Sacred Site: Aquae Sulis and the Little Goddess of the Spring

by Morgana RavenTree

I visited the Roman Baths in the City of Bath, England over 20 years ago, but I have very fond memories of the site.  Sulis was the local goddess of the hot spring that flows from deep below what is now Bath.  It isn’t known for how far back in time the spring was a sacred site, but the Romans, never wasting an opportunity for a hot bath, constructed an elaborate bath facility on this site. 

Source: Author’s personal photo archive

Above, the Roman Baths. The section below street level was built by the Romans over the sacred spring of Sulis, which continued to provide thermal waters for four centuries.  Unfortunately, in modern times these murky waters have been contaminated by a combination of lead and a dangerous amoeba.

Sources: left, the author’s personal photo archive; right Wikipedia (it was too dark to take a proper photo)

Above left, a recreation of the Temple of Minerva that once stood next to the Roman baths was built in the 19th century in a park not far from the baths. The original temple housed a bronze statue of Minerva, though only her head has survived (right).  Over the centuries, the temple was razed for building materials. Sulis and Minerva merged to become the goddess of the site.

Source: Author’s personal photo archive

Left, a larger view of the baths. The statuary and structures on the upper terrace of the baths were built in the early 19th century, when Bath became the center of the social scene and the upper classes went there to “take the waters”. Next to the baths was the famous “Pump Room” where guests could drink as much of the healing waters as they liked. Considering people of the time didn’t drink water regularly, that alone would have helped them feel better. The Pump Room is still there and I drank some of the healing water (and brought some back with me).

Source: Author’s personal photo archive

The author with her companions.

Source: Wikipedia “Bath Curse Tablets”

The museum has other artifacts on display, including thousands of Roman-era coins (and just a few local coinage) which may have been thrown into the waters of the spring as offerings. In modern times, the curators encourage people to throw in coins. Periodically, they are gathered up and help to find the continuing work at the site. There are also “curse tablets” (left) – sheets of beaten lead inscribed with requests for justice, rolled up and thrown into the spring.  All but one of the 130 Bath curse tablets concern the restitution of stolen goods and are a type of curse tablet known as “prayers for justice”.   A wronged person asks the Goddess for justice, sometimes in violent fashion.


Source: author’s personal photo archive

For me, the most touching item in the museum was one of the 9 altars to Sulis, a very simple altar to the “Little Goddess of the Spring”. This one was on display in the museum. Most of the other altars were “sponsored” by prominent Roman citizens, often in fulfillment of a vow.

I thought there was something sweet about this one, because it was unadorned and simple.

Sources: perceptivetravel.com; thermabathspa.com

Several years later, I learned that a new spa was being built in Bath, that would tap the waters from the original thermal spring through a series of pipes.  The building was eventually built and I hope to one day go there and continue my worship of the little goddess of the spring.

Morgana RavenTree is the current President of Pagan Pride LA/OC.

5 Books about Familiars and Familiar Spirits

Morrison, Lori, The Shaman’s Guide to Power Animals (ASIN: B07LHBG3FL) Published March 19th 2019 by Four Jaguars Press)

Andrews, Ted, Animal Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small (ISBN: 0875420281 (ISBN13: 9780875420288)) Published September 8th 2002 by Llewellyn Publications

Conway, D.J., Animal Magick the Art of Recognizing and Working with Familiars (ISBN: 1567181686 (ISBN13: 9781567181685)) Published January 8th 1995 by Llewellyn Publications

Patterson, Rachel, Pagan Portals – Animal Magic: Working with Spirit Animal Guides (ISBN-10: ‎ 1785354949 (ISBN-13: ‎ 978-1785354946)) Published by Moon Books March 31, 2017

Kott, Megan Lynn and Justin DeVine, Unfamiliar Familiars: Extraordinary Animal Companions for the Modern Witch (ISBN: 1797200771 (ISBN13: 9781797200774)) Published September 1st 2020 by Chronicle Books https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51182114-unfamiliar-familiars?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=0L8m86au04&rank=1

The Art of Matt DeHaven

” It’s Scrying Time Again” by Matt DeHaven (c)

The first day of Fall will soon be upon us, marking both day and night in equal measure all over the world. Celebrate the Autumn Equinox by reflecting on the past and by looking to the future by scrying. It’s simple to do. You can use a crystal ball, or a black glass mirror, maybe a cauldron of water, perhaps even a cup of coffee-anything that reflects will work. Just stare into your chosen object and see what visions, symbols, codes or messages appear. Happy Autumn Equinox!

Matt’s paintings and illustrations can be seen at www.stonehengeblue.com

Celebrating Pagan Imagery in Public American Places: The Prometheus Sculpture of Rockefeller Center, NYC

Compiled by Jack Stagg

photo by Balon Greyjoy (Wikipedia)

Prometheus is a 1934 gilded, cast bronze sculpture by Paul Manship, located above the lower plaza at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York City. It depicts the Greek legend of the Titan Prometheus, bringing fire to mankind by stealing it from the Chariot of the Sun. (1)

The recumbent figure of Prometheus is situated in a 60-by-16-foot fountain basin in front of a rectangular wall located in the middle of Rockefeller Center. The statue is 18 foot tall and weighs 8 tons. (1)

The sculpture of Prometheus shows him carrying fire in his right hand, gazing down at the earth while floating in the clouds above the mountains and water. The large ring which surrounds him represents the heavens and constellations, and bears the signs of the Zodiac. Inside the ring are inscribed the  the names of each of the astrological signs. (1)

On the red granite wall behind, there is an inscription that states: “Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends.” The quote is attributed to the sixth-century B.C. Greek dramatist Aeschylus. (1)  Aeschylus was the first of classical Athens’ great dramatists, who raised the art of tragedy to great heights of poetry and theatrical power. (2)

According to Greek myth, Prometheus created humans from clay, and even though forbidden to do so by the chief Olympian Zeus, he also gave humankind the gift of fire.  Zeus had warned all of Olympus about not giving humans fire or else suffer the consequences if they did so. Upon learning what Prometheus had done, Zeus ordered  him to be chained to a rock, where every day, an eagle came to rip out Prometheus’s liver. Every night his liver grew back, so the torture could begin anew for eternity. (3)

As Prometheus sculpted humans, famed American sculptor Paul Manship (1885-1966) sculpted Prometheus.  After a three-year scholarship to study in Rome, Manship  fell under the spell of Greek antiquity, the beauty of classicism, and developed a great fascination for mythological characters and events. After returning to the United States in 1912,  he became an immediate success.  Art critics and the public alike  declared Manship a major new talent. He sold all of the ninety-six bronze statutes he showed in his first exhibition. One year later he received his first important commissions for garden and architectural sculpture from New York architects. He soon became a major force in the Art Deco movement and  launched a career that would last fifty years. Besides the Prometheus, some of Manship’s most celebrated works are the the gates to both the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo, and the Time and Fates Sundial and Moods of Time sculptures installed at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. (4)

On the steps leading down into the plaza are a pair of large bronze sculptures. Manship created these heroic-sized figures in 1933 as companion pieces to flank the golden Prometheus. At the time they were also gilded and stood on granite shelves on either side of the fountain (now displaying shrubbery). Manship wasn’t happy with the installation, deciding that they were out of proportion to Prometheus and had the sculptures placed at other sites around Rockefeller Center. Eventually the statues were removed from the area altogether and stored on the roof garden of the British Empire Building until 1983, when they were rescued from oblivion, restored, and given a traditional brown patina. Now the two figures are installed at their current location on either side of the staircase down to the plaza as if announcing Prometheus. Manship created the bronzes to represent humankind, naming them “Youth” and “Maiden” respectively. Both figures reach out with one hand  to receive the gift of fire. (5)

The model for Prometheus was Leonardo  Nole, the son of Italian immigrants and a native of New Rochelle NY. He came from a family of athletes, and though he was an accomplished athlete himself, it was not his athletic ability but his physique that led him to be the model for Prometheus. Nole was working as a lifeguard when one day he was asked to pose for a photograph. One thing led to another, and he was soon a model, posing for art classes at a number of women’s colleges, including Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville. It was a Sarah Lawrence sculpture teacher who recommended him to Paul Manship. Nole was paid $1 an hour for what turned out to be a satisfying three-month assignment posing for Prometheus.  In later years, when Nole made trips back to New York, he made it a point to stop at Rockefeller Center to admire the Prometheus statue and his own youthful physique. He was amazed that he had achieved a measure of immortality simply by standing naked on one foot pretending to fly. (6)

Rockefeller Center is a masterpiece of composition. The varied public art collection of murals, reliefs, sculptures, carving, architectural styles, and modern-day installations provides endless opportunities to explore, stop and reflect, and appreciate the beauty and creativity that surrounds you. (7)

The seasonal Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is placed above Prometheus every winter with an ice skating rink below. During the rest of the year, Prometheus serves as the main attraction of the lower plaza’s outdoor restaurant. (1) The Prometheus sculpture is said to be the most photographed monumental sculpture in all of New York City . (1)

“First human Maiden made from Clay by Prometheus” and “First human Youth made from Clay by Prometheus” by Paul Mandip. Photo: dailyphotostream.blogspot.com

Leonard Nole poses for the statue of Prometheus ca. 1932
Photo: Family of Armando Aroffo

References:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_(Manship)

(2) https://www.britannica.com/biography/Aeschylus-Greek-dramatist

(3) https://diannedurantewriter.com/archives/4080

(4) https://americanart.si.edu/artist/paul-manship-3096

(5) https://www.rockefellercenter.com/art/mankind-figures-maiden-and-youth/

(6) https://www.nytimes.com/1998/02/27/nyregion/leonardo-nole-91-prometheus-statue-s-model.html#:~:text=Leonardo%20Nole%2C%20a%20longtime%20postal%20worker%20who%20achieved,of%20Prometheus%20at%20the%20Rockefeller%20Center%20skating%20rink.

(7) https://www.rockefellercenter.com/art-and-history/

Color Magic

By Augusta Johnson

Everyone has a favorite color. For many, that is the traditional shade of blue; for others, bright pink or majestic purple works better. Back in the 90s, black was the power suit color of choice; men and women wore it to look domineering and in charge.  Black suggests mystery and allure, just as white can represent purity or innocence.

That same intention of wearing certain colors to affect one’s mood or image can be used to powerfully support one’s magical practice. What you wear and the colors used in the environment in which you perform a magical working can be made more effective when a color with symbolic or energetic properties is utilized to support the rite. For the magical practitioner or witch, color can be a very useful item in the energetic toolkit.

When crafting a spell, or composing the substance of a ritual, color should be as seriously considered as the other elements required for the work at hand. The color you are wearing or the color of the altar cloth or table can reverberate the energy of the ritual. Enhancing your work with a deliberate choice of color is important. Flowers and herbs can be chosen that harmonize with the appropriate color scheme. Adorned tools can mirror the intent of the spell. For example, it is well known that the color of a candle delineates the work being done in candle magic, most probably due to Raymond Buckland’s admonishment in the early 1970s that in candle magic, “the important thing is actually the color” (Buckland 8). In reality, however, Buckland had different colors assigned to diverse spheres of influence, such as red for both “vigor and sexual love” (Buckland 4), but also assigned to Gemini (ruled by Mercury), Capricorn (ruled by Saturn), and even workings on Tuesday (ruled by Mars). By his theory, a color could actually work different ways magically, and not necessarily be assigned to only one category. This option leaves the witch or magician with an opportunity to fine-tune the color intention to their spell by considering the color that resonates best with the planets, Gods/Goddesses, intention, or spirits involved.

Since this is a huge subject, we will limit our focus here to the traditional quarter colors used in many magical practices. To begin with, red is generally associated with the element of fire and represents the southern direction or quarter in many occult traditions; however, you may be surprised to learn that red also represents fire and the southern direction in the Five Element Theory of traditional Chinese culture (Ody 16). (Unlike the Celtic fire-earth-water-air, the Five Element Theory also includes “wood” as the fifth element, a novel idea when you consider trees to be the lungs of the earth and a vital part of most pagan practice, but I digress…). The association between red and passion is not surprising when seeing that the magical association of this color is rooted in the element of fire. However, when you consider that red can also be considered as emblematic of both love and war (Mars) (Conway 99), it is then vitally important to choose the right shade of red and carefully focus one’s intent when doing a spell. Be also aware that the love working could generate a more aggressive romantic response by using too deep a hue in the ritual. A point to definitely consider when doing a love spell is that too much red may indeed generate passion, but that same fire energy could also be imbued with the aggression of Mars, not necessarily the response most lovers want!

Green is the color of the northern quarter, and is generally the color of choice when performing any form of prosperity magic. Ironically, the color green is a combination of the primary colors blue and yellow, a point to consider when doing magic. When using green magically, you are really pulling in the energy of both blue and yellow. Now what does that mean? Blue is traditionally associated with the west and yellow with the east, an interesting color magic situation where the north pulls the energy of both quarters into a perfect triangular formation. In addition, blue is generally associated with water and yellow with the element of air. In a traditional Table of Correspondences (Conway 98-99), these two colors are associated with Jupiter and Mercury, respectively, both of which bode well for someone doing prosperity work! Remembering to include these influences when performing such magic should empower the ritual with additional energy and definitely more meaning. A conscious awareness of the magic of blue and yellow together can energize any working with the color green.

Speaking of blue and yellow, blue is most always associated with some form of water magic. However, in Five Element Theory and Feng Shui, water is associated with the color black, not blue, a concept that upon reflection is not that unusual when one considers the murky waters of a dark river or the lightless bottom of the ocean. Noting this, the shade of blue chosen does matter in one’s ritual or spellwork, and so whereas a light blue may bring more tranquility and peace in the working, a deep, dark blue may generate a more intense water elemental experience for the practitioner. When considering color in water magic, think whether that light blue you are using is akin to that of the bright Caribbean, or is it more like the murky black waters of the Mariana Trench? Depth of color matters here!

Lastly, yellow! Yellow expresses images of sunshine, daisies, and happiness, and is often the color of choice for the eastern direction in magic. However, this particular yellow needs to be a bright gold or a vivid pure hue. According to Buckland, a “greenish yellow” can symbolize “sickness, cowardice, anger, jealousy, discord” (Buckland 4), all qualities one usually doesn’t want resulting from a working! (But if you need to do a hex…) As yellow resonates with Mercury, a bright, pure yellow is excellent for any working that involves communication, whether it be work-related or otherwise. Flooding your ritual space and altar with a sunny bright yellow will only magnify the success of your outcome.

No matter the working before you, a conscious use of color will only enhance the magical ritual experience. Attempting to create a harmonized environment, with a consistent color scheme, will create an etheric vibration that will only serve to reinforce your magic, and forge a successful association in your subconscious as well. So, the next time you’re whipping up a spell or two, put a little thought into implementing color as one of your ingredients, and see what a magical color infusion can do for your witchcraft!

Symbolism of Colors from Buckland’s Practical Candleburning Rituals

Augusta Johnson is a High Priestess and Witch, and proprietor of Wolf River Artifacts, an e-commerce business that specializes in repurposing and recycling of clothing and home goods.

Works Cited

Buckland, Raymond. Practical Candleburning Rituals. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1970

Conway, David. Ritual Magic: An Occult Primer. New York: EP Dutton, 1978.

Cunningham, Scott. Earth Power. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1983.

Ody, Penelope. The Chinese Medicine Bible. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2010

5 Books About Color Magic

Alcantara, Margarita, Chakra Healing: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Healing Techniques that Balance the Chakras (ASIN: B01N7TW187)

Art, Special, Unicorns with Mandala – Adult Coloring Book: More than 60 magical and beautiful Unicorns. Coloring Books for Adults Relaxation. Stress Relief Designs. (Large Format,Gift Idea) (ISBN: 9798695586381)

Ashby, Nina, Color Therapy Plain & Simple: The Only Book You’ll Ever Need (ISBN: 1571747877 )

Divine, Grace, What is Art? Learn Art & Culture the Easy Coloring Book Way PROTECTION SYMBOLS SIGILS & TALISMANS Manifest with Modern Interpretation of Ancient Believed to be Magical Forms, Lines, Curves, Geometric Shapes and Other by Artist Grace Divine (ISBN: 1076701019)

Pivirotto, Nicole, Color, Form, and Magic: Use the Power of Aesthetics for Creative and Magical Work (ISBN: 1797203568)

Sacred Sites: Up Close and Personal in Glastonbury, England

By Jean Duranti

Glastonbury Tor source: Wikipedia

England is congested with sacred sites, and it would take a lifetime to visit them all.  One site that still holds a special place in my heart is located in the Somerset.  If you have read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s book, “The Mists of Avalon”, then you are already acquainted with the mysterious town of Glastonbury, England.  For most, it is closely associated with King Arthur. In fact, in the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, there are the “official” graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere.  The area is revered by many as the Avalon of myth and legend. In 1995, I had the inspirational adventure of a lifetime with my closest friend, Claudia in these parts as we traveled through the southwest of England.”

The author on Wearyall Hill, with Glastonbury Tor in the background

Near Glastonbury, it is the “Tor”, the 500ft. solitary hill in the middle of a cow pasture below that is most intriguing.  On top of this hill stands St. Michael’s Tower.  Per Wikipedia, “St  Michael’s Church survived until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 when, except for the tower, it was demolished. The Tor was the place of execution where Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, was hanged, drawn and quartered along with two of his monks, John Thorne and Roger James. The three-story tower of St Michael’s Church survives. It has corner buttresses and perpendicular bell openings. There is a sculptured tablet with an image of an eagle below the parapet.

The tower is open on 2 sides with no stairs to go to the top of the tower. It is hollow on the inside. But the view from the tower allows visitors to see a 360-degree view of the valley.  It’s been said by the locals, that when the fog rolls in from the ocean, it surrounds the tower, making it an island unto itself.  Avalon of lore.  Claudia and I were so enraptured by its strange mystical place, we had to return that night. This sacred space is considered by many to have ley lines crisscrossing through it and is considered the be the focus of magic with a portal to the other side.  We were compelled to return that very evening.

Jean and Claudia on Glastonbury Tor

After dark, we trekked up the hill, in our black cloaks. We lit incense sticks, we sang pagan songs and paid homage to the Goddess, as the wind whipped around us and through the tower.  The wind was so strong, we could barely hear each other sing.  Keeping the incense burning was a determined feat! It truly was the land of the Faerie. Around 10:30 or so, the place was deserted. We began our trek down the steep stairs towards the cow pasture. Claudia was ahead of me. Halfway down the steps, I suddenly cried out.  I explained how I felt like a sheet of ice had cut through me, passing through my spine. Claudia responded that if I was ok, that we should continue down the stairs.

The Ghost of the Tor? (no it’s just the author, cloaked)

At the bottom of the hill, Claudia turned and looked at me as I spoke of the ice sheet. She told of seeing a ghostly figure behind me. She had the impression the figure was male, and cloaked, possibly in a monk’s attire.  She could not see the face. Claudia recalled having a dream months before the trip in which she woke up during the night and was surrounded by a half circle of dark hooded silent figures. Her cat, Holmes, was on her bed and he saw them, too.  When she woke up the next morning, she wasn’t sure if it had been a dream or a visitation. Claudia did not sense any harm from the cloaked figure. But wisely she felt it was better to tell me the truth of what she saw, after were we were safely down the hill.  Could it have been Abbot Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury, who was hanged in St Michael’s tower by Henry VIII? Was he guarding the Tor and guiding us out from the tower and Avalon?  We will never know.  However, the next time we visited Glastonbury, in 1997, we stayed at the George Hotel and Pilgrim’s Inn, built in 1487, one of the oldest hotels in the south of England. It was built to house visitors to the Glastonbury Abbey. In a town known for ghosts and the supernatural, and the occult capital of England, the is hotel thought to be one of the most haunted by many.

As we went up the stairs of the hotel, each room had a name on it.  We walked to our suite and gazed at the sign.  We were given Abbot Whiting’s room… coincidence?

Sacred spaces swell with mysteries, intertwining timelines and secret messages to those who feel the mystical presence of the other side.  Blessed be.

Coincidence?

Jean Duranti is  a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and graduate of UCLA’s MSW program.  She has been with Wellqor since February 2018.  Her specialty is Gerontology, a focus of working with older adults, and she works with adult clients of all ages.  In the past, she has done therapy with: Veterans at the VA Nursing Home, Los Angeles County Psychiatric Hospital and at various Assisted Living Communities in Los Angeles, in addition to independent clients.  Her clinical philosophy is to focus on client’s goals by being their advocate and ally, walking down their path to help them be successful. In her spare time, and for the last 30 years, she has been studying and performing Central Asian folk dances with her dance partner. Since 1991, she has explored Wiccan and Ancient Egyptian Spiritual Paths and has been teaching through Dragonstone for the last 4 years.  

The Lammas Imp and Harvest Song

by Matt DeHaven

The Lammas Imp” illustrated by Matt DeHaven copyright (c) 2021

In Celtic tradition, the first harvest of the year is celebrated on July 31st and August 1st, when ripe grain and fruit are brought in from the fields and orchards. Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas, takes its name after the Celtic sun god, Lugh.

Harvest Song   
(Sung to the tune of “Bringing In the Sheaves”)

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves * [repeat]

Dancing at Lughnasadh, fires upon the hilltops,
Bless’ed be the Goddess, soon the Summer leaves,
Barleycorn for drinking, Golden Wheat for baking,
Laugh and be rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.**

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves! * [repeat]

* Knowles Shaw, 1874, refrain.

** Matt DeHaven 2017, verse.

For more of Matt’s art, please visit  https://stonehengeblue.com/

The Grain Goddess on High: Statues of Ceres atop Historic American Buildings 

Compiled and written by Jack Stagg

Ceres Atop the Missouri State Capital, photo by Charlie Riedel, Associated Press

Agriculture has always been, and always will be, a basic and fundamental part of any society. Deities connected to the harvest and fertility are found in every civilization and culture. The ancient Romans had several gods associated with agriculture and the goddess Ceres was possibly the most admired and respected. Ceres is often depicted as carrying a staff or a scepter to signify her power and authority. She sometimes holds a torch. Her symbols include that of grain, sickles, scythes, sheaves of wheat and cornucopias, which reinforce Ceres’ title as the Goddess of Agriculture. (1)

Presently here in the USA , the image of Ceres is still relevant and her name is remembered. The word “cereal” is derived from Ceres, in essence her name is honored daily at breakfast. She can be found in paintings and sculpture in museums and gardens throughout the country, and large statues of Ceres continue to crown at least three historic public buildings in America. . . sometimes not without controversy.

 1.)  The Vermont Statehouse Ceres, Montpelier

One day in late November 2018, a crane hoisted a new statue of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture,  to the top of the Vermont Statehouse’s refurbished golden dome in Montpelier.  The 14.5-foot sculpture was designed and carved by Vermont artists.  Nearly a thousand people flocked to the Statehouse that day to see the third version of the grain goddess fly through the air and return to her perch. A statue of Ceres has stood on the highest point of the Statehouse since 1858, when sculptor Larkin Mead designed the first version out of pine.  (2)

The first Ceres statue, once known as the “Embodiment of Agriculture”, topped the Statehouse in 1859 to represent Vermont’s celebration of Agriculture.  Larkin Mead was hired to design the statue, although it was carved and executed by someone else. (3)  Ceres remained there until the 1930s when, due to  deterioration and rot, she had to be removed. (2)

Ceres I  was soon replaced by a newer statue, carved by Dwight Dwinell, who had served as the Statehouse’s sergeant-at-arms.  Ceres II stood atop the Statehouse for the next eighty-five years until recently when state officials decided it was time for yet a third version in 2017 . Two Vermont sculptors created the new statue, which was carved from a laminated block of mahogany.  Jerry Williams designed a one-quarter scale model based on Mead’s original 1858 statue. Chris Miller then spent four months carving the full-size version. (2)

On the day the new and improved Ceres III was installed, Vermont House Speaker Mitzi Johnson stated during the dedication ceremony: “The fact that we have our history, and an anchor of our state as agriculture dominating our dome, and the goddess looking over us as we do our work in the Legislature, is an incredibly important testament to what our values are in Vermont.” (2)

“It’s beautiful,”  Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said. “It’s everything that I thought it would be and more.” (4)

CERES I

Vermont State House

CERES II

Vermont State House

CERES III

Vermont State House

Vermont State House

2.) The Chicago Board of Trade Building Ceres, Chicago

“ANCIENT GODDESS IN  MODERN FORM TO COMMAND CITY”, a headline declared in the The Chicago Tribune May 4, 1930. The article went on to state that “holding a sheaf of wheat in one hand and a grain trader’s sample bag in the other, a heroic statue of Ceres, Greek (Roman) goddess of corn and the harvests, next summer is to command the attention of pedestrians in the financial section from its lofty pedestal atop the new Board of Trade building—some 6oo feet above the sidewalks.” (5)

When built in 1930, the Board of Trade building at LaSalle Street in the heart of the Financial District  became the tallest building in Chicago.  It held this honor until 1965. Now with taller skyscrapers all around Chicago, the art deco building is still a remarkable sight, and is a highlight by every architecture tour. (7)  Dozens of allegorical statues adorn the building and its surroundings, including that of industry, agriculture, cows and bulls, Native Americans bearing corn, and other traders. From above though, Ceres is the shining star of it all, perched atop the building’s copper pyramid. However, by the 1980’s she had deteriorated significantly and was helicoptered off her perch for some rehab and then returned to her roost. (6)

According to the sculptor, John Storrs, he chose Ceres because he wanted the statue to be symbolic to the building’s purpose as the world’s biggest grain exchange. Storr stated that he “borrowed a thought from the classical period. Ceres well symbolizes the activity of the Board of Trade, so I took this goddess sister of Jupiter for my subject. However, while the thought is classical, the treatment is thoroughly modern.” (7)

At thirty-one feet tall, Ceres is made of solid aluminum and weighs 6,500 pounds.

Views of the Chicago Board of Trade Building

3.) The Missouri State Capitol Building Ceres, Jefferson City

When the very first Missouri State Capitol Commission convened at the beginning of the 20th century, women in the state didn’t have the right to vote. And yet the commission was adament: A woman should adorn the top and stand guard over the Capitol. (8) They chose the Roman goddess Ceres.

A 10-foot-4-inch, 1,500 pound bronze statue of Ceres was created by famed sculptor Sherry Fry, who is known for his role in developing American camouflage.  Fry got his inspiration for the Ceres statue from actress and model Audrey Munson. Countless statues, particularly in New York City, and coins feature the late star with her iconic classic features. (8)

Written in the building plans is the statue’s description: “In her right hand, she carries the torch of education, and in her left, which hangs by her side, are a few blades of wheat. Her outline will be seen from miles around by her soft glow.” (8) The final result has Ceres holding a bundle of wheat on her left side, with her right hand outstretched, as if blessing the land. Ceres was carefully maneuvered  up in three pieces, winched by a nearby elm tree using the pulley system, to the dome of the Capitol Building on October 29th 1924.

In November 2018, Ceres came down for the first time in 95 years for conservation and repair work. 300 spots of damage on the statue were caused by lightning strikes making Ceres the “unofficial lightning rod” for the Capitol. (9) After nearly a year of restoration and before her return, Ceres then became a lightning rod of a different sort.

Sundi Jo Graham, a local coordinator,  created a petition to stop Ceres’ return to the Capitol dome. Graham said that once she learned “what Ceres is and what she stood for, something had to be done. That’s when the petition to keep Ceres back off the dome was born.” (9)

“The intent behind the petition would be to bring awareness to people that what we are putting on top of the state Capitol doesn’t represent light, it represents darkness,” Graham said. “It goes against the very thing that this state was founded on-belief in God. And it goes against the very nature of God.” (9)

“We have a false god on top of our Capitol that’s representing our state,” Graham said. “That goes against all of my Christian beliefs. That goes against what I believe in and my values as a believer of Jesus. It goes against the word of God and so, you know, I cringe a little bit. I always made the assumption that because it was Jefferson City, that (the statue) was of Thomas Jefferson.” (9)

“I know people think it’s small, but it’s not,” Graham said. “Especially if you’re a believer, because God says ‘Don’t worship false idols, don’t worship other gods before me.’ And that is exactly what the statue is created to do.” (9)

Graham was not the only one opposed to Ceres’ return. Ahead of the statue’s installment back to the Capitol dome, GOP Rep. Mike Moon implored Missouri Gov. Mike Parson to halt the process, citing the Bible. He asked Parson to keep the Capitol dome “idol free.” (10 )

“I appeal to your good judgment, as a follower of Jesus Christ, to direct the Capitol Commission to not return the false god Ceres, the Roman goddess, to the top of the Capitol dome,” Moon wrote. (10)

In contrast, one member of the the Missouri State Capitol Commission, Dana Rademan Miller, said the initial reaction was in favor of the return of Ceres. (9)

“One of the core responsibilities of the Missouri State Capitol Commission is to assure the preservation, restoration, and historical significance of the Capitol,” Rademan Miller said. “Including the art that was selected and installed by the Capitol Decoration Commission nearly a century ago.” (9)

“The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly supportive of the project to repair the Capitol and the restoration of Ceres,” Rademan Miller said. (9) The controversy ended on Dec. 17th 2019  when the beautiful and newly restored Ceres returned to her position as the crown of the Missouri Capitol Building.

Photo: Missouri House Communications Photo: Missouri State Capitol Commission
Photo: Dana Miller, Missouri House of Representatives

Jack Stagg is a regular contributor to Southland Pagan Press and likes to share information about Pagan images in and around public buildings.

(1)  https://symbolsage.com/ceres-roman-goddess-of-agriculture/     

(2)  https://www.vpr.org/vpr-news/2018-11-30/ceres-statue-once-again-adorns-the-vermont-statehouses-golden-dome#stream/0

(3)  https://vermonthistory.org/embodiment-of-agriculture                                  

(4)  https://www.wcax.com/content/news/Ceres-returns-to-the-Statehouse-dome-501645942.html

(5) The Chicago Tribune May 4, 1930.

(6)  https://www.chicagoarchitecture.info/building.php?id=1031

(7)  https://mysteriouschicago.com/why-the-ceres-statue-on-the-board-of-trade-has-no-face/

(8)  https://themissouritimes.com/ceres-returning-to-missouri-capitol-what-she-means-for-the-state-and-women/

(9) https://www.komu.com/news/petition-created-to-halt-ceres-from-returning-back-to-capitol-building/article_117d4075-9d5b-5134-b2b2-fa47eac5b390.html (10)  https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/politics/2019/12/18/missouri-capitol-dome-statue-ceres-lawmaker-false-god/2686404001/

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