About ten years ago when I first started on the Wiccan path, I struggled a lot with the concept of a nebulous Mother Goddess who encompassed all goddesses. I struggled so hard with it that I remember tossing and turning in my blue sheets in my blue basement bedroom asking the Mother Goddess to give me a name, give me a persona, give me something I could hold on to.
A goddess stepped forward wearing a simple white, flowing garment. She was almost as fair as her dress. Her lips were conspicuously pink. Her eyes were a deep, golden brown. She had hair the color of flax. She wore a crown of stargazer lilies. As much like Spring as she looked, as fresh as new blossoms as she was, her presence was heavy and close, like the embrace of a worldly adult to a sheltered child.
She said, “Call me Demeter.”
I called her Demeter.
At that time, and as far as I knew, Demeter was the goddess of grain and cereal and wheat and whatever, who got all mad about Persephone and cast the world into famine over the deal. Demeter was the goddess of green, growing things.
It was an odd fit. At the time, I had a black thumb. Plants would see me coming, roll their eyes, and whisper to each other, “Just kill me now.”
As I am not one for ignoring goddesses coming to visit my bedside, I did my due diligence and researched Demeter. In doing so, I found out she was so much more than the Goddess of Grain and, that Goddess of Grain means much more than we think it does.
Without agriculture, there would be no civilization. Full stop.
Without Demeter having imbued Triptolemos with knowledge of how to cultivate crops, humans would have never evolved beyond hunters and gatherers. The purview of every other god that followed her would be extremely limited. What would Hermes rule if humanity were too hungry to have been able to receive and use language, mathematics, music, sports, advanced means of travel, commerce, etc.? Who would found universities and weave tapestries in Athena’s name? Wild grapes don’t grow in near the abundance necessary to satisfy the wine-press and Dionysos’ appetites.
Demeter is not merely the mother archetype. She is not merely Persephone’s grieving mother. Demeter is, quite literally, the Mother of Civilization.
This is the goddess that came to me when I asked for a Mother Goddess with a name and, as I explored her mythos and her presence both in my life and in my world, I realized what an inconceivable power she is.
Inconceivable, but named. “Named” is what I needed. A name is what she gave me. De-Meter—Goddess-Mother.
Following names are icons, especially in Pagan culture. I went on an online hunt for something tangible to represent her in my home and on my budding altar. I found a lovely resin statuette. Many of you have probably seen the series. Some of them are quite good.
When the statuette arrived, I set her up immediately on my altar in a place of honor. I had also on my altar a candle for Hestia, an incense burner for offerings, my tarot cards, and various other things I don’t remember now, nearly a decade later.
Each season, I took great pride in changing my altar cloth to a corresponding color and doing the same with a ribbon I tied as a sash around Demeter’s torso. I loved that altar on the bottom shelf of my bookcase and I took excellent care of it. I turned all the lights off in my apartment, lit the Hestia candle, and sat many nights in front of that statuette watching the candlelight illuminate her face. I chanted the prayers I learned from the wonderful book, The Mysteries of Demeter. I dipped my hands in lustral water and dabbed my forehead and lips in her honor.
I confided in her. Some nights my heart was heavy and I wept at her feet. Some nights my heart was light and I laughed as I told her about my day.
There was one night, however, I sat on the floor in front of her and howled my rage. I scraped and pounded my fists against the carpet until they burned. Why, I demanded of her, why, if she was supposed to be caring for me, would she allow my life to have become so difficult when I deserved peace. Why did she not give me rest in her bosom, and only rest?
I had recently escaped an extremely abusive situation. I was safe in my new apartment. My former abuser was no longer a threat. But there were new challenges. During my time with my abuser, all my money had been spent. I went from living in a lovely, 1920’s renovated apartment with wood floors and high ceilings, to a dingy basement apartment half the size, in a house I shared with three other people. I went from having money to spare, to having the experience all too many of us have had of going to the grocery store and not being able to afford necessities.
The money situation was dire and, as the Goddess of Abundance, I wanted to know why, after I had given her such devotion, and after I had suffered so much in my life, why she wasn’t taking care of me.
The candlelight flickered but her face remained resin-still. She did not respond to me, but she was listening and she did hear me. I felt that. I felt that more strongly than I had ever felt listened to before.
I began to cry. I loosed my fists and placed my palms flat on the floor.
My crying turned to sobbing. I curled up between my bookcase and my couch and sobbed myself into a stupor. Eventually, I dragged myself to bed where I cried myself to sleep. The situation had become so desperate, I did not know what I was going to do and my Goddess, although she listened, had said nothing.
I realize now what a wild and miraculous thing it is that she should endure my tantrum—petulant child that I was. There was no retribution. There was no spiritual lashing. There was patience—quiet, enduring patience.
Not too long after, I received a call from someone at WalMart letting me know they had received my application, (which I had put in months prior), and that they would like me to come in for an interview.
I ignored the call. I had other things in mind.
A few weeks later, WalMart called again, asking me to come in for an interview.
Again, I ignored the call.
A few more weeks passed and WalMart called one more time, this time asking if someone named Corinne would come in for an interview. The situation had become even more desperate by then so I did not ignore that call. Besides that, if my mother had had her way, she would have named me Corinne. I felt that was a sign I could not ignore.
I went to the interview, got the job, and all of a sudden all my financial needs were met. I didn’t have a lot to spare, and I worked very hard for what I got, but I no longer had to despair over making rent or being able to feed myself. It also just so happened that I adored the women with whom I worked and I looked forward to going to work every day, which I realize is extremely unusual for WalMart. As I found out later, my store was a wonderfully unusual store in many ways.
When I sat down to tell this story today, I intended only to go as far as praising Demeter for having listened to my tantrum and loving me anyway. As dense as I sound, I honestly did not put the receipt of that job together with her answer to my need until this very moment, this very day.
I was amazed at her patience then and now I am amazed again at her generosity. What a marvelous De-Meter, Goddess-Mother we have that not only lets us rage and weep, but also waits patiently as we take a decade to acknowledge a gift she gave so lovingly that so thoroughly met our needs then and now reverberates its more subtle benefits in halcyon memories of that time.
Mother Goddess, what shall I call you? Give me a name. Please. Give me a name.
Stargazer lilies for a crown—Call me Demeter.