The 17th Day Before Yule – Saturnalia


Yule Comments & Graphics

Saturnalia Begins

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honour of the deity Saturn, held on 17 December of the Julian calendar and later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn, in the Roman Forum, and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms: gambling was permitted, and masters provided table service for their slaves. The poet Catullus called it “the best of days.”

In Roman mythology, Saturn was an agricultural deity who was said to have reigned over the world in the Golden Age, when humans enjoyed the spontaneous bounty of the earth without labor in a state of innocence. The revelries of Saturnalia were supposed to reflect the conditions of the lost mythical age, not all of them desirable. The Greek equivalent was the Kronia.

Although probably the best-known Roman holiday, Saturnalia as a whole is not described from beginning to end in any single ancient source. Modern understanding of the festival is pieced together from several accounts dealing with various aspects. The Saturnalia was the dramatic setting of the multivolume work of that name by Macrobius, a Latin writer from late antiquity who is the major source for information about the holiday. In one of the interpretations in Macrobius’s work, Saturnalia is a festival of light leading to the winter solstice, with the abundant presence of candles symbolizing the quest for knowledge and truth. The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25

VESTA / HESTIA

 

VESTA / HESTIA
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Vesta was the Roman Goddess of the hearth and home (Hestia was her Greek counterpart). Her six Vestal Virgins (virgin in the sense that they belonged to no man – they were “one within”) tended her sacred fire in a round temple in Rome and the Romans offered a prayer to her every day at their own hearths. On March 1st, every year, her priestesses extinguished the fire and relit it. Her worship was connected with fertility and to let her light go out would mean that civilization would also end. On June 9th, the Vestalia was held when her priestesses baked salt cakes and sacrificed them on Vesta’s fire for 8 days, after which the temple was closed, cleaned out and then reopened the next day. She holds an oil lamp from 1st century Pompeii and wears a Roman earring from the 3rd-4th centuries. The statues of Senior Vestal Virgins in the background are from the House of the Vestal Virgins in the Roman Forum (heads and hands restored ). On the wall is a Roman frieze from the College of Vestal Virgins.
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http://www.goddessmyths.com/Vesta.JPG