Rice, Maize, Wheat, Barley and Demeter

Wheat is undisputedly the great gift of Demeter, the sacred substance of the goddess, the very symbol of the Kore, the sacrifice of the wheat ear of whom we are partake. Second to the wheat is the purifying and holy barley which is used for purifying the altar space, tools of sacrifice and the object of sacrifice. When you hear of sacred use of barley as a food substance it is usually used in festivals such as the Pyanepsia, the kykeon of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the panspermia at the Anthesterion. Unfortunately these grains, amid all their holiness, have in common  (as with spelt, rye etc) is a grain protein called gluten which is difficult for some people to digest.

So what do you do when you are limited to, or cannot partake of the most holy of substances that is an important fixture of your worship? I, like my mother who must even avoid many shampoos due to the use of the gluten, have a sensitivity to gluten that has been getting worse as I have been getting older. Simple direct contact with flour on my arms I discovered years ago causes painful rashes on my arms which may or may not be related to the issue at hand, but eating gluten causes not only painful blisters on my back and thighs when consumed more than the most minimal amounts, but when I step over than minimalist line also causes extreme gastronomical pain.  Gastronomical pain isn’t new to me, for which reason I tend to avoid eating nuts, because I have difficulty digesting them too, but the pain with grain is something which has been increasing to the point in which I am now considering completely cutting out (or quite close) gluten in my diet. Even the smallest amounts of grain cause an uncomfortable gassy tummy that I have just had to deal with. But it has affected my relationship over the years with Demeter.

It is really difficult to fully appreciate the savior cult of a goddess of grain when grain causes  you suffering. I found that while I use the symbolic properties of the wehat and barley in my worship, that I  relate more strongly to Demeter and Persephone in my daily life and worship with other grain like products, namely maize and rice. Persephone is still goddess of the  grain ear but I conceive of it in more broad terms to include thiese food staples that I more regularly eat. Rice is a particularly large part of my diet, and conceiving of Demeter as a mother of rice has been quite profound way for me to connect with the goddess in regards to that food which sustains my household. Life sustaining foods. In the future my connection to her with maize will probably develop more to consuming of maize tortillas in place of sandwiches.

While there is a strong historical root in the wheat ear and barley to Demeter (and spelt with Ceres) there is no reason that those of us with certain sensitivities to these things cannot enjoy and appreciate the goddess in the bounty of grains in general. I imagine that if  maize and rice crops were prevalent in ancient Hellas that she would have likely been connected to these grain-like harvests to. Mother of grains I appreciate you who are savior of the races of men, yours whose bounty ever flows the basis of our lives. May your crops continue to ever be diverse and manifold. I thank you for the rice grain and the maize grain that  nourishes my body.


3 thoughts on “Rice, Maize, Wheat, Barley and Demeter

  1. I wonder, what are you thoughts concerning potatoes and any connections to Demeter? It is a big staple food here in Western Europe, along with grains.

    • That is a very interesting question. Although not part of the grain family even loosely, been a tuberous crop maintained directly underground. I am not sure how important the underground feature of growing and harvesting the plant would play in a relationship with Demeter. It would seem to me that it would have a loose connection to Demeter as a crop plant, but like the vineyard to Dionysos, it would probably more exactingly fit with another god more associated with the gifts of what lies beneath the earth.

      • I know that the Pythagoreans were not allowed to eat certain beans or something, as they grew underground, and were thus connected to the Underworld. I would imagine then that they would view the potato in the same way. So you are probably right in thinking it is more connected to a khthonic or katakhthonic deity.

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