The Harvest Goddess stands in the field with waves of grains rolling by her body; from above, the Sun illuminates her work. She has blessed the earth with fertile grounds and ripening crops, and the earth is bountiful.
Ancient cultures and neo-pagans worship the Harvest Goddess, who is responsible for growing, preserving, and harvesting the grain. She is the giver of life and the source of nurturing – it is no coincidence that she is also known as the Mother Goddess.
The Greeks call her Demeter, who is perhaps best known as the mother of Persephone, the maiden who journeyed to the Underworld after eating the pomegranate seeds. Her struggle to find and save her daughter from Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, would divide the year into seasons. For six months Persephone was allowed to join her mother, and Demeter encouraged the arrival of spring and the growth of crops to welcome her. When Persephone left for the Underworld, Demeter fell into deep depression and could no longer nurture the earth, bringing about cold days and barren ground.
The Romans adopted Demeter’s legends and crafts for Ceres, worshipping her as the goddess of agriculture and grain. (Did you know the word “cereal” is derived from the name of this Roman goddess?) Ceres also lost a daughter, Proserpina, to the god of the Underworld, and like Demeter would allow the earth to blossom for half the year and let it fall into darkness for the other half.
The Irish goddess Tailtiu is known as “the great one of the earth.” The beloved foster mother of Lugh, the Celtic god of light, Tailtiu died from exhaustion after clearing an Irish forest to make room for agriculture. Following her death, Lugh, who held her in high esteem, created the Tailteann Games in her honor. Still played in some parts of Ireland today, the games begin in mid-July and end at Lughnasadh, or Lammas, on August 1.