Prayers to Ceres

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Apuleius Metamorphoses 6.2

Then Psyche fell down upon Ceres' feet, sweeping the hard earth with her hair and greatly weeping at Her footsteps, mingled her prayers for forgiveness with claims of her innocence, O merciful Mother, I pray You avert my sorrow, by Your generous and temperate right hand, by the joyful harvest festival, by Your mysteries kept in silent secrecy, by Your winged servants, the dragons who serve Your chariot as You go about, and by the furrows in Sicilian clods of earth, and the plow-wheels that churn them from firm soil, by the marriage of Proserpina that You discovered through diligently seeking after Your daughter, and by the mysteries held in silent secrecy within the Attic temple of Eleusis, halt the misery of Your servant Psyche. Among this piled wheat let me be concealed, if only for a few days, until the ire of so great a Goddess passes, or at least give me a quiet interval that I might rest from my great labour and travail.

Apuleius Metamorphoses 11.2

O blessed Queen of Heaven, whether you are the Lady Ceres who is the original and motherly source of all fruitful things in earth, who after finding Your daughter Proserpina, through the great joy which You did presently conceive, made barren and unfruitful ground to be plowed and sown, and now You inhabit in the land of Eleusis; or whether You are … Proserpina, by reason of the deadly howling to which You yield, that has power to stop and put away the invasion of the hags and Ghosts which appear unto men, and to keep them down in the closures of the earth; You who is worshipped in divers manners, and does illuminate all the borders of the earth by Your feminine shape, You which nourishes all the fruits of the world by Your vigor and force; with whatsoever name or fashion it is lawful to call upon You, I pray You end my great travail and misery, and deliver me from the wretched fortune, which has for so long a time pursued me. Grant peace and rest if it please You to reply to my entreaties, for I have endured too much labor and peril. Remove from me this misshapen form from me, and return me to my pristine form, and if I have offended in any way the divine Majesty, let me rather die then live, for I am fully weary of my life.

Caesius Bassius Hymn to Ceres and Libera by Philicus

Fertile Goddesses, wives of Jove, may the mystic rite that You cherish not be defiled.

Cato De Agricultura 134

It is fitting to offer the porca praecidanea (to Ceres) prior to the time of reaping. For Ceres offer a sow as Her porca praecidanea before you store these fruits of the earth: spelt, wheat, barley, beans, and the seeds of field mustard. With wine and frankincense pray to Janus, Jupiter and Juno before sacrificing the sow. Offer piled cakes to (Ceres) while saying, "(Ceres Mater), to You I pray with good prayers, offering You this pile of cakes, so that You might willing be favorable to me and my children, to my home and household." ... Afterwards give an offering of wine to (Ceres), "(Ceres Mater), for the same reasons given in the good prayers I prayed while offering You piled cakes, may You accept and be honor by this portion of wine I pour."

Cicero In C. Verrem IV.72. 187-8

O Ceres and Libera, whose sacred worship, as the opinions and religious belief of all men agree, is contained in the most important and most abstruse mysteries; You, by whom the principles of life and food, the examples of laws, customs, humanity, and refinement are said to have been given and distributed to nations and to cities; You, whose sacred rites the Roman people has received from the Greeks and adopted, and now preserves with such religious awe, both publicly and privately, that they seem not to have been introduced from other nations, but rather to have been transmitted from hence to other nations. You, again and again I implore and appeal to, most holy Goddesses, who dwell around those lakes and groves of Enna, and who preside over all Sicily,… You whose invention and gift of corn, which You have distributed over the whole earth, inspires all nations and all races of men with reverence for Your divine power;--And all the other Gods, and all the Goddesses, do I implore and entreat.

Livius Andronicus Equos Troianos

Grant me the strength, Goddess, to whom I ask, to whom I pray; extend your assistance to me.

Da mihi hasce opes, quas peto, quas precor porrige opitula

Livy 24.38.8

Mother Ceres and Proserpina and all You Gods above and below who inhabit the city, these hallowed lakes and groves, I pray that You attend us with Your favor and support, if it should be that we are taking this initial step for the purpose of guarding against treacherous falsehood, not practicing it.

Vos, Ceres Mater ac Proserpina, precor, ceteri superi infernique Di, qui hanc urbem, hoc sacratos lacus locosque colitis, ut ita nobis volentes propitii adsitis, si vitandae, non inferendae fraudis causa hoc consilii capimu.

Ovid Fasti I.671-704: Paganalia Prayer to Ceres and Tellus

O Mothers of Fruitfulness, Earth and Ceres, please, With salted spelt cakes offered for Your mother's woe, In kind service have Earth and Ceres nurtured wheat, She who gave grain life, She who gave us room to grow.

Pray then before the sheep are shorn their winter's fleece.

Consorts in labour who antiquity reformed, Oaken acorn have You replaced by useful meal, With boundless crops satisfy those who fields farmed, O that they may by their tillage their reward seal.

May You grant tender seed abundant increase.

Let not icy cold enwrap our new shoots with snow, While we sow let cloudless skies and fair winds blow.

When the seed lies sprouting, sprinkle with gentle rains, May You ward off the feasting by birds from our grains.

You also, little ants, spare the grain we have sown, More abundant will be your harvest when 'tis grown. Meanwhile may our grain not blight by rough mildew, Nor foul weather our seed blanch to a sickly hue.

Never may our grain be shriveled nor may it swell, Without eye-stinging cockle, not by wild oats held.

Crops of wheat, of barley, of spelt grow on the farm, Look now, Good Mothers, guard well the field, The seasons change, the earth by Your breath grows warm, With Your gentle touch may You increase our yield.

By Peace Ceres nursed, Her foster-child live in peace.

Ovid Amores III 10. 3-14; 43-8

Flaxen haired Ceres, Your fine tresses wreathed with ears of wheat, why must your sacred rites inhibit our pleasures? Goddess, people everywhere praise for your munificence. No other goddess so lavishes men and women with everything good. In earlier times the uncouth peasant never roasted grains of wheat, never knew a threshing floor, but oak trees, those first oracles, provided them with gruel. Acorns, tender roots and herbs made their meal then. Ceres first taught seeds to ripen in the fields, taught how to follow Her with scythe against their golden hair, first broke the oxen to yoke and reveal the fertile earth beneath its curved blade.


O golden haired Ceres, just because lying apart was so sad for You. must I now, too, suffer so on Your holy day? Why must I be sad when You rejoice at the return of Your daughter whose realm is the lesser only to Juno's? A festival calls for singing and drinking and lovemaking. These are fit gifts to carry to the temples and please the gods.

Ovid, Ibis 419-20

May the son of Ceres be forever sought by you in vain; and may you always remain destitute, your prayers for wealth and fortune frustrated by Him.

Seneca, Hercules Furens 229

For you, Goddess of the Fruits of the Earth, your secret rites I will fund; in your shrine at Eleusius shall burn the sacred flame in celebration of your mysteries.

Servius Honoratus, On the Georgics 1.21

Fabius Pictor enumerates these lesser gods, who the flamen Cerealis invokes when offering sacrifice to Tellus and Ceres: Vervactor, Reparator, Imporcitor, Insitor, Obarator, Occator, Sarritor, Subruncinator, Messor, Convector, Conditor, and Promitor.

Harvest Prayer to Ceres (modern reconstruction by M Moravius Piscinus)

O most holy Ceres, nurturing Mother, whose sacred womb gave birth to both Gods and men; You, Vervactor, who first yoked the oxen and placed the ploughshare to virgin soil; You, Reparator, who first prepared furrows in fallow land; You, Imporcitor, who first made wide our furrows; You, Insitor, who first cast Your bounty on the earth and taught the seed to grow; Obarator, Sarritor, Subruncinator, and You, Sterculinia, who first cared for crops; You, Flora, who make the grain to bear fruit; You, Messitor, who first set scythe to grain stalks; You, Convector, who first spread grain on the sacred harvest floor; You, Noduterentor, who first showed us how to thresh, and You, most holy Ceres, whose very breath separates the white chaff from the golden grain; You, Conditor and Tutilina, who guard the grain in storage; You, Promitor, who first milled the grain and distributed its flour for our daily bread; You, eternal savior, Ceres, lavishing Your bounty upon me and mine, to You, flaxen-haired Ceres, gladly I give thanks and praise, and, from the little I have, to You I willingly make an offering. Accept these, the first fruits of my fields. May my offering incline You more towards me. May You ever nourish me and mine with Your bounty, O most holy and nurturing Mother, gentle Ceres.

Tibullus I.1.15-6

Golden-haired Ceres, bless this our farm; a crown of wheat I shall hang before your altar.

Tibullus II.1.3-4; 17-20

Come to us, Bacchus, with clusters of grapes dangling from your horns, and you, too, Ceres, a wreath of newly ripened wheat for your temples, come!

Gods of our fathers, we purify our farmers and our fruitful fields; we ask that you drive away harm from our borders. Let not the now sprouting plants succumb before harvest, let not the timid lambs be outrun by swift wolves.

Virgil Georgics I.7-12:

Liber and gentle Ceres, if by your gifts the earth once changed, exchanging Chaonian acorns for rich heads of grain, and receiving your invention of wine from Acheloian cups, and you Fauns, your divine presence an aid for rustics, bring dancing feet, as when Dryad girls frolic with Fauns, of your gifts I sing.

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