Deities of the Harvest
Wicca is a profoundly personal belief system that is customized by each practitioner. There isn’t a singular set of rules that dictates the law of belief to all Witches as there is in other religions. Though we look to existing traditions for guidance, each practitioner molds the craft to themselves and adds their own spin to each ritual, spell, and intention.
Just as there is no one way to do rituals and spells, there is no set deity in Wicca. Every Witch makes the practice their own, and as such, different Wiccans worship and honor different goddesses and gods. Some Witches honor only the Triple Goddess, in her three forms as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. Some Witches worship both the Goddess and the God, containing multiple aspects that ancient Pagans worshipped as separate deities. Of those, some worship them. Equally, some believe the Goddess holds more power, others the God. Then some Witches worship a pantheon of Goddesses and Gods, taken from early European Pagan worship as well as the religions of ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and modern Hindu practice. The God and Goddess are often still a part of that worship, usually as the heads of the pantheon. In Wicca and paganism, choices in divinity are very much for the individual to determine.
With the Harvest Sabbats quickly approaching, you might be looking to expand your practice and honor different goddesses and gods of the season. You can choose the goddesses and gods that best fit into your existing practice and begin to incorporate them into your rituals and spells.
Modern depictions of Mother Earth are often interpretations of the Greek goddess Gaia. She is not only the mother to the earth, but to everything produced by it, making her a harvest goddess. She is often depicted holding grain, fruits, and vegetables, sometimes in a cornucopia. In Greek tradition, she is the first to emerge from Chaos. She is not only mother to the earth but is also the mother and grandmother of all the Greek gods and goddesses. Because Gaia (pronounced GUY-uh) is the mother of all that earth produces, her energy can be invoked and honored for all aspects of the harvest.
Terra, sometimes referred to as Tellus, is the Roman counterpart to Gaia. Though the Romans borrowed from the Greeks for their pantheon, Terra is not the same as Gaia. She is a different being, and the two cannot be interchanged. The word “terrain” is derived from her name. She is also a representation of Mother Earth and a mother to the earliest Roman gods. The cornucopia is her symbol. Any type of harvest can be offered to her, and she can be called upon to bless entire harvests.
Though most often associated with wisdom, one of Cerridwen’s symbols is grain because she is a goddess of the harvest. Cerridwen (pronounced Ker-RID-Wen) is best known for her famous cauldron, with its potion that must be brewed for a year and a day. Spoiled by the village boy tasked with tending it, she ate him when he turned himself into a grain of corn. An Earth and Moon goddess, she embodies all lunar phases and thus all three aspects of the Goddess. However, she is most often worshipped in her Crone form. Though she can be invoked for all harvest energies, she is most aligned with grains. She frequently appears as a white sow.
The Greek Goddess of the Harvest, Demeter is most closely associated with grains. She is the mother of Persephone and in Greek tradition caused the seasons with her grief at losing her daughter. She is often shown depicted with corn, and her energy is most closely associated with it. Corn is the best offering for Demeter. Demeter is an Earth goddess and also hold sway over fertility, law, and the cycle of life and death. Harvest festivals should be dedicated to her in gratitude for a healthy and substantial crop.
If you’ve ever wondered where the word cereal came from, wonder no longer. Named for the Roman goddess of the Harvest, Ceres is Demeter’s counterpart (but again, a separate entity). Because of her gifts, her name is also at the root of the English words “create” and “increase,” so she is an ideal goddess to invoke for a bountiful harvest. Like Demeter and Cerridwen, she is most closely associated with grains. She showed humans how to plow with oxen and protects young seeds from harm. With the power to multiply crops and increase fertility, she is one of the strongest gods in the Roman pantheon.
Though she is not associated with the harvest itself, the Roman goddess Pomona makes fruit trees flourish. She is the protector of fruit trees and is most closely associated with the apple. In art, she is often shown with a cornucopia filled with fruit from trees, such as apples and olives. Fruit is the best offering for Pamona at harvest time, for blessings to keep the trees fruitful.
One of the most prominent Irish gods, Lugh is the namesake of the harvest sabbat Lughnasadh. The sabbat is named for him because he held the first of these festivals to honor his foster mother, Tailtiu. Associated with grain, offerings to him include corn, bread, and grains. He is known as Lugh the Long Arm, for his prowess at spear throwing and his dedication to the law. He gained entrance to Tara, the hall of high kings, by proving his mastery of multiple skills. Only one master of each skill could enter, and they already had someone for each skill. He asked “but how many are skilled at all of them” and was given entry. Because Lugh was skilled at many arts, other ways to honor him are with song, dance, and crafts.
Dagon, or Dagan, is a harvest god worshipped by the ancient Mesopotamians and Canaanites. His name derives from the word for grain. In Canaanite tradition, he is also a fish god, depicted as a merman in most artwork. He is the principal god of several Semitic peoples, with power not only over the harvest but also war and fertility. Though he is the god of all crops, grains are the best offerings for Dagon for harvest blessings.
One of the most revered deities of the ancient Egyptians, Osiris is perhaps best known in his role as the god of the underworld. Egyptians believed in a new life after death, and due to those beliefs, his role in the cycle of life placed him in power over the cycle of the seasons and crops. Neper, a god of grain, worshipped during starvation, is an aspect of Osiris. Osiris is credited with teaching Egyptians how to plow the earth to prepare it for planting, how to harvest crops, grind corn and meal to make flour, grow grapes on the vine to make wine, and how to make trees bear fruit. He taught humans how to feed themselves, so anything from the harvest is an acceptable offering to Osiris.
Sometimes referred to as Tammuz, Dumuzid was worshipped by the Sumerians. He was said to live on Earth for part of the year as a shepherd, protecting his people and teaching them how to cultivate crops. The lover of Ishtar, he is also associated with spring. Much beloved by the people because he chose to spend time among them, he was honored in festivals and mourned when thought to have left (when crops are dead). He is a god of agriculture, allowing plants to grow and flourish. Fruit and vegetables are appropriate offerings for Dumuzid.
A Norse god, Freyr was said to be “hated by none.” Likely because his blessings meant bountiful harvests, fertility, wealth, and peace. His favored animal is the boar and harvest festivals would often include a sacrifice of a boar along with other offerings to please Freyr. He had a ship that could be folded up and kept in a bag and on land traveled by boar-drawn chariot.
Because the harvest is such a critical time, as it provides the food that needs to last through the cold winter months, there are many deities associated with it. A poor harvest meant a hard and dangerous winter, where a bountiful harvest meant security through to Spring.
Though we often aren’t personally growing the crops that feed us today, honoring the goddesses and gods of the harvest is a way to protect and multiply the crops that feed all of us. Wicca is at its core the worship of nature and the cycle of life. We can use our harvest rituals and offerings to bring blessings on the Earth as a whole and to protect nature and the food we rely on. Whether you are making offerings to the Triple Goddess, the Great Horned God, or one of these harvest deities, may your harvest be blessed and bountiful.