Poppies are amazing plants, if you have the right variety you can have opium, morphine and codeine, providing you pick them at the right time. By twenty days after the flower blooms, the opiates have mostly dissipated. Poppies were grown for, at least, their medicinal properties, by the Ancient Egyptians and it is sobering to think that all those thousands of years ago, the doctors would prescribe a couple of poppy seeds for a pain in the neck, much the same as they would today.
The Goddess Demeter was known as The Mistress or The Earth Mother and She had introduced men to the art of growing crops and farming generally. She was often depicted with a sheaf of barley in one hand and a poppy in the other. This might have been because poppy seeds will lie dormant until the soil is newly turned and so poppies are often found in barley fields, but it might be for other reasons.
For around three thousand years the annual festival, known in the ancient world as the Eleusinian Mysteries, was held in late summer, making it a fore-runner of our Harvest Festival, perhaps. The best thing about these Mysteries is that initiates were forbidden to reveal any information to the uninitiated, on pain of death. All of the writers of the time mention their existence – but we have no details of the initiation proceedings, other than that they were a women only event and dedicated to Demeter and her daughter Persephone. As you can imagine, this has led to centuries of speculation. We know absolutely nothing about what went on in those ceremonies.
There are those though, considering its narcotic properties, who see Demeter’s association with the poppy, as significant.