Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flora ~ Goddess of Flowers

Origins: Roman
Language: Latin
Translation: Means flower
Feast Days: April 28th, May 23rd
Goddess of: Flowers
Goddess Type: Earth Goddess
Also Known As: Flora Rustica, "Flora the Countrywoman" or "Flora of the Countryside", and Flora Mater, or "Flora the Mother", in respect to Her ancient origins. Among the Oscans She was known as Flusia.
Symbols/Offering: flowers,


Flora is the Roman Goddess of flowering plants, especially those that bear fruit. Spring, of course, is Her season, and She has elements of a Love-Goddess, with its attendant attributes of fertility, sex, and blossoming. She is quite ancient; the Sabines are said to have named a month for Her (which corresponds to our and the Roman April).
She was originally the Goddess specifically of the flowering crops, such as the grain or fruit-trees, and Her function was to make the grain, vegetables and trees bloom so that autumn's harvest would be good. She was invoked to avert rust, a nasty fungal disease of plants that causes orange growths the exact color of rusting iron, and which was (is) an especial problem affecting wheat.
Hers is the beginning of the process that finds its completion with Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and the Harvest; and like Pomona, Flora had Her own flamen, one of a small number of priests each in service to a specific Deity.
The flamens were said to have been instituted by Numa, the legendary second King of Rome who succeeded Romulus; and whether Numa really existed or not, the flamens were undoubtedly of ancient origin, as were the Deities they served.

In later times Flora became the Goddess of all flowering plants, including the ornamental varieties.
In one story, Flora was said to have provided Juno with a magic flower that would allow Her to conceive with no help from a man; from this virgin-birth Mars was born. A late tale calls Flora a courtesan and gives Her a story similar to Acca Larentia: Flora was said to have made a fortune as a courtesan, which She bequeathed to Rome upon Her death, and for which She was honored with the festival of the Floralia. As Flora was originally a Sabine Goddess, and as the Sabines were a neighboring tribe whom the Romans conquered and assimilated into Rome, perhaps this is an acknowledgement of the land so acquired, put into legendary terms.

Flora had two temples in Rome, one near the Circus Maximus, the great "stadium" of Rome where chariot races were held, and another on the slopes of the Quirinal Hill. The temple on the Quirinal was most likely built on the site of an earlier altar to Her said to have been dedicated by Titus Tatius, King of the Sabines, who ruled alongside Romulus for a time in the very early (hence legendary) days of Rome. Her other temple was built quite near to the Circus Maximus, though its exact site has not been found, and was associated with a neighboring temple dedicated to the triad of Ceres (the Grain Goddess) and Liber and Libera (God and Goddess of the Vine). These Deities and Flora were all concerned with the fertility and health of the crops. Flora's temple by the Circus was dedicated on the 28th of April in 241 (or 248) BCE in response to a great drought at the command of the Sybilline books, and this day became the starting date of Her great festival, the Floralia. In Imperial times (1st century CE) this temple was rededicated (I assume after some restorations were made) on the 13th of August, and this date was given to a second festival of Flora, coinciding with the ripening of the grain, whose flowers She had set forth.

The Floralia of April was originally a moveable feast to coincide with the blossoming of the plants, later becoming fixed with the dedication of Her temple on the 28th (or 27th, before the calendar was reformed--I mention this because holidays were almost always held on odd-numbered days as it was considered unlucky to start a festival on an even-numbered day), though ludi or "games"--horse-races or athletic contests--were not held every year. By the Empire the festival had grown (or should I say, blossomed) to seven days, and included chariot-races and theatrical performances, some of which were notoriously bawdy. It was given over to merriment and celebrations of an amorous nature, much like that northern flower-and-sex festival Beltaine whose date neatly coincides. Prostitutes considered it their own special time, and the Floralia gained a reputation as being more licentious and abandoned than the Saturnalia of December, whose name is legendary even now.

At the chariot-races and circus games of the Floralia it was traditional to let goats and hares loose, and lupines, bean-flowers and vetch (all of which have similarly-shaped blossoms and are a sort of showier version of wheat in bloom) were scattered, symbolic of fertility. Brightly colored clothes were a must, as were wreaths of flowers, especially roses; and the celebrations drew great crowds. Of the two nationalized chariot-teams who shared a deep rivalry, the Greens and the Blues, the Greens (of course) were Hers, and She had been invoked at chariot-races from ancient times. The last day of the festival, May 3rd, was called Florae; it may be a special name for the closing day of the Floralia, or it may refer to a seperate ceremony conducted in Her temple on the Quirinal.

Flora was depicted by the Romans wearing light spring clothing, holding small bouquets of flowers, sometimes crowned with blossoms. Honey, made from flowers, is one of Her gifts, and Her name is said to be one of the secret (holy) names of Rome. She is sometimes called the handmaiden of Ceres. Ovid identifies Her with the Greek flower-nymph Chloris, whose name means "yellow or pale green", the color of Spring. The word flora is still used as a general name for the plants of a region.

Ereshkigal ~ Goddess of Darkness, Death, & Gloom

Origins: Mesopotamian
Language: Sumerian
Translation: Means "lady under the great earth"
Feast Days: Unknown
Goddess of: Darkness, Death, & Gloom
Goddess Type: Earth Goddess
Also Known As: Irkalla, Nungal
Ereshkigal was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler.

Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and give laws in her kingdom. The main temple dedicated to her was located in Kutha.

The goddess Ishtar refers to Ereshkigal as her older sister in the Sumerian hymn "The Descent of Inanna" (which was also in later Babylonian myth, also called "The Descent of Ishtar"). Inanna/Ishtar's trip and return to the underworld is the most familiar of the myths concerning Ereshkigal.

She is known chiefly through two myths, believed to symbolize the changing of the seasons, but perhaps also intended to illustrate certain doctrines developed dating back to the Mesopotamia period. Ereshkigal is therefore the sister of Ishtar and from one point of view her counterpart, the symbol of nature during the non-productive season of the year. As the doctrine of two kingdoms, one of this world and one of the world of the dead, becomes crystallized, the dominions of the two sisters are sharply differentiated from one another.

One of these myths is the famous story of Ishtar's descent to Irkalla or Aralu, as the netherworld was called, and her reception by her sister who presides over it; Ereshkigal traps her sister in her dark kingdom and Inanna/Ishtar is only able to leave it by sacrificing her husband Dumuzi in exchange for herself. The other myth is the story of Nergal, the plague god, whose offence against Ereshkigal, his banishment to the kingdom controlled by the goddess and the reconciliation between Nergal and Ereshkigal through the latter's offer to have Nergal share the honors of the rule over Irkalla. In later tradition, Nergal is said to have been the victor, taking her as wife and ruling the land himself.

It is theorized that the story of Ishtar's descent is told to illustrate the possibility of an escape from Irkalla, while the other myth is intended to reconcile the existence of two rulers of Irkalla: a goddess and a god. The addition of Nergal represents the harmonizing tendency to unite with Ereshkigal as the queen of the netherworld to the god who, in his character as god of war and of pestilence, conveys the living to Irkalla and thus becomes the one who presides over the dead.

One version of the story depicts the triumph of Nergal in the following way. Once, the gods invited Ereshkigal (sometimes referred to as Allat) to a party that they had organised in Heaven. Due to her photophobia she refused, and sent a messenger, Namtar, her servant. His behaviour had infuriated Anu and Ea, and their anger was turned against his mistress. They sent Nergal to punish her. He pulled the queen by her hair from the throne, in order to decapitate her, but her prayers for mercy stopped him, and Nergal made Ereshkigal his wife.

In some versions of the myths, she rules the underworld by herself, sometimes with a husband subordinate to her named Gugalana. It was said that she had been stolen away by Kur and taken to the underworld, where she was made queen unwillingly.

She is the mother of the goddess Nungal. Her son with Enlil was the god Namtar. With Gugalana her son was Ninazu.

Eos ~ Goddess of the Dawn

Origins: Greek
Language: Greek
Translation: Means dawn
Feast Days: Unknown
Goddess of: Dawn
Goddess Type: Unknown
Also Known As:  Unknown
Symbols/Offerings: Unknown


The dawn goddess Eos was almost always described with rosy fingers or rosy forearms as she opened the gates of heaven for the Sun to rise. In Homer, her saffron-coloured robe is embroidered or woven with flower; rosy-fingered and with golden arms, she is pictured on Attic vases as a beautiful woman, crowned with a tiara or diadem and with the large white-feathered wings of a bird.

Eos is the daughter of Hyperion and Theia and sister of Helios the sun and Selene the moon, "who shine upon all that are on earth and upon the deathless gods who live in the wide heaven." Hesiod told in Theogony. The generation of Titans preceded all the familiar deities of Olympus, who largely supplanted them.

According to Pseudo-Apollodorus, Eos consorted with the war god Ares and was thereupon cursed with unsatisfiable sexual desire by the jealous Aphrodite. This caused her to abduct a number of handsome young men, most notably Cephalus, Tithonus, Orion and Cleitus. The good-looking Cleitus was made immortal by her. She also asked for Tithonus to be made immortal, but forgot to ask for eternal youth, which resulted in him living forever as a helpless old man.

According to Hesiod by Tithonus Eos had two sons, Memnon and Emathion. Memnon fought among the Trojans in the Trojan War and was slain. Her image with the dead Memnon across her knees, like Thetis with the dead Achilles are icons that inspired the Christian Pietà.

The abduction of Cephalus had special appeal for an Athenian audience because Cephalus was a local boy, and so this myth element appeared frequently in Attic vase-paintings and was exported with them. In the literary myth. Eos kidnapped Cephalus when he was hunting and took him to Syria.

The second-century CE traveller Pausanias was informed that the abductor of Cephalus was Hemera, goddess of Day. Although Cephalus was already married to Procris, Eos bore him three sons, including Phaeton and Hesperus, but he then began pining for Procris, causing a disgruntled Eos to return him to her — and put a curse on them. In Hyginus' report, Cephalus accidentally killed Procris some time later after he mistook her for an animal while hunting; in Ovid's Metamorphoses vii, Procris, a jealous wife, was spying on him and heard him singing to the wind, but thought he was serenading his ex-lover Eos.

Durga ~ Great Mother Goddess

Origins: Hindu
Language: Sanskrit
Translation: means a fort, or a place which is difficult to overrun
Feast Days: October 14th
Goddess of: Victory of Good over Evil
Goddess Type: Mother Goddess
Also Known As: Kali, Bhagvati, Bhavani, Ambika, Lalita, Gauri, Kandalini, Java, Rajeswari, et al, Skondamata, Kusumanda, Shailaputri, Kaalratri, Brahmacharini, Maha Gauri, Katyayani, Chandraghanta and Siddhidatri.
Symbols/Offerings: Unknown


Goddess Durga is the mother of the universe and believed to be the power behind the work of creation, preservation, and destruction of the world. Since time immemorial she has been worshipped as the supreme power of the Supreme Being and has been mentioned in many scriptures - Yajur Veda, Vajasaneyi Samhita and Taittareya Brahman. Hindus believe that goddess Durga protects her devotees from the evils of the world and at the same time removes their miseries.

Durga incarnated as the united power of all divine beings, who offered her the required physical attributes and weapons to kill the demon "Mahishasur". 

Durga's Many Arms

Durga is depicted as having eight or ten hands. These represent eight quadrants or ten directions in Hinduism. This suggests that she protects the devotees from all directions.

Durga's Three Eyes

Like Shiva, Mother Durga is also referred to as "Triyambake" meaning the three eyed Goddess. The left eye represents desire (the moon), the right eye represents action (the sun), and the central eye knowledge (fire).

Durga's Vehicle - the Lion

The lion represents power, will and determination. Mother Durga riding the lion symbolises her mastery over all these qualities. This suggests to the devotee that one has to possess all these qualities to get over the demon of ego.

Durga's Many Weapons

  • The conch shell in Durga's hand symbolizes the 'Pranava' or the mystic word 'Om', which indicates her holding on to God in the form of sound.
  • The bow and arrows represent energy. By holding both the bow and arrows in one hand "Mother Durga" is indicating her control over both aspects of energy - potential and kinetic.
  • The thunderbolt signifies firmness. The devotee of Durga must be firm like thunderbolt in one's convictions. Like the thunderbolt that can break anything against which it strikes, without being affected itself, the devotee needs to attack a challenge without losing his confidence.
  • The lotus in Durga's hand is not in fully bloomed, It symbolizing certainty of success but not finality. The lotus in Sanskrit is called "pankaja" which means born of mud. Thus, lotus stands for the continuous evolution of the spiritual quality of devotees amidst the worldly mud of lust and greed.
  • The "Sudarshan-Chakra" or beautiful discus, which spins around the index finger of the Goddess, while not touching it, signifies that the entire world is subservient to the will of Durga and is at her command. She uses this unfailing weapon to destroy evil and produce an environment conducive to the growth of righteousness.
  • The sword that Durga holds in one of her hands symbolizes knowledge, which has the sharpness of a sword. Knowledge which is free from all doubts, is symbolized by the shine of the sword.
  • Durga's trident or "trishul" is a symbol of three qualities - Satwa (inactivity), Rajas (activity) and Tamas (non-activity) - and she is remover of all the three types of miseries - physical, mental and spiritual.
Devi Durga stands on a lion in a fearless pose of "Abhay Mudra", signifying assurance of freedom from fear. The universal mother seems to be saying to all her devotees: "Surrender all actions and duties onto me and I shall release thee from all fears".

Demeter ~ Goddess of Harvest & Grain

Origins: Greece
Language: Greek
Translation: Means "earth mother", derived from Greek δε (de) "earth" and μητηρ (meter) "mother".
Feast Days: Feb 28th, Month of August, September 17th, September 28th, & December 7th
Goddess of: Harvest & Grain
Goddess Type: Earth Goddess
Also Known As: Unknown
Symbols/Offerings: Unknown


Perhaps the best known of all the harvest mythologies is the story of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter was a goddess of grain and of the harvest in ancient Greece. Her daughter, Persephone, caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. When Hades abducted Persephone and took her back to the underworld, Demeter's grief caused the crops on earth to die and go dormant. By the time she finally recovered her daughter, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, and so was doomed to spend six months of the year in the underworld. These six months are the time when the earth dies, beginning at the time of the autumn equinox. Each year, Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter for six months. At Ostara, the greening of the earth begins once more and life begins anew.
In some interpretations of the story, Persephone is not held in the underworld against her will. Instead, she chooses to stay there for six months each year so that she can bring a little bit of brightness and light to the souls doomed to spend eternity with Hades.

Danu ~ Irish Mother Goddess

Origins: Irish
Language: Celt
Translation: unknown
Feast Days: unknown
Goddess of: Goddess of all Celtic
Goddess Type: Triple Goddess
Also Known As: Anu, Dana, Don, Dom
Symbols/Offerings: unknown


She is the matron and protector, goddess and warrior. She is neither old nor young, but she is all. She is the goddess Danu, the goddess of all Celtic deities.

There is very little known about the goddess Danu. The sources that we derive most of our information about her are old and unclear. However, there are consecutive myths spoken about her.
The goddess Danu was represented as the Mother of the Gods.

She was also the goddess of rivers and water. She was the matron and goddess of the Tribes of Danu, who were later to become the fairies and leprechauns of Ireland. It is believed that she gave them a great deal of her powers, hence the fairy magic that we hear of in myth. Danu can also be depicted as the Triple Goddess, because she is young and old, she encompasses all.

Cybele ~ Goddess of the Earth

Origins: Greek, Roman
Language: Greek
Translation: Meaning unknown
Feast Days: March 24th, April 4th, December 3rd
Goddess of: Earth
Goddess Type: Earth Goddess, Mother Goddess
Also Known As: Mother Earth, Isis


Cybele was at the center of a rather bloody Phrygian cult, and was sometimes known as Magna Mater, or "great goddess." As part of their worship, priests performed mysterious rites in her honor. Of particular note was the sacrifice of a bull performed as part of an initiation into Cybele's cult. This ritual was known as the taurobolium, and during the rite a candidate for initiation stood in a pit under a floor with a wooden grate. The bull was sacrificed above the grate, and the blood ran through holes in the wood, showering the initiate. This was a form of ritual purification and rebirth. For an idea of what this probably looked like, there's an amazing scene in the HBO series Rome in which the character Atia makes a sacrifice to Cybele to protect her son Octavian, who later becomes the emperor Augustus.

Cybele's lover was Attis, and her jealousy caused him to castrate and kill himself. His blood was the source of the first violets, and divine intervention allowed Attis to be resurrected by Cybele, with some help from Zeus. Thanks to this resurrection story, Cybele came to be associated with the endless cycle of life, death and rebirth. In some areas, there is still an annual three-day celebration of Attis' rebirth and Cybele's power around the time of the spring equinox, called the Hilaria.

Like Attis, it is said that Cybele's followers would work themselves into orgiastic frenzies and then ritually castrate themselves. After this, these priests donned women's clothing, and assumed female identities. They became known as the Gallai. In some regions, female priestesses led Cybele's dedicants in rituals involving ecstatic music, drumming and dancing. Under the leadership of Augustus Caesar, Cybele became extremely popular. Augustus erected a giant temple in her honor on the Palatine Hill, and the statue of Cybele that is in the temple bears the face of Augustus' wife, Livia.

As the Roman Empire spread, deities of other cultures found themselves absorbed into Roman religion. In the case of Cybele, she later took on many aspects of the Egyptian goddess Isis.