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APRILIS (sacred to Venus)
VeneraliaI Aprilis/April 1: The Veneralia is the festival of Venus. In the public baths of Roma, women bathe in the men's baths wearing wreaths of myrtle. Especially honored is the aspect of Venus named Venus Verticordia, "The Changer of Hearts." It is, in general, a day for women to seek divine support and aid in their love lives.
It is also a day to honor Fortuna Virilis (who is somehow, but unclearly, connected with Venus); the jewelry is removed from her statue and ritually washed, and then she is offered sacrifices of flowers. Incense is also offered to the Goddess this day, in order for physical imperfections of women to be hidden from view in the baths.
In general, the wealthier classes honor Venus and the less so honor Fortuna Virilis, but this by no means a hard and fast rule.
IV Aprilis ad X Aprilis/April 4-10: The Megalesia is the festival of the Magna Mater, or Cybele, whose sacred black stone brought to Roma from Phrygia on the fourth day of Aprilis. It is celebrated by games and theatrical performances. The celebration lasts for seven days total, but sumptuous feasts are held on the first day.
The ceremonies are opened by the sacrifice of the moretum (a dish of herbs) by either the Praetor or Aedile. The galii, priests of Cybele, are eunuchs. They carry Her image (bearing a crown) through the city to the sound of tambourines, flutes, horns, and cymbals. As they dance through the streets, they beat themselves bloody in an ecstatic ritual. Because of the alien nature of the cult of the Cybele, citizens were forbidden to walk in the procession, though some did become archigalii (who sacrificed a bull's genitals to the goddess instead of their own).
The final day of the Megalesia sees the culmination of the games; before their Praetor signals the start of the chariot races, there is a procession of golden statues of the Gods around the Circus winged Victoria, Neptune, Mars, Apollo, Minerva, Ceres, Bacchus, Pollux and Castor, and Venus.
This celebration is also known as the Megalensia or Megalesiaca.[back to calendar]
Fortuna PublicaV Aprilis/April 5: This day is sacred to Fortuna Publica, "the Luck of the People".[back to calendar]
Ides AprilisXIII Aprilis/April 13: The Ides of Aprilis is sacred to Jupiter Victor (Jupiter the Victorious), Jupiter Invictus (Unconquered Jupiter), and Jupiter Libertator (Jupiter of Liberty).[back to calendar]
FordicaliaXV Aprilis/April 15: Sacred to the Goddess Tellus, the Earth Mother, the Fordicalia seems a particularly gruesome form of sympathetic magic to modern eyes. Thirty-one pregnant cattle, one for each of the Curiae of the city plus one for the Capitol, are sacrificed, and their unborn calves are burned. In this way, the fertility of the cattle is encouraged to pass to the earth itself. The ashes of the sacrificed calves are then taken by the Vestal Virgins for use in the Parilia later in the month.[back to calendar]
CerealiaXIX Aprilis/April 19: The Cerealia is the celebration of the goddess Ceres, goddess of grains and cereal crops. It lasts for eight days, and like the Megalesia before it, the Cerealia culminates on its final day. It climaxes with great chariot-races, presided over by the plebeian aediles; white robes are worn at the games. One of the symbolic rituals of the final day is the release of foxes into the Circus with flaming brands attached to their tails.
Ceres is notoriously a peaceful goddess and most often accepts offerings of spelt cakes and salt, as well as incense (on old hearths; in veteres focos). In the countryside, people offer milk, honey, and wine on the Cerialia (particularly the final day), after bearing them thrice around the fields.
The Cerealia is traditionally held most dear by persons of the plebeian class; this association stems from the struggles of the orders.[back to calendar]
PariliaXXI Aprilis/April 21: The Parilia is both an ancient agricultural festival sacred to Pales and the birthday of Eternal Roma Herself. The sheep-fold is decorated with greenery and a wreath placed on its entrance. At first light the fold is scrubbed and swept, and the sheep themselves are cleansed with sulfur smoke. A fire is made of olive and pine wood, into which laurel branches are thrown; their crackling is a good omen. Offerings are made of cakes of millet, other food, and pails of milk.
A prayer is then said four times to Pales (while facing east), seeking protection and prosperity for the shepherd and his flocks, forgiveness for unintentional transgressions against Pales, and the warding off of wolves and disease. The shepherd then washes his hands with dew. Milk and wine is heated and drunk, and then he leaps through a bonfire (and possibly his flocks as well).
The official ceremony is conducted by the Rex Sacrorum; the blood from the sacrifices of the calves at Fordicalia is thrown into the bonfire before the leaping commences, as well as the blood from the horse sacrificed at the Equus in October.[back to calendar]
Vinalia PrioriaXXIII Aprilis/April 23: The first of two Festivals of Wine (the other being the Vinalia Rustica), this holiday is sacred to both Jupiter and Venus. On this day the first jars of the wine from the previous year were offered to Jupiter; only then could they be sampled by men.[back to calendar]
RobigaliaXXV Aprilis/April 25: The festival of the Robigalia is celebrated to appease the God Robigus (or perhaps the Goddess Robigo; the gender of this deity, who originated as one of the numinae, is uncertain), who is the deity of wheat-rust, mildew, and blight. It is an ancient festival of the agricultural calendar, and is celebrated by the Flamen Quirinalis. Both a red dog and sheep are sacrificed to Robigus, along with wine and incense; prayers are then spoken to protect the crops. There is some connection with the ascension of the star Sirius, but it is unclear.
Verminus, a God who protects cattle against worm disease, might also be honored on this day. [back to calendar]
FloraliaXXVII Aprilis ad II Maius:/April 27-May 2: The Floralia is the festival of the Goddess Flora, patron of flowers and spring. It begins with theatrical performances and climaxes with full-blown Games, and is under the purview of the plebeian aediles. The Floralia lasts for six days. In later days prostitutes claimed the Goddess Flora as their patron and celebrated the Floralia with gusto. Hares and goats are let loose in the Circus prior to the games (both notorious symbols of fertility, and especially associated with cultivated vegetation, as opposed to wild woodlands). Beans and lupins were thrown to the crowds at the Floralia, again symbols of fertility, and clothing of wild colors was worn. [back to calendar]
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