So, we are in the midst of the the ancient Roman festival for Ceres. This festival in Rome usually lasted about a week, but I’ll probably be doing my ritual on the 19th, since Ovid mentions that as being the day that people who lived in the Roman country would worship Her. (Us farmers can’t afford to have a whole week of a festival off, there are seeds to plant!) I’m also planning on doing some divination that day, since I need to ask Demeter a few questions about where She wants Her outdoor altar moved to (the whole garden is getting rearranged, beds being moved and rebuilt, working on both chicken and rabbit houses, which means the altar needs a more permanent place to reside) and if She minds sharing it with Pomona and Vertumnus for a while.
From Frances Bernstein’s awesome book, Classical Living: Reconnecting to the Rituals of Ancient Rome – Myths, Gods, Goddesses, Celebrations, and Rites for Every Month of the Year
April 12-19, III Ides – XIII Kalends May
The Cerialia began just as the Megalesia ended, with horse races and games to celebrate both. This celebration was in honor of the goddess Ceres and her joy at the return of her daughter Persephone.
There is no need to declare the reason; the bounty and the services of the goddess are manifest. The bread of the first mortals consisted of the green herbs which the earth yielded without solicitation; and now they plucked the living grass from the turf, and now the tender leaves became known and the sturdy oak afforded a splendid bounty. Ceres was the first who invited man to better sustenance and exchanged acorns for more useful food. She forced bulls to yield their neck to the yoke; then for the first time did the upturned soil behold the sun. Copper was now held in esteem; iron ore still lay concealed; ah, would that it had been forever! [Weapons were made of iron.] Ceres delights in peace; and you farmer, pray for perpetual peace and a peaceful leader. You may give the goddess Ceres some spelt, and the compliment of spurting salt and grains o incense on old hearths; and i there is no incense kindle resin torches. Good Ceres is content with little, if that little be but pure.
(Ovid Fasti 4.395-415 LCL)
White was the color to be worn at the festival to Ceres – no dark and somber colors for this month. Persephone returns and the earth is in celebrations, decked out in a rainbow of colors to welcome the daughter back. In the countryside, her ritual was conducted on April 19. When spring came, the country folk worshiped Ceres with offerings of milk, honey and wine.
Persephone, the daughter of Ceres, who dwells in the underworld for the winter months, now returns. Persephone is reunited with her mother, Ceres, and the sacred bond between mother and daughter is renewed this month. These rites off the April Cerialia are only half of the story, the joyous part when all is restored. September bears the other half, the grief and mourning, when the greater rites to Ceres and Persephone, the Eleusinian Mysteries, are held. (page 83-84)
Living out here in the country, I am getting closer to Demeter/Ceres than I have ever been before. I am still working on getting to know Her. I don’t know Her as I know many of my other Deities. It is not the same intimate, easy way that I know Hermes, for example, or with the same level of intense devotion that I know Athena. But I feel no more of the discomfort that I used to regarding Her. I in fact am delighted to dive into agricultural mysteries. On a practical level, out here on the homestead I need all the help that I can get from all the Powers I can get on my side!
Virgina Carper, over at Neptune’s Dolphins writes,
“Her temple [was] built on Aventine Hill. This temple was shared by Liber and Libera, Gods of Vegetable Fertility. It was also a granary and a place of asylum. Because of this, the temple became the center of plebeian activities. Ceres, Liber, and Libera became the Aventine Triad, the plebeian counter to the Capitoline Triad of Juno, Jupiter and Minerva.”
I’d like start a practice involving Liber and Libera, too, at some point. As much as I love Athena, my life as a homesteader and farmer is much closer to the plebeians who worshiped the Aventine Triad than the statesmen and politicians who revered the Capitoline Triad above all. But I try not to take on too much at a time. I am just getting to know Odin, as well as exploring an ENTIRE new path and tradition in Heathenry, Hermes has become very intense in the last two years, and I’m getting a prompt from Artemis that She wants more worship from me, too. That’s in addition to all my writing, blogging, the work on my homestead, and taking care of my brother. But my personal calendar and cultus is constantly evolving. Five years ago, my practice was very much city-based. While I still worship Egyptian Gods in my Greco-(Roman)-Egyptian practice, I now think more about life from the ancient farmer’s perceptive, than from that of the scholar in Alexandria. That’s inevitable, I suppose, when your live changes so drastically. So, I guess we will see what happens.