Mother of the Earth



Once a very important goddess in her own right, Zemele is now overshadowed by her son, Dionysus. The two were venerated together. When Dionysus was incorporated into the Greek Olympian pantheon, it was as Zeus’ son. Zemele, powerful goddess, was demoted to Princess Semele, Zeus’ lover who died after being exposed to Zeus’ full glory. The myth that Semele, unlike Hera, was too weak to handle Zeus’ full impact serves to cut Zemele down to size.

After Semele’s death, according to Greek myth, Zeus rescued Dionysus, sewed him up in his thigh and served as surrogate mother, birthing the baby himself. The inconvenient Semele meanwhile was sent to Hades. Dionysus, loyal son, refused to be venerated without her. His first act upon achieving Olympian status was to bring his mother up from Hades to join him.

Zemele is a chthonic goddess: a goddess who lives within Earth. She was venerated in women’s mystery traditions and so little clear information survives. She may manifest in the form of her sacred creature, a snake.


Dionysus; Hera; Semele; Thyone; Zeus and the Glossary entry for Mystery


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.