The ancient Greeks believed that twelve gods led by Zeus ruled over the sky and the earth. These gods lived in a huge palace on mount Olympus.
Demeter was the goddess of the harvest. Her lovely and graceful daughter Persephone grew up on Olympus. Demeter loved her daughter very much.
Hades, the lord of the dead, fell in love with gay Persephone. One day, when she was gathering flowers in a meadow, Hades came out of the ground and carried her away. He lived deep under the ground in a dark palace where no sunlight reached. Persephone became his queen. But she was cold and unhappy. She did not eat any food. She longed for the sunlight, flowers and her mother.
Demeter rushed about wildly looking for her daughter. She was full of grief. And all nature grieved with her. Flowers wilted, trees last their leaves and the fields became barren Demeter turned into a grey, old woman. People and animals starved.
The gods begged her to bless the earth again. But Demeter refused to work till she found her daughter.
Then Zeus ordered Hades to return Persephone to the earth above. He had to obey Zeus.
When Persephone appeared on earth, her mother met her joyfully. Demeter was no longer a grey old woman but a bright goddess. She blessed nature. The flowers bloomed and the fields became green.
But Persephone had eaten a few seeds of a pomegranate from the garden of Hades. She had tasted the food of the dead. So she could not stay- on the earth for ever she had to return to Hades below the earth.
Every year when Persephone goes to Hades, Demeter is sad. Nothing grows and it is winter. But as soon as Persephone returns, the whole earth bursts into bloom. It is spring.
Demeter was a kind goddess. She did not want the people to strive in the cold winter months. So she taught people how to sow in spring, reap it and store the harvest for the winter.