Terracotta statuettes of Demeter holding a piglet have been found at archaeological sites throughout the landscapes of ancient Greater Greece. Such statuettes often indicate that at the site where they were found, there was once a sanctuary dedicated to the goddess of the earth, agriculture, and fertility. In archaeological museums throughout Sicily you will see dozens and dozens of such statuettes. I tell you this to illustrate just how pervasive and potent Demeter’s cult was in ancient Greece/Sicily.
This image of Demeter holding a piglet, which I photographed at Palazzo Branciforte in Palermo, recalls the rites celebrated during the important Thesmophoria agricultural festival. The Thesmophoria festival was an annual feast that was held during the planting season and was practiced by married women in order to promote fertility. Scholars believe that in the provinces of Siracusa, the ritual–during which women went into the countryside sequestered from men–lasted for ten days. Not much else is known about the practices of the Thesmophoria because women didn’t have writing skills to document it; however, what is known is that the sacrificing of pigs is among the religious rituals practiced.