The God of the Month: Diana

diana_cacciatrice

The ancient Italic Goddess, Diana was first the Goddess of Wild Nature and Goddess of the Latin League. Her cult center at Lake Nemi (near Aricia) was first dedicated by Egerius Baebius of Tusculum for the Latin League. At Nemi, Diana Nemorensis (Diana of the Wild Wood) shared her sanctuary with Virbius and Egeria. A God of the Forest, Virbius is also the Consort of Diana. Meanwhile Egeria (Advisor of Numa Pompilius, the Second King of Rome) is the Goddess of the Sacred Well there.

Later in the 6th Century BCE, King Servius Tullius dedicated a temple to Diana at the Aventine Hill in Rome. As a foreign Goddess, Diana was worshipped outside the pomerium (religious boundary of Rome). As Diana Aventina (Diana of Aventine), She became the Goddess of Runaway Slaves, with her temple as their refuge.

After the dedication of her temple at Aventine, Diana became identified with the moon. (She also become conflated with the Greek Goddess Artemis.) In the Roman mind, the moon was related to childbirth. Cicero explains that the period of gestation was counted by the moon, as well as women’s menses. Therefore, Diana Lucina (Diana of the Light) became the Goddess of Childbirth. Women prayed to Her to grant them children and for ease in delivery.

Her main feast, the Nemoralia, is held on August 13. At her cult center of Nemi, women would march around the lake bearing torches. They added their light to that of the moon’s reflection. This was to honor Diana as the Goddess of the Moon.

Women, elsewhere, washed and adorned their hair with flowers and ribbons. Slaves and women were given the day off. People gathered in oak groves to tie ribbons, written with prayers, to the trees. Since hunting was forbidden during the Nemoralia, no meat was eaten.

Modern Roman Polytheists sacrifice bread baked in the shape of body parts. Diana Lucina is prayed to for healing these particular organs. As a woman, I wash and decorate my hair, and tie prayers to trees.

From M. Titinius Silvanus
Ave Diana
Great Goddess
Lady of Aventine Hill
Latona’s daughter
Splendid child of Jove
Twin of Apollo

Lunar lady
Mistress of the beasts
Lady of the wilds
Guardian of the oak
Master of the bow

Great Midwife
Friend of the nymphs
Protector of maidens
Guardian of virtue
Great Mother of Ephesus

You who possess such divine beauty, strength, agility, and grace.
May you hunt our enemies,
Protect us in the wilderness,
Maintain our purity,
Light our way,
And bless us with your radiant light.

Gods of the Month: August

When Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar, the Roman Senate voted to name a month for him – “July.” Caesar’s calendar (known as the Julian Calendar) featured alternating months of 30 and 31 days. July of course had 31 days. In contrast, February had the fewest days – 29, with leap year adding an extra day.

When Augustus became Emperor of Rome, the Senate voted to add “August” after July. Since August only had 30 days, the Senate took one from February and added it to this month. The calendar was rearranged with June and September having thirty days. August could not have any less days than July, since Augustus was equal to Julius Caesar.

For Romans, August is a busy month of festivals. The harvest is coming due and needs to be collected. Since the summer is still hot and dry, the fire season has started. Therefore, the Gods of Harvest and Gods of Fires are honored.

Vertumnus (Vortumnus)
Held on August 13, the Vertumnalia is to celebrate Vertumnus, the Changer of the Seasons. Since He is also the Husband of Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit, Vertumnus receives the first fruits of the harvest. This God is depicted holding in his right hand, grapes, cherries, and other fruits, while at his feet sets a basket of cucumbers. God of the Month: Vortumnus (Vertumnus)

Diana
The main festival honoring Diana, the Goddess of Wild Nature, Nemoralia is held on August 15. Also called “The Festival of Torches,” the Nemoralia takes place in sacred groves. Women wash and decorate their hair in flowers and ribbons. With lighted torches, they add their “light” to the moon’s glow. Afterwards, everyone tie prayers written on ribbons to the trees. (This festival later became the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.)

Portunus
To honor Portunus, the God of Ports and Keys, Romans hold the Portunalia on August 17. Because He first protected gates, Portunus is shown holding keys. During the Portunalia, people throw their keys into fires to safeguard their homes.  God of the Month: Portunus

Volcanus (Vulcan)
On August 23, the Volcanalia is held to ask Volcanus, the God of Raging Fires, to stay at rest. Sacrifices are also made to Stata Mater, the Goddess of Quenching the Fire and Juturna, the Goddess of Streams as well. To honor Volcanus, herds are driven over fires, and fish are offered. Also, people ask Him to protect their homes from fire.  God of the Month: Volcanus (Vulcan)

Consus and Ops
The first sets of two festivals for Consus and Ops is held on August 21, the Consualia, and August 25, the Opiconsivia. The second sets of festivals is held in December. The first set celebrates the end of the harvest, and the second the autumn sowing. Between the August festivals, the Mundus Patet (the Door to the Underworld) is opened on August 24 for the first time in the year.

The Consualia, a public festival, featured horse racing. The God of the Granary, Consus is also associated with mules and horses. He also received receive offerings of first fruits of the harvest.

Meanwhile the Opiconsivia for Ops, the Goddess of Plenty, is a private affair attended by the Vestal Virgins and the Sacerdos Publica (head priest). Ops in her role of Consiva (the Sower) is celebrated. Therefore during this festival to Ops, one hand touches the earth while invoking this Goddess.  Gods of the Month: Consus and Ops

Volturnus
Finally on August 27, the Volturnalia is held to ask Volturnus not to bring the drying winds. Originally an Etruscan God, Volturnus raises clouds of dust thereby causing much devastation. For the Ancient Romans, the drying winds came from the southeast, therefore Volturnus is also the God of the Southeast Wind. God of the Month: Volturnus

Silvanus, the God of Forests and Groves

bright countryside dawn daylight

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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

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)

Gods of the Month: May

For Romans, May (Maius) is sacred to Maia, the Goddess of the Growth of Living Things. As the Mother of Mercury, She is also honored with Him at the Mercuralia on May 15. On May 1st, Maia’s festival day and on the 15th, a priest of Vulcan (God of Fire) will sacrifice a pregnant sow to Her. Maia is his consort since Vulcan (Volcanus) is also the God who ripens the earth with his inner warmth. Modern Roman Polytheists will offer burnt pork to Maia.

May is also a gloomy month since the Dead roam freely at this time. The Lemuria is to ensure that the Dead are placated and do not trouble the living. Meanwhile, the Rosalia focused on placing roses and violets on graves.

The Days of the Dead
The major focus of this month is the Lemuria, the Roman Days of the Dead (May 9, 11, and 13). On these days, the Lemures (Larvae) seek out the living to have them give the Larvae proper burials. The Lemures also want people to make offerings in their memory to the Gods of the Dead. Meanwhile, the living do certain rites to ensure that Larvae not harm them or their families. (The Larvae could be considered the “Undead.”)

Until the 8th Century, May 13 was All Saints’ Day for Christians. During the 730s, Pope Gregory III changed the feast date to November 1. He wanted to accommodate the Celtic Christians, who had grown in numbers. Meanwhile, Roman Lemuria can be considered the Roman equivalent of Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.

Mercury (Mercurius)
For Romans, Mercury is the God of Commerce, Merchants, and Thieves. On May 15, merchants would bless themselves and their wares from his sacred well, which was located outside of the Sacred Boundary (Pomerium) of Rome. Modern Roman Polytheists will use water from local streams to bless their local banks and stores.

Julius Caesar noted that Mercury was the most popular God in the Celtic and Germanic regions closest to Roman territories. These peoples regarded Mercury to be the inventor of the arts. In Celtic areas, He was frequently accompanied by Rosmerta, Celtic Goddess of Abundance and Prosperity.      God of the Month: Mercury

The Ambarvalia
At the end of May, people would walk the perimeters of their fields bringing offerings of milk, honey and wine. Ancient Romans herded a boar, ram, and a bull around the boundaries, and then sacrificed them. Modern Roman Polytheists offer meats from the store, and ask for the blessings of Mars and Ceres on the crops.