Wheat and War

Verily, verily, I say unto you, еxcept a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.(John 12: 24)

Salvador Dali, “Blue Knot and Ear of Wheat next to a Castle”

Out of the numberless reasons why we are all so moved by the war in Ukraine, one has a symbolic source. It is wheat and what it evokes in our unconscious mind. I read these words today:

“Ukraine is the land of bread and wheat. Even in Egypt, bread and cakes are baked using Ukrainian flour. It’s the time of year to prepare the fields for sowing, but this work is not being done. The soil of the wheat fields is full of metal – fragments of shells, pieces of blown-up tanks and cars, the remains of downed planes and helicopters. And it’s all covered in blood. The blood of Russian soldiers who do not understand what they are fighting for, and the blood of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians who know that if they do not fight, Ukraine will no longer exist. In its place there will be a cemetery with a caretaker’s hut and some kind of governor general sent from Russia will sit and guard it.” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/mar/13/ukraine-russia-war-putin-crimes-justice

Historically, the colours of Ukrainian flag were not conceived as “the blue sky over a field of wheat” but this association has taken strong root in people’s hearts. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is wheatsky.jpg

As “the basic and primordial” foodstuff, “wheat symbolizes the gift of life.” (1) As such, it has also been associated with immortality. In the most climactic moment of Eleusinian Mysteries, the greatest religious festival of the Ancient Greece dedicated to Demeter and Persephone, a single grain of wheat was displayed to the crowd to be contemplated in complete silence. This “conjured up the eternal cycle of the seasons” as well as evoked death and rebirth from the womb of Earth Mother. (2) The planted (buried) grain will come back as an ear of wheat with a multiple of grains.

Osiris with wheat growing from his body

Can we hope that the grain will sprout despite all that senseless death and destruction?


(1) Jean Chevalier, Alain Gheerbrant, The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols

(2) Ibid.

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4 Responses to Wheat and War

  1. Thank you for this. I love that symbolism of wheat, how it applies to Ukrain and its people, and also to its history, where endless wars have rages there ever since the Vikings first came to settle there, and no doubt before. Time and time again they rise to fight and survive the cataclysm, and the will do so again. they are feeding us today with their heroism, showing us how the human spirit rises up in time of crisis to meet the need of the day. So must we all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I do hope Ukraine will see independent fields of wheat under blue skies again. I’m in the US and far from the physical reality, but it all still hurts me.
    Thank you for this beautiful symbolic post.🌻

    Liked by 1 person

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