harvest until her daughter is rightfully returned to her on the earth where she belongs.
Zeus Sends Hermes to the Underworld
The underworld was not easily accessible, so Zeus had to carefully choose who he would send to retrieve Persephone. Hermes told Hades that Demeter would not restore the harvest to the earth until Persephone was released and returned to the earth, so it was up to him to save the people.
Hades Tricks Persephone
Hades agreed to let Persephone return to her mother on the earth to save the earth from famine and drought. Before releasing her, Hades requested that Persephone eat a pomegranate before she leaves. Persephone ate the pomegranate and then returned to her mother, Demeter, on the earth.
Upon reuniting with her daughter, Demeter asked Persephone if she had eaten any food from the underworld while she was with Hades. Persephone confirmed that she had eaten a pomegranate that Hades had requested she ate before she left the underworld.
Demeter was devastated and explained to Persephone that she was now bound to Hades and the underworld by the fruit she had eaten while in the underworld.
In order to save the world from famine and drought, as well as abide by the rules of the underworld, Zeus devised a compromise. Persephone would spend one-third of the year with her husband, Hades, in the underworld. The remainder of the time, Persephone would spend on earth with her mother, Greek goddess of the harvest, Demeter.
Both Demeter and Hades agreed to the terms of this new deal. Each year, Persephone would spend one-third of the year in the underworld with Hades, and she would return to the earth for the remainder of the year.
The Seasons are Born
During the portion of the year when Persephone is in Hades, it is winter on the earth. There is no harvest, no vegetation, no agriculture, and no fertility of the earth. When Persephone returns to the earth after her time in the underworld is complete, spring begins.
These seasons represent the cycle of life and death that is controlled by Demeter. When Persephone is in the underworld, Demeter is angry and sad because she misses her daughter. This leaves the earth in a state of death that represents winter. When Persephone is returned to her mother, Demeter is happy and lively, representing new birth and life, much like the spring season.