Deities

Deity of the Day for June 22nd – Olwen, Welsh Goddess

Deity of the Day


Olwen

Welsh Goddess

(Welsh) [O-loon] Also Olwyn. A daughter of the king of the Giants, Ysbadadden. Her name means “the golden wheel”, which makes some see her as an opposing force to Arianrhod of “the silver wheel”. Her other nickname was “Lady of the White Tracks” because wherever she walked the trefoil plants commonly called shamrocks would pop up. This indicated that she may have been a Triple Goddess unto herself with several other associations long lost to us.

The hero Culhwch was a suitor of Olwen’s who went on a mythic journey to find her after her father, who knew he would die if their marriage took place, hid her. In this part of the myth she is the May Queen, a partner of the new sacrificial God who takes the place of the old one

Olwen also had adventures in faeryland after she was captured by horse riding faeries. She was rescued by her father after a year and a day of captivity. (May Queens are often linked to the faery kingdom.)

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Deity of the Day for June 14th – Lugh (Celtic God)

Deity of the Day

Lugh

Master of Skills

 

Patron of the Arts:

Similar to the Roman god Mercury, Lugh was known as a god of both skill and the distribution of talent. There are countless inscriptions and statues dedicated to Lugh, and Julius Caesar himself commented on this god’s importance to the Celtic people. Although he was not a war god in the same sense as the Roman Mars, Lugh was considered a warrior because to the Celts, skill on the battlefield was a highly valued ability.

In Ireland, which was never invaded by Roman troops, Lugh is called sam ildanach, meaning he was skilled in many arts simultaneously.

Lugh Enters the Hall of Tara:

In one famous legend, Lugh arrives at Tara, the hall of the high kings of Ireland. The guard at the door tells him that only one person will be admitted with a particular skill — one blacksmith, one wheelwright, one bard, etc. Lugh enumerates all the great things he can do, and each time the guard says, “Sorry, we’ve already got someone here who can do that.” Finally Lugh asks, “Ah, but do you have anyone here who can do them ALL?” At last, Lugh was allowed entrance to Tara.

The Book of Invasions:

Much of the early history of Ireland is recorded in the Book of Invasions, which recounts the many times Ireland was conquered by foreign enemies. According to this chronicle, Lugh was the grandson of one of the Fomorians, a monstrous race that were the enemy of the Tuatha De Danann. Lugh’s grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, had been told he would be murdered by a grandson, so he imprisoned his only daughter in a cave.

One of the Tuatha seduced her, and she gave birth to triplets. Balor drowned two of them, but Lugh survived and was raised by a smith. He later led the Tuatha in battle, and indeed killed Balor.

Roman Influence:

Julius Caesar believed that most cultures worshipped the same gods and simply called them by different names. In his Gallic War essays, he enumerates the popular deities of the Gauls and refers to them by what he saw as a corresponding Roman name. Thus, references made to Mercury actually are attributed to a god Caesar also calls Lugus — Lugh. This god’s cult was centered in Lugundum, which later became Lyon, France. His festival on August 1 was selected as the day of the Feast of Augustus, by Caesar’s successor, Octavian Augustus Caesar, and it was the most important holiday in all of Gaul.

Weapons and War:

Although not specifically a war god, Lugh was known as a skilled warrior. His weapons included a mighty magic spear, which was so bloodthirsty that it often tried to fight without its owner. According to Irish myth, in battle, the spear flashed fire and tore through the enemy ranks unchecked. In parts of Ireland, when a thunderstorm rolls in, the locals say that Lugh and Balor are sparring – thus giving Lugh one more role, as a god of storms.

The Many Aspects of Lugh:

According to Peter Beresford Ellis, the Celts held smithcraft in high regard. War was a way of life, and smiths were considered to have magical gifts — after all, they were able to master the element of Fire, and mold the metals of the earth using their strength and skill. Yet in Caesar’s writings, there are no references to a Celtic equivalent of Vulcan, the Roman smith god.

In early Irish mythology, the smith is called Goibhniu, and is accompanied by two brothers to create a triple god-form. The three craftsmen make weaponry and carry out repairs on Lugh’s behalf as the entire host of the Tuatha De Danann prepares for war. In a later Irish tradition, the smith god is seen as a master mason or a great builder. In some legends, Goibhniu is Lugh’s uncle who saves him from Balor and the monstrous Formorians.

One God, Many Names

The Celts had many gods and goddesses, due in part to the fact that each tribe had its own patron deities, and within a region there might be gods associated with particular locations or landmarks. For example, a god who watched over a particular river or mountain might only be recognized by the tribes who lived in that area. Lugh was fairly versatile, and was honored nearly universally by the Celts. The Gaulish Lugos is connected to the Irish Lugh, who in turn is connected to the Welsh Llew Llaw Gyffes.

Celebrating the Harvest of Grain

The Book of Invasions tells us that Lugh came to be associated with grain in Celtic mythology after he held an harvest fair in honor of his foster mother, Tailtiu. This day became August 1, and that date ties in with the first grain harvest in agricultural societies in the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, in Irish Gaelic, the word for August is lunasa. Lugh is honored with corn, grains, bread, and other symbols of the harvest. This holiday was called Lughnasadh (pronounced Loo-NA-sah). Later, in Christian England the date was called Lammas, after the Saxon phrase hlaf maesse, or “loaf mass.”

An Ancient God for Modern Times

For many Pagans and Wiccans, Lugh is honored as the champion of artistry and skills. Many artisans, musicians, bards, and crafters invoke Lugh when they need assistance with creativity. Today Lugh is still honored at the time of harvest, not only as a god of grain but also as a god of late summer storms.

Even today, in Ireland many people celebrate Lughnasadh with dancing, song, and bonfires. The Catholic church also has set this date aside for a ritual blessing of farmers’ fields.

 

 

Source:

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Deity of the Day for June 13th is Minerva Roman Goddess of Wisdom

Deity of the Day

Minerva

Roman Goddess of Wisdom

 

Areas of Influence: Minerva was the Goddess of wisdom and crafts.

Only in Rome was she worshiped as the Goddess of war.

This Goddess represented the application of intellect to everyday tasks. As the Goddess of wisdom she was accredited with inventing spinning, weaving, numbers and music. Her attributes were so numerous that Ovid described her as the “Goddess of a thousand works.”
She is also the patron of Goddess of medicine.

Origins and Genealogy: The name of this Goddess is said to be of Etruscan origin.

Her parents were Jupiter and Métis. Elements of the myths surrounding her birth however have been poached from Greek Goddess Athena, as she too is born fully grown, from her father’s head.

She was considered third among the Gods and Goddesses and was part of the Capitolian triad alongside Juna and Jupiter.

Strengths: Wisdom, creativity and strength.

Weaknesses: Out of touch with emotions.

Minerva’s Symbolism

The Roman Goddess of wisdom is depicted in full battle dress with a coat of mail, a helmet and a spear.

Sacred Animal/Insect: Owl and the spider.

Sacred Plants: Her sacred plants were the olive, mulberry and alder trees.

Festivals: The main festival celebrating this Goddess took place March 19th – 23rd.

A smaller festival occurred later in the year on the 13th of June.

Greek Equivalent: Athena

Minerva’s Archetypes

The Teacher/ Inventor:

The Teacher and Inventor communicates knowledge, experience and wisdom.

In it’s shadow aspect, the Teacher may manipulate and mislead their students by indoctrinating them with negative beliefs and destructive behaviours.

This is Minerva’s primary Archetype as she teaches humans how to spin and weave. She is also accredited in Roman mythology for inventing numbers and medicine.

The Warrior:

Archetype represents physical strength, and the ability to protect and fight for your rights and those of of others.

The shadow side of the Warrior reflects the need to win at all costs, abandoning ethical principles to prove your supremacy.

Although Roman mythology borrows heavily from it’s Greek counterparts, it is only in Rome that Minerva is worshipped as the Goddess of war, despite always being depicted in full battle dress. This is why I have ranked this Archetype as only of secondary importance for this Goddess.

How To Work With These Archetypes

The Teacher/Inventor:

This Archetype may suggest a love of passing on wisdom and learning to others.

This Goddess wise counsel can also be called upon to help you see a way through any present difficulties or to help you to master a new skill.

The shadow aspect of this stereo type is also a reminder that whenever we find ourselves in a teaching or mentoring role we must aim to be a positive role model, encouraging others to reach their full potential.

The Warrior:

If you are drawn to work with this Goddess you may require her Warrior spirit to help you to stand up for your rights and set firm personnal boundries. This Goddess can be a great stereotype to work with if you want to take control in your life, and wish to no longer play the role of the victim.

You may also wish to call upon this Goddess to champion the cause of others.

Conversely this Goddess may appeal to you if you have a very strong sense of self and are proud of the victories you have achieved. The shadow side may be asking you to reflect honestly on the cost of these victories. Have they been at the expense of others or your principals?

 

 

Source:

The Goddess-Guide.com

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Deity of the Day for June 9th is Eris, Goddess of Chaos

Deity of the Day

Eris

A goddess of chaos, Eris is often present in times of discord and strife. She loves to start trouble, just for her own sense of amusement, and perhaps one of the best known examples of this was a little dustup called the Trojan War.

It all started with the wedding of Thetis and Pelias, who would eventually have a son named Achilles. All of the gods of Olympus were invited, including Hera, Aphrodite and Athena – but Eris’ name got left off the guest list, because everyone knew how much she enjoyed causing a ruckus.

Eris, the original wedding crasher, showed up anyway, and decided to have a little fun. She tossed a golden apple – the Apple of Discord – into the crowd, and said it was for the most beautiful of the goddesses. Naturally, Athena, Aphrodite and Hera had to bicker over who was the rightful owner of the apple.

Zeus, trying to be helpful, chose a young man named Paris, a prince of the city of Troy, to select a winner. Aphrodite offered Paris a bribe he couldn’t resist – Helen, the lovely young wife of King Menelaus of Sparta. Paris selected Aphrodite to receive the apple, and thus guaranteed that his hometown would be demolished by the end of the war.

 

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Deity of the Day for May 14th is Pomona

Deity of the Day

Pomona

Areas of Influence: Pomona was one of the Numina, the Roman guardian spirits who watched over people, homes and special places. She protected fruiting trees and gardens.

She is an agricultural Goddess , responsible for the care and cultivation of fruit trees and orchards. Her name is actually derived from the Latin word pomun, meaning fruit. Her dedication to her work left her little time for love. She turned down the offers of marriage from Silvanus and Picus but was eventually tricked into marriage by Vertumnus. This deity was served by high priests known as Flamen Pomonalis in a sacred grove known as the Pomonal.

Origins and Genealogy: I can find no references to her parents, siblings and children.

Strengths: A nurturer, dedicated to her job. As a fertility Goddess she represented abundance.

Weaknesses: So busy looking after her trees that she has little time for herself.

Symbolism: A popular figure in art she is shown as a beautiful Goddess carrying a knife to prune with and a platter of fruit or a cornucopia.

Sacred Animal/Bird/Plant: Apples.

Festival: A feast was held annually on the November 1st when apples, nuts and grapes were consumed to celebrate the harvest.

Unlike many of the Roman Goddesses she has no specific Greek equivalent.

Pomona’s Archetype

The Mother

The Mother is a life-giver and the source of nurturing, devotion, patience and unconditional love. The ability to forgive and provide for her children and put them before herself is the essence of a good mother.

In its shadow aspect the Mother can be devouring, abusive and abandoning. The shadow Mother can also make her children feel guilty about becoming independent and leaving her. It is not necessary to be a biological Mother to have this stereotype. It can refer to anyone who has a lifelong pattern of nurturing and devotion to living things.

As Goddess of the harvest she represents the Mother Archetype as she nurtures the fruits, trees and the plants in the garden.

How to Work With This Archetype

The Mother

You are exhibiting the features of the shadow Mother if you smother your children and are over protective. Encourage independence and allow children to make mistakes but be available to give care and advice when it’s needed.

The other shadow Mother is the one that abandons her children, or is so busy that she has no time for nurturing her young.

 

Source:
Goddess-Guide.com

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Song of the Goddess

Egyptian Comments & Graphics
SONG OF THE GODDESS

(based on an invocation by Morgan*)

I am the Great Mother, worshipped by all creation and existent prior to their consciousness. I am the primal female force, boundless and eternal.

I am the chaste Goddess of the Moon, the Lady of all magic. The winds and moving leaves sing my name. I wear the crescent Moon upon my brow and my feet rest among the starry heavens. I am mysteries teries yet unsolved, a path newly set upon. I am a field untouched by the plow. Rejoice in me and know the fullness of youth.

I am the blessed Mother, the gracious Lady of the harvest. I am clothed with the deep, cool wonder of the Earth and the gold of the fields heavy with grain. By me the tides of the Earth are ruled; all things come to fruition according to my season. I am refuge and healing. ing. I am the life-giving Mother, wondrously fertile.

Worship me as the Crone, tender of the unbroken cycle of death and rebirth. I am the wheel, the shadow of the Moon. I rule the tides of women and men and give release and renewal to weary souls. Though the darkness of death is my domain, the joy of birth is my gift.

I am the Goddess of the Moon, the Earth, the Seas. My names and strengths are manifold. I pour forth magic and power, peace and wisdom. dom. I am the eternal Maiden, Mother of all, and Crone of darkness, and I send you blessings of limitless love.

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

Scott Cunningham

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Deity of the Day for May 4th is Bona Dea, The Good Goddess

Deity of the Day

Bona_Dea_-338x500

 Bona Dea

The Good Goddess

Bona Dea (“The Good Goddess”) was a divinity in ancient Roman religion. She was associated with chastity and fertility in women, healing, and the protection of the Roman state and people. According to Roman literary sources, she was brought from Magna Graecia at some time during the early or middle Republic, and was given her own state cult on the Aventine Hill.

Her rites allowed women the use of strong wine and blood-sacrifice, things otherwise forbidden them by Roman tradition. Men were barred from her mysteries and the possession of her true name. Given that male authors had limited knowledge of her rites and attributes, ancient speculations about her identity abound, among them that she was an aspect of Terra, Ops, the Magna Mater, or Ceres, or a Latin form of Damia. Most often, she was identified as the wife, sister or daughter of the god Faunus, thus an equivalent or aspect of the nature-goddess Fauna, who could prophesy the fates of women.

The goddess had two annual festivals. One was held at her Aventine temple; the other was hosted by the wife of Rome’s senior annual magistrate, for an invited group of elite matrons and female attendants. The latter festival came to scandalous prominence in 62 BC, when the politician Clodius Pulcher was tried for his intrusion on the rites, allegedly bent on the seduction of Julius Caesar’s wife, whom Caesar later divorced because “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”. The rites remained a subject of male curiosity and speculation, both religious and prurient.

Bona Dea’s cults in the city of Rome were led by the Vestal Virgins, and her provincial cults by virgin or matron priestesses. Surviving statuary shows her as a sedate Roman matron with a cornucopia and a snake. Personal dedications to her are attested among all classes, especially plebeians, freedmen and women, and slaves. Approximately one third of her dedications are from men, some of whom may have been lawfully involved in her cult.

Titles, names and origins

Bona Dea (“The Good Goddess”) is both an honorific title and a respectful pseudonym; the goddess’ true or cult name is unknown. Her other, less common pseudonyms include Feminea Dea (“The Women’s Goddess”), Laudandae…Deae (“The Goddess…to be Praised”)., and Sancta (“The Holy One”). She is a goddess of “no definable type”, with several origins and a range of different characteristics and functions.

Based on what little they knew of her rites and attributes, Roman historians speculated her true name and identity. Festus describes her as identical with a “women’s goddess” named Damia, which Georges Dumézil sees as an ancient misreading of Greek “Demeter”. In the late Imperial era, the neoplatonist author Macrobius identifies her as a universal earth-goddess, an epithet of Maia, Terra, or Magna Mater, worshiped under the names of Ops, Fauna and Fatua. The Christian author Lactantius, claiming the late Republican polymath Varro as his source, describes her as Faunus’ wife and sister, named Fenta Fauna, or Fenta Fatua (Fenta “the prophetess” or Fenta “the foolish”).

Republican era

The known features of Bona Dea’s cults recall those of various earth and fertility goddesses of the Graeco-Roman world, especially the Thesmophoria festival to Demeter. They included nocturnal rites conducted by predominantly or exclusively female intitiates and female priestesses, music, dance and wine, and sacrifice of a sow. During the Roman Republican era, two such cults to Bona Dea were held at different times and locations in the city of Rome.

One was held on May 1 at Bona Dea’s Aventine temple. Its date connects her to Maia; its location connects her to Rome’s plebeian commoner class, whose tribunes and emergent aristocracy resisted patrician claims to rightful religious and political dominance. The festival and temple’s foundation year is uncertain – Ovid credits it to Claudia Quinta (c. late 3rd century BC). The rites are inferred as some form of mystery, concealed from the public gaze and, according to most later Roman literary sources, entirely forbidden to men. In the Republican era, Bona Dea’s Aventine festivals were probably distinctly plebeian affairs, open to all classes of women and perhaps, in some limited fashion, to men. Control of her Aventine cult seems to have been contested at various times during the Mid Republican era; a dedication or rededication of the temple in 123 BC by the Vestal Virgin Licinia, with the gift of an altar, shrine and couch, was immediately annulled as unlawful by the Roman Senate; Licinia herself was later charged with inchastity, and executed. By the Late Republic era, Bona Dea’s May festival and Aventine temple could have fallen into official disuse, or official disrepute.

The goddess also had a Winter festival, thoroughly documented but attested on only two occasions (63 and 62 BC). It was held in December, at the home of the current senior annual Roman magistrate cum imperio, whether consul or praetor. It was hosted by the magistrate’s wife and attended by respectable matrons of the Roman elite. This winter festival is not marked on any known religious calendar but was dedicated to the public interest and supervised by the Vestals, and therefore must be considered official. Shortly after 62 BC, Cicero presents it as one of very few lawful nocturnal festivals allowed to women, privileged to those of aristocratic class, and coeval with Rome’s earliest history.

Festival rites

The Winter festival is known primarily through Cicero’s account, supplemented by later Roman authors. First, the house was ritually cleansed of all male persons and presences, even male animals and male portraiture. Then the magistrate’s wife and her assistants made bowers of vine-leaves, and decorated the house’s banqueting hall with “all manner of growing and blooming plants” except for myrtle, whose presence and naming were expressly forbidden. A banquet table was prepared, with a couch (pulvinar) for the goddess and the image of a snake. The Vestals brought Bona Dea’s cult image from her temple and laid it upon her couch, as an honoured guest. The goddess’ meal was prepared: the entrails (exta) of a sow, sacrificed to her on behalf of the Roman people (pro populo Romano), and a libation of sacrificial wine. The festival continued through the night, a women-only banquet with female musicians, fun and games (ludere), and wine; the last was euphemistically referred to as “milk”, and its container as a “honey jar”. The rites sanctified the temporary removal of customary constraints imposed on Roman women of all classes by Roman tradition, and underlined the pure and lawful sexual potency of virgins and matrons in a context that excluded any reference to male persons or creatures, male lust or seduction,. According to Cicero, any man who caught even a glimpse of the rites could be punished by blinding. Later Roman writers assume that apart from their different dates and locations, Bona Dea’s December and May 1 festivals were essentially the same.

Clodius and the Bona Dea scandal

The Winter rites of 62 BC were hosted by Pompeia, wife of Julius Caesar, senior magistrate in residence and pontifex maximus. Publius Clodius Pulcher, a popularist politician and ally of Caesar, was said to have intruded, dressed as a woman and intent on the hostess’ seduction. As the rites had been vitiated, the Vestals were obliged to repeat them, and after further inquiry by the senate and pontifices, Clodius was charged with desecration, which carried a death sentence. Cicero, whose wife Terentia had hosted the previous year’s rites, testified for the prosecution.

Caesar publicly distanced himself from the affair as much as possible – and certainly from Pompeia, whom he divorced because “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”. He had been correctly absent from the rites but as a paterfamilias he was responsible for their piety. As pontifex maximus, he was responsible for the ritual purity and piety of public and private religion. He must act to ensure that the Vestals had acted correctly, then chair the inquiry into what were essentially his own household affairs. Worse, the place of the alleged offense was the state property loaned to every pontifex maximus for his tenure of office. It was a high profile, much commented case. The rites remained officially secret, but many details emerged during and after the trial, and remained permanently in the public domain. They fueled theological speculation, as in Plutarch and Macrobius: and they fed the prurient male imagination – given their innate moral weakness, what might women do when given wine and left to their own devices? Such anxieties were nothing new, and underpinned Rome’s traditional strictures against female autonomy. In the political and social turmoil of the Late Republic, Rome’s misfortunes were taken as signs of divine anger against the personal ambition, religious negligence and outright impiety of her leading politicians.

Clodius’ prosecution was at least partly driven by politics. In an otherwise seemingly thorough account, Cicero makes no mention of Bona Dea’s May festival, and claims the goddess’ cult as an aristocratic privilege from the first; the impeccably patrician Clodius, Cicero’s social superior by birth, is presented as an innately impious, low-class oaf, and his popularist policies as threats to Rome’s moral and religious security. After two years of legal wrangling, Clodius was acquitted – which Cicero put down to jury-fixing and other backroom dealings – but his reputation was damaged. The scandalous revelations at the trial also undermined the sacred dignity and authority of the Vestals, the festival, the goddess, office of the pontifex maximus and, by association, Caesar and Rome itself. Some fifty years later, Caesar’s heir Octavian, later the princeps Augustus, had to deal with its repercussions.

Imperial Era

Octavian presented himself as restorer of Rome’s traditional religion and social values, and as peacemaker between its hitherto warring factions. In 12 BC he became pontifex maximus, which gave him authority over Rome’s religious affairs, and over the Vestals, whose presence and authority he conspicuously promoted. His wife Livia was a distant relative of the long-dead but still notorious Clodius; but also related to the unfortunate Vestal Licinia, whose attempted dedication of Bona Dea’s Aventine Temple had been thwarted by the Senate. Livia restored the temple and revived its May 1 festival, perhaps drawing attention away from her disreputable kinsman and the scandalous events of 62 BC. Thereafter, Bona Dea’s December festival may have continued quietly, or could simply have lapsed, its reputation irreparably damaged. There is no evidence of its abolition. Livia’s name did not and could not appear in the official religious calendars, but Ovid’s Fasti associates her with May 1, and presents her as the ideal wife and “paragon of female Roman virtue”. Most of Bona Dea’s provincial and municipal sanctuaries were founded around this time, to propagate the new Imperial ideology. An Imperial cult centre in Aquileia honours an Augusta Bona Dea Cereria, probably in connection with the corn dole. Other state cults to the goddess are found at Ostia and Portus. As the Vestals seldom went beyond Rome’s city boundary, these cults would have been led by leading women of local elites, whether virgin or matron.

Livia’s best efforts to restore Bona Dea’s reputation had only moderate success in some circles, where scurrilous and titillating stories of the goddess’ rites continued to circulate. Well over a century after the Clodius scandal, Juvenal describes Bona Dea’s festival as an opportunity for women of all classes, most shamefully those of the upper class – and men in drag (“which altars do not have their Clodius these days?”) – to get drunk and cavort indiscriminately in a sexual free-for-all.

From the late 2nd century, an increasing religious syncretism in Rome’s traditional religions presents Bona Dea as one of many aspects of Virgo Caelestis, the celestial Virgin, Great Mother of the gods, whom later Mariologists identify as prototype for the Virgin Mary in Christian theology. Christian theologists present Bona Dea – or rather, Fauna, whom they clearly take her to be – as one of the innumerable Roman gods who supposedly show the immorality and absurdity at the heart of traditional Roman religion; according to them, no prophetess, merely “foolish Fenta”, daughter and wife to her incestuous father, and “good” (bona) only at drinking too much wine.

Temples

Bona Dea’s Roman temple was situated on a lower slope of the northeastern Aventine Hill, beneath the height known as Saxum, southeast of the Circus Maximus. Its foundation year is unknown. According to Dumezil, Festus’ identification of Bona Dea with Damia infers a foundation date in or shortly after 272 BC, after Rome’s capture of Tarentum; but Cicero claimed the goddess’ cult as coeval with Rome’s foundation. In the middle Republican era, the temple may have fallen into disrepair, or its cult into official disfavour. In 123 BC the Vestal Licinia gave the temple an altar, small shrine and couch for the goddess, but they were removed as unlawful by the pontifex maximus P. Scaevola. Its use and status at the time of the Bona Dea scandal are unknown. It was restored in the Imperial era, once by the empress Livia, wife of Augustus, and perhaps again by Hadrian. It survived to at least the 4th century AD. Nothing is known of its architecture or appearance, save that unlike most Roman temples it was walled. It was an important centre of healing; harmless snakes roamed its precincts, and it held a store of various medicinal herbs that could be dispensed at need by its priestesses. Men were forbidden entry but could dedicate offerings to the goddess, or, according to Ovid, could enter the precincts “if bidden by the goddess”.

Most provincial sanctuaries and temples to Bona Dea are too decayed, despoiled or fragmentary to offer firm evidence of structure and layout, but the remains of four confirm a layout consistent with the sparse descriptions of her Aventine temple. In each, a perimeter wall surrounds a dense compound of annexes, in which some rooms show possible use as dispensaries. The layout would allow the concealment of inner cults or mysteries from non-initiates. There is evidence that at least some remained in use to the 4th century AD as cultic healing centres.

Dedications and iconography

Despite the exclusively female, aristocratic connections of her winter festival at Rome and her high status as a protecting deity of the Roman state, elite dedications to Bona Dea are far outnumbered by the personal dedications of the Roman plebs, particularly the ingenui; the greatest number of all are from freedmen and slaves; and an estimated one-third of all dedications are from men, one of whom, a provincial Greek, claims to be a priest of her cult. This is evidence of lawful variation – at least in the Roman provinces – from what almost all Roman literary sources present as an official and absolute rule of her cult. Inscriptions of the Imperial era show her appeal as a personal or saviour-goddess, extolled as Augusta and Domina; or as an all-goddess, titled as Regina Triumphalis (Triumphal Queen), or Terrae marisque Dominatrici (Mistress of sea and land). Private and public dedications associate her with agricultural deities such as Ceres, Silvanus, and the virgin goddess Diana.[47] She is also named in some dedications of public works, such as the restoration of the Claudian Aqueduct.

Most inscriptions to Bona Dea are simple and unadorned but some show serpents, often paired. Cumont (1932) remarks their similarity to the serpents featured in Pompeian lararia; serpents are associated with many earth-deities, and had protective, fertilising and regenerating functions, as in the cults of Aesculapius, Demeter and Ceres. Some Romans kept live, harmless snakes as household pets, and credited them with similarly beneficial functions.

Images of the goddess show her enthroned, clad in chiton and mantle. On her left arm she holds a cornucopia, a sign of her abundant generosity and fruitfulness. In her right hand, she holds a bowl, which feeds a serpent coiled around her right arm: a sign of her healing and regenerative powers. This combination of snake and cornucopia are unique to Bona Dea. The literary record offers at least one variation on this type; Macrobius describes her cult statue as overhung by a “spreading vine”, and bearing a sceptre in her left hand.

Mythology

Cicero makes no reference to any myth of Bona Dea. Later Roman scholars connected her to the goddess Fauna, a central figure in Latium’s aristocratic foundation myth, which was thus re-embroidered as a Roman moral fable. Several variants are known; Fauna is daughter, wife or sister of Faunus (also named Faunus Fatuus, meaning Faunus “the foolish”, or seer). Faunus was son of Picus, and was the first king of the Latins, empowered with the gift of prophecy. In Roman religion he was a pastoral god and protector of flocks, with a shrine and oracle on the Aventine, sometimes identified with Inuus and later, with Greek Pan. As his female counterpart, Fauna had similar gifts, domains and powers in relation to women. In Plutarch’s version of the myth, the mortal Fauna secretly gets drunk on wine, which is forbidden her. When Faunus finds out, he thrashes her with myrtle rods; in Lactantius’s version, Faunus thrashes her to death, regrets the deed and deifies her. Servius derives the names Faunus and Fauna, collectively the Fatui, from fari (to prophesy): they “are also called Fatui because they utter divine prophecy in a state of stupor”. Macrobius writes that Bona Dea is “the same as Fauna, Ops or Fatua… It is said too that she was the daughter of Faunus, and that she resisted the amorous advances of her father who had fallen in love with her, so that he even beat her with myrtle twigs because she did not yield to his desires though she had been made drunk by him on wine. It is believed that the father changed himself into a serpent, however, and under this guise had intercourse with his daughter.” Macrobius refers the serpent’s image at the goddess’ rites to this mythical transformation, and to the live, harmless serpents who roamed the goddess’ temple precincts.

Varro explains the exclusion of men from Bona Dea’s cult as a consequence of her great modesty; no man but her husband had ever seen her, or heard her name. For Servius, this makes her the paragon of chaste womanhood. Most likely, once Fauna’s mythology seemed to offer an explanation for Bona Dea’s mysterious cult, the myth developed circumstantially, to fit what little was known of the practice. In turn, the cult practice may have changed to support the virtuous ideological message required of the myths, particularly during the Augustan religious reforms that identified Bona Dea with the empress Livia. Versnel (1992) notes the elements common to the Bona Dea festival, Fauna’s myths, and Greek Demeter’s Thesmophoria, as “wine, myrtle, serpents and female modesty blemished”.

Cult themes in modern scholarship

Bona Dea’s is the only known festival in which women could gather at night, drink strong, sacrificial-grade wine and perform a blood sacrifice. Although women were present at most public ceremonies and festivals, the religious authorities in Roman society were the male pontiffs and augurs, and women could not lawfully perform rites at night, unless “offered for the people in proper form”. Women were allowed wine at these and other religious occasions. At other times, they might drink weak, sweetened, or diluted wine in moderation but Roman traditionalists believed that in the more distant and virtuous past, this was forbidden, “for fear that they might lapse into some disgraceful act. For it is only a step from the intemperance of Liber pater to the forbidden things of Venus”. Some ancient sources infer that women were banned from offering blood-and-wine sacrifice in their own right; even banned from handling such materials; both claims are questionable. Nevertheless the strong, sacrificial grade wine used in the rites to Bona Dea was normally reserved for Roman gods, and Roman men.

The unusual permissions implicit at these rites probably derived from the religious authority of the Vestals. They were exceptional and revered persons; virgins, but not subject to their fathers’ authority; and matrons, but independent of any husband. They held forms of privilege and authority otherwise associated only with Roman men, and were answerable only to the Senior Vestal and the Pontifex Maximus. Their ritual obligations and religious integrity were central to the well being of the Roman state and all its citizens.

The euphemistic use of wine at this festival has been variously described as a substitution for milk and honey, relatively late in the cult’s development; as a theologically absurdity;unacceptable outside this specific religious sphere. Fauna’s myths illustrate the potential of wine as an agent of sexual transgression; wine was thought to be an invention of Liber-Dionysus, who was present as the male principle in certain “soft fruits”, including semen and grapes; and ordinary wine was produced under the divine patronage of Venus, the goddess of love and sexual desire. Its aphrodisiac effects were well known.

For Staples, the euphemisms are agents of transformation. The designation of wine as “milk” conceives it as an entirely female product, dissociated from the sexually and morally complex realms of Venus and Liber. Likewise, the wine jar described as a “honey jar” refers to bees, which in Roman lore are sexually abstinent, virtuous females who will desert an adulterous household. Myrtle, as the sign of Venus, Faunus’ lust and Fauna’s unjust punishment, is simply banned; or as Versnel puts it, “Wine in, Myrtle out”. The vine-leaf bowers and the profusion of plants – any and all but the forbidden myrtle – transform the sophisticated, urban banqueting hall into a “primitive” dwelling, evoking the innocence of an ancestral golden age in which women rule themselves, without reference to men or Venus, drinking “milk and honey”, which are “markers par excellence of utopian golden times” – under the divine authority of Bona Dea.

Source:
Wikipedia

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Deity of the Day for Beltane is The Green Man, Spirit of the Forest

Deity of the Day for Beltane

The Green Man

Spirit of the Forest

For our ancient ancestors, many spirits and deities were associated with nature, wildlife, and plant growth. After all, if you had just spent the winter starving and freezing, when spring arrived it was certainly time to give thanks to whatever spirits watched over your tribe. The spring season, particularly around Beltane, is typically tied to a number of pre-Christian nature spirits. Many of these are similar in origin and characteristics, but tend to vary based on region and language.

In English folklore, few characters stand out — or are as recognizable — as the Green Man.

Strongly connected to Jack in the Green and the May King, as well as John Barleycorn during the fall harvest, the figure known as the Green Man is a god of vegetation and plant life. He symbolizes the life that is found in the natural plant world, and in the earth itself. Consider, for a moment, the forest. In the British Isles, the forests a thousand years ago were vast, spreading for miles and miles, farther than the eye could see. Because of the sheer size, the forest could be a dark and scary place.

However, it was also a place you had to enter, whether you wanted to or not, because it provided meat for hunting, plants for eating, and wood for burning and building. In the winter, the forest must have seemed quite dead and desolate… but in the spring, it returned to life. It would be logical for early peoples to have applied some sort of spiritual aspect to the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Folklorist James Frazer associates the Green Man with May Day celebrations, and with the character of Jack in the Green, who is a more modern adaptation of the Green Man. Jack is a more specifically defined version of the nature spirit than the earlier Green Man archetype. Frazer speculates that while some form of the Green Man was probably present in a variety of separate early cultures, he developed independently into a variety of newer, more modern characters. This would explain why in some areas he is Jack, while in others he is Robin of the Hood, or Herne the Hunter in different parts of England. Likewise, other, non-British cultures seem to have similar nature deities.

The Green Man is typically portrayed as a human face surrounded by dense foliage. Such images appear as far back as the eleventh century, in church carvings. As Christianity spread, the Green Man went into hiding, with stonemasons leaving secret images of his face around cathedrals and churches. He enjoyed a revival during the Victorian era, when he became popular with architects, who used his visage as a decorative aspect in buildings.

Legends connected to the archetype of the Green Man are everywhere. In the Arthurian legend, the tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a prime example. The Green Knight represents the pre-Christian nature religion of the British Isles. Although he originally confronts Gawain as an enemy, the two later are able to work together – perhaps a metaphor for the assimilation of British Paganism with the new Christian theology. Many scholars also suggest that the tales of Robin Hood evolved from Green Man mythology. Allusions to the Green Man can even be found in J.M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan – an eternally youthful boy, dressed in green and living in the forest with the wild animals. Today, some traditions of Wicca interpret the Green Man as an aspect of the Horned God, Cernunnos.

 

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Categories: Articles, Daily Posts, Deities, The Gods, The Sabbats | Leave a comment

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