It’s that time of year again: the nights are getting colder and longer, and winter is just starting to approach. However, there is one day where the sun shines directly on the Northern and Southern hemispheres, giving almost the entire world an equal amount of light. That’s right, we’re talking about the Autumnal Equinox, and the desserts that are eaten during this special day! More specifically, we’re talking about figs and goddesses.
Figs are one of the oldest gathered foods in the world. They have been eaten for thousands of years, by thousands of different cultures. Figs have historically also been given as offerings to the goddesses of multiple different cultures, including Ancient Egyptian, Ancient Grecian, Ancient Roman, and many others.
Dated around 1750 BCE, little cakes containing figs were offered up to the Ancient Babylonian goddess Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Lady of Life. These cakes were called Mersu, and are defined as “sweetie pies.” Inanna’s Akkadian counterpart, Ishtar, was also offered these tiny fig cakes. Ishtar was a goddess of fertility, and was believed to be the prototype for the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, as well as the Roman goddess of love, Venus.
“Qullupu” moulds that date back to around 1780 BC were found in Mari (present-day Syria), that were also made of figs and associated with goddesses such as Inanna and Ishtar. Qullupus are also the ancestors of the Iraqi cookie Kleicha. Fig cookies were also offered to the Ancient Egyptian goddess of life, Isis, and Tanit, and African goddess worshipped in Phoenician, Arabian and Catalonian lands. Romans called Tanit Juno.
All of these goddesses tie into Demeter and Ceres, goddesses of grain. Demeter is associated with the extremely ancient Elysian Mysteries, which were all-women agricultural rituals which occurred around the Autumnal Equinox. When Demeter’s daughter Persephone disappears into the Underworld, the goddess joins her child, leaving the earth barren until she reemerges again in the spring. Demeter is the goddess of fruits and vegetables (figs!).
As you can see, many goddesses from different cultures are tied together, and the fig and its desserts were one of those parts. Have wonderful Autumnal Equinox!