“Demeter” by Michele lee-Phelan

“Ceres’s themes are fertility, earth, harvest and growth.  Her symbols are grains (especially corn), poppies and bread.  Ceres, the Roman Goddess of corn, returns our attention to the land today to begin preparing for spring’s crop plantings. At the same time, Ceres reminds us to plant some figurative seeds of character now so they will mature throughout this year. Ceres’s name translates as ‘create’. Ceres is truly the creator and mistress of our morning feast table, having lent her name to modern breakfast cereals, which shows her affiliation with essential food crops.

For growing energy and earth awareness, eat any grain-based food today. Ideal choices include corn bread, corn flakes, puffed wheat, buttered corn or corn chowder.

 If you are a gardener, or even if you just enjoy a few houseplants, today is the perfect time to tend the soil. The Romans took time out from their other duties and spent an entire week around this date blessing the land. They invoked Ceres as the essential vegetable spirit for aid after the seeds were laid into the ground.

While we may not be able to spend a week doing likewise, a few minutes of caring for the earth is well worth the time. Put any seeds you plan to plant on an altar or in another special spot. Visualize a yellow-golden light filling and fertilizing them. Leave them here to absorb Ceres’s energy until your traditional planting season begins.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

Ceres was the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain and the love a mother bears for her child.  She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, the sister of Jupiter, and the mother of Proserpine.  Ceres was a kind and benevolent goddess to the Romans and they had a common expression “fit for Ceres,” which meant splendid.

She was beloved for her service to mankind in giving them the gift of the harvest, the reward for cultivation of the soil. Also known as the Greek goddess Demeter, Ceres was the goddess of the harvest and was credited with teaching humans how to grow, preserve, and prepare grain and corn. She was thought to be responsible for the fertility of the land.

“Art Nouveau – Demeter” by Sterendenn

Ceres was the only one of the gods who was involved on a day-to-day basis and whose worship became particularly associated with the plebeian class, or the common folk, who dominated the corn trade (“corn” is the name for whatever cereal grain is in common use. The Roman cereal crops were wheat and barley, and they also used millet). While others gods occasionally “dabbled” in human affairs when it suited their personal interests, or came to the aid of “special” mortals they favored, the goddess Ceres was truly the nurturer of mankind.

She had twelve minor gods who assisted her, and were in charge of specific aspects of farming: Vervactor who ploughed fallow land; Reparator who prepared fallow land; Imporcitor who plowed with wide furrows (whose name comes from the Latin imporcare, to put into furrows); Insitor who sowed seeds; Obarator who traced the first plowing; Occator who harrowed; Sarritor who dug; Subruncinator who weeded; Messor who harvested; Conuector (Convector) who carted the grain; Conditor who stored the grain; and Promitor who distributed the grain. [1]

Ceres was worshipped at Her temple on the Aventine Hill, one of the Seven Hills of ancient Rome.  Her primary festival was the Cerealia or Ludi Ceriales (“games of Ceres”), instituted in the 3rd century B.C.E. and held annually on April 12 to April 19.  Another special time for Ceres was Ambarvalia, a Roman agricultural fertility rite where She was personified and celebrated by women in secret rituals, held at the end of May.  Little is known about the rituals of Cerelean worship; one of the few customs which has been recorded was the peculiar practice of tying lighted brands to the tails of foxes which were then let loose in the Circus Maximus. [2]

The Romans explained the turning of the seasons with the following story:  Ceres was the sister of Jupiter, and Proserpine was their daughter.  Proserpine was kidnapped by Pluto, god of the underworld, to be his bride.  By the time Ceres followed Her daughter, she was gone into the earth.  Making matters worse, Ceres learned that Pluto had been given Jupiter’s approval to be the husband of his daughter.  Ceres was so angry that she went to live in the world of men, disguised as an old woman, and stopped all the plants and crops from growing, causing a famine.  Jupiter and the other gods tried to get her to change Her mind but She was adamant.  Jupiter eventually realized that he had to get Proserpine back from the underworld, and sent for her.  Unfortunately, Pluto secretly gave her food before she left, and once one had eaten in the underworld one could not forever leave.  Proserpine was therefore forced to return to the underworld for four months every year.  She comes out in spring and spends the time until autumn with Ceres, but has to go back to the underworld in the winter.  Her parting from Ceres every fall is why plants lose their leaves, seeds lie dormant under the ground, and nothing grows until spring when Proserpine is reunited with her mother. [3]

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