Today’s topic is symbols and icons that are devoted to Demeter. One of the most obvious is the sheaf of grain (typically in the modern era, wheat). However in many depictions of the goddess she is not only shown with grain but with a variety of food crops — the exception being grapes which are a symbol of Dionysus. This has led people to also associate Demeter with the constellation of Virgo which is often considered to be holding a sheaf of grain. I tend to have mixed feelings about this due to the name of the constellation translating from the Latin as “Virgin” when Demeter, as a goddess of Fertility — both of crops and people — was not a virgin Goddess.
I tend to also include pregnant women and animals as icons of Demeter because of her link to fertility. In the myth cycle surrounding the marriage of Persephone, the Homeric Hymn #2 honoring Demeter states that Demeter withheld the seed from growing in the earth, and by inference, I would likely say that she also withheld food animals from becoming pregnant as the Hymn states that she was willing to not only cause famine for mortals but to also deprive the other Theoi of their proper sacrifices.
Another symbol of Demeter that people are LESS familiar with is the honeybee. It is interesting to note that in ancient times priestesses honoring Demeter were often called “mellisae”, or bees. The ancients may not have known specifically about the role that the honeybee plays in pollination of crops, but would have observed that when bees were around the crops were more plentiful and because of this had the association of the honeybee as a symbol of Demeter.
Because of Ceres being cognated with Demeter by many people I would also include one of the solar system’s dwarf planets as an icon of Demeter. It is the dwarf planet Ceres, which is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Some astrologers have started to explore the influence of this dwarf planet as well as the large asteroids Vesta, Juno, and Pallas on people’s astrological charts. I consider this a good step as it is acknowledging the role that the Goddesses play in people’s lives and personalities.
One thing that I think that almost anyone can include as an icon of Demeter in their home is a plant like an aloe or other edible plant like potted herbs. As they help to sustain mankind, it is my opinion that it is a suitable icon AND offering.