Tag Archive: vestal virgins


This is the second episode following “When God Was a Girl” in a BBC documentary series, Divine Women by historian Bettany Hughes.  “Historian Bettany Hughes continues her journey into the hidden and controversial history of women’s place in religion as she uncovers the lost era of the priestess. She delves into the ancient Greek worship of the goddess of sex, Aphrodite, and finds out what this practice meant for women. She also heads to ancient Rome, where the fate of the civilisation lay in the hands of six sacred virgins. Returning to the crucial early years of Christianity, she finds evidence that overturns centuries of Church teaching and challenges the belief that women should not be priests.”

 

Goddess Ops

“Demeter” by Shanina Conway

“Ops’ themes are opportunity, wealth, fertility and growth. Her symbols are bread, seeds and soil.  This Italic Goddess of fertile earth provides us with numerous ‘op-portunities’ to make every day more productive. In stories, Ops motivates fruit bearing, not just in plants but also in our spirits. She also controls the wealth of the gods, making her a Goddess of opulence! Works of art depict Ops with a loaf of bread in one hand and the other outstretched, offering aid.

On August 25, Ops was evoked by sitting on the earth itself, where She lives in body and spirit. So, weather permitting, take yourself a picnic lunch today. Sit with Ops and enjoy any sesame or poppy breadstuffs (bagel, roll, etc) – both types of seeds are magically aligned with Ops’s money-bringing power. If possible, keep a few of the seeds from the bread in your pocket or shoe so that after lunch, Op’s opportunities for financial improvements or personal growth can be with you no matter where you go. And don’t forget to leave a few crumbs for the birds so they can take you magical wishes to the four corners of creation!

If the weather doesn’t cooperate, invoke Ops by getting as close to the earth as you can (sit on your floor, go into the cellar). Alternatively, eat earthy foods like potatoes, root crops, or any fruit that comes from Ops’s abundant storehouse.”

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

“Rhea” by Ian Ian Marke

Patricia Monaghan tells us that Ops’ “name survives in our word opulent, and in Rome She represented the opulence of the earth’s fruiting.  Worshiped at harvest festivals on August 25 [Opiconsivia] and December 19 [Opalia], She was associated with the god Consus, ruler of the ‘conservation’ of the grain that Ops brought Her people.  Newborn children were put in Her care, so that She would care for them as tenderly as She cared for the shoots of springtime plants.  She was called by several titles: Consivia, the sower; Patella, stimulator of the wheat crop; and Rucina, promoter of the harvest. She was a very ancient Roman Goddess, identified in later days with the Greek Rhea” (p. 240).

According to E.M. Berens, “In Rome the Greek Rhea was identified with Ops, the Goddess of plenty, the wife of Saturn, who had a variety of appellations. She was called Magna-Mater, Mater-Deorum, Berecynthia-Idea, and also Dindymene. This latter title She acquired from three high mountains in Phrygia, whence She was brought to Rome as Cybele during the second Punic war, BCE 205, in obedience to an injunction contained in the Sybilline books. She was represented as a matron crowned with towers, seated in a chariot drawn by lions.” [1]

Demeter in Ancient Feminine Wisdom by Kay Stevenson & Brian Clark

Micha F. Lindemans on Encyclopedia Mythica tells us that “The Roman (Sabine) Goddess of the earth as a source of fertility, and a Goddess of abundance and wealth in general (Her name means ‘plenty’). As Goddess of harvest She is closely associated with the god Consus. She is the sister and wife of Saturn. One of Her temples was located near Saturn’s temple, and on August 10 a festival took place there. Another festival was the Opalia, which was observed on December 9. On the Forum Romanum She shared a sanctuary with the Goddess Ceres as the protectors of the harvest. The major temple was of Ops Capitolina, on the Capitoline Hill, where Caesar had located the Treasury. Another sanctuary was located in the Regia on the Forum Romanun, where also the Opiconsivia was observed on August 25. Only the official priests and the Vestal Virgins had access to this altar.” [2]

 

Sources:

Aworldofmyths.com, “Ops“.

Lindemans, Micha F. Encyclopedia Mythica, “Ops“.

Monaghan, Patricia. The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, “Ops”.

 

 

Suggested Links:

Gypsymagicspells.blogspot.com, “Ops – Goddess of Opulence“.

Her Cyclopedia, “The Goddess Ops“.

Took, Thalia. The Obscure Goddess Online Directory, “Opigena“.

Wikipedia, “Ops“.

The Camenae

"The Four Nymphs" by Eichenelf

“The Camenae’s themes are divination, protection, victory, children, birth and communication.  Their symbols are written word, any divination tool and fertility symbols.  This group of Goddesses correspond to the Muses of Greek tradition: they know our past, see what’s in store in the future, foretell children’s fates, and teach us the effective use of ‘letters’ (the alphabet), the arts, and how to tell fortunes. They also oversee midwives.

The festival of Megalesia celebrates the accuracy of the Sibylline oracles, who predicted the way for the Roman victory in the Punic Wars. Romans traditionally honored the Great Mother of the Gods, Cybele, today with music and song, so put on some magical tunes! The Camenae will saturate the music and uplift your spirit.

Ask the Camenae to help you write personalized invocations or spells today. Put pen to pad and let these Goddesses inspire sacred words suited to your path and needs. Keep these in a magic journal for the future.

The Roman oracles often drew lots to determine a querent’s answer. If you have a question weighing heavily on your heart today, follow this custom and take out some variegated beans. Hold them. Concentrate on the question, then pick out one bean. A black one means ‘no’; white means ‘yes’. Red means that anger is driving action, brown means things are muddled, and green indicates growth potential. If you don’t have beans, colored buttons are a suitable alternative.”

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

In Roman mythology, the Camenae (also Casmenae, Camoenae) were originally Goddesses of childbirth, wells and fountains, and also prophetic deities.

There were four Camenae: Carmenta, Egeria, Antevorta (also Porrima) and Postverta (also Postvorta or Prorsa).

The last two were sometimes specifically referred to as the Carmentae, and in ancient times might have been two aspects of Carmenta rather than separate figures; in later times, however, they are distinct beings believed to protect women in labor.

“Carmenta or Carmentis was the chief among the nymphs.  Not only was She a Goddess of childbirth and prophecy, but She was also associated with technological innovation. She was also said to have invented the Latin alphabet. The name Carmenta is derived from Latin carmen, meaning a magic spell, oracle or song, and also the root of the English word charm. Though She is an ancient Italian Goddess, in later times Carmenta was said to have come from Greece: in that story She is said to have originally been a prophetess of Arcadia called Nicostrate, but it was changed later to honor Her renown for giving oracles. She was the mother of Evander and along with other followers they founded the town of Pallantium, which later was one of the sites of the start of Rome. Gaius Julius Hyginus (Fab. 277) mentions the legend that it was She who altered fifteen letters of the Greek alphabet to become the Latin alphabet, which Her son Evander introduced into Latium.

It was forbidden to wear leather or other forms of dead skin in her temple, which was next to the Porta Carmentalis in Rome.  On Her festival day, the Carmentalia, which fell on January the 11 and 15, Vestal Virgins drew water from that spring for the rites.” [1] [2]

 

Egeria was a nymph or minor Goddess attributed a legendary role in the early history of Rome as a divine consort and counselor of the Sabine second king of Rome, Numa Pompilius, to whom She imparted laws and rituals pertaining to ancient Roman religion. Her name is used as an eponym for a female advisor or counselor.  Her origin is unclear; She is consistently, though not in a very clear way, associated with another figure of the Diana type; their cult is known to have been celebrated at sacred groves, such as the site of Nemi at Aricia, and another one close to Rome, expedient for Her presumed regular meetings with King Numa; both Goddesses are also associated with water; gifted with wondrous, religious or medical properties (the source in that grove at Rome was dedicated to the exclusive use of the Vestal Virigns); their cult was associated with other, male figures of even more obscure meaning, such as one named Virbius, or a Manius Egerius, presumably a youthful male, that anyway in later years was identified with figures like Atys or Hippolyte, because of the Diana reference.

After the death of Numa the nymph pined away and was changed into a fountain.  The spring and grove outside the Porta Capena was dedicated to Egeria.

Described sometime as a ‘mountain nymph’ (by Plutarch), She is usually regarded as a water nymph and somehow Her cult also involved some link with childbirth, like the Greek Goddess Ilithyia.” [2]

 

“Antevorta and Postvorta were probably at first two aspects of Carmenta who in time became important enough on Their own to be considered seperate Goddesses, though They were still generally believed to be sisters or attendents of Carmenta. Their names refer to Their prophetic powers that come into play at the birth of a child: both come from the root vertere, meaning ‘to change, turn, or alter’; so Antevorta then means, ‘Before Change’ and Postvorta ‘After Change’.  At the Carmentalia these two aspects were especially celebrated; and given that the festival was held on the 11th and the 15th of January (not the 11th through the 15th of January), perhaps They were each given one day, Antevorta turning towards the past on the 11th, and Postvorta to the future on the 15th. Alternatively, Postvorta is sometimes spelled Postverta, glossed as ‘feet first’, referring to the breech position of birth, while Antevorta was called Prorsa (‘straight forwards’) or Porrima, both taken to mean ‘head first’, the more usual position of a baby at birth.” [3]

The Camenae were later identified with the Greek Muses; in his translation of Homer’s OdysseyLivius Andronicus rendered the Greek word Mousa as Camena.

 

 

Sources:

Took, Thalia. The Obscure Goddess Online Dictionary, “Camenae“.

Took, Thalia.  The Obscure Goddess Online Dictionary, “Ægeria“.

Wikipedia, “Camenae“.

Wikipedia, “Carmenta“.

Wikipedia, “Egeria (mythology)“.

 

Suggested Links:

Myth Index, “Camenae“.

Mythology Guide, “Camenae“.

Goddess Bona Dea

“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]

 

 

 

Sources:

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

Goddess Vesta

“Vesta’s  themes are home, love, fertility and peace. Her symbols are fire, donkeys and veils.

In Roman mythology, Vesta was part of every fire. As such, Vesta commends the sacred fires of the hearth, the heart of spiritual and emotional stability in your home. Today was one of her festival days, Christianized as the Feast of the Ass, which is a sacred animal to her. Traditional offerings for Vesta include homemade bread and salt cakes. In works of art, Vesta was never shown directly but always depicted her in veils, possibly to honor her importance in Roman society. The vestal priestess was one of the few people considered suited to negotiating peace during war threats.

The first month of the year is a good time to think about the spiritual warmth in your living space. Ask Vesta to kindle those fires anew. Do this by lightening any fire source you have handy – a match, the oven, a pilot light – or, alternatively, just turn on a light as a symbolic fire. Be sure to keep this lit all day. When a fire goes out on Vesta’s day, it’s considered a bad omen, indicative of love being lost.

To encourage peace on any battleground you’re facing this year, light a white candle (the color of truce) and put it in a window to invite Vesta’s presence (being sure it’s safe to do so, of course). Then take a piece of bread outside, breaking it into small bits so the birds can carry your wish of harmony across the earth (something I do every day!).”

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

Vesta is one of the most popular and mysterious goddesses of the Roman pantheon. Vesta is the goddess of the hearth, equated with the Greek Hestia. The way of the Romans was to adopt various elements from other cultures and civilizations. This included the Roman religion which was highly influenced by the Ancient Greek religion and gave the Greek God names the equivalent Roman names. The Roman priests then adopted the mythology or stories about the Gods and Goddesses and evolved a Roman Gods Family tree detailing how each of the Roman Gods and Goddesses, like Vesta, were related. Greek and Roman religion and mythology therefore become closely entwined.There is not much known of her origin, except that she was at first only worshipped in Roman homes, a personal cult. Her cult eventually evolved to a state cult. [1]

One myth tells that her service was set up by king Numa Pompilius (715-673 BCE). In her temple on the Palatine Hill, the sacred fire of the Roman state burned, which was maintained by the Vestal Virgins. At the start of the new Roman year, March 1, the fire was renewed. The sacred fire burned until 394 CE. Vesta’s temple was situated on the Forum Romanum and was built in the third century BCE. None of her temples, however, contained a statue of the goddess. Her festival is the Vestalia, which was observed from June 7 – 15. On the first day of this festival, the ‘penus Vestae’, the inner sanctum of the Vesta temple which was kept closed the entire year, was opened for women who came to bring offerings bare-footed. The temple was ritually cleansed on the last day.

The ass is Vesta’s sacred animal, whose braying supposedly kept the lascivious Priapus away. [2]

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