Deity of the Day – Venus
Venus was originally the Roman goddess of love, but by the time of the witchcraze she wasrelegated to demon status. She became synonymous with Diana in terms of being followed at night by a retinue of women. Witches knew her as Fraw Fenus, stating they visited her at night-time.
Venus could grant to these witches the power of astral projection. Witches could fall into “swoons which rendered them insensible to pricks or scaldings.” When the women revived, they said they had been to heaven and “spoke of stolen or hidden objects.”
Venus’ were for the most part the same as Aphrodite’s. They include roses, which were offered in Venus’ rites, and above all, myrtle (Latin murtos), which was cultivated for its white, sweetly scented flowers, aromatic, evergreen leaves and its various medical-magical properties. Venus’ statues, and her worshipers, wore myrtle crowns at her festivals.Before its adoption into Venus’ cults, myrtle was used in the purification rites of , the Etruscan-Roman goddess of Rome’s ; later, Cloacina’s association with Venus’ sacred plant made her . Likewise, Roman folk-etymology transformed the ancient, obscure goddess into “Venus of the Myrtles, whom we now call Murcia”.
Myrtle was thought a particularly potent . The , particularly the clitoris, was known as murtos (myrtle). As goddess of love and sex, Venus played an essential role at Roman prenuptial rites and wedding nights, so myrtle and roses were used in bridal bouquets. Marriage itself was not a seduction but a lawful condition, under ‘s authority; so myrtle was excluded from the bridal crown. Venus was also a patron of the ordinary, everyday wine drunk by most Roman men and women; the seductive powers of wine were well known. In the rites to , a goddess of female chastity, Venus, myrtle and anything male were not only excluded, but unmentionable. The rites allowed women to drink the strongest, sacrificial wine, otherwise reserved for the Roman gods and Roman men; the women euphemistically referred to it as “honey”. Under these special circumstances, they could get virtuously, religiously drunk on strong wine, safe from Venus’ temptations. Outside of this context, ordinary wine (that is, Venus’ wine) tinctured with myrtle oil was thought particularly suitable for women.