March 23 is the fifth day of the Quinquatria. A five day Roman festival to honor Minerva which coincides with the five day Ancient Greek festival to honor Athena – her Greek counterpart. Here is a ritual designed for group participation. It can, however, be modified for the solitary practitioner.
- Colors: Blue and brown
- Elements: Air and earth
- Altar: Upon a brown cloth light five blue candles, incense, and many tools of the crafter.
- Offerings: Make something.
- Daily Meal: Let those whose craft is cooking or baking make what they will as an offering.
Quinquatria Invocation III
Bones and clay of earth,
Flesh of trees and vines,
Thread from plant and animal,
Metal drawn from the ground
And forged in fire,
Our hands are midwives
To these unformed substances,
Given to us by the grace of the Mother,
As She gifts all her children.
We birth creations of beauty
That bring a smile to the eye,
We birth creations of usefulness
Made to be seized and worked day after day,
Fitting easily into the hand
That uses them unthinkingly.
Oh, ye many gods of the sacred touch,
Grant us the power to make manifest
With these our own humble hands.
(All approach the altar and select a tool, and speak their intentions towards it. Tools are then taken outside and laid on the Earth, and the Tool Blessing is said over them. Then, for the rest of the day, craftwork will be done, or things made or repaired.)
Tool Blessing (to be spoken or chanted or sung):
Father Labor, Mother Survival,
All brown gods of work and sweat;
Strong of arm, feet on Earth,
Bless this tool in Earth I set;
Sharp and keen, firm and fine,
Never break and never bend;
Be my strength, aid my skill,
Fill my hand and be my friend.
Found in: Pagan Book of Hours
Our recipe this week is straight out of the pages of Roman literature. Moretum is a delicious spread similar to our pesto—and the Roman poet Virgil was apparently a big fan!
The word “moretum” is Latin and is usually translated as “salad,” but that’s not really an accurate translation. It’s not a salad at all, at least not what we think of as salad in modern times. It’s a sort of spread or dip. Virgil is most often credited with the recipe. In his poem entitled “Moretum” he tells the story of Symilus, a peasant farmer, who is making his morning meal. He first makes the bread, but quickly realizes he has no meat to go along with the crusty creation. Concerned that man cannot survive on bread alone, he decides to make an accompaniment for his baked good. Virgil then describes the process by which Symilus makes his moretum. Both the bread and moretum-making are described in detail in the poem, but here is a little summary of the important moretum highlights, courtesy of Pass the Garum blog:
- Symilus gathers four heads of garlic (!), celery, parsley, rue, and coriander seeds.
- He grinds the garlic in his mortar and pestle, and adds salt and cheese.
- He then adds the celery, rue, parsley, and coriander seeds. The smell is so strong that it makes his eyes water!
- He adds some olive oil, finishes off the mixture, and slaps some on his freshly baked bread.
There are a couple of things about this recipe we will not be replicating in the recipe below. For one thing, there is an awful lot of garlic. We’re going to tone that down a bit, but feel free to pile it on if you’re a garlic fan. The Romans loved garlic. They believed it increased “strength and endurance” and so it was fed to “soldiers and sailors.”
It was also believed to “clean the arteries” and guard against toxins and infections. Today we know that garlic is often effective in treating and preventing many different ailments including, but not limited to, blood and heart conditions, some types of cancer, diabetes and even the common cold and flu.
More important than the potential overuse of garlic, rue is poisonous. However, rue is not altogether bad. In fact, it contains alkaloids that made it a useful treatment for indigestion during this time period (1st century BCE). But it also strongly influences the female menstrual cycle so pregnant women should definitely not consume it. We chose a recipe that leaves it out altogether.
Now that we’ve explored some history and cut out the dangerous ingredients, it’s time for a pesto party! Bake (or buy) a loaf of delicious bread to eat with your moretum and have some friends over for a night of Roman cuisine.
Roman Garlic Pesto (Moretum)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 of a celery stick (with its leaves)
- A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
- A pinch of salt
- Some aged pecorino cheese (approx. 8 ounces), feta is also a popular option
- 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil
- A splash of vinegar
Peel the garlic, add to the mortar and grind.
Add the salt, the cheese and the celery to the mortar and mash them up too. Really make sure to mix them well with the garlic from earlier.
To this paste, add the coriander seeds, parsley, oil and vinegar. I find that it is helpful to add the parsley in batches and break it down bit by bit rather than trying to do it all at once and making a mess. Test for flavor – if it is too garlicky, add more parsley.
Grab some bread and dip or spread ‘til your heart’s content!
From: Antiquity Now
In Ancient Roman religious tradition, The Hilaria (Greek: ἱλάρια; Latin: hilaris, “hilarious”) were festivals celebrated on the vernal equinox to honor Cybele, the mother of the Gods. The Romans took this feast originally from the Greeks, who called it ΑΝΑΒΑΣΙΣ, (Ascensus)
The day of its celebration was the first after the vernal equinox, or the first day of the year which was longer than the night (usually March 22) . The winter with its gloom had died, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings.
The manner of its celebration during the time of the republic is unknown, except that Valerius Maximus mentions games in honor of the mother of the gods. Respecting its celebration at the time of the empire, we learn from Herodian that, among other things, there was a solemn procession, in which the statue of the goddess was carried, and before this statue were carried the most costly specimens of plate and works of art belonging either to wealthy Romans or to the emperors themselves.
All kinds of games and amusements were allowed on this day; masquerades were the most prominent among them, and everyone might, in his disguise, imitate whomsoever he liked, and even magistrates.
Here is a nice ritual to honor Cybele on her day from the Pagan Book of Hours:
- Color: Golden
- Element: Fire
- Altar: Upon a golden cloth set five gold candles, a chalice of wine, the figure of a lioness, and a crown resembling a turreted city.
- Offerings: Lions, herbs, wild game, music.
- Daily Meal: Game birds, such as turkey, goose, pheasant, or quail. Moretum – here’s recipe: Ancient Roman Garlic Pesto.
Great Lady of the City
Protector of Civilization
Inspirer of music in the city streets
And in the high houses,
Queen upon your throne,
Guard the lands of stone and metal
Where the feet of thousands tread.
Great Lady of the Wilderness
Protector of the Wild Things
Inspirer of music in lonely places
And in the deep metro’ons,
Lioness who hunts your prey,
Guard the beleaguered lands of untouched Nature
Where few feet tread
Save for the children of Earth whose steps belong there.
You who understand both worlds,
Do not let us forget
That both are valued in your eyes
That both hold promise and treasure
And that we must learn to live in both
If we are to survive.
(Beat drum and clash cymbals during chanting.)
Magna Mater Cybele Cybele
In the Roman calendar, March was sacred to Mars. The “jumping priests,” or Salii began the Festival of the Salii on March 21 with a purification of the sacred trumpets that the Romans carried off to war. That date was originally the Roman New Year’s Day because it was the start of the growing and campaign season.
On March 21, the Salii marched to the Regia taking the bronze Ancilia, the sacred shield that had fallen down from heaven, and its 11 copies. They danced through the streets carrying poles with the shields mounted on them in their left hands. With their other hand, they banged the shields with a drumstick. Even in the time of Cicero, the Carmen Saliare they sang was so ancient that he could not understand it.
At the end of each night, they would stop at a place to be feasted before starting up again the next day. This festival would end on March 24 when they would return to the Regia and return the shields.
Found at Wikipedia
The Festival of Navigation (March 5th) was an ancient Roman festival that celebrated Isis as the ruler over safe navigation, boats, fishing, and the final journey of life. At this festival, after an elaborate parade, a Ship of Isis filled with great offerings of incense, flowers, libations and small shrines was sent out to sea.
For an eyewitness description of this festival, visit this post: Navigium Isidis.
I do like the idea of sending out ships with offerings to Isis. And with that in mind, I’m sharing here a video tutorial on how to make a paper boat that floats on water. This small boat could be decorated with symbols or with petitions for guidance, filled small offerings, and then floated down a stream, creek, river, etc. If you don’t have access to water, you could ritually burn your boat on a bed of incense and fragrant herbs and allow the smoke to take your petitions and offerings to the goddess.
When Egypt became part of the Roman Empire, Greek merchants brought the worship of Isis from Alexandria to Rome and invoked Her as inventor of the sail, patron of navigation, and ruler of the waves.
Possibly the most well known Isiac festival of the Roman world was the Navigium Isidis, celebrated on the 5th of March. As part of the festivities, a a festive carnival procession was performed in honor of Isis, and the Vessel of Isis, laden with offerings of precious spices and milk libations, is launched.
Here is a colorful and detailed eye-witness account of the procession and the ceremony:
Soon the sun of gold arose and sent the clouds of thick night flying; and lo, a crowd of people replenished the streets, filing in triumphal religious procession. It seemed to me that the whole world, independent of my own high spirits, was happy. The dusky clouds were routed; and the heavens shone with clear sheer splendor of their native light.
Presently the vanguard of the grand procession came in view. It was composed of a number of people in fancy dress of their own choosing; a man wearing a soldier’s sword-belt; another dressed as a huntsman, a thick cloak caught up to his waist with hunting knife and javelin; another who wore gilt sandals, a wig, a silk dress and expensive jewelry and pretended to be a woman.
Then a man with heavy boots, shield, helmet and sword, looking as though he had walked straight out of the gladiators’ school; a pretended magistrate with purple robe and rods of office; a philosopher with cloak, staff, clogs and billy-goat beard; a bird catcher, carrying lime and a long reed; a fisherman with another long reed and a fish hook.
Oh, yes, and a tame she-bear, dressed like a woman, carried in a sedan chair; and an ape in a straw hat and a saffron-coloured Phrygian cloak with a gold cup grasped in its paws – a caricature of Jupiter’s beautiful cup-bearer Ganymede.
Finally an ass with wings glued to its shoulders and a doddering old man seated on its rump; you would have laughed like anything at that pair, supposed to be Pegasus and Bellerophon. These fancy-dress comedians kept running in and out of the crowd, and behind them came the procession proper.
At the head walked women crowned with flowers, who pulled more flowers out of the folds of their beautiful white dresses and scattered them along the road; their joy in the Saviouress appeared in every gesture.
Next came women with polished mirrors tied to the backs of their heads, which gave all who followed them the illusion of coming to meet the Goddess, rather than marching before her.
Next, a party of women with ivory combs in their hands who made a pantomime of combing the Goddess’s royal hair, and another party with bottles of perfume who sprinkled the road with balsam and other precious perfumes; and behind these a mixed company of women and men who addressed the Goddess as “Daughter of the Stars” and propitiated her by carrying every sort of light – lamps, torches, wax-candles and so forth.
Next came musicians with pipes and flutes, followed by a party of carefully chosen choir-boys singing a hymn in which an inspired poet had explained the origin of the procession.
The temple pipers of the great god Serapis were there too, playing their religious anthem on pipes with slanting mouth-pieces and tubes curving around their right ears; also a number of beadles and whiffers crying: “Make way there, way for the Goddess!”
Then followed a great crowd of the Goddess’s initiates, men and women of all classes and every age, their pure white linen clothes shining brightly. The women wore their hair tied up in glossy coils under gauze head-dresses; the men’s heads were completely shaven, representing the Goddess’s bright earthly stars, and they carried rattles of brass, silver and even gold, which kept up a shrill and ceaseless tinkling.
The leading priests, also clothed in white linen drawn tight across their breasts and hanging down to their feet, carried the oracular emblems of the deity. The High Priest held a bright lamp, which was not at all like the lamps we use at night banquets; it was a golden boat-shaped affair with a tall tongue of flame mounting from a hole in the centre.
The second priest held an auxiliaria, or sacrificial pot, in each of his hands – the name refers to the Goddess’s providence in helping her devotees. The third priest carried a miniature palm-tree with gold leaves, also the serpent wand of Mercury. The fourth carried the model of a left hand with the fingers stretched out, which is an emblem of justice because the left hand, with its natural slowness and lack of any craft or subtlety, seems more impartial than the right. He also held a golden vessel, rounded in the shape of a woman’s breast, from the nipple of which a thin stream of milk fell to the ground. The fifth carried a winnowing fan woven with golden rods, not osiers. Then came a man, not one of the five, carrying a wine-jar.
Next in the procession followed those deities that deigned to walk on human feet. Here was the frightening messenger of the gods of Heaven, and of the gods of the dead: Anubis with a face black on one side, golden on the other, walking erect and holding his herald’s wand in one hand, and in the other a green palm branch. Behind, danced a man carrying on his shoulders, seated upright, the statue of a cow, representing the Goddess as the fruitful Mother of us all.
Then along came a priest with a box containing the secret implements of her wonderful cult. Another fortunate priest had an ancient emblem of her godhead hidden in the lap of his robe; this was not make in the shape of any beast, wild or tame, or any bird or human being, but the exquisite beauty of its workmanship no less than the originality of its design called for admiration and awe.
It was a symbol of the sublime and ineffable mysteries of the Goddess, which are never to be divulged a small vessel of burnished gold, upon which Egyptian hieroglyphics were thickly crowded with a rounded bottom, a long spout, and a generously curving handle along which sprawled an asp, raising his head and displaying its scaly, wrinkled, puffed-out throat…
Meanwhile the pageant moved slowly on and we approached the sea shore… There the divine emblems were arranged in due order and there with solemn prayers the chaste lipped priest consecrated and dedicated to the Goddess a beautifully built ship, with Egyptian hieroglyphics painted over the entire hull; but first he carefully purified it with a lighted torch, an egg and sulphur. The sail was shining white linen, inscribed in large letters with the prayer for the Goddess’s protection of shipping during the new sailing season.
The long fir mast with its shining head was now stepped, and we admired the gilded prow shaped like the neck of Isis’s sacred goose, and the long, highly-polished keel cut from a solid trunk of citrus-wood. Then all present, both priesthood and laity, began zealously stowing aboard winnowing-fans heaped with aromatics and other votive offerings and poured an abundant stream of milk into the sea as a libation.
When the ship was loaded with generous gifts and prayers for good fortune, they cut the anchor cables and she slipped across the bay with a serene breeze behind her that seemed to have sprung up for her sake alone. When she stood so far out to sea that we could no longer keep her in view, the priests took up the sacred emblems again and started happily back towards the temple, in the same orderly procession as before.
On our arrival the High Priest and the priests who carried the oracular emblems were admitted into the Goddess’s sanctuary with other initiates and restored them to their proper places. Then one of them, known as the Doctor of Divinity, presided at the gate of the sanctuary over a meeting of the Shrine-bearers, as the highest order of the priests of Isis are called. He went up into a high pulpit with a book and read out a Latin blessing upon “our liege lord, the Emperor, and upon the Senate, and upon the Order of Knights, and upon the Commons of Rome, and upon all sailors and all ships who owe obedience to the aforesaid powers.”
Then he uttered the traditional Greek formula, “Ploeaphesia”, meaning that vessels were now permitted to sail, to which the people responded with a great cheer and dispersed happily to their homes, taking all kinds of decorations with them; such as olive boughs, scent shrubs and garlands of flowers, but first kissing the feet of a silver statue of the Goddess that stood on the temple steps.
From: The Golden Ass
“You’re right to come, Marcher; your days demand their place
and the month that bears your stamp is here.”
March (Martius), the first month of the lunar calendar, was named after Mars and the entire month was dedicated to Him. The festivals reflected a purification and regeneration of the arms and fields, marking a time when farmers had to think of cultivating and protecting their lands. The efficacy of Mars’ divine aid was much needed in preparation for the seasonal crop growth and upcoming military campaigns, as wars often began or were renewed in the spring.
March 1st was the lunar calendar’s New Year’s Day, and may have also been Mars’ birthday. The festival of Quinquatrus (named for its length of five consecutive days) commenced on 19 March when the ancilia of the Salii and the weapons of the whole army were purified.
On 23 March, the Romans venerated Mars during the Tubilustrium, a cleansing ceremony for the trumpets used in sacred rites and the instruments of the entire army. A subsequent purification rite was performed on 19 October during the Armilustrium, and the Salii, commemorating the return of the legions in the fall, made their final procession through the streets of Rome. It signified the end of the military campaign season when arma (arms) and ancilia were purified and laid to rest for the winter.
How do we relate to Mars this month?
With Mars, there is no contemplation before action. The drive associated with Mars differs from that of the Sun in that it is self-assertion rather than assertion of the will; it is raw energy rather than creative energy.
Mars is still the essence of the god from antiquity. He is still the captivating aggressor, the rouser, and the protagonist of destiny; breathtakingly candid in His purpose and deliberate in His bounty. Mars personifies a vigorous energy that carries with it its own reproductive weight, immersed in singular ambition, and seldom outdone. He is the quintessential model of male sexuality; the catalyst for creation Who leaves little doubt that our perpetuation is imminent and our survival inevitable. Yet His artful passion is lucid; a flowing expression steeped in honorific intent and delivered with remarkably unbiased conveyance.
The expression of our basic needs remains the one true constant among all living beings. When we peel back the layers of aspirations and ideals, we reach the crux of the human race with uncanny fidelity; the instinctual drives that have served us so well. It is here, at this center that we find Mars, ceaselessly reminding us that no matter how far we venture from this place, the road back is always nearer than we realize.
How do we honor Mars this month?
Mars represents the instinctive nature still evident in all species: that of survival and protection. In antiquity, Mars’ reigning aspects were interwoven into a society that understood a definable application of pursuit and preservation. The Romans recognized the necessity of this sequence as the occurring truth behind any deliberate progress. These enduring principles are at the very heart of Perpituitas; qualities attributed to our role as the caretakers of our posterity.
In His warrior aspect we associate Mars with iron, but an iron will is of the same caliber. Protection has always been our gift to those we love, and a duty to ourselves. Though we no longer spend our days in the fields, the fruits of our labors still determine the quality of our life.
Pray to Mars when you need to shift into another gear, to bring your purpose from wishful pondering to fruition and culmination. Look to Mars when your spirit needs reawakening and you find yourself lost in the cycle of delay, needing to summon up the courage to act. When the mundane begins to chisel your determination into quiet resignation, let Mars hear your call to arms. His still powerful voice speaks volumes to all who listen. Mars continues to provoke and ignite while craftily providing us with His earthly wisdom; those universal gifts of our own nature which allow us to fully embrace our life’s experience and remain secure in our duration.
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn. Originally it was held on 17 December of the Julian Calendar, but the party later expanded with festivities through to 23 December. 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.
Here’s some History:
Saturnalia festivities began with ritual and sacrifices in the Temple of Saturn. The statue of the god was hollow and filled with olive oil, as a symbol of his agricultural functions. His feet were bound with woolen strips, that were unbound at Saturnalia.
After the rituals, the Senators (who had to be present) dismissed the crowd with the cry of “Io, Saturnalia!”, a sign for the happy festivities of family parties and other private gatherings to begin. The traditional gifts were wax tapers and little dolls, although gifts of silver later became traditional.
The custom of the Lord of Misrule was appropriated and survived through to English Christmas traditions.
The biggest part of Saturnalia was attitude more than decoration. Feasting, drunkenness, merrymaking, hopefully the conception of more children (or at least enjoying those activities which led to conception!), pranks, gift giving, role reversals (not true ones, only symbolic ones – slaves weren’t really free to make a freedman’s decisions and anything they did or decreed would reverse at the end of Saturnalia, children weren’t really adults and could not enter into any binding contracts or make business deals, etc.) and so forth.
The role reversals seemed to be more for minor privileges – slaves and children got to be waited on for meals, and to lead the rituals, and to participate in the revelry as if they were their parents/masters. The parents/masters jokingly played the part of slaves and children by waiting on them and making rude and bawdy jokes at their expense. Sometimes, it descended into cruelty.
Many of the decorations involved greenery – swathes, garlands, wreaths, etc – being hung over doorways and windows, and ornamenting stairs. Ornaments in the trees included sun symbols, stars, and faces of the God Janus. Trees were not brought indoors (the Germans started that tradition), but decorated where they grew.
Food was also a primary decoration – gilded cakes in a variety of shapes were quite popular, and children and birds vied for the privilege of denuding the trees of their treats. The commonest shapes were fertility symbols, suns and moons and stars, baby shapes, and herd animal shapes (although, to be honest, it’s hard to tell if some of those ancient cookie cutters are supposed to be goats or deer). I would imagine coins were also a popular decoration/gift.
People were just as likely to be ornamented as the trees. Wearing greenery and jewelry of a sacred nature was apparently common, based on descriptions, drawings, and the like from the era. Although the emphasis was on Saturn, Sol Invictus got a fair share of the revelry as well.
On a modern note:
This ancient midwinter festival falls at the time when non-Romans are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice and/or Kwanzaa. In Nova Roma, individual Citizens have chosen different approaches to the challenge of celebrating in the spirit of Rome without cutting themselves off from the culture in which they live.
Gold, because the sun is yellow, is always a sure choice for a good Saturnalia decoration. For modern Saturnalia, those golden glass ball ornaments are ideal, as are gold sun faces, gold stars, and gilded anythings. Gilding nuts and pine cones and nestling them among the swags and wreaths of greenery would be a lovely way of acknowledging the ancient roots of this ceremony.
Indoor trees are not ancient Roman, but if you have plants growing indoors, decorating them would certainly be in the spirit of the holidays. If you just have to have the now-traditional indoor tree, try decorating it in gold ornaments with a solar theme. Swathe it in bright red or purple ribbons (2 colors quite in favor with the Romans, and looks great with the gold ornaments). Top the tree with a sun, rather than a star, for after all, this is a solar celebration.
Wild parties with lots of food and drink is good. Letting the children of the household lead the common rituals, and waiting on them (assuming you don’t do so in everyday circumstances….) at mealtimes, and deferring to them in decisions on party ideas would work for role reversals.
No children in the house? Maybe you can borrow one for a day. We don’t have slaves, but, for a nice touch of role reversal, we could purchase the services of a nanny or a housekeeper for the duration of Saturnalia. It would be a role reversal of sorts, for instead of being the slave of your home, someone else would be doing the chores and cooking and childcare while you got to party down!
Dancing and singing in the streets is now frowned upon, unless you can get a parade permit. A parade, if you could organize it, would be fun. Imagine – giant floats of the Gods tended by the priests and acolytes, musicians and dancers, contortionists to amaze and delight, acrobats and jugglers, all in honor of Saturn!
For a compilation of Saturnalia celebrations reported by Nova Romans, visit Saturnalia practices of Nova Romans.
The 5thDecember was an ancient Roman festival, dedicated to Saturn’s grandson, Faunus, a god of the wildwood. The Romans celebrated Faunalia Rustica not in Rome but the countryside, so it is not registered in the calendars. However, it must have played a significant part in the lives of many Romans, especially in the early days.
In rural areas, individual farmers offered a libation of wine and sacrificed a young goat on the ancient altar made of sod. Horace recounts the peaceful holiday in one of his pastoral poems. The farmers relaxed and danced joyfully in the fields where they had labored so long and hard.
At Rome, there was a temple to Faunus on the Caelian Hill and another on Tiber Island, where the public ritual for the festival of Faunus (February 13) was conducted. However, the attempt to introduce the rural cult of Faunus into urban life was not very successful. Faunus remained chiefly a wild spirit of the countryside.
Faunus was an unpredictable deity who could cause havoc to those who farmed the land around his wildwoods. However, if correctly pacified, he could be helpful– especially during the winter season.
The name ‘Faunus’ comes from the root word favere or ‘kindly one.’ But Faunus could be anything but kindly. Dionysius also describes how his apparitions could inspire ‘terror.’ He could become an incubus, pursuing women through their dreams. He could also make life a misery for farmers around his groves.
If they were foolish enough to claim woodland as fields for their farms without first appeasing him, Faunus would appear as an apparition on the edge of the fields, haunting them.
But, by taking precautions and offering him sacrifices, it was possible to pacify and tame Faunus– for a while at least. Ovid describes how country folk would make the “the altars of rural Faunus smoke” with the sacrifices to ensure the god of the wildwood blessed their fields and livestock with fruitfulness– rather than persecuting and blighting them. The merry-making and sacrifices ensured his good offices over the winter months.
Horace’s Odes captures the essence of the festival and its rituals:
“O Faunus, thou lover of the flying nymphs, benignly traverse my borders and sunny fields and depart propitious to the young offspring of my flocks; if a tender kid fall [a victim] to thee at the completion of the year and plenty of wines be not wanting in the goblet, the companion of Venus and the ancient altar smoke with liberal perfume.
“All the cattle sport in the grassy plain when the nones of December return to thee; the village keeping holiday enjoys leisure in the fields, together with the oxen free from toil. The wolf wanders among the fearless lambs, the wood scatters its rural leaves for thee and the laborer rejoices to have beaten the hated ground in triple dance.”
The sacrifice of a goat kid and wine to the god, while villagers danced and celebrated among the autumn leaves, evoked a last festivity before the harshness of winter. But it was also essential to have Faunus’ good favor during the harsh winter season.
The country folk required Faunus’ guardianship of their flocks during the harsh winter months– as well as his good favor if they were to safely mine his woodlands for fuel and supplement their food.
Collected from various sources, including Decoded
The goddess Bona Dea also had a May festival, which is better known. The winter festival was held in December, at the home of the current senior annual Roman magistrate cum imperio, whether consul or praetor. It was hosted by the magistrate’s wife and attended by respectable matrons of the Roman elite. This winter festival is not marked on any known religious calendar but was dedicated to the public interest and supervised by the Vestals, and therefore must be considered official.
Men were not allowed to know Her name, never mind speak it, and they were also forbidden from Her secret festival. 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.
Shortly after 62 BC, Cicero presents it as one of very few lawful nocturnal festivals allowed to women, privileged to those of aristocratic class, and coeval with Rome’s earliest history.
The Winter festival is known primarily through Cicero’s account, supplemented by later Roman authors. First, the house was ritually cleansed of all male persons and presences, even male animals and male portraiture. Then the magistrate’s wife and her assistants made bowers of vine-leaves, and decorated the house’s banqueting hall with “all manner of growing and blooming plants” except for myrtle, whose presence and naming were expressly forbidden.
A banquet table was prepared, with a couch (pulvinar) for the goddess and the image of a snake. The Vestals brought Bona Dea’s cult image from her temple and laid it upon her couch, as an honored guest. The goddess’ meal was prepared: the entrails of a sow, sacrificed to her on behalf of the Roman people, and a libation of sacrificial wine.
The festival continued through the night, a women-only banquet with female musicians, fun and games, and wine; the last was euphemistically referred to as “milk”, and its container as a “honey jar”. The rites sanctified the temporary removal of customary constraints imposed on Roman women of all classes by Roman tradition, and underlined the pure and lawful sexual potency of virgins and matrons in a context that excluded any reference to male persons or creatures, male lust or seduction.
According to Cicero, any man who caught even a glimpse of the rites could be punished by blinding. Later Roman writers assume that apart from their different dates and locations, Bona Dea’s December and May 1 festivals were essentially the same.