Notes from the Apothecary

June, 2018

Notes from the Apothecary: The Poppy

With colors ranging from a delicate, golden yellow to brash, bold scarlet, the poppy is a self-contained paradox. Powerful, yet delicate and short lived, this evocative flower has been associated with sleep, death and rebirth for many centuries. This connection comes from the fact that opium, a powerful drug used for inducing sleep and trance like states, is derived from the seed pods of one particular kind of poppy, papaver somniferum. It is possible that humans have been cultivating this poppy since 6000 BC.

Red poppies are also a symbol of remembrance, ever since the trench warfare that took place in World War One in the poppy fields of Flanders. They are used to remember those who fell in defense of other; soldiers and warriors, ancestors who died in battle and those who were affected by the horrors of war. In the UK especially, some people feel like the red poppy glorifies war, but they still wish to honor those who died, in which case they wear a white poppy. This signifies that they do not agree with war on principle, but that they respect and remember the sacrifice made by those who had no choice but to fight.

The Kitchen Garden

Poppies are classed as an herbaceous plant, and are grown mainly for their flowers and seeds. Many of the flowers are highly elaborate, having double or semi-double layers of petals. The red, multi-layered poppies always remind me of Spanish flamenco skirts.

As well as being a beautiful addition to any garden, poppies are very practical. The seeds are delicious, and are often used as decoration and flavor for breads, cakes, buns and muffins. As well as tasting great, like most seeds, they are a great source of protein. They are also high in calcium, so ideal for a dairy free diet.

The oil can be extracted from poppy seeds and used as a cooking oil, or for salad dressings and in baking.

The Apothecary

It should come as no surprise to learn that poppy seeds have been used throughout history as a painkiller, considering they contain the raw ingredients of morphine. They also contain tiny amounts of codeine. The Ancient Egyptians are known to have employed poppy seeds for this purpose, but they must have used them while very fresh as the opiate contents tends to fade quickly upon harvesting.

The Witch’s Herbal

The red poppy is a sacred symbol of Demeter, and as such is perfect for decorating any altar you may have to this Greek goddess of agriculture and law. The Minoans also evidently had a poppy goddess, as shown in the clay statuette found at Gazi. This ancient goddess with arms reaching to the sky has her headdress decorated with poppy seed capsules, showing that the cult that revered this goddess placed special, religious significance on the poppy. This may have been due to its narcotic properties, or the simple significance of the cycles of life, death and rebirth. Either way, it’s clear that poppies are a powerful symbol of at least two ancient cults. Using the poppy today can help us connect to these ancient goddesses.

Also within the Greek pantheon, we have Hypnos and Thanatos, the gods of sleep and death, respectively. These twin gods were both depicted with crowns of poppies, once again reinforcing the association between poppies and sleep and death. Death is a kind of sleep that never ends, and being asleep is so close to death in many ways. The poppy reminds us that just because something looks like one thing, it may actually be something completely different. We should examine and reexamine, and be sure of what we are seeing before jumping to conclusions. It reminds us to be less judgmental, more open-minded, and to appreciate the benefits of sleep and dreams.

Dreams are a doorway into our subconscious. And, while our subconscious kicks out some weird stuff most of the time, it can also send us important messages, including messages from our gods and ancestors.

Home and Hearth

Try keeping a dream journal. This can be a hard habit to get into, as you have to remember to write your dreams down the moment you awake from them. If not, you tend to lose details and the whole dream may even fade within a few minutes.

Before sleeping, meditate on an image of a poppy. A red poppy is the one most associated with sleep and dreams, but if a different color has more meaning for you, that’s fine too. Breathe, relax and imagine each petal of the poppy as a layer of your subconscious. Imagine you will be allowed to explore each layer, just as you can clearly see each beautiful petal of the poppy. Immerse yourself in the sense that your subconscious will open for you, blooming like a great flower, with answers and insight.

Keep a notepad and pen next to your bed. That way, even if you wake up at 3am, you can scribble down the contents of your dreams. Don’t worry if you can’t always remember them. The human mind is complex and temperamental! Write what you can and use it to look for patterns, imagery and symbolism.

I Never Knew…

The pain-killing drug morphine, derived from poppy opium, takes its name from Morpheus, the Ancient Greek god of dreams and sleep.

*Image credit: Welsh Poppies in Post Hill Woods, copyright Mabh Savage 2018; the Poppy Goddess at Heraklion Archaeological Museum via Wikipedia; poppies on Lake Geneva via Wikipedia.


About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals – Celtic Witchcraft: Modern Witchcraft Meets Celtic Ways.


Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.



October, 2017





the leaves fly as i drive home blowing formica gold seventies orange & a washed-out green just a few bright reds this drought has made for a dull autumn still the sun reflects the jewelry in leaves yet clinging to trees the leaves fly after a frost so long in coming oh demeter i will miss you as you search for your daughter oh hecate i do revel in your golden splendor oh artemis i long to join you in this season’s hunt the leaves fly as i drive home the sun sets in a mass of growing clouds red & gold & purple & midnight blue the onset of a cold front


About the Author:

Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.

Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan and she is solitary.

She blogs at She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.


She Who is All – The Goddess of Ten Thousand Names

November, 2015

Goddesses of Giving Thanks and the Harvest

Festivals of thanks and the harvest have been, and are, celebrated the world over, and have been for hundreds of years. The harvest has always been associated with the Goddess of Earth and Fertility. She is and always will be the Source of all Creation.



The Aztec Goddess of Maize (corn), she is dressed in flowers, carrying ripened ears of corn and a shield in the form of the sun. She is sometimes shown with a corncob engraved with the words, forgiving strength. She is the Goddess representing the mother aspect of the corn, while Xilonen is the Goddess representing the maiden aspect.

(Photo Credit:



Demeter was the Greek Goddess of the Harvest, who was the source of the Earths growth. When Persephone, her daughter, disappears and cannot be found, Demeter starts to look for her. As she searches in vain, her energy no longer feeds the earth; plants start to wilt and change color, heralding the first Autumn. When Persephone returned and Demeter reunited with her beloved daughter, Spring returned and the Earth was reborn. She is most often portrayed with sheaves of grain.

(Photo credit: timeless



As the Roman agricultural Goddess, Pomona cultivated and protected Her fruit trees and gardens. She was celebrated in a November 1st festival with nuts and fruits. Her sacred grove was known as Pomonal.

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Selu/Corn Mother


Selu and Corn Mother are just two of the many names used by Native Americans to call their Harvest Goddess. Selu is the Cherokee First Woman and Corn Mother. To feed her people, she planted her heart within the Earth, and from this, corn grew.


The name of Corn Mother is given to the Goddess of the Arikara Tribe. Born of the corn, She was the protector of Her people. As the spirit of the corn, She taught the tribe to farm.

(Photo Credit: (Photo Credit:



This Roman Goddess is the growth of the Earth. She assured that the crops were successful and harvested in abundance. She was often paried with Tellus, as the Earth Herself. Her festival was held in August at the harvest.

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This Goddess lived a solitary life in the orchards and fields of Italy. Feronia was a fire Goddess, watching over the fires deep within the Earth that helped the crops to grow and flourish. Her festival was also held in November when the Earths first fruits and plants were most abundant.

(Photo Credit:

May you all be blessed with an abundance of love, joy and happiness during this month of thanks and gratitude.



The New Book of Goddesses & Heroines by Patricia Monaghan

MoonOwl Observations

November, 2015

The Goddess Persephone

The Goddess of the Underworld is also known as Proserpina and she is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. The symbols of her are bats, pomegranate, seeds of grain and deer––+. The Greek world was divided into three different parts. The first is Hecate, the moon goddess, who wandered through the sky. The second is Demeter, who rules the surface of the earth, and the third is the queen of the afterlife, Persephone.

Now, how did Persephone become the queen of the underworld? She was abducted by her uncle, Hades. One day, Persephone was picking flowers when the chariot of hades appeared and the god of death took her through a crack in the earth, which immediately closed after them. Her mother went searching for her, and with each step she took all agricultural ground turned to desert and stopped all growth. To restore the natural order, Zeus arranges his daughters release by negotiating a settlement between Demeter and Hades. But, Persephone had already eaten a pomegranate seed, which causes a living person to be able to exist in the underworld but never fully being allowed back into the world of the living. So, because of this Persephone is compelled to spend her time between both lands.

While Persephone is in the land of the living, her mother Demeter is happy and allows everything to blossom again (spring) but, when she is forced to go back to the underworld, Demeter’s sadness causes everything to wither and die (winter).

Even though Persephone is torn between these worlds and was in a difficult spot she accepted her role and life and still lives a gracious and gentle queen of the underworld. She is the queen of the underworld, springtime, vegetation and maidenhood.

The Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the Mysteria

October, 2012

The mysteries of Eleusis were devoted to the ‘Two Goddesses,’ Demeter the grain goddess and her daughter Persephone, locally called Pherephatta or just ‘the Maiden,’ Kore.  These mysteries were organized by the polis of Athens and supervised by the archon basileus, the ‘king.’  For the Athenians these were the Mysteries tout court,  and  the literary prestige of Athens that ensured their lasting fame.  Inscriptions and excavations in addition to literature and iconography provide abundant documentation.

The well-known myth depicts Demeter searching for Kore, who has been carried off by Hades, the god of the netherworld.  Kore finally comes back, if only for a limited period, to Eleusis itself; there the Athenians celebrated the great autumn festival, the Mysteria; the procession went from Athens to Eleusis and culminated in a nocturnal celebration in the Hall of Initiations, the Telesterion, capable of holding thousands of initiates, where the hierophant revealed “the holy things.” There were two gifts that Demeter bestowed on Eleusis: grain as the basis of civilized life, and the mysteries that held the promise of ‘better hopes’ for a happy afterlife.  These mysteries took place exclusively at Eleusis and nowhere else.

[AMC, pp. 93-4): We have only some piecemeal information about the details of mystery initiations, which, although it does not add up to form a satisfactory picture, still strikes the imagination with the charm of the fragmentary.  For Eleusis we have at least five sets of divergent evidence: the topography of the sanctuary; the myth of Demeter’s advent, as told especially in the Homeric hymn, a relief frieze with initiation scenes, known in several replicas; the synthema, “password,” as transmitted by Clement of Alexandria; and the two testimonies of the Naassene, which clearly pertain to the concluding festival.

The mysteries were eventually open to all who spoke Greek and who were not felons.  According to the Christian writer Tertullian:

“Those who wish to be initiated have the custom, I believe, to turn first to the ‘father’ of the sacred rites, to map out what preparations have to be made.” (Burkert, p. 11).

The Mysteries should not be regarded as religions per se; they were rather an optional activity within polytheistic religion, “comparable to, say, a pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostela within the Christian system.” (Burkert, p. 10).

“Demeter, the story goes, when received at Eleusis, took the little child of the queen and put it in the fire of the hearth at night in order to make it immortal.  Interrupted by the frightened mother, she revealed herself and installed the mysteries instead.” (Ibid, p. 20).  The link between the two is underlined by the initiation of a “child from the hearth” at each festival. (p. 52).

“The first part of the initiation could take place at various times…above the Agora of Athens.  The first act was the sacrifice of a young pig.  Each mystes had to bring his piglet.  According to one description the mystes took a bath in the sea together with his piglet. He gives the animal in his stead to its death.  (Another source mentions that at the start of the Mysteria, all the mystai bathe together in the sea near Athens on a special day.) Myth associated the death of the pig with Persephone sinking into the earth…There follows a purification ceremony for which the Homeric Hymn has Demeter herself set the example.  Without speaking a word she sits down on a stool which is covered by a ram fleece, and she veils her head.  Thus reliefs show Heracles at his initiation veiled and sitting on a ram fleece, while either a winnowing fan is held over him or a torch is brought up close to him from beneath.  In ancient interpretation this would be purification by air and by fire…On the reliefs there follows the encounter with Demeter, Kore, and the kiste [small basket].  This probably points to the festival proper…The synthema gives information on successive stages of the initiation rites, yet in veiled terms such as one initiate would use to another to let him know he has fulfilled all that is prescribed: ‘I fasted, I drank from the kykeion, I took out of the kiste, worked, placed back in the basket (kalathos – the large basket), and from the basket into the kiste.’  There is an allusion in Theophrastus to the tools of working, of grinding corn, that early men ‘consigned to secrecy and encountered as something sacred,’ evidently in Demeter’s mysteries.  This indicates that mortar and pestle were hidden in the basket, the instruments, in fact, for preparing the kykeion.  This is a barley drink, a kind of barley-groat broth seasoned with pennyroyal.” (Burkert, Greek Religion, p. 286)

Later Christian charges that the kiste contained a phallus could be a case of taking the pestle for a phallus, which it resembles.  Or perhaps a phallus was used as a pestle.  In classical antiquity the identity of a child was believed to come exclusively from the male seed, with the mother only providing the fertile bed for the foetus’ growth.  This would place added religious emphasis on the phallus as the source of new life.

The Mysteria proper are a major festival which has its fixed place in the calendar, in the autumn month of Boedromion.  The main public event is the great procession from Athens to Eleusis along the Sacred Way, a distance of over thirty kilometers.  This took place on the 19th of Boedromion.  Prior to this, on the 14th day of the month, the ‘sacred things’ had been brought from Eleusis to Athens.  (Greek Religion, p. 286)

“A name for mocking songs on such occasions is Iambos…Iambe was made into a mythical figure, a maid who was able to cheer up Demeter after her sorrow and fasting…During the procession to Eleusis grotesquely masked figures sat at a critical narrow pass just near the bridge…and terrorized and insulted the passers-by …Just as pomp and ceremony contrasts with everyday life, so does extreme lack of ceremony, absurdity, and obscenity,…By plumbing the extremes the just mean is meant to emerge…” (Burkert, Greek Religion, 104-5)

Another source mentions that such songs had as their aim the keeping away of spirits of infertility, for, as everyone knows, they are great prudes.

After the Iambe, when the procession had reached the boundary between Athens and Eleusis, when the first stars became visible, the mystai broke their fast. The procession arrives at the sanctuary.  The temples of Artemis and Poseidon, sacrificial altars, and a ‘fountain of beautiful dances,’ Kallichoron, could all still be visited freely, but behind them lay the gateway to the precinct which, on pain of death, none but the initiates could enter. (Ibid, p. 287)

The gates were open to the mystai.  We know that immediately beyond the entrance there is a grotto…It was dedicated to Pluto…whom the mystai thus approached.  The celebration proper took place in the Telesterion…built to hold several thousand people at a time, watching as the hierophant showed the sacred things…In the centre was the Anaktoron, a rectangular, oblong, stone construction, with a door at the end of one of its longer sides; there the throne of the hierophant was placed.  He alone might pass through the door into the interior of this building…The great fire under which the hierophant would officiate…burned o the roof of the Anaktoron…the roof of the Telesterion had a kind of skylight…as an outlet for the smoke.

Darkness shrouded the crowd thronged in the hall of mysteries as the

priests proceeded to officiate by torchlight.  Dreadful, terrifying

things were shown until finally a great light shone forth ‘when the

Anaktoron was opened’ and the hierophant ‘appeared from out of the

Anaktoron in the radiant nights of the mysteries’…Yet it was not

terror, but the assurance of blessing that had to prevail.  The

blessings of the mysteries are expressed in three ways.  The mystes

sees Kore, who is called up by the hierophant by strokes of a gong; as

the underworld opens up, terror gives way to the joy of reunion.  Then

the hierophant announces a divine birth: ‘The Mistress has given birth

to a sacred boy, Brimo the Brimos.”  Finally, he displays an ear of corn

in silence. (Ibid, pp. 287-8)


(Burkert, Ancient Mystery Cults, p, 24): [Quoting Plato, Republic 365a] “…purifications through joyous festivals …[that are good] both for the living and for those who died.” The two belong together because disturbances in the beyond are felt so grievously in this life; hence ritual that has the effect of eliminating grief and sorrow and establishing a ‘blessed’ status immediately has its repercussions on the other side.  This is why the deceased are imagined to join in the mystery festival, to continue blissful teletai [mysteries] in the netherworld…in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter..Persephone will release those who honor her through ritual.”

(Burkert, Greek Religion, 277-8): The special status attained through initiation is claimed to be valid even beyond death: the orgiastic festival of the mystai continues to hold in the afterlife…Yet if the chance of initiation has been let slip in this life, it is impossible to make up for the omission after death.  Impressive mythical images bring home this impossibility: Oknos, hesitation personified, is an old man who sits in Hades plaiting a cord which his ass immediately eats away.  The uninitiated are carrying water in sieves up to a leaking vessel, aimlessly and endlessly.”

(Burkert, AMC, 77): The Eleusinian mystai abstain from food, as Demeter did in her grief, and they end their fast when the first star is seen, because Demeter did the same; they carry torches, because Demeter lit them at the flames of Mount Aetna; [however,] …they do not sit on the well [as]…Demeter sat there, mourning for her daughter.  The hymn to Demeter makes the goddess perform what must have been part of the initiation ritual: sitting down on a stool covered with a fleece, veiling her head, keeping silence, then laughing and tasting the kykeion.”

In addition to being the seat of the mysteries of Demeter, Eleusis was also a great votive center. (AMC, 20) “…There are rich collections of votive objects from the site [Eleusis].  The favor of the Two Goddesses was not restricted to the mystery nights…Even healing miracles are not absent from Eleusis: a man who had been blind suddenly would behold the sacred exhibition; mysteries are to be ‘seen’ at Eleusis.”

(Burkert, AMC, 75): “The grief of Demeter ends with the return of Persephone, and ‘the festival ends with exaltation and the brandishing of torches.’ (Lactantius).



BURKERT, Walter, Ancient Mystery Cults, Cambridge, MA and London;

Harvard University Press, 1987.

_____________, Greek Religion, Cambridge, MA; Harvard University

Press, 1985.


Myths and Legends:Journeys Through Time

November, 2010


Every year the Earth goes through a series of changes. Where the change begins isn’t rightly

known but the beginning is assumed to be Spring; a season of rebirth and new beginnings.

Spring is the time when the world wakes up from it’s winter induced slumber and takes on

a new look. The tree leaves and flower buds peek at the world around them and decide

to be a part of it. The newborn animals begin to learn how to survive and become adults.

After spring comes Summer; a season of growth and destruction, of good times and on

occasion bad times. Summer is a time of temperment, sometimes Mother Nature’s temper

is good, at times it’s bad. Following summer comes Fall; a season of change and preparation.

Fall signifies the time when Earth starts to feel old and sleepy. The crops are harvested, the

animals know what to do for their first winter and the plants begin to slowly fall asleep. Fall

is almost a time of sadness. Winter is the final season to appear and it’s the most harsh. The

air is bitingly cold and so very dry, the snow piles up, the ice is slippery and dangerous.

Winter although beautiful can be deadly as most beautiful things often are. It’s ok though

because after winter comes Spring and the cycle begins again. The reason for the seasons

is quite simple. In Greek and Roman mythology, the world becomes sleepy, then desolate

and barren for four or more months because of the goddess Demeter. Demeter (known as

Ceres in Roman mythology) is the goddess of agriculture, nuturing, fertility, and grains.

This was important to the Ancient Greeks and Romans because it was the grains and

knowledge of agriculture that enabled them to live. The agriculture provided them

with the knowledge of how to farm grain which provided them with the means to make

bread which they would eat. Fertility too is important because if the land was fertile, it

provided a good crop and abundant harvest. If man and women too were fertile, then they

were able to have children and help the population grown. Demeter’s most known role in

mythology is that of Persephone’s mother. Persephone is the maiden who is kidnapped by

Hades, the God of the Underworld and made his queen. He abducted her because he thought

she was beautiful and fell in love with her. Zeus allowed the abduction and poor Demeter

had no clue of what happened to her child. She spent months looking for her child, thus

neglecting her duties. While she was looking for Persephone, several things happened to

her. She was taken against her will by Posiden in the form of mare and stallion, she became

unhappy and took the guise of an old mortal woman in the city of Eleusis, she became a

nursemaid after a long depressed state, and decided to make a future king immortal.

All of this came about because when Persephone went missing, Demeter searched

everywhere for her. At one point during her travels, Poseidon noticed her and began

lusting after her. She tried to hide from him by disguising herself a mare. Poseidon

was not fooled and became a stallion. The trip to Eleusis happened because she was

informed by Hecate that Zeus; Demeter’s former lover (before Hera) was the one who

allowed Hades to kidnap and marry Persephone. Feeling betrayed Demeter renounced her

divine duties and went into hiding. Due to her renouncing her divine duties, the world

started to become barren and all harvests ceased. It became a never ending winter.

Zeus finally realized what he had done and sent messangers to apologize and coax Demeter

into coming back and resuming her duties. She agreed to only do so if Persephone was

rescued. Zeus agreed and ordered Hades to release her. Hades, being unwilling to give up his

bride persuaded her to eat a pomegrante. Knowing that those who ate anything in the under-

world were not allowed to return to the Earth, Persephone having refused all food until now

because of this, accepted the pomegrante and ate the seeds. Having done this, she was

forever bound to the Underworld, one month for every seed she ate. Some versions say she

ate four seeds, others say six even seven. Demeter wasn’t happy that Persephone had eaten

the seeds but she was overjoyed at having her daughter back even if only for six months or

so. Demeter’s happiness at having Persephone back gives us spring and summer. Her sadness

and sorrow at Persephone going back to the underworld, gives us fall and winter. Spring

signifies Persephone’s return, Summer; her stay with her mother, Fall; the time when

Persephone leaves her mother and Winter; the time Demeter is without Persephone.

Despite everything Demeter has been through she had never acted upon her divine right to

become vindictive toward anyone who didn’t honor them in a dignified fashion. She was too

kind hearted to do so and even when she indulged in it, she always made it right. She’s a

symbol of strength, change, fertility, love, nurturing and the ability to be all of this even

when faced with despair. Of all the gods and goddess, Demeter is perhaps one of the

strongest, maybe not in power but in her ability to continue loving and nurtre people

no matter what is going on and how bad things get.

Gems of the Goddess

October, 2010


The leaves are falling, and the birds are chirping about, harvesting food for the chilly months ahead.  The smell of spices are in the air, and pumpkins are being carved.  These are all some of the feelings of fall.  With these feelings are the goddesses associated with autumn, or as some people may call Harvest.  Demeter is one of the many goddesses with autumn ties.  She is the Greek goddess of the harvesting times and has a very nurturing spirit.  She has been known to be very giving towards mankind, granting them crops to plow, and grain to save.  With that mothering soul of hers she had her daughter Persephone, who is known as the queen of the underworld.  Most of you may know the story of Persephone and Demeter, but for those who don’t, it all started with Hades. Hades couldn’t help but fall in love with Persephone.  So one day when Persephone was picking a flower the earth opened up, and up rose Hades strong arm, and pulled Persephone right down to the underworld with him.  Having heard Persephone’s scream, Demeter ran to the meadow where Persephone was. Persephone was nowhere to be found.  Demeter instantly lit her torch and set out on her search to look everywhere she could possibly think of. Finally, Demeter encountered Helio, the sun goddess, who told her that Persephone was now Hades wife and queen of the underworld.  So stricken with grief, Demeter withdrew her divine duties as being provider of the land and sentenced the earth to be bare until her daughter was brought back to her.  The earth saw a winter that was never ending.  Zeus, Demeter’s husband, finally opened his eyes to all the starvation that was going on in the world and eventually gave in to Demeter and sent Hermes to tell Hades to bring Persephone back.  Persephone was delighted to here of her mothers longing, and agreed to return.  But just as she was about to leave, Hades offered her a pomegranate.  Persephone knew to never eat anything in the underworld, but she was so hungry from not eating for so long she decided to eat just the seeds.  Demeter was not at all happy upon hearing that Persephone ate the seeds, and told her that she would have to return to the underworld for four months out of each year.  Otherwise, Demeter was very content and resumed her goddess duties.


Because Demeter is such a loving, motherly goddess, I’m sure she would love to connect with anyone who has a kind heart.  You could try writing a letter of things you wish to cultivate in the coming harvest, and burying it in the ground.  The Divine Goddesses are always willing to listen and defiantly want to help. Demeter would be happy to help you harvest your desires this fall and remind you of your mothering flame as well.

SYMBOLS AND THINGS TO PUT ON YOUR ALTER: torch, acorns, bread, copper, emerald, cinnamon, sunflowers, myrrh, patchouli, any household pets, cranes, and lizards

The Grove

August, 2010

The rich scent of soil works its way into my nostrils. The earth fills my hands like fine cloth, smooth & heavy. I let it drift through my fingers as I marvel in its texture. This garden is mine, as is the brand new house that goes with it. In both the literal & figurative sense, I have worked hard to plant the right seeds & asked my Gods to help  them to thrive. In this season of harvest I find myself looking forward to sitting back & enjoying the fruits of my labour, to reap the rewards of what I have sewn.


I would like to give thanks, but who should I pray to? My thoughts turn automatically to Demeter. Beyond the rough concept of a goddess of grain & growing things, who was she? She was a child of the Titans Cronus & Rhea, & therefore a sister of Olympian Zeus. Her very name meaning ‘grain mother’, Demeter ruled over the areas of agriculture, fruit & vegetables, grain, fertility, & health.  In the past Demeter’s sacred days revolved around harvest-time. Her most important festival was held every 5 years for 9 days, & included processions, sacrifices, & song.

The goddess has long been associated with the changing of seasons, as well. Demeter treasured her daughter Persephone above all things. The girl’s beauty captured the attention of the lord of the underworld. One version of myth told how Zeus sought to please his brother Hades & gave his permission to seize her. When her daughter Persephone was abducted, her grief consumed her attention. She no longer cared for her duties, but without her attention famine threatened all. No green or living thing could grow in the chill of her sorrow; winter would not cease.  Perhaps she felt Zeus. In her hurt & anger she allowed the earth to go barren until her daughter was restored to her. The full weight of what he bought into motion struck him hard. The king of Olympus sent messenger Hermes to tell his brother to release Persephone. Outwardly Hades agreed, but not before offering her a pomegranate to snack on. Anyone who ate the food of the underworld must remain there. Eventually a deal was made. The deed could not be undone; Persephone ate of the seeds. However the blow was softened. The girl would only be required to spend part of her year down below. In those months Demeter’s grief would cause the land to wither.  In the months she spent above with her mother, the goddess’s joy caused the earth to flourish & be reborn.

Was she a vengeful goddess? Maybe. Although it’s perhaps more correct to say she was a passionate deity lead by her heart. Consider the case of Celeus. During her time wandering the earth as she grieved, Demeter came to the court of Eleusis & gained employment nursing the king’s sons. At one point the elder son accused Demeter of being greedy & she turned him into a lizard in response. Perhaps she felt a little bad about her hasty act. The goddess,  as much to honour Celeus for his hospitality as make up for her hasty act, decided to change one of the remaining boys into an immortal. Each night she tried to burn away Demophon’s mortal spirit by anointing him with ambrosia & placing him in the hearthfire, until his mother  saw what was happening. Her frightened antics angered Demeter, but the goddess persisted. Instead of making his brother immortal, she chose to teach her knowledge of agriculture to Triptolemus instead. From him all of Greece learned these arts.

From Demeter we learn that the only thing eternal is the Wheel of the Year itself. Seasons change, winter eventually fades. Sorrow becomes rejoicing. From her we learn that tending the earth is hard work but not without reward. Your efforts will yield fruit in the right season. Let her lessons be seeds to plant deep down within & flourish in your soil.

Topaz’s Whimsical Tales

October, 2009



It happens every year; the warmer seasons fade to autumns docile colors and temperatures that soon bow to winter’s howling nipping winds.

Reminding us that Persephone is starting her journey to the underworld to be with Hades; causing her mother Demeter to grieve and the earth lose her luster of spring and summer.

It is said that the reason for the colder months is just the anguish of an ill-be-gotten mother whose daughter was taken from “under her nose”.

The story goes as such; Hades; lord of the underworld; had fallen in love with Persephone; daughter of Zeus and Demeter; and had asked Zeus for her hand. Zeus fearing Demeter’s reaction told Hades that he may not have it.
Hades then decided that he loved Persephone so much that he couldn’t live with out her and on day decided to whisk her away to the underworld, by thrusting through a cleft in the earth and grabbing her as she picked flowers with some nymphs.

Demeter being distraught with grief and anger punished the nymphs for not assisting her daughter in her time of need; by transforming them into the sirens we know today. But that was not all she had also stopped tending to the plants and spent her time searching the world for her beloved daughter, when Helios; the sun who sees all; told her what had happened.

Zeus; under pressure from Demeter and the starving peoples of the earth; demanded that Hades return Persephone to her mother. Hades refused; causing Zeus to exercise his power and authority with his brother decreed that their marriage be null and void as long as Persephone ate nothing of the Underworld’s food.

Starving Persephone gave to Hades’ temptations with a pomegranate, and consumed a few seeds thus causing her marriage to Hades to be consummated in the eyes of the Olympians.

Waiting until Demeter and her daughter were once again united; Ascalaphus informed the other gods that Persephone had eaten the pomegranate seeds.

But it was the Fates rule that no one who had eaten from the gardens of the underworld would be aloud to return, and to save the peoples of the Earth Zeus, Hades, and Demeter made a deal. Persephone was to spend half of the year with her mother, and the other half of the year with Hades as queen of the underworld.

Her return from the underworld marks the beginning of spring, summer is the time that Persephone and her mother get to spend together, her journey back brings the beginning of autumn, and winter is marked by the number of pomegranate seeds that Persephone had consumed. So it is believed that autumn and winter are a form of a mother‘s grief of a “lost” child.

Thus reminding us that there is greater meaning to what we see as trivial things and the reasoning behind the season changes.

Goddess Cards

August, 2009



I have always loved Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture. Normally, I celebrate her at Harvest. This year, I have reasons for thinking of her earlier…

August is the height of late summer.  That is why, in the central image of this painting, we see Demeter, a gloriously fruitful goddess, bearing golden sheaves of wheat against a background of blazing summer skies, poppies, and flowing rivers. Everything symbolizes the fertility and abundance she showers on a hungry world. How beautiful she is!

In her left hand, however, she bears a torch. And vignettes that tell a less sunny story surround her. It is that story that has earned her second title, The Fierce Mother. That is the story I tell today.

Demeter, provider and mother figure for the whole world, had only one child, a daughter named Persephone. This lovely girl was her pride and joy. While busy with her great task of making the Earth fruitful, Demeter took satisfaction in knowing that her ceaseless labors of love allowed her precious child to be carefree. Persephone could, and did, spend her days dancing in the meadows with her friends, gathering flowers that her mother had nurtured and brought to the peak of perfection. She led an idyllic life!


Then one day, the unthinkable happened. Hades, the lonely King of the Underworld, kidnapped Persephone and took her to his dark kingdom. There, he raped her, and forced her to marry him. All with the collusion of Zeus, King of the Gods, Persephone’s father, and Demeter’s brother!

Demeter was devastated. Taking a torch in her hand, she searched tirelessly for her lost child in every nook and cranny of the Earth. But nobody could tell her where Persephone had gone. She sank into a grief so profound that she abandoned her care for the world. Crops failed. Animals died. Blasted by famine, drought and winter, people died as well. Their cries for help to Mother Demeter went unanswered.

When Demeter finally discovered that Hades had stolen Persephone, she was outraged and demanded that Zeus force Hades to return her.  Conditions on Earth had become so dire that Zeus had to take action.

He ordered Hades to restore Persephone to her mother. But Hades claimed the unhappy girl had just broken her fast by eating seven seeds of a pomegranate – a symbol of marriage in the ancient world. As his wife, she was obliged to remain with him forever.

Zeus made a canny compromise. Persephone would spend 8 months of every year with her mother on Earth. She would return to the Underworld with her husband for only 4 months – after harvest!

Demeter had to be content with this partial victory. Her delight at her reunion with Persephone was great. Soon, Earth bloomed again. A bumper harvest made thanksgiving celebrations more joyful than ever. When Persephone returned to Hades, winter came back with a vengeance. But the Greeks lived in hope. They knew that when she returned, Demeter’s blessing would be restored. They celebrated that…

I honor the great Goddess of Abundance and Fertility. But I am inspired by her example as Fierce Mother.

What mother has not had the experience of having to go look for their child? Of fighting to retrieve them from some danger? It may begin early with a terrifying, momentary loss of a youngster in a grocery store. As they grow older, and life becomes complex, the losses may become more challenging.

I know mothers who have fought fiercely to extricate a lost child from the grip of an addiction. Others have sought to rescue a beloved child from depression, a painful marriage or loss of a partner, financial losses, or eating disorders. At the moment, I, and my family, are facing a life-threatening illness in a cherished son.

At such times, the model of Demeter, Goddess of Agriculture and Abundance, and Fierce Mother, is good to remember.

Demeter refused to abandon the quest to restore her daughter to Life. Her persistence succeeded. Persephone WAS returned to Earth, though she was not the same carefree child she was before her descent into Underworld.

Both mother and daughter were transformed by their experience of loss. Persephone grew up. Demeter discovered untapped resources of strength as well as abundant provision.

But that is a story for another day…

For now, have a blessed August.

Anne Baird, Designer/Owner of GODDESS CARDS, is a self-taught artist who has been painting and writing since childhood. Her chosen media for her unique line of greeting cards is watercolor, with touches of gouache, ink and colored pencil.

Her GODDESS CARD line grew from a birthday card she created for her daughter, Amanda, in 2001. Amanda was disheartened at being a curvaceous beauty in the Land of Thin. (Los Angeles.) That seminal card declaring, “You’re a GODDESS, not a nymph!” evolved into a long line of love notes and affirmations for ALL women. At over 125 cards, the line is steadily growing.

Anne is inspired by the archetypal Legendary Goddesses, who have so much to teach today’s women. Her greatest inspiration however, comes from the Goddesses of Today, who write her with wonderful suggestions and thoughts that expand her consciousness and card line.

She is launching an E-Goddess Card website soon, where the Goddess on the Go can send Goddess “e-cards”, enriched with music and stories, at the click of a mouse. (A virtual mouse.)

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