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Maius (sacred to Maia)

Maius calendar


XXVII 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]


I et XV Maius/May 1 and 15: This day is sacred to the Goddess Maia, who is often associated with the Earth-Goddess Terra. The flamen Volcanalis (priest of Vulcan) sacrifices a pregnant sow to her.[back to calendar]

Bona Dea

I Maius/May 1: Sacred to Bona Dea, the "Good Goddess". This is the anniversary of the dedication of Her temple on the Aventine. The ritual is celebrated only by women; men are excluded. Wine (referred to as "milk") is carried into Her temple in a honey-pot. The head of the statue of Bona Dea is covered in vine-leaves, and a sow is sacrificed to her. The sow is referred to as the Damium, the priestess is called the Damniatrix, and the Goddess Herself is sometimes called Damia (She is also associated with Fauna). Healing herbs of all sorts are kept in Her temple, as are snakes (animals closely associated with healing). [back to calendar]


I Maius/May 1: The celebration of the Lares Praestites (also known as the Lares Publici); the Lares who look after the State as a whole, as opposed to the Lares Familiares, who look after the individual family. [back to calendar]


IX, XI et XIII Maius/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 (or Materfamilias) 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.")

In addition, there are public ceremonies of a similar nature, designed to cleanse the State as a whole as the household is cleansed. [back to calendar]


XI Maius/May 11: Sacred to Mania, a Goddess of Death and mother of the Lares. When a family was threatened with danger, they often hung effigies of Mania from the front door of the house. On this day she receives sacrifices of these images, characterized by small ugly faces. [back to calendar]


XIV Maius/May 14: The Argeis is the companion rite to the Procession of the Argei in Martius. At this ceremony the 27 Argei (human-shaped bundles of rushes) are carried counter-clockwise throughout the city in a procession that incldues the Flamen and Flaminica Dialis, the Vestal Virgins, and the Praetor. In a ritual probably done as a substitute for human sacrifice, the Vestal Virgins then throw the Argei into the Tiber from the Bridge of Sublicius. [back to calendar]


XV Maius/May 15: Sacred to Mercurius, this is traditionally the birthday of the Patron of Merchants (this day is also sacred to Maia, his mother). Merchants draw water from the aqua Mercurii — a sacred spring tied to Mercurius — in jars cleansed by fumigation. With a bough of laurel, the merchant then sprinkles both his merchandise and himself with water from the jars. Mercurius is closely associated with merchants and traders, and they hold this day as a feast day.


XXI Maius/May 21: Celebrated on IX Januarius, XVII Martius, XXI Maius, and XI December. The rex sacrorum sacrifices a ram at the Regia in Roma. It honors Janus, Liber Pater, Vediovis, and Sol Indiges, respectively. The Agonalia on XVII Martius was the day young boys were usually initiated into manhood by giving them their adult toga. [back to calendar]


XXIII Maius/May 23: This is the day of the Purification of the Trumpets, held on both XXIII Martius and XXIII Maius. An ewe is sacrificed to sanctify the trumpets used in many of the public rites. It was accompanied by a dance of the Salii. Once again it is a ceremony of purification and preparation for both the coming sacral year and the military campaigning season. [back to calendar]


XXV Maius/May 25: Sacred to Fortuna, Goddess of fate, chance, luck, and fortune. [back to calendar]


XXIX Maius/May 29: The Ambarvalia is the ritual purification of the fields, and as such it is connected with such agricultural deities as Ceres, Bacchus, Mars, et cetera. It is the "beating of the bounds", when the boundaries between fields were purified by a procession of sacrificial animals, the suovetaurilia. It was both a public and a private rite, and the private rite is described by Cato:

A procession of a pig, sheep, and ox are led around the land, and the following words spoken:

"That with the good help of the Gods success may crown our work, I bid you Manius, to take care to purify my farm, my land, my ground with this suovetaurilia, in whatever part you think best for them to be driven or carried around."

Wine is sacrificed to Janus (always called upon first to open the lines of communication between men and the Gods) and Jupiter. The celebrant continues:

"Father Mars I pray and beseech you that you may be propitious and well disposed to me, our home, and household, for which cause I have ordered the offering of pig, sheep, and ox to be led 'round my field, my land, and my farm, that you might prevent, ward off, and avert diseases, visible and invisible; barrenness and waste; accident and bad water; that you would permit the crop and fruit of the earth, the vines and shrubs to grow great and prosper, that you would preserve the shepherds and their flocks in safety and give prosperity and health to me and our house and household. To this intent, to the intent of purifying my farm, my land, my ground, and of making an expiation, deign to accept the offering of these suckling victims."

Both the animals and spelt cakes are then sacrificed to Mars. (In the modern practice, store-bought pork, mutton, and beef are deemed to be acceptable substitutes for live animals, and may in fact be omitted altogether in favor of merely sacrificing the grain-cakes.) If the sacrifice has gone well (i.e., no unfavorable omens are seen), the area within the boundaries set by the procession of the sacrificial animals is deemed to have been purified. If ill omens are seen, the sacrifice must be repeated with the words

"Inasmuch as you were not pleased by the offering of that pig (or sheep, or ox, or cake), I make atonement with this pig (or sheep, or ox, or cake)."

The rites of purification are now complete, and a general celebration to Mars, Bacchus, and Ceres commences. No ill-omened words may be spoken, and no work is to be done by man or animal. A general feast is then held.

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