Goddesses Of Vegetation


In some areas, vegetation is connected with a male god. 

In Southeast Europe, for in stance, the mountain goddess Cybele took the tree god Attis for her lover. 

In spring rit uals in the eastern Mediterranean, women planted gardens of Adonis, dedicated to the young lover of Greek Aphrodite who was killed in his prime, as the seedlings of the Adonis gardens were to die after a brief period of growth. 

The connection of male divinity with vegetation has been described as the background for the image of the Christian savior Christ, meeting his death upon a dead tree. 

Most cultures have connected plants with goddesses. 

Such goddesses were typically associated with agriculture and represented the abundant food produced by the fertile fields. 

Such vegetation goddesses can be forms of the earth mother (see above), for goddesses embodied in the fertile soil and those found in plants that spring from that soil can be difficult to distinguish, if indeed such a distinction was made by the god desss followers. 

Goddesses of vegetation can be embodied in plants (African Abuk, who was a bean; Southeast Asian Hainuwele, who turned into a date-palm) or may tend them as gardeners (Hawaiian Hiiaka, African Mbokomu, South American Nugkui). 

A cultures vegetation goddess reveals its mainstay foods, for which reason many goddesses are connected with grains rather than, for instance, leafy greens that do not store well and are available for only part of the year. 

In the eastern Mediterranean, Ninlil and her mother Ninshebargunu ruled barley and other nourishing seeds. 

In Rome, we find Ceres, from whose name we derive a term for grains. 

Similarly, Greek Demeter and Slavic Z˘ emyna are connected with wheat and rye and barley, called ‘‘corn in old texts that use the term ‘‘maize for the yellow grain from the Americas. 

In India and southeast Asia, goddesses were associated with the mainstay of the daily meal, rice, most famously embodied in the Hindu goddess of wealth, Laks˛mı, who appears in Bali and nearby islands as the primary goddess Dewi Shri. 

A similar goddess was Basmoti, whose name we still use for a type of rice; in central India, Astangi Devı brought humans not only rice but bamboo, with its edible shoots. 

In Japan, the rice goddess was the fox-woman Inari, a divinity who is still very popular today. 

In central and north America, the goddess of agricultural plenty was connected with maize or corn; Cherokee Selu and Pawnee Uti Hiata are among the ‘‘corn moth ers of the Americas. 

In South America, where the potato was a mainstay of life, the goddess of abundance was Pachamama. 

In the Pacific, the goddess Pani was associ ated with yams, an important food plant. 

Goddesses of vegetation could be divinities of birth as well, not only because farm ing reproduces plants but because sufficient food is necessary for women to become pregnant. 

In Babylonia, the birth goddess Bau derives her name from a term meaning ‘‘giver of vegetables (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

In Thailand, the primary goddess is Mae Phosop, deity of rice who appears as a pregnant woman when the grains swell to maturity and who gives birth to the new crops (see India). 

In Australia, Imberom bera walked around creating life by giving birth and forming plants (see Mutjingga). 

Not only were vegetation goddesses associated with birth; they were also connected with death. 

In the cycle of the crops, farmers saw their own lives: flourishing in youth, reaching productive adulthood, finally dying. 

This identification was reflected in myth. 

African Asase, who claimed the dead, was primarily a goddess of vegetation. 

Nambi, also from Africa, stole seeds to bring food plants to earth, but unwittingly opened the way for death to descend from the heavens. 

In Egypt, the tree-living death goddess Ament offered food to the newly dead, the tasting of which kept them from returning to life. 

Yet even in death, vegetation goddesses promise new life. 

Egyptian Hekt was embodied in grain, which seems to ‘‘die before it sprouts. 

Eating the fruit of Chinese Xiwang Mus magical peach tree transformed the deceased into an immortal. 

Flowers and fruit both serve as goddess images. 

Often the goddesses are depicted, respectively, as younger and older, with a nubile goddess envisioned as a deity of flow ers while a more mature goddess is the resulting fruit. 

Among important flower god desses we find Romes Flora, divinity of prostitutes and sexuality; Bloduewedd in Wales (see Celtic), a heroine made completely of flowers; Greek Persephone (Roman Proserpina), a maiden goddess raped while picking crocuses; and the Aztec Xochi quetzel, the deity embodied in the marigold. 

In India, the Apsaras were bedecked with flower garlands that, if offered to a human, indicated willingness to engage in intercourse. 

In Russia (see Slavic), a young woman embodying Berehinia wore a crown of red flowers to represent the goddess. 

As flowers are the genitalia of plants, they often symbolize the goddesss female organs. 

The fruit that results from pollination of flowers becomes the symbol of mature god desses. 

The most familiar is the apple associated withEve, ancestral mother of humanity (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

The peach offered by Chinese Xiwang Mu brought immortality to the eater. 

A pomegranate represented Hera, Greek goddess of womans power. 

The apple was connected with Lithuanian Saule˙ (see Baltic). 

Among goddesses of fruit we find several connected to intoxication, for sugary fruit naturally ferments into wine. 

Sumerian Nikasi was embodied in strong grapevines (see Eastern Mediterranean). 

African O ya was connected with palm wine; Greek Oeno, with wine from grapes. 

The tree provided an image of the goddess as provider of food, with fruit trees espe cially regarded as feminine. 

In Scandinavia, where fruit varieties were limited, Idunn was associated only with apples, while in Japan, Kono-Hana-Sakuya-Hime and Yaya-Zakura were goddesses of the cherry tree and Rafu-Sen of the plum. 

Greek Carya ruled the walnut, Irish Buan the hazelnut (see Celtic), Roman Rumina the fig. 

Even trees that do not bear edible fruit or nuts had goddess associations. 

Many trees were described as inhabited by feminine spirits like Greek Dryads, tree-living Nymphs who died when their tree died. 

Similarly, Scandinavians envisioned the for ests of northern Europe as inhabited by Askefruer, ash-tree women. 

The Greeks con nected goddesses with specific tree species, as with the multiple Heliaces (poplar) and Meliae (ash), as well as the singular Daphne (laurel) and Carya (walnut). 

Tree cults are attested in Greek religion, including one centered on Helen, who was ritually hung from a tree in ancient times. 

Such goddesses could appear as ancestral figures; among the Scandinavians, Embla was said to have been the primordial woman, born of an ash tree. 

Trees were the preeminent image of the Hebrew goddess Asherah, whose image was carved from a wooden plank. 

The Arabic goddess Uzza was also honored in groves of trees (see Eastern Mediterranean for both). 

~ Kiran Atma

You can learn more about Goddess Symbolism here.