The kernos can be recognised by its series of small cups in the lip, with examples dating back to the Bronze Age. It was used to store offerings made to the gods, specifically in cults pertaining to Demeter and Persephone. The receptacles probably contained foodstuffs, or perhaps flowers, and a lamp was sometimes placed in the centre. Kernos, such as this, were often carried in processions at the Eleusinian Mysteries (secret initiation rites celebrating the goddesses Demeter and Persephone) and were an important object for greek religious life. Kernoses are thus tightly related to the agrarian cult and to the myth of Persephone and Demeter, the goddess of fertility and agriculture. The myth is recounted on an Homeric Hymn (c. 650 BC) according to which Persephone, Demeter’s daughter, was seized by Hades, the king of the underworld, who brought her to his kingdom to make her his wife. Distraught, Demeter caused a terrible drought, which continued until Persephone returned to her mother from the underworld, but she could only be with her for few months a year. She had eaten pomegranate seeds whilst she was in the underworld and the Fates rule dictated that whoever consumed food or drinks in the underworld was doom to spend eternity there.
The myth explains the origin for the cycle of the seasons, winter being the time of the year when Persephone is trapped in the underworld and spring when she finally rejoins her mother. The kernos was thus related to the cult of these deities, celebrating the arrival of spring, when nature awakens as a symbol of rebirth.