Silvanus, the God of Forests and Groves

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From ancient times, Romans have regarded groves to be sacred. Besides Silvanus (the God of Forests), other Gods are worshipped in groves. Diana (Goddess of the Hunt) and Dea Dia (the Good Goddess) had dedicated groves where sacrifices were made. At other places, travelers would stop, rest, and then make offerings of fruit. I do that when I visit parks.

Romans have different classes of woodlands. A locus is a small wooded area with beams of light breaking through it. A nemus could be either an arboretum or a clearing in the woods. It could be consecrated or simply be a place of inspiration. In contrast, the lucar is the cool, dark and silent part of the woods. The natural forest is the silva, and the saltus, the wilderness. As a rule, Romans do not go into forests (lucar, silva) because of the strange spirits who lived there. Odd noises that come from the forest are often unnerving messages for them.

Silvanus, the God of Forests, Groves and Wild Fields, guards the forests. He governs the Children of Fauna and Faunus who dwell in the deep woods (saltus). Popular among Romans, Silvanus still receives much veneration. Although He has never had a temple, Silvanus is worshiped in the forests receiving the first fruits.

Note: Silvanus has other aspects:
Silvanus Domesticus: Guardian of the house
Silvanus Agrestis: the flocks
Silvanus Orientalis: the boundaries of the property

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Poplifugia, Nonae Caprotinae, Vitulatio

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On July 7, the Nonae Caprotinae (The Feast of the Wild Fig) is held. Offerings of figs are made under the boughs of figs for Juno Caprotina by the serving girls of Rome. This festival is so ancient that even the Romans had trouble discerning what it was about.

Conflicting ideas about the origins of the Nonae Caprotinae adds to the confusion. Is it about the serving girls who saved Rome from the Latins? Or is it about Romulus, the Founder of Rome, who disappeared in a cloud? Is it related to the Poplifugia (the Flight of the People) held earlier on July 5?

The Palus Caprae (Goat’s Marsh) features in both Romulus’ vanishing and in the Popifugia. This is the place where he was taken up into a cloud. The Palus Caprae is also where the Romans fled in a panic (reportedly from the Etruscans). Meanwhile, Juno Caprotina, who receives the offerings of figs, is depicted wearing a goat headdress, and driving a chariot pulled by goats. A part of fertility rites, the goat is perhaps the unifying thread.

In Italy, figs are harvested in June and July. This fruit is noted for two things – being prolific and as a purgative. The Popifugia may have to do with the cleansing of the city, which would connect it to the Nonae Caprotinae.

Juno Caprotina overseas marriage and fertility. At the Nonae Caprotinae, one aspect of the festival celebrates the marriage of the caprificus (goat fig) and the ficus (fig). The Romans regarded the caprificus to be wild, and the ficus domesticated. (In the Roman mind, wildness is male, and domestication is female.)

The third related festival related to the Poplifugia and the Nonae Caprotinae is the Vitulatio, which is celebrated on July 8. Macrobius claims the Vitulatio marks the comeback victory of the Romans. As an act of thanksgiving, Vitula, the Goddess of Victory Celebrations, is given the first fruits.

Gods of the Month: July

Hot and dry July (Julius) has Romans focusing on the Gods of Water. The major festival for Neptune, the God of the Waters, is held in July. Also, Apollo, as the God of Healing, has games held in his honor. Other festivals held in July include the Nonae Caprotinae (Nones of the Wild Fig) and Lucaria (Grove Clearing). (Before the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar, July was Quinctilis, the fifth month. Later it was renamed for Caesar, himself.) (The Roman Calendar)

Apollo
On the advice of the Sibylline Books, Romans held games for Apollo for to ask for help in the Second Punic War (212 BCE). They had just experienced several major defeats. Then later, the games became yearly to thank Him for his help in ending a city wide plague. The Ludi Apollinares (Apolline Games) are held from July 6 to 13. They include theater performances, games, and fairs. People would wear garlands and feast at the entrances of their homes.

Apollo was first considered to be a God of Healing by the Romans. Since He was a Greek God, his temples were built outside of the official boundary of Rome. During the Empire, the Romans also considered Him to be a God of Bards and Diviners. (Sol Indiges is the Roman God of the Sun.) (God of the Month: Apollo)

Pales
The second Parilia is held on July 7. (The April Parilia is for small livestock.) The July Parilia is for sheep and cattle. Animals and their pens are cleaned out and smudged with sulfur. Pales are/is the God/s of Livestock. (God of the Month: Pales)

Juno Caprotina
Also on July 7, the Nonae Caprotinae is held. Traditionally, offerings of figs were given to Juno Caprotina under the wild fig (caprificus). This is to honor Her as the Goddess of Serving Women. In modern times, it can be celebrated by giving figs in Juno Caprotina’s name to service workers.

Silvanus and the Forest Gods
Lucaria, the Festival of the Grove, is held on July 19 and 21. Traditionally, the Romans would clear land or thin woods at this time. They made offerings of a pig to Silvanus and the Forest Gods for permission to clear wood. Lucaria also included votives of works of arts placed in the standing groves. On these two days, I make offerings to the stands of trees near my home.

Neptune and Furrina
Coming into the driest part of the summer, the Romans were concerned about their water supplies. Held on July 23, the Neptunalia celebrates Neptune in his role as the God of Irrigation. Neptune (Neptunus) is the God of Fresh Water, and Salacia, the Goddess of Salt Walter, is regarded to be His Wife. (Neptunus Oceanus is Neptune of the Oceans.) On July 25, the Furrinalia was held for the Goddess Furrina, who watched over wells and other underground water sources. Modern Roman polytheists hold ceremonies to thank both Gods for water. (Gods of the Month: Neptune and Furrina)

Tempestas and the Gods of the Winds

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In June, Tempestas, the Goddess of Storms is given offerings by Romans to keep travelers safe. I find that interesting since June is also the start of the hurricane season in the Atlantic. Perhaps it is not that surprising since hurricanes can influence weather in Europe.

Besides Tempestas, I make offering to the Gods of the Winds. Having good relations with the Winds is necessary to work weather magic. For example, farmers want rain and sun during certain months, while sailors want to avoid wind storms at sea.

The Wind Gods of Rome have the attributes of the climate of Southern Europe. Since I do not know the names of my local Wind Gods, I use the Roman names if they fit. Some of those Wind Gods share similar attributes of the climate of Washington D.C. I believe that different areas are governed by different Gods of Winds (and Storms). Some like Hurican, the Carib God of Storms, rules over the Atlantic and East Pacific Oceans.

Aquilo of the Northeast brings the cold weather. We receive Nor’easters that blow northeast to southwest. These massive storms bring snow or rain, lingering for days. Corus, the oldest of the Roman Wind Gods, blows the cold in from the Northwest, Where I live, our winds of winter come from the West (October through March). Meanwhile for the Romans, Favonius of the West brings spring. For us, the North Wind comes in April.

Starting in May and throughout the summer, the wind is from the South. For the Romans, Auster of the South brought the sirocco from North Africa. This Wind God governs the strong winds of summer and autumn. Volturnus of the Southeast brings the warm rains and winds. Our major storms come from the Southeast. Vulturnus of the East also brings warmth and rain. However, Washington D.C. rarely receives any wind from the East.

Our Wind Gods include Derecho, Hurricane and Nor’easter. Each Wind God is formidable in their own right. Arriving without warning, Derecho is a “thunderstorm-induced straight-line wind” — a squall line with exceptionally strong winds. Derecho. Every few years, Derecho will arrive during the summer to wreak havoc.

Named after Hurican, Hurricane arises in the warm seasons of summer and fall. Spawning in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane brings strong winds and torrential rains. This forceful Wind God creates inlets and destroys islands.

Nor’easter rules only the Eastern coast of North America. Occurring in the colder months, the intense Nor’easter can batter an area for days. Severe flooding often occurs from the high storm surges.

Throughout the world, Wind Gods reign over various regions. Australia has the dusty Brickfielder. For South Africa the Cape Doctor blows form the Southeast. Each has their own particular attributes.

Monotheistic Filter: Expulsion from Eden

The Goddess religions reject the over-emphasis of the masculine Divinity in Monotheist religions and the subjugation of women. These religions depict the expulsion from the Garden of Eden as the Goddess being deposed by the God. The patriarchy that many Goddess Pagans rail about destroyed the peaceful matriarchy of prehistory.

The work of Marija Gimbutas, Lithuanian-American archeologist, implanted the idea of the Great Mother Goddess in prehistory in Pagan minds. The original idea was started by Johann Jakob Bachofern, Swiss anthropologist, in the 1860s. He asserted that the early Europeans were matriarchal. Friederic Engels (of Marx and Engels) reformulated Bachofern’s idea into a matriarchal Golden Age that was dislodged by the patriarchy of the Indo-Europeans.

Marija Gimbutas described the former Goddess culture of Europe. Ruled by female shamans, this peaceful and egalitarian culture nurtured all life. Gimbutas continued, “Through an understanding of what the Goddess was, we can better understand nature and we can build our ideologies so it will be easier for us to live.” (Note 1) Joan Marler, American archeomythologist, added, “If her theories are correct, then peace, reverence for the earth and the honoring of life are not only human capabilities, they are the very underpinnings of European civilization itself.” (Note 2)

Because of the Great Goddess myth, various Deities of prehistory are seen as Great Mother Goddesses. The interpretation of the objects of prehistory have been subverted into a Goddess Culture. For instance, the Bird Goddess becomes the supreme image of the Holy, with Inanna of Sumer and Isis of Egypt, Her Aspects. The Monotheistic Filter employed by the Goddess religions eliminates the male to formulate the One Goddess.

Notes:

Note 1. “About Marija Gimbutas,” Belili Productions.

Note 2. Ibid.

Works Used:
“About Marija Gimbutas,” Belili Productions. 2007. Web: http://www.belili.org/marija/aboutmarija.html

Adkins, Lesley and Roy Adkins, “Dictionary of Roman Religion.” New York: Oxford University Press. 1996.

Black, Jeremy and Anthony Green, “Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia.” Austin: University of Texas Press. 2014.

Blair, Nancy, “Amulets of the Goddess.” Oakland (CA): Wingbow Press. 1993.
“Goddess for Every Season.” Oakland (CA): Wingbow

Gimbutas, Marija, “The Language of the Goddess: Unearthing the Hidden Symbols of Western Civilization.” San Francisco: Harper & Row. 1989.

Markale, Jean, “The Great Goddess.” Rochester (VT): Inner Traditions. 1997.

Marler, Joan, “The Myth of the Universal Patriarchy.” 2003. Web: http://belili.org/marija/eller_response.html

Orr, Emma, “Kissing The Hag.” Winchester (UK): O-Books. 2009.

Paper, Jordan, “The Deities Are Many.” Albany NY: State University of New York Press. 2005.

Penry, Tylluan, “Sacred Shadows: Ice Age Spirituality.” U.K.: The Wolfenhowlepress. 2013.

Ravenna, Morpheus, “Banshee Arts.” Web: http://bansheearts.com/blog/.
“The Book of the Great Queen.” Richmond (CA): Concrescent Press. 2014.

Gods of the Month: June

June (Junius) is dedicated to Juno, the Patroness of Women. It is unclear why Juno is honored by Romans at this time, since only Juno Moneta has a festival day in June. However, marriages in the last two weeks of June were considered especially blessed by this Goddess of Marriage. For more on Juno: God of the Month: Juno Regina

VESTA
The main focus of June is the Vestalia from June 7 to 15. The Inner Sanctum of the Temple of Vesta, Goddess of the Hearth, was opened to women. The temple was cleaned, purified, and rededicated. (The rubbish was then into the Tiber River.) In the Roman religion, Vesta is the Perpetual Fire, Who keeps the Pact between the People and the Gods. For more on Vesta: God of the Month: Vesta

HERCULES
I have personal cultus to Hercules, who is considered to be one of the early founders of Rome. Some of the Greek mythology of Heracules was grafted onto Hercules, the Roman God Hero. However, Romans had their own particular myths about Him. For example, the focus of Hercules’ worship, the Ara Maxima (the Greatest Altar) is where He killed Cacus, the monster who terrorized the early Romans.

Two temples of Hercules have dedications this month. Hercules Magno Custodi (the Great Custodian) has one on June 4, and Hercules Musarum (of the Muses) on June 29. The first was vowed on the orders of the Sibylline Books in light of Hannibal’s victories against Rome. The second was where poets and others would come to pay their respects to Hercules and the Muses. For more on Hercules: God of the Month: Hercules

SUMMANUS
Another God, I have a cultus for is Summanus, the God of the Nocturnal Heavens. He ruled the night as Jupiter ruled the day. His festival day is June 20, when people offered round breads imprinted with wheels to Him. For more on Summanus: God of the Month: Summanus

For more on June in Her many aspects:

God of the Month: Juno Moneta

God of the Month: Juno Lucina

The Ambarvalia

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At the end of May, the Ambarvalia is held. This festival centers on asking the blessings of Mars and Ceres for the growing crops. Traditionally, a boar, a ram and a bull were sacrificed (Note 1). Modern Romans will offer meat from the store. During the Ambarvalia, the boundaries of the fields are walked with people making offerings of milk, honey and incense for Ceres and the meat for Mars.

As with other Roman festivals, the Ambarvalia was adapted by the Christian Church. Rogation Days, which precede Ascension Day, copies aspects of the Ambarvalia. Processions would go around to parish boundaries singing hymns. Along they way, they would stop at various fields to pray for God’s blessings on the new crops.

A Roman Prayer for Ambarvalia:

“Father Mars I pray and beseech You that You may be propitious and well-disposed to me, our home, and household, for which cause I have ordered the offering of pig, sheep, and ox to be led ‘round my field, my land, and my farm, that you might prevent, ward off, and avert diseases, visible and invisible; barrenness and waste; accident and bad water; that you would permit the crop and fruit of the earth, the vines and shrubs to grow great and prosper, that you would preserve the shepherds and their flocks in safety and give prosperity and health to me and our house and household. To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm, my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims.”
(from Nova Roma’s website)

Note 1: The suovetaurila is the triple sacrifice of principal livestock. Only Mars, Neptune and Apollo received this sacrifice.