The harvest goddess had an important role in ancient cultures. Around the world celebrations are still held to honor the harvest Goddess. These festivals mark the end of the summer and the gathering and storing of foods to last through the leaner months of winter.
Whilst the Goddesses of the harvest names may no longer be recalled at many harvest festivals and Thanksgiving celebrations, gratitude is still expressed for the earth’s great bounty.
Opposite is an photograph of a bronze statue of Fortuna, the Roman Goddess of good fortune. Here we see her shown holding the cornucopia a symbol of an abundant harvest. This photograph was taken by Ken Thomas at the Discovery Place Science Museum in Charlotte. It is from an exhibition of objects from Pompeii and is thought to have been used for private household worship.
Below I have collected a list of names of harvest Goddesses from around the world including the well l known ones like Demeter and Ceres. I have included brief descriptions of their festivals and the types of offerings made to them so that you can get ideas for creating your own ritual or decorate your altar space to mark this occasion.
I grew up in Norfolk an agricultural region of Britain where corn dollies were woven at harvest time to represent the harvest goddess.
Traditionally she was plaited from the last sheaf of wheat, providing a winter home for the corn spirit to ensure an abundant harvest the following year.
Autumnus (Roman) – The personification of autumn, she represents the abundance of nature and the time of the fruit and nut harvest.
Braciaca (Celtic) – Her name comes from the Celtic word “ braci,” that historian Pliny describes as a cereal crop used to brew a fermented drink. Alcohol was used in ceremonies to alter everyday perception and as a gateway to the sacred realms. This tradition continues with a wine or mead filled chalice being passed around the circle in many pagan rites. In France winegrowers continue to hold parades to celebrate the wine harvest.
Ceres (Roman) - The Goddess of corn, her name means to “create,” and has become the root word for cereal used to describe a range of grains. There were two main festivals held in her honor one on April 19th known as the Cerealia when the seeds were sown to encourage a bountiful harvest and another in August. The later was a more secretive ritual performed by woman in the home where the reaping of plants was recognized as part of the process of preparing and storing it for human consumption.
Corn Mother (Native American) – The spirit of corn, bringing abundance and healing from the earth. Special dances are still conducted in her honor. To the Pueblo Indians she is known as Selu or Santa. The First Nation people of the plains called her Uti Hiata.
Chicomecoatl (Aztec) – Goddess of sustenance and fertility. She is usually depicted with her body covered with red paint and carrying ripened ears of corn/maize.
Demeter (Greek) - Harvest Goddess responsible for the growing, preserving and harvesting of grain. As the grain Goddess she also became the patron Goddess of Millers and bakers. A three day festival called the Thesmophoria was celebrated by the married women of Athens. They fasted and prepared themselves for a feast where offerings of corn fruits and nuts were made to Demeter.
Dewi Sri (Balinese) - This Goddess is celebrated at the time of the rice harvest when the villages are decorated with colorful flags and bamboo structures are built in her honor.
Feronia (Roman) – Her festival, the Feroniae, was held on November 13th when the first fruits of the harvest were offered to her to ensure a bountiful crop the following year.
Fortuna (Roman)- as Goddess of good Fortune she was often depicted as a Harvest Goddess. See image above
Huichi (Japanese) - Fire offerings are made to this Goddess by the farm laborers in exchange for the necessary energy to complete the harvest.
Inari (Japanese) - A shape-shifting agricultural Goddess who often appeared as a fox. She is most well-known as a rice Goddess but is also linked to tea and Saki.
Inna (Nigerian) - She is responsible for the yam harvest, and brings abundance in crop yields to all the farmers that make offerings to her
Isis (Egyptian) - This many faceted Goddess was born in the swamps of the Nile delta and is linked to the annual flooding of this great river. She brings the nutrients in the rich silted water that ensure a good harvest. She also taught the women how to grind and store corn. Her festival was held on March 20th to celebrate the spring harvest.
Ningal (Sumerian) - Known as the "Great Lady," of the fruitful Earth this Goddess is adorned with a Lapiz Lazuli necklace. She was Goddess of the reeds, the fertile area along the riverbanks were early civilizations grew their crops.
Pachamama (Inkan) – Cosmic mother and Goddess of the earth she presides over the planting and harvesting of crops.
Papa (Polynesian) - A festival for this Earth Goddess is held on the full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox. She represents not only harvested goods but the physical earth from which they grow.
Pomona (Roman) – The Goddess of the orchard, responsible for the care and pruning of the fruit trees. Although there is no surviving records of a festival to honor this goddess she was so important to the Romans that one of the twelve flamines (high priests) of the cities was assigned to her worship at her shrine, the Pomonal.
Po Ino Nogar (Cambodian) - A Goddess of agriculture who protects the fields and harvests. Born in the clouds she spreads her generative, gentle rain onto the land below. Her name means “great one, mother of the kingdom.”
Selu (Native American) - She is the ancient corn mother of the Pueblo Indians. Myths tell of the planting of her heart, from which stalks of corn sprouted to feed the people. Today although due to Christian influence she is known as Santa Clara dances are still performed in her honor.
Zaramama - (Peruvian) - The "grain mother," she was said to incarnate in this world in the form of strangely shaped multi-headed ears of corn. These were collected, decorated and placed in willow trees that were danced around and made offerings to ensure abundant crops.
When I think of the Harvest Goddesses, my mind imagines the harvest festivals that are held in Autumn. In times past this was celebrated as the late harvest and the final gathering of fruits and grain. Of equal importance in the old calendar was the celebration of first harvest or Lammas, held at the beginning of August in Britain. During this time bread made from the newly harvested corn was blessed.
Around the world harvests are celebrated at different times of the year reflecting the weather patterns and seasons.