July 24 – August 23
Designated Goddess: Arinna(Anatolia)
Other Goddesses: Cybele, Neshto, Juno, Sun Woman
The Goddess Book of Days
the Roman Goddess of War
Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Bellona, the Roman goddess of war and the war-cry. She was believed to have inspired a warlike frenzy, in which Roman legionnaires would fight in a nearly uncontrollable, rage and fury. Dies Sanguinis (Day of Blood) was a festival held in Ancient Rome on the 24th March, called Bellona’s Day, when devout adherents and priests of the cult of Bellona cut themselves and drank the sacrificial blood to propitiate the goddess. Her name is derived from the Latin word ‘bellum’ meaning war. The Greek counterparts of Bellona were Enyo and Eris.
Bellona, the Roman goddess of war
Bellona, the Roman goddess of war was believed to have been introduced to Roman soldiers during campaigns in Asia Minor under General Pompey and Sulla during the last century of the Roman Republic. Her cult also introduced the ferocious, masochistic and orgiastic rites (similar to those of the goddess Cybele) performed by Asian priests. Bellona is often depicted wearing a plumed helmet and armed with a spear and a torch. In the picture by Rubens of Bellona she carries a shield, called the Aegis, displaying the head of Medusa, the gorgon an attribute that is usually associated with Minerva
Temple of Bellona
The first temple to Bellona was built in the year 296 by the consul Appius Claudius and it was erected by the Circus Flaminius, located in the southern end of the Campus Martius. Campus Martius was located outside the city walls of Rome and was dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of war, with an ancient altar and became closely linked to soldiers and the army. Events, rituals and festivals associated with underworld deities were held in the Campus Martius. The festival in honor of Bellona was celebrated on June 3. Bellona also had had several shrines in Rome and another temple was dedicated to her in Ostia Antica, the harbour city of ancient Rome. Priests of Bellona would perform furious dances using weapons and armor in honor of the goddess of war and were known to wound and gash themselves in a frightful manner.
Priests of Bellona – the Bellonarii and Belladonna
The priests of Bellona were called the Bellonarii who practised a variety of masochistic rituals. These rites took place on the 24 March and on the day that was called the dies sanguinis meaning the “day of blood”. On the dies sanguinis, the “day of blood” the Bellonarii mutilated their own arms and legs with sharp knives, collecting the blood to either drink or offer to Bellona to invoke the war fury. The bellonaria plant (solanum) was used by priests at this festival. Its seeds were eaten by priests to induce hallucinogenic, prophetic and oracular states. The name Belladonna, deadly nightshade, is a corruption of the word bellonaria. Another festival called Megalesia was celebrated between April 4 – 10 in honor of Cybele, the fertility goddess. Her eunuch priests, called the Galli, also practised mutilation leading to incorrect historical connections between the worship of two goddesses and their festivals.
The Worship of Bellona, the Roman goddess of war
The Romans were highly practical and believed that their gods and goddesses controlled everything in their lives and therefore every occupation and task had its presiding Roman goddess or god. Bellona the Roman goddess of war was worshipped in the same way as any other Roman divinity with prayers and making vows, dedicating altars, sacrificing blood, animals, birds and offerings of milk, honey, grain, fruit, cakes, flowers, perfumes and wine. Black victims to the deities of the Underworld. The sex of a sacrificial animal had to correspond to the sex of the goddess to whom it was offered. The blood sacrifices made to Bellona, the goddess of war, would therefore have been a black ewe, cow or heifer, sow, hen or other female birds and conducted outside a temple. An even darker side to Bellona is revealed in relation to blood offerings as the earliest sacrifices are said to have been human.
In the Hawaiian religion, Pele (pronounced /ˈpeɪleɪ/ pay-lay or [ˈpɛlɛ] pel-lə), the Fire Goddess, is the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands. Often referred to as “Madame Pele” or “Tūtū Pele” as a sign of respect, she is a well-known deity within Hawaiian mythology, and is notable for her contemporary presence and cultural influence as an enduring figure from ancient Hawaii. Epithets of the goddess include Pele-honua-mea (“Pele of the sacred land”) and Ka wahine ʻai honua (“The earth-eating woman”).
There are several traditional legends associated with Pele in Hawaiian mythology. In addition to being recognized as the goddess of volcanoes, Pele is also known for her power, passion, jealousy, and capriciousness. She has numerous siblings, including Kāne Milohai, Kamohoaliʻi, Nāmaka and numerous sisters named Hiʻiaka, the most famous being Hiʻiakaikapoliopele (Hiʻiaka in the bosom of Pele). They are usually considered to be the offspring of Haumea. Pele’s siblings include deities of various types of wind, rain, fire, ocean wave forms, and cloud forms. Her home is believed to be the fire pit called Halemaʻumaʻu crater, at the summit caldera of Kīlauea, one of the Earth’s most active volcanoes; but her domain encompasses all volcanic activity on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi.
Pele shares features similar to other malignant deities inhabiting volcanoes, as in the case of the devil as responsible for the eruptions of the volcano.
In one version of the story, Pele is the daughter of Kanehoalani and Haumea in the mystical land of Kuaihelani, a floating free land like Fata Morgana. Kuaihelani was in the region of Kahiki (Kukulu o Kahiki). She stays so close to her mother’s fireplace with the fire-keeper Lono-makua. Her older sister Nā-maka-o-Kahaʻi, a sea goddess, fears that Pele’s ambition would smother the home-land and drives Pele away. Kamohoali’i drives Pele south in a canoe called Honua-i-a-kea with her younger sister Hiʻiaka and with her brothers Kamohoaliʻi, Kanemilohai, Kaneapua, and arrives at the islets above Hawaii. There Kane-milo-hai is left on Mokupapapa, just a reef, to build it up in fitness for human residence. On Nihoa, 800 feet above the ocean she leaves Kane-apua after her visit to Lehua and crowning a wreath of kau-no’a. Pele feels sorry for her younger brother and picks him up again. Pele used the divining rod, Pa‘oa to pick a new home. A group of chants tells of a pursuit by Namakaokaha’i and Pele is torn apart. Her bones, KaiwioPele form a hill on Kahikinui, while her spirit escaped to the island of Hawaiʻi.:157 (Pele & Hi’iaka A myth from Hawaii by Nathaniel B. Emerson)
In another version, Pele comes from a land said to be “close to the clouds,” with parents Kane-hoa-lani and Ka-hina-liʻi, and brothers Ka-moho-aliʻi and Kahuila-o-ka-lani. From her husband Wahieloa (also called Wahialoa) she has a daughter Laka and a son Menehune. Pele-kumu-honua entices her husband and Pele travels in search of him. The sea pours from her head over the land of Kanaloa (perhaps the island now known as Kahoʻolawe) and her brothers say:
O the sea, the great sea!
Forth bursts the sea:
Behold, it bursts on Kanaloa!
The sea floods the land, then recedes; this flooding is called Kai a Kahhinalii (“The sea of Ka-hina-liʻi”), as Pele’s connection to the sea was passed down from her mother Kahinalii.:158
Pele was considered to be a rival of the Hawaiian goddess of snow, Poliʻahu, and her sisters Lilinoe (a goddess of fine rain), Waiau (goddess of Lake Waiau), and Kahoupokane (a kapa maker whose kapa making activities create thunder, rain, and lightning). All except Kahoupokane reside on Mauna Kea. The kapa maker lives on Hualalai.
One myth tells that Poliʻahu had come from Mauna Kea with her friends to attend sled races down the grassy hills south of Hamakua. Pele came disguised as a beautiful stranger and was greeted by Poliʻahu. However, Pele became jealously enraged at the goddess of Mauna Kea. She opened the subterranean caverns of Mauna Kea and threw fire from them towards Poliʻahu, with the snow goddess fleeing towards the summit. Poliʻahu was finally able to grab her now-burning snow mantle and throw it over the mountain. Earthquakes shook the island as the snow mantle unfolded until it reached the fire fountains, chilling and hardening the lava. The rivers of lava were driven back to Mauna Loa and Kīlauea. Later battles also led to the defeat of Pele and confirmed the supremacy of the snow goddesses in the northern portion of the island and of Pele in the southern portion.
Pele belief continued after the old religion was officially abolished in 1819. In the summer of 1823 English missionary William Ellis toured the island to determine locations for mission stations.:236 After a long journey to the volcano Kīlauea with little food, Ellis eagerly ate the wild berries he found growing there.:128 The berries of the ʻōhelo (Vaccinium reticulatum) plant were considered sacred to Pele. Traditionally prayers and offerings to Pele were always made before eating the berries. The volcano crater was an active lava lake, which the natives feared was a sign that Pele was not pleased with the violation.:143 Although wood carvings and thatched temples were easily destroyed, the volcano was a natural monument to the goddess.
In December 1824 the High Chiefess Kapiʻolani descended into the Halemaʻumaʻu crater after reciting a Christian prayer instead of the traditional one to Pele. She was not killed as predicted, and this story was often told by missionaries to show the superiority of their faith. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) wrote a poem about the incident in 1892.
When businessman George Lycurgus ran a hotel at the rim of Kīlauea, called the Volcano House, he would often “pray” to Pele for the sake of the tourists. Park officials took a dim view of his habit of tossing items such as gin bottles (after drinking their contents) into the crater.
Plantation owner William Hyde Rice published a version of the story in his collection of legends.In 2003 the Volcano Art Center had a special competition for Pele paintings to replace one done in the early 20th century by D. Howard Hitchcock displayed in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park visitors center. Some criticized what looked like a blond caucasian as the Hawaiian goddess. Over 140 paintings were submitted, and finalists were displayed at sites within the park. The winner of the contest was Pahoa, Hawaii artist Arthur Johnsen. This version shows the goddess in shades of red, with a digging stick in her left hand (theʻōʻō, for which the currently erupting vent was named), and an embryonic form of Hiʻiaka-i-ka-poli-o-Pele in her right hand. The painting is now on display at the Kīlauea Visitor Center on the edge of the Kīlauea crater.
The Greek Goddess Who Became The First Spider.
Arachne was a young woman from Lydia, sometimes said to be a princess, who offended Athena, and suffered the consequences. Her story helped serve as a warning to all to take care to not offend the gods.
Arachne was gifted in the art of weaving. Not only were her finished products beautiful to look at, but the very act of her weaving was a sight to behold. Nymphs were said to abandon their frolicking to come observe Arachne practice her magic. So remarkable were her works that observers often commented that she must have been trained by the very patron goddess of weaving, Athena herself. Arachne scoffed at this. She was disgusted at being placed in an inferior place to the goddess and proclaimed that Athena herself could not do better than her.
Athena was quite perturbed at Arachne’s bold claim, but she decided to give the young woman a chance to redeem herself. She came to Arachne disguised as an old woman and warned her to be careful not to offend the gods, lest she incur their wrath. But Arachne told the old woman to save her breath. She welcomed a contest with Athena, and, if she lost, would suffer whatever punishment the goddess deemed necessary.
The goddess accepted the challenge and revealed her true form. The nymphs who had come to watch Arachne’s weaving shrunk back in fear, but Arachne stood her shaky ground. She had made a claim, and she was sticking to it. So the contest began, the mortal at her loom, the goddess at hers. Athena began to weave the scene of her contest with Poseidon for the city of Athens. A beautiful scene developed from the threads, showing Poseidon and the salt water spring, and Athena with an olive tree, gifts to the people who would name Athena as their patron, and their city after her. The bystanders marveled at the goddess’ work.
Arachne, for her part, created a tapestry showcasing scenes of Zeus’ various infidelities: Leda with the Swan, Europa with the bull, Dana and the golden rain shower. So exquisite was the mortal’s work that the bull seemed lifelike, swimming across the tapestry with a real girl on his shoulders. Even Athena herself was forced to admit that Arachne’s work was flawless. (Whether or not Arachne was actually better than Athena is still a mystery.)
Angered at Arachne’s challenge, as well as the presumptuousness of her choice of subjects, Athena tore the tapestry to pieces and destroyed the loom. Then she touched Arachne’s forehead, making sure that she felt full guilt for her actions. Arachne was ashamed, but the guilt was far too deep for her poor, mortal mind. Depressed, she hanged herself.
Athena took pity on Arachne. She most likely did not expect that Arachne would commit suicide. She brought her back to life, but not as a human. By sprinkling her with the juices of aconite, Athena transformed the woman into a spider, her and her descendants to forever hang from threads and to be great weavers.
Author: Melissa Lee
Website: Encyclopedia Mythica™
The summer solstice has long been a time when cultures celebrated the lengthening year. It is on this day, sometimes called Litha, that there is more daylight than any other time; a direct counterpoint to the darkness of Yule. No matter where you live, or what you call it, chances are you can connect to a culture that honored a sun deity around this time of year. Here are just a few of the gods and goddesses from around the world that are connected with the summer solstice.