Between the 5th and the 17th of February, Romans hold the Fornacalia and on the 17th, the Quirinalia. The Fornacalia was begun by Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, who wanted the spelt that was used for offerings to the Gods to be in a pure state. Traditional Roman offerings to the Gods included spelt cakes.
Ancient Rome was divided into Curiae (wards). Each Curia had a communal altar, oven, and feasting hall. During the Fornacalia, the ovens were decorated with garlands. At the communal ovens, people would parch their spelt to allow for ease in husking. While it was roasting, people would invoke Fornax and sing her praises. Afterwards, they would make offerings to Juno Curitis (Goddess of the Curiae) and Fornax, the Goddess of Ovens.
Fornax, the Roman Goddess of Bakers and Ovens, is invoked to prevent baking goods from burning. She is also invoked to preserve grain through the winter. In addition, folk wisdom claims that a person could bake a wish into the bread. Feeding it to the birds will convey their hopes to the Goddess. When I bake, I always ask for Her Help.
Fornax regulated the heat for cooking. While Vesta governed the flame, Fornax oversaw the temperatures. The Romans considered themselves civilized since they could successfully roast wheat. Without Her, Rome would have remained a primitive village of shepherds. Therefore, Fornax could be thought of as the Goddess Who Civilized the Savage Romans.
Ovid, in “Fasti,” wrote that the ancient Romans would either burn the wheat to a cinder or the house down.
“Fierce wars weakened their powerful bodies.
There was more glory in the sword than the plough:
And the neglected farm brought its owner little return.
Yet the ancients sowed corn, corn they reaped,
Offering the first fruits of the corn harvest to Ceres.
Taught by practice they parched it in the flames,
And incurred many losses through their own mistakes.
Sometimes they’d sweep up burnt ash and not corn,
Sometimes the flames took their huts themselves:
The oven was made a goddess, Fornax: the farmers
Pleased with her, prayed she’d regulate the grain’s heat.”
(From: Fasti, Book 2. (Translated by A.S Kline))
Contrary to popular ideas, Fornax has nothing to do with fornication. “Fornax” means “oven” or “furnace.” Her name can be translated as “the Oven is the Mother.” Meanwhile, “fornix” means “arches,” where the prostitutes gathered in Rome.
I’m planning on worshipping Fornax today. Hail to the Goddess of Ovens!
I’d like your advice on a matter. I’ve decided that I’d like to start venerating the Lares and Penates in my household cultus. What advice would you have on this? I have also heard that sacrifices to the Lares and Penates should be done during every festival. Do you do this as well? Thanks for the help
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I do daily sacrifices to both. The Lars receive Cheerios (since They asked). Then Penates receive incense. I have two Lares statues in my kitchen with a milk bottle and a candle.
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What exactly are the Penates? I know They’re Gods of the Pantry but apparently They can also include any deity you are personally devoted to.
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For me the Penates keep my food in stock and available. I see Them as protecting the family from hunger in all forms. I think of Them as part of the home and the family.
My household has a veneration to Her. We honor Her daily when I pray at the lararium (it’s in the kitchen so it makes sense to roll Her into those prayers) and when I cook. Penates, Guason are household Gods that collectively keep everything running smoothly, esp. in the pantry and kitchen.
I do include my Household Gods (other Deities to Whom we have devotion) in my morning offerings at the Lararium as a matter of course though.
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I put in an order for a Lararium today so I’m super excited. Do you include all of the Gods you worship in the worship done at your Lararium or just the Greco-Roman ones?
I asked the Roman Gods what They wanted as well as the Norse/Saxon, Mesopotamian, and Ancestors what They wanted. I have separate altars for all of Them. Each requested their own altar with their own devotions. I have Baptist missionary Ancestors, who wanted to be separate from everyone else. They have a candle, I light on Christian holidays.
So, ask your Gods what They want to do. After all many Polytheists say, “So many Gods, so many altars, so little space.”