Floralia: The Roman May Day Celebration

Floralia: The Roman May Day Celebration

 

The Romans had a celebration for just about everything. Certainly, any Roman deity worth their salt got a holiday of their own, and Flora was no exception. She was the goddess of spring flowers and vegetation, and one of many fertility goddesses. In fact, she was so well respected as a fertility deity that she was often seen as a the patron deity of Roman prostitutes.

Her holiday originated around 235 b.c.e. It was believed that a good festival ensured that Flora would protect the blooming flowers around the city. At some point the celebration was discontinued — but it clearly took its toll when wind and hail did some serious damage to the flowers of Rome. In 173 b.c.e., the Senate reinstated the holiday, and renamed it the Ludi Floralis, which included public games and theatrical performances.

Oxford professor and anthropologist E.O. James discusses the Maypole and its connection to Roman traditions in his 1962 article, The Influence of Folklore On the History of Religion. James suggests that trees were stripped of their leaves and limbs, and then decorated with garlands of ivy, vines and flowers as part of the festival of Floralia. Other theories include that the trees, or poles, were wrapped in violets as homage to Attis and Cybele.

The Floralia took place during the five days between April 28 and May 3. Citizens celebrated with drinking and dancing. Flowers were everywhere, in the temples and on the heads of revelers.

Anyone making an offering to Flora might give her a libation of milk and honey.

 

 

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Celebrating Spirituality 365 Days A Year – Juno—The Feronia

magick89

November 13

Juno—The Feronia

Feronia was a Goddess of Spring flowers and woods (also associated with Flora) and, although this day was named for her, it became a day of recognition for Juno, Minerva and Jupiter. The celebration took place on the Capitoline Hill where all three were enshrined. Juno was the sister-wife of Jupiter, forming a triad with Minerva. The festival would have included an animal sacrifice and an evening torch light processional.

Calendar of the Sun for April 28th

Calendar of the Sun
28 Eostremonath

Floralia: Flora’s Day
Walpurgisnacht Day VI

Color: Pink
Element: Earth
Altar: Upon a cloth of pink set a pitcher of water, pots of earth, flower seeds, incense of flowers, a bowl of beans, and many fresh flowers should be strewn around the room. The candles of Walpurgisnacht should remain and be lit, and a sixth added to them, for Odhinn’s journey continues even as we celebrate Floralia.
Offerings: Give flowers to people. Allow a rabbit and a goat to run free in the house.
Daily Meal: Vegan. Beans. Salad with edible flowers in it. Flower jams.

Floralia Invocation

Hail Flora, Lady of Beauty!
We must have not only our bread,
And our work, and our discipline,
But we must also have beauty in our lives,
That we may never become mere worms,
Measuring out our dull grey lives,
Never thinking to look around
And see the great beauty
That the Gods have made for us.
Let us look upon their gifts
And see in that loveliness
A measure of their love for us.
Hail Flora, who lights up our eyes!

Chant:
Oh, She will bring the buds in the spring,
And laugh among the flowers.
In summer’s heat Her kisses are sweet,
She sings in leafy bowers.
She cuts the cane and gathers the grain
When fruits of fall surround Her,
Her bones grow old in winter’s cold,
She wraps Her cloak around her.

(All come forward and plant flower seeds in the pots of earth, which are afterwards carried outside and transferred to the garden. As they plant, they say, “I plant beauty in my life,” and say what sort of beauty they hope to see. The pots are watered, and the rest of the water is poured out as a libation for Flora. The rest of the day is spent adding beauty to the House.)

[Pagan Book of Hours]

How to Plant a Goddess Garden

How to Plant a Goddess Garden

By Patti Wigington, About.com Guide

Planning Your Goddess Garden

Gardening is a magical act. It allows us to take the simplest form of life — a seed — and plant it so that weeks later it will bloom. Plants and magic have been associated for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, so when spring rolls around and you’re planning your seasonal garden, why not set up a special area to dedicate to the goddess of your tradition?

If you don’t have a big yard to plant, don’t worry. You can still create a special goddess garden using a container.

Selecting a Goddess to Honor

Start by figuring out which goddess you’d like to honor. It’s probably a bad idea to just pick one at random — a better course of action would be to choose one you’ve got some sort of connection to, or that you’ve been interested in learning more about. If your particular tradition honors a certain goddess, or deities of a specific pantheon, that helps make the selection process a little easier.

Choosing the Perfect Spot

Next, figure out where the best place is to locate your goddess garden. Are you working with a vibrant, outdoorsy kind of goddess, like Diana? Perhaps she’d appreciate a spot in the sun. Maybe a water goddess, who would feel at home near your pond? Or perhaps you’re connected to a goddess of darkness, who might prefer a shady spot near the tree line? Obviously, you want to choose an are where plants will grow, but it’s also important to try to select an area where the Divine will feel a sense of home.

If you live in a small area such as an apartment, or if you have limited space, you can still plant a goddess garden. Choose a brightly lit spot on your patio and use containers for gardening, or create a tabletop goddess garden with a large planter.

Planting for the Divine

Your next step should be to determine what sort of plants are associated with the goddess you’re honoring. Think of this garden as a sort of living altar space, and plan accordingly. For example, if your garden is to pay tribute to Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, you might fill the space with seeds for vibrant and colorful carnations, hollyhocks, snapdragons and impatiens. A garden for Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, might include catnip, members of the mint family, lavender, and lilies (for their playful, cat-like energy). If you choose to honor a goddess of the harvest, you might wish to plant fall-blooming plants, like mums or even root vegetables.

Making Your Garden Sacred

Add decorative touches like statuary, crystals, pretty stones, and other garden ornaments that correspond to your goddess’ attributes. Is your goddess a fire deity, like Pele? Add a fire bowl or candle holder. If your goddess is associated with air and wind, perhaps some wind chimes or a flag would be appropriate. Use your imagination, and take a few moments each day to work on your garden and re-connect with the goddess you are honoring.

Earth Goddesses – FLORA

Earth Goddesses – FLORA

Flora (“flourishing one”) in the Roman and Greek goddess of flowers, youth, fertility, and springtime. She is also identified with the Greek Goddess Chloris. It was said in the Greek myths that when Chloris (originally a nymph) was captured by Zephyrus, he gifted her with the realm of flowers in return for marrying him. So Chloris became known as the Roman Flora.

Flora was thought to give the charm to youth and the sweetness to honey and to protect the petals and give the fragrance to blossoms. She was particularly important in Roman society. Her cults are among the oldest found in Rome, and she was one of the few deities that had her own priests, who were known as the Flamen Floralis. Her bounty was the precursor of modern medicine, as Flora was not only responsible for flowers but was originally responsible for all crops. All gardens fell under her protection, and iron was strictly prohibited within them to allow the plant devas and nature spirits to prosper peacefully. Fairy folk are known for their aversion to iron.

Flora had a special garden of her own, which featured all of the mythological creatures that turned into flowers upon their deaths. Among the blossoms were Narcissus; Ajax, who became a larkspur; Clytie, who became a sunflower; Hyacinth, who had been Apollo’s lover; and Adonis, who became the anemone.

Greek myths also relate a tale where Flora was responsible for the rose. While on an early morning walk through the woods, she stumbled upon the dead body of a beautiful young girl. Saddened to see such a lovely creature dead, she decided to restore her life by transforming her into the most delicate and beautiful of all flowers. In order to accomplish this, she called upon her husband, Zephyrus, god of the western wind, to blow away all of the clouds from the sky. She then called upon Apollo to send his warm rays of sunlight down as blessings. She called upon Aphrodite to add beauty and grace and Dionysus for nectar and fragrance. Everyone agreed that this was the most beautiful of all the flowers.

Flora went to work gathering dewdrops to restore life to the flower and crowned her queen of all flowers. She then called upon Aurora and Iris in spread the word about this new flower. Iris borrowed just a touch of the flower’s color to spread among her rainbows, and Aurora painted the morning sky with the rose-tinted hue.

Aphrodite named the flower the rose in honor of her son Eros, the Greek god of love. Hence, roses are associated with love. Flora presented Eros with the rose as his own in the hope that it would maintain the romantic associations. Eros shared it with Harpocrates, the god of silence, as a bribe to keep secret the indiscretions of his mother, and the rose became associated with silence and secrets as well as love.

According to Roman legend, Flora also had a hand in the creation of Mars, the god of war. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, was jealous that Jupiter had given life to Minerva on his own, so she enlisted the aid of Flora to help her create a son of her own. Flora reluctantly agreed after Juno swore by the river Styx to never tell Jupiter that Flora had taken part. Flora touched Juno with a magickal flower, and Mars began to grown in Juno’s womb. Mars was born and went on to sire Romulus and Remus, who became the founders of Rome.

There was an ancient and somewhat infamous, Roman festival held in Flora’s honor, called the Floralia. It was celebrated annually from the end of April through the beginning of May. The dates suggest that the original purpose of the festival was to beseech Flora to refrain from allowing mildew to fall upon the crops. It is further believed that the Floralia was the inspiration for the Maypole and Mayday celebrations known today as Beltane. The floralia featured chariot races, theater shows, games and lavish banquets. Altars and temples were decorated with every type of flower known to humankind. The participants wore wreaths of flowers in their hair and left offerings of milk and honey.

The Floralia was also a festival known for its unrestrained pleasures. During the celebrations, marriage vows were temporarily forgotten and the celebrants allowed themselves a wide range of a sexual partners. Prostitutes claimed Flora as their matron deity and celebrated her festival vigorously.

Later, as Beltane traditions evolved, Flora became known as a companion of the fairies. This eventually evolved into legends of Flora as a fairy herself. However, it is believed that was borne of some confusion between the Goddess Flora and the fairy Florelia, who is mentioned in tomes of old as a treasure of the Earth akin to Queen Mah.

The role of the flower, and therefore that of Flora, is as important today as it was in ancient times. Almost all holidays and customs include an appropriate flower. We often send flowers to cheer those who are sick, to say farewell to those who have passed, and to celebrate mile-marker events such as birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries. We make use of the scents in perfumes and potpourris and bathing products. We make candles, jellies, wines, and salads from the petals. Flora’s bounty covers everything from poisonous to healing flowers. Chamomile, jasmine, and linden flowers are commonly added to herbal teas. The purple foxglove is the base of the medicine digitalis, which is used in the treatment of heart conditions.

Flowers also have magickal qualities, many of which are steeped in superstition. For instance, the daisy is often used as a divination tool in love matters by plucking the petals off while reciting, “He/she loves me, he/she loves me not.” The dandelion is often used as a tool to bring one’s wishes to fruition by flowing the seeds to the wind. As the wind carries the seeds, it carries one’s wishes to the Goddess as well.

In the Victorian era, flowers were given their own language. A certain type of flower had a specific meaning, which was further sub-divided into categories determined by the color of the flower. For instance, to send a red rose meant “I love you,” whereas to send a yellow rose meant friendship or jealousy. The number of flowers sent also had a specific meaning. It was said to be bad luck to send an even number of flowers.


When the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon landed in Florida, he looked around at all the many flowers and thought he had found the land containing the Fountain of Youth. He then name the state Florida in honor of Flora.

While we may not choose to celebrate Flora the same way the Romans did, we can honor her on her special days with simple things that remind us of her presence. We can drink flower teas, add flower petals to our baths, prepare meals with edible flowers, decorate our homes and altars with garland and wreaths, wear floral colors, or perform a ritual, or even simply take a walk through flower-strewn fields.