Yeesh, it’s been a week! Mid-terms are coming up (hello, stress!) and I just finished reading A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. Such a good book! Now I have to find the sequels…
Anyways, it’s October, y’all! I’m so excited! I confess, I used to hate fall. I didn’t like school starting again, or the cold, or the leaves turning bright colors and falling down (I know, right? What was wrong with me?!) But now I have seen the light and I flipamadoozlin’ love fall. I’m WAY too excited for Halloween!
But our theme this week is harvest, so I’m here to tell y’all about harvest deities from around the world. Yay for mythology!
Demeter was the Greek goddess of agriculture and the harvest, as well as a lot of other cool stuff. Since she was linked to the productivity of the land, she was also a fertility goddess, as well as being the goddess of sacred law. She was called the “Law-Bringer”, since agriculture brings about civilization. And as if that weren’t enough, she also was worshiped as a goddess of life and death, since her daughter Persephone was the Queen of the Underworld. She also had a son named Plutos, god of wealth from grain, not to be confused with the Roman god Pluto, god of wealth and death.
When we think of “girl power” goddesses, we usually think of Artemis or Athena – you know, maiden goddesses. However, Demeter was no damsel-in-distress either. Since she controlled how much food people got, no one wanted to mess with her. Additionally, she always kept a long scythe with her, which was usually used for cutting crops but could also be applied to those who garnered her wrath. Only women were allowed to celebrate her festival (which occurred every 5 years around harvest time, go figure), and her cult was very egalitarian; anyone could join. This provided Greek women with some relief from the controlling patriarchal society they inhabited that said women were defective versions of men.
When the Greek deities were adopted by the Romans, Demeter became Ceres.
Corn Mother is a Native American spirit who represents corn, the harvest, fertility, and health. There are several stories about her, most depicting her in one of two ways: as an old woman, or as a beautiful maiden. The former usually says she was a woman who was mistaken for a witch since she could create corn from her body. When she was killed for practicing witchcraft, corn grew from her grave, giving mankind food. The latter version tells a story of a beautiful young woman who married a man in a tribe that was starving. She used her body to make corn so no one could die, but her in-laws found it disgusting and drove her out. When she left, she told her husband how to cultivate corn, thus giving humans the secrets of growing this staple crop. As a deity, she has several maternal aspects, and is accredited with things such as buffalo, the sacred pipe, and even some herbs used in traditional Native American medicine.
Ala is a goddess from the Odinani and Igbo cultures in Nigeria, and is still worshiped there today. Like so many other earth/harvest goddesses, she rules over the underworld as well as agriculture. She is a fertility and earth goddess as well, meaning that she is the one held responsible for how much crops do or do not prosper. She is also considered a deity of morality and justice, since any crime committed on earth is considered an insult to her (she is the earth, her name is literally “Ground”). Her sacred animal is the python.
I especially like Ala because she is one of few goddesses I have encountered that rule their pantheons instead of a male deity. Ala is the most important god/goddess in the Igbo religion, outranking even her husband, the god of the sky. She is often shown seated on a throne in various artworks.
Erecura was a Celtic goddess worshiped in central Europe. She was probably goddess of crops, fertility, the harvest, and the underworld (seeing any similarities among these deities?)
Phosop is a goddess from Thai folklore, though versions of her occur throughout Southeast Asia. She is the patron deity of rice and agriculture; it is her responsibility to make sure everyone gets enough to eat. Making her angry is thought to bring sickness and suffering. Offerings are still made to her today, and in some places, dances and festivals are held in her honor.
According to my good old friend Wikipedia:
“According to a manuscript in Wat Si Saket, after a thousand-year famine one day a young man caught a golden fish. The king of the fishes heard the cry of agony and went to ask the man to free the golden fish in exchange for a treasure. The treasure was Nang Khosop, the maiden who was the soul of the rice. While she lived in the fields rice nourished humans for many more centuries and the Buddhist doctrine progressed. But one day an unrighteous king brought about again a famine on the land by storing the rice that was due to the people in order to acquire gold, elephants and luxury goods for himself. During the hard days of the famine an old couple of slaves met a hermit in the forest. Seeing that they were famished the hermit appealed to Nang Khosop to feed them. But the rice goddess was angry and refused. Then the hermit, fearing for the future of the Buddhist Dharma, slaughtered Nang Khosop and cut her into many little pieces. As a consequence the fragments of the rice goddess became the different varieties of rice such as black rice, white rice, hard rice (khâo chao) and glutinous rice. The old couple taught humans how to cultivate this new rice in small grains”
Aha-Njoku is the goddess of yams in the Igbo culture. She is also called “lady of yams.” Yams were a staple crop in ancient West Africa and are still important there today. Interestingly, Aha-Njoku is a primarily male-focused deity, despite having a female personification. This is because, among the Igbo, yam-farming is considered men’s work, so Aha-Njoku is also responsible for the men who cultivate yams. However, weeding and the harvest are carried out by women, so I suppose this goddess has obligations to both sexes.
Pachamama is the final goddess I will be discussing in this post, but she is by no means the least. She was an Incan deity, related to the gods of the sun and moon (some sources I’ve seen say the sun god was her husband, while others say he was her son). Whatever the case, she was a powerful being in Incan mythology. She controlled agriculture and the harvest, and was considered the personification of the earth itself. As such, she was the goddess of earthquakes and mountains, and was completely self-sufficient. When the Spanish conquered the Americas, she was merged with the Virgin Mary.