Ceres statue in the Louvre, Paris
In Roman mythology, Ceres was the goddess of growing plants (particularly cereals) and of motherly love. She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, wife-sister of Jupiter, mother of Proserpina by Jupiter and sister of Juno, Vesta, Neptune and Pluto. She was also patron of Sicily.
Ceres is said to have been adopted by Jupiter, but he fell in love with her and they had a lot of passionate nights without any one knowing. Adopted by the Romans in 496 BC during a devastating famine, when the Sibylline books advised the adoption of her Greek equivalent Demeter, along with Kore (Persephone) and Iacchus (possibly Dionysus).
She was personified and celebrated by women in secret rituals at the festival of Ambarvalia, held during May. There was a temple to Ceres on the Aventine Hill in Rome. Her primary festival was the Cerealia or Ludi Ceriales ("games of Ceres"), instituted in the 3rd century BC and held annually on April 12 to April 19. The worship of Ceres became particularly associated with the plebeian classes, who dominated the corn trade. Little is known about the rituals of Cerelean worship; one of the few customs which has been recorded was the peculiar practice of tying lighted brands to the tails of foxes which were then let loose in the Circus Maximus.
She had twelve minor gods who assisted her, and were in charge of specific aspects of farming: "Vervactor who turns fallow land, Reparator who prepares fallow land, Imporcitor who plows with wide furrows" (whose name comes from the Latin imporcare, to put into furrows), "Insitor who sowed, Obarator who plowed the surface, Occator who harrowed, Sarritor who weeded, Subruncinator who thinned out, Messor who harvested, Conuector who carted, Conditor who stored, and Promitor who distributed".
She was depicted in art with a scepter, a basket of flowers and fruit, and a garland made of wheat ears.
The word cereals derives from Ceres, commemorating her association with edible grains. The name Ceres comes from the Indo-European root "ker", meaning "to grow", which is also the root for the words "create" and "increase". The largest asteroid, 1 Ceres is named after this goddess, and subsequently a chemical element was named Cerium in turn. Ceres had begged Jupiter that Sicily be placed in the heavens; the result, because the island is triangular in shape, was the constellation Triangulum, an early name of which was Sicilia.
Ceres was also a planet discovered between Mars and Jupiter in 1801. The planet was found to be only aprox. 600 miles wide, the largest member of what is now known as the asteroid belt. In 1802 Ceres's planethood was revoked.
Ceres is also a village in Fife, Scotland, near the county town of Cupar.
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