An ancient carnelian pendant of the Goddess


These are pictures of a carnelian pendant of the Goddess Vavvóh (Baubo, Βαυβώ). The sculpture is quite tiny, a mere 9/10 of an inch (2.3 cm) tall. It is dated 200 BCE-100 CE.

The most familiar story comes from the Homeric Hymn to Dimítir (Demeter, Δημήτηρ). Unable to find her abducted daughter Pærsæphóni (Persephone, Περσεφόνη), the Goddess Dimítir disguised herself as an old woman and has been granted refuge in the palace of King Kælæós (Celeus, Κελεός). She enters, is seated, and finds herself very sad, veiling her face, but Iámvî (Iambê, Ἰάμβη), with her jesting, caused her to laugh. Then Metáneira (Μετάνειρα), the wife of the king, offered her wine, but she declined and asked that they serve her kykæóhn (kykeon, κυκεών), a barley-pennyroyal beverage that became associated with the Eleusinian Mysteries. [1]

The Christian Church-father Clement of Alexandria tells a similar story. He says that Vavvóh offered Dimítir refreshment, but the Goddess refused it in her misery, whereupon Vavvóh lifted her dress, exposing her pudenda, causing Dimítir to laugh and accept the drink. While Clement says that Vavvóh exposed her private parts to Dimítir, when he quotes an Orphic text, it is a little different; it states that when she opened her tunic, the child Íakhos (Iacchus, Ἴακχος) was inside and made an obscene gesture with her breasts. [2] Ἴακχος is sometimes a name of Diónysos (Dionysus, Διόνυσος), sometimes a child of Dimítir and Zefs (Ζεὺς), and sometimes yet other deities.

These two stories are the main ancient sources. Since they are very similar, Vavvóh is often identified with Iámvi. There are many statues from antiquity depicting a woman opening her dress, sometimes with a face on her belly. Scholars identify such statues as Vavvóh. Βαυβώ means "belly."

The statue is in the possession of the author who releases all the photos to the Public Domain.


1. Ὁμηρικός Ὕμνος 2 Εις Δίμητραν 184-211:

αἶψα δὲ δώμαθ᾽ ἵκοντο διοτρεφέος Κελεοῖο,

βὰν δὲ δι᾽ αἰθούσης, ἔνθα σφίσι πότνια μήτηρ

ἧστο παρὰ σταθμὸν τέγεος πύκα ποιητοῖο

παῖδ᾽ ὑπὸ κόλπῳ ἔχουσα, νέον θάλος: αἳ δὲ πὰρ αὐτὴν

ἔδραμον: ἣ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἐπ᾽ οὐδὸν ἔβη ποσὶ καὶ ῥα μελάθρου

κῦρε κάρη, πλῆσεν δὲ θύρας σέλαος θείοιο.

τὴν δ᾽ αἰδώς τε σέβας τε ἰδὲ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλεν:

εἶξε δέ οἱ κλισμοῖο καὶ ἑδριάασθαι ἄνωγεν.

ἀλλ᾽ οὐ Δημήτηρ ὡρηφόρος, ἀγλαόδωρος,

ἤθελεν ἑδριάασθαι ἐπὶ κλισμοῖο φαεινοῦ,

ἀλλ᾽ ἀκέουσ᾽ ἀνέμιμνε κατ᾽ ὄμματα καλὰ βαλοῦσα,

πρίν γ᾽ ὅτε δή οἱ ἔθηκεν Ἰάμβη κέδν᾽ εἰδυῖα

πηκτὸν ἕδος, καθύπερθε δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀργύφεον βάλε κῶας.

ἔνθα καθεζομένη προκατέσχετο χερσὶ καλύπτρην:

δηρὸν δ᾽ ἄφθογγος τετιημένη ἧστ᾽ ἐπὶ δίφρου,

οὐδέ τιν᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἔπεϊ προσπτύσσετο οὔτε τι ἔργῳ,

ἀλλ᾽ ἀγέλαστος, ἄπαστος ἐδητύος ἠδὲ ποτῆτος

ἧστο πόθῳ μινύθουσα βαθυζώνοιο θυγατρός,

πρίν γ᾽ ὅτε δὴ χλεύῃς μιν Ἰάμβη κέδν᾽ εἰδυῖα

πολλὰ παρασκώπτουσ᾽ ἐτρέψατο πότνιαν ἁγνήν,

μειδῆσαι γελάσαι τε καὶ ἵλαον σχεῖν θυμόν:

ἣ δή οἱ καὶ ἔπειτα μεθύστερον εὔαδεν ὀργαῖς.

τῇ δὲ δέπας Μετάνειρα δίδου μελιηδέος οἴνου

πλήσασ᾽: ἣ δ᾽ ἀνένευσ᾽: οὐ γὰρ θεμιτόν οἱ ἔφασκε

πίνειν οἶνον ἐρυθρόν: ἄνωγε δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἄλφι καὶ ὕδωρ

δοῦναι μίξασαν πιέμεν γλήχωνι τερείνῃ.

ἣ δὲ κυκεῶ τεύξασα θεᾷ πόρεν, ὡς ἐκέλευε:

δεξαμένη δ᾽ ὁσίης ἕνεκεν πολυπότνια Δηώ

"Soon they came to the house of heaven-nurtured Celeus and went through the portico to where their queenly mother sat by a pillar of the close-fitted roof, holding her son, a tender scion, in her bosom. And the girls ran to her. But the goddess walked to the threshold: and her head reached the roof and she filled the doorway with a heavenly radiance. Then awe and reverence and pale fear took hold of Metaneira, and she rose up from her couch before Demeter, and bade her be seated. But Demeter, bringer of seasons and giver of perfect gifts, would not sit upon the bright couch, but stayed silent with lovely eyes cast down until careful Iambe placed a jointed seat for her and threw over it a silvery fleece. Then she sat down and held her veil in her hands before her face. A long time she sat upon the stool without speaking because of her sorrow, and greeted no one by word or by sign, but rested, never smiling, and tasting neither food nor drink, because she pined with longing for her deep-bosomed daughter, until careful Iambe —who pleased her moods in aftertime also —moved the holy lady with many a quip and jest to smile and laugh and cheer her heart. Then Metaneira filled a cup with sweet wine and offered it to her; but she refused it, for she said it was not lawful for her to drink red wine, but bade them mix meal and water with soft mint and give her to drink. And Metaneira mixed the draught and gave it to the goddess as she bade. So the great queen Deo received it to observe the sacrament" (trans. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914)

2. Λόγος Προτρεπτικὸς πρὸς Ἕλληνας Κλήμεντος του Ἀλεξανδρέως Chap. 2.31:

καὶ δὴ ῾οὐ γὰρ ἀνήσω μὴ οὐχὶ εἰπεῖν̓ ξενίσασα ἡ Βαυβὼ τὴν Δηὼ ὀρέγει κυκεῶνα αὐτῇ: τῆς δὲ ἀναινομένης λαβεῖν καὶ πιεῖν οὐκ ἐθελούσης ῾πενθήρης γὰρ ἦν̓ περιαλγὴς ἡ Βαυβὼ γενομένη, ὡς ὑπεροραθεῖσα δῆθεν, ἀναστέλλεται τὰ αἰδοῖα καὶ ἐπιδεικνύει τῇ θεῷ: ἡ δὲ τέρπεται τῇ ὄψει ἡ Δηὼ καὶ μόλις ποτὲ δέχεται τὸ ποτόν, ἡσθεῖσα τῷ θεάματι. ταῦτ̓ ἔστι τὰ κρύφια τῶν Ἀθηναίων μυστήρια. ταῦτά τοι καὶ Ὀρφεὺς ἀναγράφει. παραθήσομαι δέ σοι αὐτὰ τοῦ Ὀρφέως τὰ ἔπη, ἵν̓ ἔχῃς μάρτυρα τῆς ἀναισχυντίας τὸν μυσταγωγόν:

ὣς εἰποῦσα πέπλους ἀνεσύρετο, δεῖξε δὲ πάντα σώματος οὐδὲ πρέποντα τύπον: παῖς δ̓ ἦεν Ἴακχος, χειρί τέ μιν ῥίπτασκε γελῶν Βαυβοῦς ὑπὸ κόλποις: ἡ δ̓ ἐπεὶ οὖν μείδησε θεά, μείδης᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ, δέξατο δ̓ αἰόλον ἄγγος, ἐν ᾧ κυκεὼν ἐνέκειτο.

"Baubo, having received Demeter as a guest, offers her a draught of wine and meal. She declines to take it, being unwilling to drink on account of her mourning. Baubo is deeply hurt, thinking she has been slighted, and thereupon uncovers her secret parts and exhibits them to the Goddess. Demeter is pleased at the sight, and now at least receives the draught, — delighted by the spectacle! These are the secret Mysteries of the Athenians! These are also the subjects of Orpheus’ poems. I will quote you the very lines of Orpheus, in order that you may have the originator of the Mysteries as witness of their shamelessness:

'This said, she drew aside her robes, and showed a sight of shame; child Iacchus was there, and laughing, plunged his hand below her breasts. Then smiled the goddess, in her heart she smiled, and drank the draught from out the glancing cup.' "

(trans. G. W. Butterworth, 1919)

Clementum sequitur Arnobius, Adversus Nationes V 25 p. 196, 3 Reiff. :

Igitur Baubo illa, quam incolam diximus Eleusinii fuisse pagi, malis multiformibus fatigatam accipit hospitio Cererem, adulatur obsequiis mitibus, reficiendi corporis rogat curam ut habeat, sitientis ardori oggerit potionem cinni, cyceonem quam nuncupat Graecia: aversatur et respuit humanitatis officia maerens dea nec eam fortuna perpetitur valetudinis meminissecommunis. Rogat illa atque hortatur contra, sicut mos est in huiusmodi casibus, ne fastidium suae humanitatis adsumat: obstinatissimedurat Ceres et rigoris indomiti pertinaciam retinet. Quod cum saepius fieret neque ullis quiret obsequiis ineluctabile propositum fatigari, vertit Baubo artes et quam serio non quibat allicere ludibriorum statuit exhilarare miraculis: partem illam corporis, per quam secus femineum et subolem prodereet nomen solet adquirere genetricum, longiore ab incuria liberat, facit sumere habitum puriorem et in speciem levigarinondum duri atque histriculi pusionis. Redit ad deam tristem et inter illa communia quibus moris est frangere ac temperare máerorss retegit se ipsam atque omnia illa pudoris loca revelatis monstrat inguinibus. Atque pubi adfigit oculos diva et inauditi specie solaminis pascitur: tumdiffusior facta per risum aspernatam sumitatque ebibit potionem, et quod diu nequivit verecundia Baubonis exprimerepropudiosi facinoris extorsit obscenitas". Calumniari nos improbe si quis forte hominum suspicatur, libros sumat Threicii vatis, quos antiquitatis memoratis esse divinae, et inveniet nos nihil neque callide fingere neque quo sint risui deum quaerere atque efficere sanctitates. Ipsos namque in medio ponemus versus, quos Calliopae filius ore edidit Graeco et cantando per saecula iuri publicavithumano:

sic effata simul vestem contraxit ab imo obiecitque oculis formatas inguinibus res: quas cava succutiens Baubo manu - nam puerilis ollis vultus erat - plaudit, contrectat amice. Tum dea defigens augusti luminis orbes tristitias animi paulum mollita reponit: inde manu poclum sumit risuque sequentiperducit totum cyceonis laeta liquorem.

"So, then, that Baubo who, we have said, dwelt in the canton of Eleusis, receives hospitably Ceres, worn out with ills of many kinds, hangs about her with pleasing attentions, beseeches her not to neglect to refresh her body, brings to quench her thirst wine thickened with spelt, which the Greeks term kykeon. The Goddess in her sorrow turns away from the kindly offered services, and rejects them; nor does her misfortune suffer her to remember what the body always requires. Baubo, on the other hand, begs and exhorts her— as is usual in such calamities— not to despise her humanity; Ceres remains utterly immoveable, and tenaciously maintains an invincible austerity. But when this was done several times, and her fixed purpose could not be worn out by any attentions, Baubo changes her plans, and determines to make merry by strange jests her whom she could not win by earnestness. That part of the body by which women both bear children and obtain the name of mothers, this she frees from longer neglect: she makes it assume a purer appearance, and become smooth like a child, not yet hard and rough with hair. In this wise she returns to the sorrowing Goddess; and while trying the common expedients by which it is usual to break the force of grief, and moderate it, she uncovers herself, and baring her groins, displays all the parts which decency hides; and then the Goddess fixes her eyes upon these, and is pleased with the strange form of consolation. Then becoming more cheerful after laughing, she takes and drinks off the drought spurned before, and the indecency of a shameless action forced that which Baubo's modest conduct was long unable to win.

26. If any one perchance thinks that we are speaking wicked calumnies, let him take the books of the Thracian soothsayer, which you speak of as of divine antiquity; and he will find that we are neither cunningly inventing anything, nor seeking means to bring the holiness of the Gods into ridicule, and doing so: for we shall bring forward the very verses which the Son of Kalliope uttered in Greek, and published abroad in his songs to the human race throughout all ages:—

‘With these words she at the same time drew up her garments from the lowest hem,

And exposed to view formatas inguinibus res*,

Which Baubo grasping with hollow hand, for

Their appearance was infantile, strikes, touches gently.

Then the Goddess, fixing her orbs of august light,

Being softened, lays aside for a little the sadness of her mind;

Thereafter she takes the cup in her hand, and laughing,

Drinks off the whole draught of kykeon with gladness.’ ”

(trans. Hamilton Bryce and Hugh Campbell, 1871)

* "(what was) formed in the groin"

The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.

How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς).

PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes. While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally. A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result. The meaning of the myths is concealed in code. To understand them requires a key. For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level. Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology.

Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

SPELLING: uses the Reuchlinian method of pronouncing ancient Greek, the system preferred by scholars from Greece itself. An approach was developed to enable the student to easily approximate the Greek words. Consequently, the way we spell words is unique, as this method of transliteration is exclusive to this website. For more information, visit these three pages:

Pronunciation of Ancient Greek

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Pronouncing the Names of the Gods in Hellenismos

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