Gods of the month:Faunus, Inuus, and the She-Wolf of Rome

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Next to Saturnalia, Lupercalia is one of the best known of Roman festivals. People focus on the young men who chase people on the street, with whips. Using goatskin whips (februa), they beat everyone they meet. Women who want children would seek them out to be whipped. These women believed that this act would make them fertile.

However, the Lupercalia is more than a drunken excuse for sexual intercourse. Faunus and Inuus, both Gods of Fertility, are invoked for not only the increase in children but also in herds.

This ancient and complex festival occurred during the time of honoring the Dead. The ritual started at the Lupercal Cave, where the She-Wolf, who nursed Romulus and Remus had lived. Sacrifices of goats and a dog by the luperci (“wolfman priests”) were made. Then two youths were clothed with goatskin and smeared with blood. After laughing, they chased everyone on the streets. This festival marks when the Romans were shepherds. The running through the streets was to set the original boundaries and to purify the city.

I have a low key Lupercalia. I run through my house dusting. Then I make offerings at a secluded place for the She-Wolf. Offerings are also left for Faunus and Inuus at the edge of the woods.

Faunus is associated with the borderlands between the pastures and the forests. This oracular God spoke to people using the noises of the woods. As a God of Fertility, Faunus is also identified with Inuus, the God of Sexual Intercourse. Later, Faunus become conflated with the Greek God Pan and took on his goat-like attributes.

“Amorous Faunus from whom the Nymphs flee, step lightly across my boundaries and sunny fields, and soon depart, leaving your blessing on my young lambs and kids and leveled tender shoots.” – Horace, Carmena Liber III.xviii.1-8.

Gods of the Month: February

In February, Romans prepare for the coming of spring by purifying themselves, their homes, and their regions. “February” comes from februum (purgation), and the februa (expiatory rituals). Ceremonies for the Dead abound, since a part of purification is fulfilling the obligations to the Dead. For example, the Lupercalia and Quirinalia have specific purifications rites as a part of their rituals. In addition, the Terminalia and Fornacalia are a part of the worship of the Di Parentes (Parents). Meanwhile, the Feralia focused on all the Dead and the Parentalia on the Lar Familiaris (family spirit).

For Roman Polytheists, the focus on the Dead puts them outside the norm of Pagans, who usually follow the Wheel of the Year. For these Pagans, Samhain, held in October, is when the Dead walk the earth. Meanwhile, Imbolc, which is held in February, is the fire festival of Brighid. This time of restrained joy focuses on the returning of new life. In contrast, for Romans, February is the time that the Dead walk freely amongst the living.

Fornax and Quirinus

The Fornacalia is held between February 5 and 17. At this time, in ancient Rome, people brought grain to the communal ovens to be parched in the ancient manner of their fathers. Fornax, the Goddess of Bakers and Ovens, was invoked to keep the wheat from burning. The last day of the Fornacalia is the Quirinalia, also known as “The Feast of Fools.” This is the time that people who delayed bringing their grain came to fulfill their civic duty. Modern observances involved making bread from scratch, and making offerings to Juno Curitis (Juno of the Curia (Wards)).

Quirinus is thought to be the deified Romulus, and represents the Romans in their civic sense. “Quirites” is what officials addressed Roman citizens as. In their military capacity, Romans were called “Romani.”

Die Parentes and Di Manes (The Dead)

The Parentalia starts February 13 and runs through February 21. The Caristia on February 22 officially ends this period of venerating the Dead. During this time, the Lupercalia and Feralia are held. Each ritual focuses on a different aspect of purification, families, and the Dead. The Parentalia is a private ceremony that the family does to honor their dead. The Feralia entails visiting the graves and making offerings. The Caristia is a family feast, where all quarrels between family members are settled. Family unity is then cemented with the household Lars.

Faunus and Inuus

On February 15, the Lupercalia is held. Traditionally, sacrifices were made at the Lupercal Cave in Rome, where the She-Wolf nursed Romulus and Remus. This was followed by the Lupercii (young men) running through the streets striking women with the februa (goatskin whips). This was to insure fertility in the women. Traditional Gods of Fertility, Faunus and Inuus preside over the Lupercalia. Modern observances entail prayers for purification and fertility, the cleaning of the house and self, and offerings left in secluded areas.

Terminus

The Terminalia, held on February 23, honors the God of Boundaries. It is a time of purifying the land and redefining the boundaries between homes. The “beating of the bounds” which entails walking around the perimeter reestablishes the boundaries for another year. Cakes and wine are offered to Terminus during this activity.