“A Song for Athena” by Elfin-Grrl

“Minerva’s themes are earth and home.  Her symbols are owls, snakes, olive trees and geraniums.  This Etruscan/Italic Goddess blended the odd attributes of being a patroness of household tasks, including arts and crafts, and also being the patroness of protection and of war. Today She joins in pre-spring festivities by helping people prepare their lands for sowing and embracing the figurative lands of our hearts, homes and spirits with Her positive energy.

In ancient times, this was a day to bless one’s land and borders. Gifts of corn*, honey and wine were given to the earth and its spirits to keep the property safe and fertile throughout the year. In modern times, this equates to a Minerva-centered house blessing.

Begin by putting on some spiritually uplifting music. Burn geranium-scented incense if possible; otherwise, any pantry spice will do. Take this into every room of your home, always moving clockwise to promote positive growing energy. As you get to each room, repeat this incantation:

‘Minerva, protect this sacred space
And all who live within
By your power and my will
The magic now begins!’

Wear a geranium today to commemorate Minerva and welcome Her energy into your life.”

* Corn is the name for whatever cereal grain is in common use. The Roman cereal crops were wheat and barley, and they also used millet.

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

Minerva (EtruscanMenrva) was the Roman Goddess whom Romans from the 2nd century BCE onwards equated with the Greek Goddess Athena. She was the virgin Goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, dyeing, crafts, the arts, science, and magic.  She is also believed to be the inventor of numbers and instruments.  She is often depicted with Her sacred creature, an owl usually named as the “owl of Minerva“, which symbolizes Her ties to wisdom.

Stemming from an Italic moon goddess Meneswā ‘She who measures’, the Etruscans adopted the inherited Old Latin name, Menerwā, thereby calling Her Menrva.  Menrva was part of a holy triad with Tinia and Uni, equivalent to the Roman Capitoline Triad of Jupiter-Juno-Minerva. Extrapolating from Her Roman nature, it is assumed that in Etruscan mythology, Minerva was the Goddess of wisdom, war, art, schools and commerce. She was the Etruscan counterpart to Greek Athena. Like Athena, Minerva was born from the head of Her father, Jupiter. It is possible that such a Goddess was “imported” to both Greece and Italy from beliefs originating in the Near East during the extreme antiquity. The very few extant Lemnian inscriptions suggest that the Etruscans may have originated in Asia Minor, in which case subsequent syncretism between Greek Athena and Italic Minerva may have been all the easier.

As Minerva Medica, She was the Goddess of medicine and doctors. As Minerva Achaea, She was worshipped at Luceria in Apulia where votive gifts and arms said to be those of Diomedes were preserved in Her temple.

“Athena” by InertiaK

Her worship as a Goddess of war encroached upon that of Mars. The erection of a temple to Her by Pompey out of the spoils of his Eastern conquests shows that by then She had been identified with the Greek Athena Nike, bestower of victory. Under the emperor Domitian, who claimed Her special protection, the worship of Minerva attained its greatest vogue in Rome. [1]

In Fasti III, Ovid called Her the “Goddess of a thousand works.” Minerva was worshipped throughout Italy, though only in Rome did She take on the warlike character shared by Athena. Her worship was also taken out to the empire — in Britain, for example, She was conflated with the local wisdom Goddess Sulis.

The Romans celebrated Her festival from March 19 to March 23 during the day which is called, in the neuter plural, Quinquatria, the fifth after the Ides of March, the nineteenth, an artisans’ holiday. A lesser version, the Minusculae Quinquatria, was held on the Ides of June, June 13, by the flute-players, who were particularly useful to religion.

In 207 BCE, a guild of poets and actors was formed to meet and make votive offerings at the temple of Minerva on the Aventine hill. Among others, its members included Livius Andronicus. The Aventine sanctuary of Minerva continued to be an important center of the arts for much of the middle Roman Republic.

Minerva was worshipped on the Capitoline Hill as one of the Capitoline Triad along with Jupiter and Juno, at the Temple of Minerva Medica, and at the “Delubrum Minervae” a temple founded around 50 BCE by Pompey on the site now occupied by the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva facing the present-day Piazza della Minerva. [2]

Visit Roman Empire & Colosseum, Myths About the Roman Goddess Minerva and Theoi Greek Mythology, Athena Myths sites to read Her myths and stories.  Also see Roman Myth Index, Minerva, Roman Mythology Index.