“Greek Goddess: Demeter” by *Gypsy-Love

“Bona Dea’s themes are femininity, blessing, fertility, divination and abundance.  Her symbols are vines and wine.  Bona Dea’s name literally means ‘good Goddess’. Her energies come into our lives at the outset of this month, offering all good things, especially fertility and a greater appreciation of the Goddess within each of us.  Traditionally, Bona Dea is a women’s Goddess who received offerings of wine in exchange for prophetic insights during Her observances.

On March 1, February was escorted out of Rome with a flourish of adaptable activities. Exchange sweet gifts as the Romans did to ensure yourself of a sweeter future. Greet a friend with Bona Dea’s name to invoke Her blessings on them. Put up a grapevine wreath fashioned like a heart (or other symbol of something you need), and leave a glass of wine on your altar to honor Bona Dea’s presence in your home and your life.

In Rome, female slaves would get this day off, and the head of the house would wait on them. In modern times this equates to switching roles for a day at home. Whoever normally gets up and fixes breakfast gets to sleep in, Whoever normally does chores gets to go out and socialize, and so forth. Bona Dea appreciates the considerate gesture as much as you do and will rain Her goodness upon your home.”

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

Bona Dea (“The Good Goddess”) was a Goddess in ancient Roman religion. She was associated with chastity and fertility in women, healing, and the protection of the Roman state and people. According to Roman literary sources, She was brought from Magna Graecia at some time during the early or middle Republic, and was given Her own state cult on the Aventine Hill.

“Fauna” by Bizenghast

The Goddess had two annual festivals. One state sponsored festival was held at Her Aventine temple; the other in early December was hosted by the wife of Rome’s senior annual magistrate, for an invited group of elite matrons and female attendants. “The festival on the first of May (the or the kalends) commemorated the date Her temple was founded; at the ceremony prayers were made to Her to avert earthquakes. She had a secret festival, attended only by women, whether patrician, free or slave, that took place over the night of the 3rd and 4th of May (and/or December).  It was held during the Faunalia, and was referred to as the sacra opertum, (“the secret or hidden sacrifice”): at this ritual sacrifices were made for the benefit of all the people of Rome, something proper to the realm of a Mother or Earth Goddess who is concerned with the well-being of all of Her children.” [1] Her rites allowed women the use of strong wine and blood-sacrifice, things otherwise forbidden them by Roman tradition.  “During the May Bona Dea celebration a pregnant sow was sacrificed to Mother Earth and Ceres.” [2]

“Goddess” by helushia

Men were barred from Her mysteries and the possession of Her true name.  “There were other taboos concerning the worship of the Bona Dea: neither wine nor myrtle were to be mentioned by name during Her secret festival, likely because they were both sacred to Her and therefore very powerful. According to a late legend seeking to explain these prohibitions, Her husband, Faunus, the God of the Wild (later equated with the Greek Pan), came home once to find She had drunk an entire jar of wine. For being drunk He beat Her to death with a myrtle scourge, and this was why myrtle was forbidden, and wine had to be referred to by another name, ‘milk’ and the jar itself was called a mellarium, or ‘honey jar’.” [3]

Given that male authors had limited knowledge of Her rites and attributes, ancient speculations about Her identity abound. Among them that She was an aspect of TerraOps, the Magna Mater, or Ceres, or a Latin form of Damia. Most often, She was identified as the wife, sister or daughter of the god Faunus, thus an equivalent or aspect of the nature-goddess Fauna, who could prophesy the fates of women.

Bona Dea’s cults in the city of Rome were led by the Vestal Virgins, and Her provincial cults by virgin or matron priestesses. Surviving statuary shows Her as a sedate Roman matron with a cornucopia and a snake. Personal dedications to Her are attested among all classes, especially plebeiansfreedmen and women, and slaves. Approximately one third of Her dedications are from men, some of whom may have been lawfully involved in Her cult.” [4]





Gill, N.S. About.com, “Ancient/Classic History Glossary“.

Lewis, Jone Johnson. About.com, “Bona Dea – The Good Goddess“.

Took, Thalia. A-Musing-Grace Gallery, “The Bona Dea.”

Wikipedia, “Bona Dea