The Knowing One, or The Torch-Burning One
There is a lot of speculation and contradictory
identifications as regards Daeira. Sometimes She is understood to be
Persephone, else Hekate, or Demeter. Perhaps she is Aphrodite. Or She is Her
own Goddess. Some sources say that she is the sister to the river Styx, and child
of Okeanos, but others say She is the daughter of Styx.
Scholars disagree on almost every detail about her. Except
they all agree that She is Chthonic in nature and associated with Eleusis. Most
agree that She is the principle of wetness itself, or the cold damp of winter.
J.H.M. Strubbe assumes that Daeira is simply a local deity,
associated solely with Eleusis. In spite of his speculation, Farnell mentions
evidence of sacrifices to Daeira in both Athens and Tetrapolis.
Several sources mention that Daeira was hostile with
Demeter, but Farnell, at least, dismisses this information in light of the
association of Daeira with Persephone.
Phanodemos believed that Daeira is Aphrodite who is also
Pherecydes thought no, She is the sister of Styx, one of the
Eustathius mentions the conflict with Demeter, and says The
Knowing One is the child of Styx and associated with wetness itself.
She is also known as the wife of Eumolpus, and mother of
Immaradus or Ismaros. Elsewhere She is a consort to Hermes Chthonios and mother
of Eleusis, the hero. Aristophanes says She is the mother of Semele.
Modern scholars are likewise differing in their
understandings of Her. Rohde sees her as a daimon of Hades, guarding Persephone
and hated by Demeter for being complicit in the abduction.
Kerenyi alone suggests that Daeira is actually Hera, irate
at the abduction of Persephone by either Hades or Zeus.
That all said, Daeira is a Chthonic Goddess, associated with
fertility, and closely tied to Eleusis. We know that she had some role in the
rites of Eleusis. Ann Suter believes that She predates the cultus of Demeter
and Kore at the site. It seems She had some role in the Mysteries, but no one
knows what exactly. There exists a list of posts for the rites three of which
are associated with Her in some way, Iakchagogos, kourotrophos, and daeirites. Iakchagogos
is the title for a male torchbearer and is also associated with
Dionysos/Bacchus. Kourotrophos is the title of a range of goddesses (several of
which are associated with Daeira here) and suggests a nurse of children. The
last one obviously derives from Her name, but the role is unknown.
She is associated with the festival of the Anthesterion, a
spring festival in February, as a participant in the torchbearing rites for the
women, in which torches were processed to a site and then plunged into the
earth. Daeira is mentioned alongside Deo and Hekate.
She also may have been associated with the Chloaia’s
agrarian rites in Gamelion (January). An inscription mentions Daeira and that
the Priestess of Hekate performed the rites for Her. If so, this suggests an
agrarian aspect to the Threefold Goddess that is elsewhere unknown.
In spite of Her strong ties with Eleusis, Daeira is also
associated with sacrifices at Tetrapolis in Marathon, where she received a
Strangely, Eustathius mentions that the term daeira means ‘brother-in-law’
but then goes on to discuss the Goddess, by way of the oddities of language.
The LSJ translates it as the Knowing One from the verbage
dau, ‘I learn/I know,’ and Hornblower also speculates that Daeira could come
from dades, ‘torches’ and offers a meaning of the Torchburning One
So Daeira is one of those Goddesses we can’t seem to quite
get a grasp on. Is She Demeter? Persephone? Hekate? Hera? Her own self? Is She
a title that shifts and gets applied to all of the above in different
Or is it possible that it is all of the above? We are
talking about a cultus that lasted a long time, and changes had to have
occurred, not only in terms of practices, but in interpretation.
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“Relief of the Ceremony of the Nekrodeipnon,” Eleusis,
Athens, 1885, illustration of the original relief. Via wikicommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AElefsiniakon_Nekrodeipnon.JPG
Raddato, Carole. “Eleusis,” 2014, photo. Via wikicommons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AEleusis_(16174665815).jpg