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HESTIA (VESTA)

HESTIA (VESTA)

A Hellenic goddess of house, home, hearth and family as well as order and organisation. Hestia is Cronus and Rhea’s eldest daughter and a sister to Demeter, Hera, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. She has never got married nor had children herself.  There was Hestia’s sacred hearth in every house,  village or town of the ancient Hellenic world and the first offering was always dedicated to this goddess. Her name means hearth, fireside. She was venerated in Rome as Vesta and considered to be one of the top deities of a Roman pantheon.

ABOUT GODDESS

Hestia was highly respected for her immaculate nature. She disapproved bloodshed, did not participate in wars and intrigues, did not gossip nor was spiteful. She valued peace most and apparently was disgusted by the behaviour of Olympic deities because she gave her place in the council of gods to Dyonisos as soon as he came to the mount (there could be no more than twelve deities in the Olympian council). Despite Poseidon and Apollo’s wooing she decided to stay a virgin.

Hestia was particularly respected as a goddess literary closest to people. She resembles an Egyptian goddess Maat in the way that she does not appear in a lot of myths and does not have many temples, she is, however, a base of social order in Hellas and her cult is manifested through rituals. A hearth was situated in the centre of a Hellenic house, giving the inhabitants warmth and shelter when darkness fell, being a place where both sacrifices were offered to gods and food was prepared for people. When a baby was born, it was carried around a hearth and the family was asking the goddess for blessings, the child was then put on a cooled down ash of a heart to introduce it to heaven and earth. A marriage rite in ancient Hellas focused on a hearth too; a bride’s mother was lightning a torch up in the hearth of her house and was carrying it in a procession to newly-weds’ house where a new fire was lit up, from that moment marriage was considered to be concluded. Prayers have always begun with invoking Hestia, women have asked her to protect their children and grandchildren; she was also called upon before setting off a journey to help travellers come back home safely. It was a form of an early divination to observe a smoke from burning altars to see whether gods accepted the offering or not: if the smoke was rising straight to heavens, it was an omen of gods’ grace but if the smoke was circling down among altars, it signified that deities were not supportive.

Her sacred flame was present in every Hellenic settlement, people were watching over it carefully because if fire extinguished, it would signify gods’ disgrace (on a more practical level it was not easy to rekindle it in the times when matches have not been invented yet). The flame was only extinguished to be ritually renewed during the purification ceremonies. When ships were leaving Hellas to start a new colony, there was always a flame from the city they were setting off. This flame burning in a new place was a symbol of unity between the colony and its hometown. Outlaws and those escaping a vengeance or being chased, found a refugee by her altar, no one could hurt them from that moment on because they were protected by the goddess.

Hestia’s cult as Vesta has developed in a special way in Rome where her temple was the only sacral building of a round shape and having a roof to protect the sacred flame against the rain. Similarly to the inhabitants of Hellas, Romans also believed that fire represented their state and it was essential to keep it burning, however according to Georges Dumezil* they have associated Vesta strictly with earth and its burning core hidden under a crust which was sometimes breaking through  e.g during the eruption of a volcano. They also noticed the connection of fire with the nature’s cycles, cultivation and life, especially with the beginning of life**. Also similarly to Hellas, Vesta’s altar was a hearth in atrium; she was likewise associated mainly with women who generally functioned in a family space, not a public one. Interestingly, when it comes to order of Roman prayers Vesta was called upon as the last deity, not the first one as in Hellas.

Vesta’s sacred fire was watched over by six (seven in the end-stage era of Rome) vestal virgins i.e. Vesta’s priestesses. The service at the temple lasted thirty years; Rome’s high priest (pontifex maximus) was choosing girls of preschool age originating from the patrician families who were to move to a three storey building of Atrium Vestae near forum.

220px-Vestalvirgins11

Here is the reconstruction.

220px-Casa-vestali

There were twelve younger girls in the house apart from main vestal virgins, they were adepts who were preparing themselves to the service in the goddess’ temple and vowed chastity for thirty years (it liberated them from the custody of their fathers and other men, a vestal virgin was the daughter of a state). The thirty years of service was divided into three decades: for the first ten years they were learning, for the next ten years they watched over the fire and for the last ten years they were teaching young girls. There were not many requirements for a girl to become a vestal virgin, she only had to be healthy and sane, both her parents had to be alive and Roman citizens (at first only patricians, later also plebeians were included). In case of one of vestal virgins’ sudden death, candidates to take her place were presented, the only requirement was woman’s good opinion; she didn’t have to be neither a child nor a virgin, usually young widows or even divorcees were appointed (although divorcees were considered to bring bad luck). Vestal virgins were easily recognised by their apparel, apart from a regular tunic and stola, they were wearing a white woollen fillet called infula, a white woollen veil worn during rituals and sacrifices called suffibulum,  white and red woollen ribbons symbolising Vesta’s fire and the vow of chastity and a long shawl draped over a left shoulder called palla.

200px-Vestalin

Vestal virgins’ duties included keeping the fire from extinguishing (allowing that happen was punished by flogging), bringing water from a sacred spring, taking care of sacred objects such as palladium***, preparing ritual food and mola salsa, a mixture of salt, flour and wheat, which was later used to sprinkle animal victims. Vestal virgins were so respected that they were often put in charge of executing testaments  (this is what Julius Cesar and Mark Anthony did among others). Any inhabitant of Rome could receive fire to take it to their house and in the times of Empire, Vesta’s hearth was considered to be the emperor’s household fire.

Breaking the vow of chastity was punished by being buried alive in a tomb on Campus Sceleratus (Evil Field) with a supply of food and water for a couple of days only. This way of punishing resulted from the interdiction of spilling blood and burying within the city limits. During one thousand years of Vesta’s fire cult only several of such cases were noted. The one from 114 bC is particularly interesting when as many as three Vestal virgins Aemilia,  Marcia and Licinia were condemned death for ‘multiple adultery’; most probably their processes were fabricated and they became scapegoats. Evidence against them included the Sibylline prophecies and witnesses describing literally orgies taking place in the Vestal house; the process itself was provoked by a thunder striking a travelling girl so superstitious Romans immediately thought of that as of gods’ anger and started to search for a reason***. According to the legend Rhea Silvia, daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa was also punished this way. Numitor’s brother seized the throne and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal virgin hoping this will prevent her from giving birth to a potential avenger who in turn would deprive him of power. However, Mars the god of war took advantage of Rhea Silvia who gave birth to twins Remus and Romulus. Children were left in a forest to die there, luckily their divine father sent a she-wolf to feed them with her own milk. Shame on him that he show no similar care about their mother and did not save her from the consequences that she had to face because of him; after all such deux ex machina (unexpected turn of events) is often featured in myths of Hellenic gods who seduced mortal women.

This story may be the symbol of how women were treated in Rome, it must be noted that comparing with average female inhabitants Vestal virgins were an exception. They were ‘the daughters of Rome’, so did not belong to their fathers, brothers or sons, they were respected, could act independently, vote, possess and manage property, give oaths because their word was trusted without question. They were free to travel in a carriage preceded by a lictor, they were participating in celebrations and performances with the right to sit in a reserved place of honour and had right to free a condemned prisoner (which they showed by touching him,  also if a person sentenced to death saw a Vestal on his way to an execution place was automatically pardonned). Because of Vestal virgins’ immaculate reputation they were entrusted with particularly valuable state documents such as treaties. Their person was sacrosanct so every attack on a Vestal virgin was considered to be a coup d’etat and punished by death for treason.

The chief Vestal (Virgo Vestalis Maxima or Vestalium Maxima – ‘the greatest, the eldest of Vestals’) was the only woman to be included in the College of Pontiffs gathering all the high priests of native Roman cults. After 30 years of service a former Vestal virgin was obtaining a pension and had the right to leave the temple, get married and give birth to children. A marriage to a former Vestal was considered to be a huge honour and very lucky. Emperor Elagabalus did something more and married a Vestal virgin Aquilia Severa who was an officeholder at the time of her marriage. It was a very logical thing to do from his point of view as a follower of Eastern religions (vide post about Ishtar and the instytution of sacred marriage between a king and a high priestess), however the Romans considered it to be a sacrilege.

The flame in the temple was renewed every year on March 1st and the goddess’ festival called Vestalia was celebrated between 7th and 15th of June. The temple was the place where no one except of Vestal virgins had access to but on the first day of festival mothers were allowed to enter it to bring the offering of food.

Vesta’s flame had been burning in Rome for about nine centuries until it was extinguished in 391/394  of our era when Emperor Theodosius forbade any other religions than Christianity. According to contemporary recordings Serena, a Christian and Emperor’s adopted daughter, entered Vesta’s temple, took a necklace off the statue of Rhea Silvia and put it on. An old woman, Coelia Concordia, the last Virgo Vestalis Maxima, got indignant seeing such an act of sacrilege and prophesied a punishment to her. Indeed, Serena had later the dreams about her own death (and she died executed during the siege of Rome in 409, accused of conspiring with the enemy and high treason). An old Vestal was not the only one who got outraged at what Theodosius was doing; plenty of Romans was saying aloud that the sack of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths led by King Alaric and the following fall of an actual power of Roman Empire was a punishment for a Christian annihilation of cults celebrating deities who were protecting the Eternal City for almost one thousand years.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

Some  sculptures of Hestia remained presenting her as a majestic woman wearing simple clothes and a veil and holding a stick or a staff in a hand. She was, however, mainly represented by a hearth and a burning flame itself.

Hestia

DIVINATION MEANING

PERSON

In positive meaning the person shown by this card is peaceful and balanced, often working in the profession dealing with implementing law or ensuring that everything is done in accordance to procedures. Somebody who values tradition and order and does not want to violate them. In negative meaning a person who is passive, conformist, shallow and superficial; possibly avoids making decisions and wants to make everybody happy. This person may be too strict and rigid and sticks to the decision made earlier no matter what. A person who is very much devoted to family and house.

Profession: an official, a clerk, a police officer, a firefighter, an auditor, a controller, an architect, an interior designer, parent working at home or a housewife/househusband, a clergy person, a priest/priestess, a monk/nun.

ADVICE

This cards concentrates mostly on family life as well as law&official cases. Make sure everything is ok in these areas of your life. Try to smooth over disputes with your loved ones, Hestia encourages you to be gentle. Even if you disagree with somebody, you do not have to impose your own opinions on them. Remember that holding grudges and keeping anger inside is mostly harmful to you.

Perhaps you do not have your own space in the house or it is only the place to sleep before you leave early for work. Your home should be your retreat and shelter from rush, stress and anger , not another source of them. If you cannot stand the atmosphere at home, this card definitely suggests moving out. You choose who should be in your environment. Either biological or emotional family gives us support and the feeling of continuity and belonging to a larger whole. Home is above all the feeling of belonging.

It is good to take care of your flat or house because your environment influences directly your mood, the level of energy and the ability to regenerate. This card suggest a major clean up or repairs, throwing unnecessary things away and rearranging your space. If you live in a house without a fireplace, you may consider installing it; you would be surprised how much it may improve the spirits at home.

In the situation you are inquiring you should act honestly and lawfully, otherwise consequences may be very serious.

This card also suggests a certain ritual: regardless of your religion or lack of faith, you should light a candle and/or an incense at least for a couple of minutes every day and while staring at it rethink your day, attitude and behaviour. Learn from your mistakes and then clean your mind from negative thoughts. We are accustomed to the fact that altar is situated at church and yet even the simplest domestic activities may be sacred. It is worth to follow the ancient who offered sacrifices and prepared food on the same hearth. What is intended for the body must be paired with what is intended for the spirit.

Never let your inner flame extinguish. Soul needs warmth to bloom.

Family. Home. House or flat. Religion. Law. Rules. Tradition. Journey. Celebrations and festivals. City.

LOVE

If you are in the relationship: Marriage or official confirmation of a relationship. Do not forget to fan the flame in the relationship, otherwise it will be extinguished. Provide warmth in mutual relations. A moment when casual matters begin to dominate reality.

If you are single: Perhaps you pay too much attention to external aspect of romantic relationship. If you want your partner to declare their feelings, propose and start a family too fast, you may startle a potential candidate. Beware of thinking I want to be in a relationship with anyone, just not to be alone. Reluctance to engage emotionally. An inner need to remain single.

FINANCES

Promotion. A strong position. Respect of co-workers. Restriction of freedom. An influence of law or office on your work and the way it functions. An official control in your workplace. To resolve the problem you are inquiring you should follow precisely the letter of the law. Work at home.

HEALTH

Fever. Inflammation. Body temperature fluctuations. Exacerbation of medical conditionPatient care at homeExcess or lack of energy.  Endangered parts of the body: heart, arteries, reproductory system, small intestine.

CARDS

As I mentioned above Hestia/Vesta was manifesting herself through the fire itself, not necessarily through statues. This is why I appreciate the cards from Thalia Took and Kay Stevenson’s decks which represent her in this way:

Hestia in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took (as Vesta)

Hestia in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Hestia in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Hestia in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Hestia in The Goddess Oracle deck by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky

Hestia in The Goddess Oracle deck by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky

Hestia in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton (as Vesta)

Hestia in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Hestia in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews (as Vesta)

Hestia in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Hestia in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason (as Vesta)

Hestia in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason

Hestia in Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue (as Vesta)

Hestia in Goddess Guidance Oracle Cards by Doreen Virtue

Hestia in The Goddess Power by Cordelia Brabbs (as Vesta)

Hestia in The Goddess Power by Cordelia Brabbs

Beware! Hestia from Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton (as Vesta) will hit you with a candlestick in a momentgrinrotfl2!

Hestia from Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Hestia with her lips pumped up with silicone in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

Hestia in Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

Hestia as Ten of Cups in in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

Hestia in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano

*Georges Dumezil, a French philologist exploring the roots of proto-Indo – European, presents numerous similarities between the Vedic (Agni), Persian and Hestia/Vesta cult of fire. The cult of fire and purity remained to this very day in the Zoroaster rites. Similarities with Celtic goddess Brigid are obvious, too.

** Esoteric tradition recognises Fire as the beginning, the first element followed by Water, Air and Earth. First four figures of Major Arcana in Tarot correspond to this division: The Mage, The High Priestess, The Empress and The Emperor as well as the traditional order of Minor Arcana: Wands (Fire), Chalices (Water), Swords (Air) and Coins (Earth).

***It also included protecting sacred objects such as palladion, a wooden statue of Pallas Athena which as the legend says was saved by Aeneas from burning Troy. Palladium was the symbol of city and its civilisation.

**** Additionally these are recordings of stories which seem very similar to Middle – Age legends. One of them tells the story of a Vestal virgin Tuccia who brought the water from the Tiber to the temple of Vesta in a sieve to prove her innocence (told by Pliny the Elder). Another legend speaks about a Vestal virgin Aemilia who let the sacred flame extinguish by accident and asked Vesta to protect her against the punishment. She rekindled the flame miraculously by throwing a piece of garment on the coals of the hearth (it brings the resemblance with Brigid and clooties).

Based on Mity Greków i Rzymian by Wanda Markowska, Dictionnaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine by Pierre Grimal, The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, Wikipedia and http://books.google.pl/books?id=cRS3E3u3HuAC&pg=PA104&lpg=PA104&dq=114+b.c.+vestal+virgins&source=bl&ots=KmguiRMVfX&sig=i6sp2-vfotMzp9TBhRX_reS2n7g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1nu3T6SZCdDHtAbez7nzBw&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=114%20b.c.%20vestal%20virgins&f=false , http://www.roman-colosseum.info/roman-clothing/vestal-virgins-clothing.htm .

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CYBELE

CYBELE

A great Phrygian goddess mother called Mother of Gods or the Great Mother, a symbol of nature’s vitality, fertility and power, a guardian of caves, mountains, walls, fortresses, wild nature and animals (particularly lions and bees). Her name most probably means Mountain Mother.

ABOUT GODDESS

Cybele’s cult originated from the mountains of Phrygia, a land in Anatolia (present-day Turkey) bordering with Troad, the place where Troy was situated. While researching Anatolian Plateau archeologists have found many rounded female figures representing the goddes of fertility which date back to even 6000 b.C. One if the figures shows an enthroned woman accompanied by wild cats (leopard or panthers) and giving birth to a child; it is probably one of the earliest representations of Cybele.

goddess mother

At first the goddess was not named at all and people referred to her simply as to Matar Kubileya – ‘Mountain Mother’. She was not called Cybele until her cult reached Hellas. She was immediately identified with Hellenic Gaia and Cretan Rhea, goddess mother of the Olympian deities (images of Rhea and Cybele are so alike that it makes them hard to distinguish).

Cybele has appeared in myths separately but she is mostly associated with later legends about Attis and Agdistis. Attis was a Phrygian god of the sun and vegetation who was born in an extraordinary way. A hermaphrodite Agdistis was such a threat for the Olympian deities that they took his/her manhood away and the pennis fell down on Earth. It grew into an almond tree and bore fruit. Nana, daughter of a river deity Sangarius, took one of them and placed in on her womb, that was how she became pregnant.  Having delivered a boy, she abandoned him because she was so afraid of her father. The child was taken care of and fed with his own milk by a goat (!) and when Attis grew up he became such a handsome man than Cybele herself fell in love with him. She promised to make him immortall and to love him forever if he stays faithful to her. Unfortunately to Attis, he cheated on the goddess with a hamadryad. Enraged Cybele cut down the tree which was the source of the nymph’s life and struck Attis with madness which eventually made him deprive himself of manhood. He was, however, accepted as the goddess servant. It must be mentioned that the myth about Attis has several versions, the one presented above comes from Ovid, but according to Catullus Attis bled out and Cybele regretting her rage resurrected him to life in the form of a fir. Evergreen trees and violets are the symbols of goddess and her lover.

Cybele’s cult was orgiastic by nature and similar to the one of Dyonisus, it consisted of singing, dancing, banging the drums, playing wild music and drinking wine. Goddess was accompanied by the Korybantes (also called the Couretes), priests who were protecting Zeus when he was an infant. According to the myth Rhea told them to bang the drums, sing loudly and dance to divert child’s father, Cronus’ attention from his hidden son’s crying. The most fanatical worshipers of Cybele were self-castrating themselves; then they wore female clothes and were considered to be women.

From Hellas her cult spread to Rome where she was called Magna Mater (‘the Great Mother’). It began during the Punic wars against Hannibal when the Sybilline oracle clearly stated that the Carthaginian leader would not be defeated unless the Romans introduced the cult of Phrygian goddess mother to their city. Therefore in 204 b.C. the Senate decided to bring a black stone, the symbol of Cybele, from Pessinus to the Eternal City and the temple was built for her. Her festivals, Hilaria and Megalesia, were taking place between March, 15th and April, 10th (bulls were sacrificed to her in caves, the rite was called Taurabolium). Cybele’s cult was very popular in the whole Roman Empire and it was not terminated until the Christian era.

As a curiosity I would like to add that Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid is named for the sake of this goddess. A neoclassical fountain is situated in the middle of it showing Cybele in the chariot pulled by lions. Plaza de Cibeles is one of the most recognized places in Madrid.

Plaza de Cibeles

Plaza de Cibeles (picture by Sergio Ramos, found on his Twitter account)

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

In her early images Cybele’s attributes were lions, a small vase for libations and a bird of prey. The goddess was usually portrayed enthroned and wearing a long chiton (gown) and a polos, a crown in the shape of city wall. She was holding a tympanum (a drum and a tambourine combined) in her hand and was accompanied by lions.

Cybele

Another popular image shows her riding a chariot pulled by two or four lions and accompanied by the Couretes; she is journeying through the sky and meets the sun and the moon on her way.

Cybele's chariot

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

The person represented by this card is creative, sociable, fun-loving and eager to engage into ventures. A boss or a supervisor. Mother. Drag queen. In negative meaning the person who acts without thinking, has no boundaries and is prone to stimulants such as alcohol, cigarettes or drugs.

ADVICE

You might have fallen into a routine and your life became predictable. Go out and charge your inner batteries with fun, music and dance. Be careful with alcohol. Be very careful what you are doing because you may regret later.

Love

If you are in the relationship: a possible relationship between an older woman and a young man. Time of passion which may result in a pregnancy. Adultery.

If you are single: active social life which nevertheless does not help in establishing a long term relationship. Big sensuality.

Finances

A good job waiting abroad. Risky financial and stock exchange operations. Promotion. Spending too much money. This card warns against losing money by gambling.

Health

Beware poisoning and addictions. Wound. Amputation. Misuse of medications. Pregnancy. Fertile phase. Delivery. Endangered parts of the body: reproductory system.

CARDS

Cybele in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Cybele in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Cybele in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Cybele in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Cybele in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Cybele in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Cybele in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild,  Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Cybele in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild,  Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Based on Mity Greków i Rzymian by Wanda Markowska, Dictionnaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine by Pierre Grimal, The Greek Myths by Robert Graves and English Wikipedia. 

DEMETER (CERES)

DEMETER (CERES)

A Hellenic goddess of sowing, cultivating, harvesting and the birth – death-rebirth cycle, the second child of Cronus and Rhea and the mother of Kore Persephone. When the Olympic gods seized the power over the Earth, she became responsible for maintaining its fertility. She was taking care of the soil and the crops and it was Demeter who taught people how to grow grains, how to make bread and how to cultivate vegetables and fruit. Her name may be derived from the words ‘deus/dyeus’ and ‘meter’, when put together this signifies ‘goddess – mother, divine mother’. In Rome she was venerated as Ceres.

ABOUT THE GODDESS

The cult of Demeter was one of the oldest in the Hellenic world, she is mentioned together with Kore and Poseidon in the tablets at Pylos dated around 1400-1200 before Christ (‘two mistresses&the king’). There is also an assumption that she was forming the Triple Goddess as Mother together with Kore (Maiden) and Hekate (Crone). Demeter has been associated with Kore, her daughter with Zeus to the point that they were known as ‘two goddesses’.

Kore was a young girl when she was playing on the meadow with fellow nymphs on a sunny day. Her mother allowed her to weave wreaths from all the flowers but a narcissus dedicated to the gods of the Underworld. Unfortunately, Kore forgot her mother’s warning and picked this flower. It brought the darkness over the meadow, the ground cracked and a chariot led by black horses  emerged from the abyss. It was Hades, the lord of the Underworld, he captured Kore and abducted her to his realm below the surface of the earth. It was all so sudden that nobody was able to react or even realise that Demeter’s daughter disappeared. Only Cyane (Kyane), a water nymph and Kore’s companion, heard her friend’s cry and hurried to save her. However, it was too late and one of the horses kicked her in the shoulder so she could only massage the sore spot and cry after Kore. Terrified Demeter kept searching for her daughter everywhere but she did not realise that Zeus had promised his daughter as a wife without her mother’s knowledge and consent.

When Demeter found out about the conspiracy (either from all-seeing Helios the sun god or Hekate, goddess of the night and witchcraft), she became so furious  that she cursed the earth and told her not to raise crops until her daughter comes back to her. This interrupted the order of the seasons so plants began to wither and people started to complain they would not be able to gather them and they would suffer from hunger.  Zeus had no option but to return Kore to her mother. However, the girl was lured to eat a couple of grains of pommegranate in the Underworld and this made her belong there forever. In the end the gods and goddesses entered into a compromise: Kore was to spend one third of the year with her husband as Persephone the Queen of the Underworld but for the remaining two thirds she could return on the surface and enjoy the time with her mother. This is how the Hellens understood the seasons change: in winter the earth was saddened by the absence of Kore Persephone together with Demeter and in spring and summer when she was coming back, the earth was showing joy by letting leaves and blossoming the flowers.

Eleusis was the goddess’ sacred place and this is where the Eleusinian mysteries were established. For more than two thousand years the history of Demeter and Kore Persephone was celebrated in secret ceremonies and it was one of the most important cults in the whole Hellenic world. It is impossible to recreate these rites now but they were probably concentrating on fertility and rebirth and some symbols may have been taken by Christianity (such as accepting bread or drinking wine; also the holiday of the Assumption of Mary has a pagan character, she is venerated as Our Lady of Herbs in Poland).  To find more about the ceremonies please visit this site. It is also believed that the first letter of Demeter’s name (Delta in the Greek alphabet) has the shape of the womb and therefore is the symbol of life, conquering death and bliss.

Demeter does not often appear in epic poems but apart from the story of Kore she is mentioned in some other myths. In the story of Tantal, the king of Phrygia who invited the Olympians to the feast and served them the body of his son to check if they recognize the meat, Demeter is so plunged in grief after the loss of Kore that she eats a piece but vomits immediately when she realizes what she ate. In another myth she is pursued by Poseidon but she is so disguised by his desire that she assumes the form of mare to avoid any contact with him. Poseidon finds her, however, and takes the form of stallion to cover her. She later gives birth to a daughter Despoina (Mistress of the House) whose name was not allowed to be pronounced and a horse Arion with black mane and tail. Demeter becomes furious and goes to the river to wash her anger away. During the wedding of Cadmus and Harmonia she drinks too much wine and sleeps with Iasion in a ploughed furrow which later results in the birth of their son Ploutos (or in another version twins Ploutos&Philomeus and another son called Korybas). However, jealous Zeus kills Iasion with a thunderbolt.

It is also believed that because of her nickname Thesmosphoros (Giver of Customs) Demeter was associated with the sanctity of marriage and with the religious law in the earliest times. The goddess has also her vengeful aspect as Demeter Erinys.

Personally I like and respect this goddess a lot because of her uncompromising attitude, standing up for her child, serenity and friendliness towards mortals. She never hurt any of them and was very fond of people,  she even wanted to give immortality to one of them. When she refused to protect the Earth after Kore’s abduction, she assumed the human body and moved in to the royal court of Eleusis as the nanny of Prince Demophon (Triptolemus). To make him immortal she put him into a sacred fire one evening to burn out his mortal weakness but this ritual was broken by the queen, boy’s mother so he never fully acquired divine powers. He was, however, initiated as the first human being into the Eleusinian mysteries.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

Demeter’s attributes were ears of grain, daffodils (Kore was captured by Hades when she cut a daffodil), poppies,  sheaves, siecles and plows.  The bird mostly associated with her was a crane and the most common sacrifice was made of sow.

She was also traditionally associated with horses, one of the aspects of her cult was Aganippe (Night-Mare, The Mare who destroys mercifully), a black winged horse, and some of her idols showed her as mare – headed with a mane entwined with snakes, holding a dolphin in one hand and a dove in another one.

Demeter was usually depicted sitting and either holding a torch (because she was searching for her daughter day and night) or snakes. She is also portrayed riding a chariot driven by horses.

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

The person who is shown by this card is mostly concentrating on family and house. Children’s material needs are important for her. In negative her whole life revolves around children, she is overprotective and does not let her children grow up.

Advice

This is the time to take care of your family, either on material or emotional level. Show affection to your loved ones.  Children are very important for you. You feel separation from your child. Help your children but do not live their lives. Everything and everyone has to grow up.

If you are thinking about starting a family, this card confirms it is a good choice.

In its negative aspect the card of Demeter tells about family issues, especially with children, relationships between parents and children growing apart and economic problems.

Mother. Maturity. Possible pregnancy. Childbirth. Natural law. Marriage. Abundance. Protection. Help. Journey. Contact with nature.

Love

If you’re in the relationship: this card suggests you have big maternal needs and if you do not have your own children yet, this inner yearning for a child will be growing. If you have children, this card may suggest you are concentrating on them and neglecting your partner. Marriage.

If you are single: your strong relation with mother may disturb you in establishing a healthy and long-term relationship. This card may also suggest you want to have a child rather than a relationship with another person. Single parenting.

Finances

Investments in land or stock exchange. Your company is undergoing changes. Profit gained thanks to secret knowledge. Insecure moment.

Health

Time to change your diet. Eat more unprocessed, natural food like vegetables, fruit and grains. Lack of nutrients. Digestive system. Insomnia and problems with sleeping. Emotional tension.
Endangered parts of the body: digestive system.

CARDS

Demeter is also one of the most popular goddesses and she appears in nearly all the decks I came across, the only exception is the deck of Doreen Virtue.

Demeter in The Goddess Oracle by Hrana Janto&Amy Sophia Marashinsky, a beautiful picture full of symbols associated with Demeter and Kore Persephone

Demeter in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Demeter in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Demeter in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason

Demeter in Oracle of the Goddess by Anna Franklin&Paul Mason

Demeter (with Kore Persephone as Two Goddesses) in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Demeter in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Demeter…

…and Ceres in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst (the author made a huge faux pas and no one corrected her: Ceres WAS NOT a Greek but Latin goddess…what is the point of making a distinction between Demeter and Ceres if it may seem they are both from the same country??? I like the idea of pregnant Demeter though)

Demeter in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Demeter in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

Demeter in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took (as Ceres)

Demeter in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Demeter in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Demeter as Magician in Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano, I have to disagree with such assignment because the card of Magician the first Major Arcane is traditionally associated with the element of Fire&the energy of Mercury while Demeter clearly represents the element of Earth

Two cards of Xena-like Demeter from Mythic Oracle by Carisa Mellado&Michele-lee Phelan

Based on Mity Greków i Rzymian by Wanda Markowska, Dictionnaire de la mythologie grecque et romaine by Pierre Grimal, The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, Wikipedia and http://www.pantheon.org/articles/e/eleusis.html.

GAIA

There is no specific order in the oracle cards but I am starting with what seems to be a very logical beginning and that is Gaia.

GAIA

ABOUT THE GODDESS

I am beginning with the same goddess who started the life on Earth in the Greek mythology.  According to Hesiod Gaia (‘Earth’) emerged from Chaos together with Uranus (‘Heaven’) and they became the parents of the Titans as well as the Hecatonchires, (‘One Hundred Armed’) and the one-eyed giants called Cyclops.  The Hecatonchires and the Cyclops  were so fearsome that even their own father felt threatened by them and eventually imprisoned his offspring. Gaia did not accept it and convinced Cronus, the youngest Titan, to deprive Uranus of his power. The Titan castrated his father and threw his testicles to the sea (when his blood met the sea foam, Aphrodite the goddess of love was born). He seized the throne, however not only he did not let his brothers out of the prison but fearing that he could repeat his father’s fate, he started to swallow his own children right after their birth. Being pregnant again Rhea, his wife and sister, asked Gaia for advice and her mother suggested to wrap a stone into swaddling clothes instead of Rhea’s new born son.  Cronus swallowed the stone not realizing that his son Zeus was in fact alive and well hidden. When Zeus grew up, Gaia helped him to defeat his father. He did set the Hecatonchires and the Cyclopes free but imprisoned Cronus in Tartarus instead so Gaia took her revenge by giving birth to a terrifying dragon Typhon who really complicated the lives of the Olympic gods….and all these gentlemen could have simply listened to the requests of their wife, mother and grandmother 🙂

Gaia is literally the goddess of earth, soil, rocks, sand, forests and mountains. Her presence is also manifested in the enclosed areas such as house, courtyard, womb, cave etc.  According to myths she has brought many creatures to the world, often without any male participation (ancient Hellens believed in parthenogenesis and the possibility of conceiving a child just by the gust of wind, sprinkling water or touching a magical plant). Oaths sworn in her name were considered the most binding in the Hellenic lands and she also had her own oracles  which were highly appreciated, even more than those of Apollo. 

When it comes to sanctuaries the story of Python seems to be significant: Python was the guardian serpent of Gaia’s oracle in Delphi and was killed by Apollo who trespassed the sanctuary and took it as if it was his own. Some researchers including Robert Graves perceive this myth as the rendition of the fight between the pre-Hellenic matriarchal tribes (dragon being the symbol of feminine element of earth, nature, magic, the unknown and divine wisdom; Greek word drakeîn from which ‘dragon’ originates means to see clearly) versus the Hellenic invaders (Apollo was representing the male symbol of the Sun). Whether Graves’ theory is a historical fact or not, the image of a male warrior fighting a dragon can be observed in various cultures, one of the most popular being the myth of Saint George*.

IMAGES, SYMBOLS AND ANIMALS

A dragon and a serpent are the animals connected with Gaia and Earth powers, not only because serpent crawls the earth it but also thanks to the shedding of its skin which symbolizes wisdom, rebirth and the power of nature. Gaia’s other divine animals are a lunar bull, a pig (similarly to Demeter) and a bee while the plants traditionally attributed to her are poppy and pomegranate.

DIVINATION MEANING

Person

The woman who is represented by this card is a terrific wife and mother, the guardian of the family’s health and wealth who enjoys taking care of numerous family members. She is the type of person who not only cleans and cooks but also bakes the cake for Sunday and spices the dishes with the herbs from her very own garden. Her negative features are conservatism, stubbornness and vindictiveness.

Advice

When the card of Gaia appears in the spread, depending on the question it may signify stabilization, health or finances improvement and the necessity to have some rest. The card always suggests going outside and spending more time in nature as well as asking for the advice of an older or more experienced woman such as a friend, a mother or a grandmother (in my private code Gaia represents a grandmother).

Please pay attention that this card brings the features traditionally attributed to the element of EARTH.

Positive: stability, solidness, constancy, endurance, reliability, predictability, regularity, planning, pracitism, ability to save up, sedateness, determination, persistence, strength, will power, safety, balance, peace, tranquillity, love for nature, rebirth, nourishment, fullness, richness and fertility.

Negative: inability to introduce changes and to adapt, inaction, conservatism, passiveness, boredom,  conformity, materialism, greediness, avarice, selfishness, superficiality, headstrongness, intransigence and stubbornness.

Love

It is a good time to settle down and start a family or spend more time with the relatives. If you are thinking about pregnancy, this card suggests it is a good decision.

Finances

It is not a good moment for risky financial operation. Invest money in stable properties such as land, gold or jewels. Do not spend money at the moment if you do not have to, try to save as much as you can.

Health

You need to have some rest preferably in destinations located in the forests or the mountains. Endangered parts of the body: bones, skin and the digestive system.

IMAGES

A beautiful image of Gaia in Goddesses of the New Light by Pamela Matthews

Gaia in the Matthews deck

Gaia in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson&Brian Clark

Gaia in The Goddess Oracle Deck by Thalia Took

Gaia in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Gaia in The Goddesses Knowledge Cards by Susan Seddon Boulet&Michael Babcock

Gaia in Goddesses&Sirens by Stacey Demarco&Jimmy Manton

Gaia in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Gaia in The Goddess Wisdom Cards by Jill Fairchild, Regina Schaare & Sandra M. Stanton

Gaia in The Oracle of the Goddess by Gayan Sylvie Winter&Jo Dosé

Gaia in Goddess Inspiration Oracle by Kris Waldherr

Gaia in Goddess Card Pack by Juni Parkhurst

Gaia in The Goddess Power deck by Cordelia Brabbs

I would like you to pay attention to Gaia representing the card of The World, the twenty – second Major Arcan of Tarot. The first card is taken from the deck of Universal Goddess Tarot by Maria Caratti&Antonella Platano published by Lo Scarabeo.

Gaia in the Tarot deck by Lo Scarabeo

The second one is taken from the Goddess Tarot created by Kris Waldherr

Gaia as the World in the Tarot deck by Kris Waldherr

Based on The Greek Myths by Robert Graves, The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal and English Wikipedia.


*Dragon seems to be a symbol closely related with the Earth. In the movie Mists of Avalon, based on the book by Marion
Zimmer Bradley, one of the main heroes Uther PenDRAGON has this motive tatooed on his skin as the sign of his devotion to the belief in the Goddess, the feminine deity of nature. Later in the movie when the pagan rituals are replaced by the Christian ones the image of dragon being  stabbed to death by a warrior is shown.

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