The Veneralia (April 1) was the Ancient Roman festival of Venus Verticordia (“Changer of hearts”), the goddess of love and beauty. The worship of the goddess Fortuna Virilis (“Bold fortune”) was also part of this festival.
In Rome, jewelry was ritually removed from the statue of the goddess, her image was then taken from her temple to the men’s baths, where it was undressed and washed in warm water by her female attendants, then garlanded with myrtle.
Similarly, women bathed themselves in the public baths wearing wreaths of flowers and myrtle on their heads. It was generally a day for women to seek divine help in their relations with men. Men also asked Venus Verticordia for her help in affairs of the heart, sex, betrothal and marriage.
Here’s a nice ritual for the Day of Venus:
- Color: Sea green, golden, and pink
- Element: Water
- Altar: Upon cloth of sea green, golden and pink, set many shells, flowers, beautiful ornaments, pink candles, hearts, doves, incense of rose and violets, and a great chalice of white wine.
- Offerings: Hearts and flowers. Giving a gift of love to someone.
- Daily Meal: Seafood. Angel hair pasta. Sweet breads, cakes, and desserts.
Invocation to Venus
Hail, Lady of the Morning Star!
You who rose form the sea foam,
Born of the impersonal severed phallus of the sky
Immersed in the impersonal womb of the sea,
You who rode to shore on a shell of pearl
And whose powers no one can resist
Save the virgin goddesses,
You who bring the glow of gold
Into the lives of all whom you touch,
Lady, we revere you as the avatar
Of the love between equals
Who look each other in the eye,
The attraction and pursuit
Between every particle in the universe.
Hail, Lady of the Evening Star!
You who rule the night
With its darker passions,
You who tempt the wistful heart,
You whose hands reach out
To all the world and more,
Lady, we revere you as a force of nature
Far greater than merely the human heart,
For you are the force that binds together
All that dances with another of its kind
In the endless dance of creation.
(The wine is passed around, and poured as a libation to Venus. Each takes a flower and wears it in honor of Venus.)
- Ruler: Freya, Venus
- Colors: Emerald green or pink
- Power Hours: Sunrise and the 8th, 16th, and 24th hours following.
- Key Words: Love, money, health
It is easy to spot the ruler of this day by its name. In the word Friday, we see the roots of the name of the Norse goddess Freya, a goddess of love and fertility, and the most beautiful and propitious of the goddesses thus the verse “Friday’s child is loving and giving.”
In Spanish this day of the week is called Viernes and is derived from the goddess Venus. Matters of love, human interaction, the fluidity of communication, sewing and the creation of artistic garments, household improement, shopping, and party planning all fall under the aspects of Friday and its ruling planet, Venus.
Friday’s angels are Ariel/Uriel, Rachiel, and Sachiel. Rachiel also concerns himself with human sexuality and is a presiding spirit of the planet Venus.
On Fridays, the hour of sunrise and every eight hours after that are also ruled by Venus, and that makes these times of the day doubly blessed. These four hours are the strongest four hours for conducting ritual. Check the local newspaper, astrological calendar, or almanac to determine your local sunrise.
Valentine’s Day has its roots in ancient orgiastic festivals. On February 14, The Romans celebrated Febris (meaning fever), a sacred sexual frenzy in honor of Juno Februa, an aspect of the goddess of amorous love. This sex fest coincided with the time when the birds in Italy were thought to mate.
The ecstatic rites of the Goddess merged over time with those of Lupercalia, the bawdy festivities in honor of the pagan god of sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, Pan, which were observed on the following day, February 15.
On Lupercalia, (named, incidentally, in honor of the she-wolf who suckled Romulus and Remus), men and women inscribed their names on love notes or billets and then drew lots to determine who their sex partner would be during this anything goes festival of erotic games.
Sulpicia, a first century BC Roman poet, describes her participation in the events with hearty candor:
“At last love has come. I would be more ashamed
to hide it in cloth than leave it naked.
I prayed to the Muse and won. Venus dropped him
in my arms, doing for me what she
had promised. Let my joy be told, let those
who have none tell it in a story.
Personally, I would never send off words
in sealed tablets for none to read.
I delight in sinning and hate to compose a mask
for gossip. We met. We are both worthy.”
Roman armies took their Lupercalia customs with them as they invaded France and Britain. One of these was the above mentioned lottery where the names of available maidens were placed in a box and drawn out by the young men. Each man accepted the girl whose name he drew as his love – for the duration of the festival, or sometimes longer.
Lupercalia, with its lover lottery, had no place in the new Christian order. In the year 496 AD, Pope Gelasius did away with the festival of Lupercalia, citing that it was pagan and immoral. He chose Valentine as the patron saint of lovers, who would be honored at the new festival on the fourteenth of every February. The church decided to come up with its own lottery and so the feast of St. Valentine featured a lottery of Saints. One would pull the name of a saint out of a box, and for the following year, study and attempt to emulate that saint.
The Feast of St. Valentine and the saint lottery lasted for a couple hundred years, but the church just couldn’t rid the people’s memory of Lupercalia. In time, the church gave up on Valentine all together. The lottery finally returned to coupling eligible singles in the 15th century. The church attempted to revive the saint lottery once again in the 16th century, but it never caught on.
During the medieval days of chivalry, the single’s lottery was very popular. The names of English maidens and bachelors were put into a box and drawn out in pairs. The couple exchanged gifts and the girl became the man’s valentine for a year. He wore her name on his sleeve and it was his bounded duty to attend and protect her. The ancient custom of drawing names on the 14th of February was considered a good omen for love.
By the early 1600s, handmade valentines were customarily sent from admirers to sweethearts. About 1800 the first commercial cards appeared. Cards were usually sent anonymously. As early as 1822, an English official reported having to hire extra postal workers on this day. In 1849, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, started selling quality valentines so popular that she was called “Mother of the American Valentine.”
The Halcyon Days occur on or around Dec 14, and last for approximately 2 weeks. The legend of these “days” centers around Halcyone, the wife of King Ceyx of Thessaly. It happened that King Ceyx was obliged to take a distant journey, far away over the seas. One night during his absence a very heavy storm came up, and the winds blew a gale.
Halcyone, being the daughter of the wind-god, Aeolus, knew well what her brothers, the Winds, could do, and passed the night in great terror. The next day she walked back and forth all day on the shore, longing for tidings of her husband’s ship, yet fearing to know what might have happened. She was almost beside herself, and did not know what to do,.
The Gods took pity on her, and that night, Somnus, the god of sleep and dreams, sent a dream to Halcyone, – a dream of a wreck at a place some distance down the coast. Early the next morning, Halcyone ran to the place of which she had dreamed. She saw floating beams, and something bright among them – something which shone like the king’s crown.
Having a sudden longing to go to this spot, she started forward, and immediately felt herself raised on wings and carried out over the tossing waves, for the Gods had changed her into a bird. With a loud cry, Halcyone flew to her Ceyx. Just as she lit on the floating beams, the bright crown became a crest of feathers, and the dead king a living bird with plumage like Halcyone’s own.
So, after all, Ceyx and Halcyone were not separated. The air was as fresh and the sunshine as bright as ever. They could still be happy as kingfishers. After this, every year, the two birds built a nest which floated on the sea. During the fourteen days that Halcyone sat brooding, there was never a breath of wind stirring, but the sea was as smooth as glass, for aeolus watched over the waters. From that time, days of fine weather and calm seas, in midwinter, have been called “halcyon days.”
An alternative version of the story is that she knew her husband had drowned, and overcome by grief, Halcyone flung herself into the ocean and drowned along with him. At which point, the Gods took pity on the pair and transformed them into kingfishers, or halcyons, with the power to still the stormy seas for 14 days near the time of the winter solstice while they hatched their young.