In ancient Rome on July 7th, the Feria Ancillarum or Festival of Handmaids was held. This was the maids’ day out, when the maids of Rome were beyond the control of their mistresses.
Also known as the Caprotinae, when free and slave women made offerings to her beneath wild fig trees outside Rome’s city limits, this feast day was in honor of Juno Caprotina, Juno of the Wild Figs. Fig trees were venerated, with feasting beneath them in honor of Caprotina, an aspect of the Goddess Juno.
In this aspect of the goddess, Juno is seen as dressed in goatskins and driving a chariot pulled by goats. Enslaved women made up a large proportion of her devotees.
Poplifugia was a Roman festival on July 5. It means “flight of the people.” The origin of Poplifugia is not known. Two explanations are given by H.H. Scullard:
- the people fled when Romulus disappeared from mortal sight during a tempest
- the flight of the Roman people after the sack of Rome by the Gauls
There doesn’t seem to be much information about this festival. It took a fair amount of digging, but I was able to come up with a little something more about the Poplifugia. Here’s what I found:
The Festivals of the Poplifugia and the commemoration of Romulus are celebrated on July 5 and July 7, respectively. These two festivals are thought to be a continuation of the same festival, as it was customary for the Romans to have festivals that ran on several days but skipped the even-numbered days because they were considered ill-omened in Rome.
There was also a Rumilia festival that might have been celebrated at the same time.
Although much has been written on this topic, it is not well understood, because the Romans had an extremely conservative religion, in which they continued to do rituals, but they did not remember what they were for, and much of the information about their religion has been lost or deliberately destroyed.
The Poplifugia was a ritual in which someone was chased out of the Regia, or “King’s House”, actually the formal residence of the Sacred King of Rome.
This early July date corresponds approximately to the time of slaughter of livestock in Mediterranean countries which have a dry season during most of the summer during which there is no fodder for cattle.
Its name which is interpreted to mean, “The Flight of the People”, may refer to the sacking of Rome by the Gauls in 390 BC. However, it is impossible not to notice that the word popli- in Poplifugia, and which is interpreted as meaning `people’ is very similar to the word popa which is the Latin word for the attendant who actually slaughtered the animals at a sacrifice, that is, it was the job of the popa to hit the animal in the forehead with an ax which stunned it. Someone else cut the animal’s throat so that it bled to death, and the whole operation was organized by a priest who spoke the religious formulas and directed everyone on what they should do.
If the festival was originally called a *Popafugia (“fleeing of the popa or axeman”), it would be even more completely in line with the Bouphonia, as it was performed in classical Greece. Nevertheless, the connection has been made between the Poplifugia and the Greek Bouphonia and both are thought to embody the myth of the killing of the first cow, which makes up the Indo-European creation myth, known as the Primal Cow Creation Myth.
Found at: Associated Content
Because the warm weather continues, activity levels are high, even though the days are beginning to shorten. Consequently, numerous festivals during this month focus on family, friends, and social interaction.
For magical purposes, July directs our attention to personal growth and improvements. This includes increasing your knowledge, continuing efforts for prosperity, creating new ideas and works of art, and also taking time out periodically to really enjoy yourself. Our society sometimes mistakes much-needed leisure time for laziness but this months’s energies know better. Go and have fun, carrying the Goddess with you for a little extra energy.
- Nature Spirits: hobgoblins (small grotesque but friendly brownie-type creatures), faeries of harvested crops.
- Herbs: honeysuckle, agrimony, lemon balm, hyssop
- Colors: silver, blue-gray
- Flowers: lotus, water lily, jasmine
- Scents: orris, frankincense
- Stones: pearl, moonstone, white agate
- Trees: oak, acacia ash
- Animals: crab, turtle, dolphin, whale
- Birds: starling, ibis, swallow
- Deities: Khepera, Athene, Juno, Hel, Holda, Cerridwen, Nephtys, Venus
Relaxed energy; preparing, succeeding. Dream work; divination and meditation on goals and plans, especially spiritual ones.
At first the Romans called this month Quintilis, but later renamed it Julius after Julius Caesar, who was born in this summer month. The Greek Olympian was held for about a week in July. This festival in honor of Zeus consisted of competitions in athletics, drama, music, and other activities. During the time of the Olympian, all participants were given safe-conduct to and from the games. The constant petty Greek squabbles were put aside. A victory in the Olympian was a great achievement, both for the individual and for their city.
Two of the Roman holidays held during this month were July 8 – 9 when the Goddess Juno was honored and the Neptunalia on July 23, when Neptune, the god of the seas and earthquakes, was placated.
In Japan, the Full Moon of July saw the O-Bon, or Festival of Lanterns. This was a combination of Buddhist and Shinto beliefs that honored the dead. Homes, tombs, and ancestral tablets were thoroughly cleaned. Altars and shrines were decorated. The gardens were hung with lanterns to light the way of the dead so that they could join with their families for the three-day ceremony.
The Egyptian New Year fell in July, as did the Opet Festival, which commemorated the marriage of Isis and Osiris. Their sexual union was said to bring good luck to all people. About the same time in Rome, the love of Venus and Adonis was celebrated. The Egyptian year was measured against the Nile and its yearly fertile floods. This was also the time of the birth of Isis and Nephthys, Osiris, Set, and Haroeris. These days were the ones won by Thoth for these deities; births; in other words, there were the necessary days to make the solar and lunar calendars match.
The Incas had a ceremony called Chahua-huarquiz, Chacra Ricuichi, or Chacra Cona, which meant Plowing Month. While the Northern Hemisphere was beginning its agricultural harvests with the reaping of the corn crop, the Southern Hemisphere was just beginning to break ground for planting.
Buddha’s Birth and Preaching, also called the Picture Feast, was celebrated in Tibet.
July 2nd, is the Feast of Expectant Mothers. A festival from ancient Rome, in which pregnant women gathered at temples throughout the city to receive blessings and honor goddesses associated with birth and fertility.
Honor the life force that allows the human species to continue and the women who manifest it. If you know someone who is pregnant, visit her today—take her out to dinner, go shopping, or do something else festive. Otherwise you could donate some of your time and resources to an organization that caters to pregnant women.
Here is a blessing you can say privately or write in a card if you know someone who would appreciate it:
Blessed be the life-bearers
Who bring new souls into the world.
Blessed be the babies
Who are our hope for the future.
Blessed be the mothers and fathers
Who raise them to be good people.
Blessed be the pregnant women
For they are precious beyond price.
Although Midsummer Day occurs at the summer solstice, or what we think of as the beginning of summer, to the farmer it is the midpoint of the growing season, halfway between planting and harvesting, and an occasion for celebration.
The most common other names for this holiday are the Summer Solstice or Midsummer, and it celebrates the arrival of Summer, when the hours of daylight are longest. The Sun is now at the highest point before beginning its slide into darkness.
Celebrating Midsummer Day
Although it’s also the feast day of St. John the Baptist, it features pagan traditions such as bonfires, fire walking, and a carnival atmosphere, all of which took place on Midsummer Eve. Certainly, it’s a night of magic and soothsaying as well, for as Washington Irving said, this is a time “when it is well known all kinds of ghosts, goblins, and fairies become visible and walk abroad.” After Midsummer Day, the days shorten.
In Sweden and Norway at the Solstice, people made wheels of fortune. Some of the wheels were wrapped in straw, set on fire, and rolled down hill. Other wheels were decorated and kept. These were used in two ways: One, the wheel was rolled away from a person to take away misfortunes; two, it was rolled toward a person to bring all kinds of good fortune.
Variations on the Midsummer celebrations:
People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice.
- Scottish Pecti-Witans celebrate Feill-Sheathain on July 5th.
- In the Italian tradition of Aridian Strega, this Sabbat (Strega Witches call them Treguendas rather than Sabbats) is known as Summer Fest – La Festa dell’Estate.
- Scandinavians celebrate this holiday at a later date and call it Thing-Tide.
- In England, June 21st is “The Day of Cerridwen and Her Cauldron”.
- In Ireland, this day is dedicated to the faery goddess Aine of Knockaine.
- June 21st is “The Day of the Green Man” in Northern Europe.
In Lithuanian tradition, the dew on Midsummer Day was said to make young girls beautiful and old people look younger. It was also thought that walking barefoot in the dew would keep one’s skin from getting chapped.
It was customary to honor all men named John on this day by fixing wreaths of oak leaves around their doors. This is usually done in secret, and John must guess who did it or catch the person in the act, in which case he must give the person a treat.
Midsummer Celebrations in Ancient Times:
The solstice itself has remained a special moment of the annual cycle of the year since Neolithic times. The concentration of the observance is not on the day as we reckon it, commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the pre-Christian beginning of the day, which falls on the previous eve. Other names for this time in the Wheel of the Year include:
- Alban Heruin (Caledonii or the Druids)
- Alban Hefin (Anglo-Saxon Tradition)
- Sun Blessing, Gathering Day (Welsh)
- Whit Sunday, Whitsuntide (Old English)
- Vestalia (Ancient Roman)
- Feast of Epona (Ancient Gaulish)
- All-Couple’s Day (Greek)
Ancient Celts: Druids, the priestly/professional/diplomatic corps in Celtic countries, celebrated Alban Heruin (“Light of the Shore”). It was midway between the spring Equinox (Alban Eiler; “Light of the Earth”) and the fall Equinox (Alban Elfed; “Light of the Water”). “This midsummer festival celebrates the apex of Light, sometimes symbolized in the crowning of the Oak King, God of the waxing year. At his crowning, the Oak King falls to his darker aspect, the Holly King, God of the waning year…” The days following Alban Heruin form the waning part of the year because the days become shorter.
Ancient China: Their summer solstice ceremony celebrated the earth, the feminine, and the yin forces. It complemented the winter solstice which celebrated the heavens, masculinity and yang forces.
Ancient Egypt:In Ancient Egypt, summer solstice was the most important day of the year. The sun was at its highest and the Nile River was beginning to rise. Special ceremonies were held to honor the Goddess Isis. Egyptians believed that Isis was mourning for her dead husband, Osiris, and that her tears made the Nile rise and well over. Accurately predicting the floods was of such vital importance that the appearance of Sirius, which occurs around the time of the summer solstice, was recognized as the beginning of the Egyptian New Year.
Ancient Gaul: The Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona, named after a mare goddess who personified fertility, sovereignty and agriculture. She was portrayed as a woman riding a mare.
Ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes in Europe: Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. “It was the night of fire festivals and of love magic, of love oracles and divination. It had to do with lovers and predictions, when pairs of lovers would jump through the luck-bringing flames…” It was believed that the crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump. Through the fire’s power, “…maidens would find out about their future husband, and spirits and demons were banished.” Another function of bonfires was to generate sympathetic magic: giving a boost to the sun’s energy so that it would remain potent throughout the rest of the growing season and guarantee a plentiful harvest.
Ancient Rome: The festival of Vestalia lasted from June 7 to June 15. It was held in honor of the Roman Goddess of the hearth, Vesta. Married women were able to enter the shrine of Vesta during the festival. At other times of the year, only the vestal virgins were permitted inside.
Ancient Sweden: A Midsummer tree was set up and decorated in each town. The villagers danced around it. Women and girls would customarily bathe in the local river. This was a magical ritual, intended to bring rain for the crops.
Information collected from various sources
- Color of the day: Green
- Incense of the day: Clove
June 11 is the Festival of Mater Matuta, an old Italian goddess of the dawn who was the goddess of the dawn and the protector of growing crops and growing children. Today a free woman in the first year of her marriage would make offerings of toasted cakes to the goddess, and ask for blessings on her nieces and nephews. The Romans eventually made equivalent to the dawn goddess Aurora, and the Greek goddess Eos.
Aurora, known among the Greeks as Eos, is honored on this day. It is she who opens the gates of heaven each day so that Helios may ride his chariot across the skies. Her tears create the morning dew. Try greeting Aurora today as she opens the gates of heaven. Walk barefoot through the grass, feeling her tears upon your skin. Connect with her eternally youthful soul.
Then, as Helios begins his journey across the sky, settle yourself in a quiet place outdoors and let the light bathe your face for a short time as you meditate on the beauty you bring into your world each day. Once you finish your meditations, pay tribute to Aurora for her task of opening the gates for each new day to bring light in the world. Take with you her beauty and grace as you go about your day and tasks.
By Winter Wren
The Festival of Bellona took place on June 3rd in Campus Martius, near the Temple of Bellona. This was largely just a huge feast in honor of Bellona who had helped them in war. This festival was also a celebration for the dedication of the Temple of Bellona.
One source that talks about the dedication of the Temple of Bellona on June 3rd is in Ovid’s “Fasti”, a six book poem the Roman poet Ovid had published around 8 AD. This quote is found in Ovid’s 6th and final book:
“When two dawns are past, and Phoebus has risen twice,
And the crops have twice been wet by the dewfall,
On that day, they say, during the Tuscan War, Bellona’s
Shrine was consecrated, she who always brings Rome success.”
This goddess did not play a significant role in either myth or legend, and her worship appears to have been promoted in Rome chiefly by the family of the Claudii, whose Sabine origin, together with their use of the name of Nero, has suggested an identification of Bellona with the Sabine war goddess Nerio.
Her temple at Rome, dedicated by Appius Claudius Caecus (296 B.C.) in fulfillment of a a vow during the Third Samnite War with the Samnites and Etruscans, stood in the Campus Martius, near the Flaminian Circus and Porta Carmentalis (the Carmenta gate), and outside the gates of the city. It was there that the senate met to discuss a general’s claim to a triumph, and to receive ambassadors from foreign states. In front of it was the columna bellica, where the fetialis ceremony of declaring war was performed, in which a spear was cast against the distant enemy.
This native Italian goddess should not be mistaken for the Asiatic Bellona, whose worship was introduced into Rome apparently by Sulla, to whom she had appeared, urging him to march to Rome and bathe in the blood of his enemies. See Day of Blood
~Information compiled from various sources.
On 10 May, and again on 31 May, the Roman legions at Duro Europa celebrated the Rosalia. This again connects the flowers of Spring with rituals for the dead, only this time the rituals were performed by military units for their fallen comrades rather than for family members. We learn of this celebration first with a military calendar from Syria.
We do not know if the Rosalia was celebrated on the same dates by other legions throughout the Roman Empire, but we hear descriptions of the Rosalia in other texts suggesting that the Rosalia was common in the Roman army. Since the military calendar differs from other Roman calendars, it is possible that it represents a standard used among all legions. Then again each legion may have had its own schedule of festivals. However, since the month of May was dedicated to the dead, with Lemuria, it would seem reasonable that a military equivalent fell within the same month.
Here’s what we do know:
At the center of every Roman military camp there was a small shrine, the saculum. Inside this shrine the military standards were kept; these were the legion’s eagle and other standards for the maniples, cohorts, or vexilia. As with Roman temples, an altar was placed in front of the sacullum. At Rosalia the standards were brought forth and placed around the altar. They were crowned with wreaths of roses and a supplication, or thanksgiving, was performed before them. Beyond that one detail, nothing else is certain about this military ritual. But from its nature we can surmise something of its intent.
When someone died far from home, whether while serving in the army or away at sea, and thus was unable to be buried by his family, a cenotaphium would be erected as a dwelling place for his soul. His Lar (soul) was called three times and invited to enter the cenotaphium. For example, when Aeneas meets his deceased friend Deiphobus in the Underworld, he says,
“Then I myself on the Rhoetean shore erected a hollow tomb, and with loud voice thrice called upon thy spirit (Virgil, Aeneid).”
On the Nones (7 May) the tombs of ancestors were decorated with wreaths of roses. With their red hues, the roses were offered to the dead as a gesture of reviving them, or at least of remembering how they were once while still alive. The red roses were the flowers of Venus, and they were a reminder of the Garden of Venus where the souls of the dead, as animae, would dwell as Her children, like little cupids living in the Blessed Isles. So offering roses to the Manes was a way of wishing their safe journey on to the Garden of Venus.
There is not much doubt that the Rosalia was intended to honor the military dead. The standards were being adorned with roses in the same manner as tombs and cenotaphs. With the Romans I think you would also have to consider that they thought of the standards as cenotaphia that carried the Lares of the legion, who were the spirits of their fellow soldiers, into battle with them. This would also explain why the loss of the eagles would be taken as such a tragedy by Romans. Perhaps it also explains why the second century Christian writer Tertullian criticized this veneration of the standards.
The Rosalia was continued, however, even after the Roman army adopted Christianity. Something of the Rosalia remains even today in the parading of the colors of modern armies, where they are decorated with battle ribbons to commemorate where a unit has fought, as well as all the men who have served and died with the unit in the past. Laying a wreath of roses on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day is an echo of the Rosalia once performed by Roman legions.
Found at: Patheos
The Lemuria, the festival in honor of the Lemures, the spirits of dead family members who wander the earth on these three spring nights (May 9, 11, and 13).
The Lemuria is held on odd-numbered days because even-numbered days are considered unlucky. It is a festival designed to honor the Lemures, they are regarded as baleful spirits of the dead who died violent or otherwise untimely deaths.
At midnight, the Paterfamilias (head of the household) arises and dresses with no knots, buckles, or other constricting items on his person (thus he is barefoot). He makes the sign of the mano fico with his hands (a fist with the thumb placed between the index and middle fingers; a sign of good luck and fertility) and then washes his hands in pure water. He then walks through the house, spitting out nine black beans, being careful not to look behind him as the lemures accept the beans as a sort of ransom for the living members of the household. As he spits out each one, he says
“With these beans I redeem me and mine.”
Once all nine beans have been accepted by the lemures and the entire house walked through, the Paterfamilias then washes his hands again, clashes two vessels of bronze together, and nine times says
“Ghosts of my fathers, be gone.”
(Manes exite paternae.)
According to many pagan calendars, May 8th is listed as “The Festival of Mens , the Roman goddess of mind and consciousness.” I did not, however, find any information on Mens or on a festival of Mens – what I did find was this small excerpt at Wikipedia:
By a process of folk etymology, the Romans could have confused the phones of her foreign name with those of the root men- in Latin words such as mens meaning “mind”, perhaps because one of her aspects as goddess pertained to the intellectual. The word mens is built from the Proto-Indo-European root *men- ‘mind’ (linked with memory as in Greek Mnemosyne; memory, remembrance, recollection, Manush in Sanskrit meaning mind ).
Because of this, I can only assume that the Festival of Mens is actually a Festival of Minerva, Goddess of wisdom and learning, meditation, inventiveness, accomplishments, the arts, spinning and weaving, and commerce. Minerva was identified with Pallas Athene, bestower of victory, when Pompey the Great built her temple with the proceeds from his eastern campaigns.
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.