This ritual is intended to be performed before the year's harvest is gathered, marking the beginning of the harvest season, and showing the appropriate gratitude to the gods for the crops about to be gathered. It appears somewhat convoluted in Cato's description, but the ritual centres around the offering of a sow, known as the porca praecidanea to Ceres, with offerings of cakes and wine to Janus and Jupiter being made both before and after the main sacrifice. Cato suggests prayers only to accompany the offerings to Janus and Jupiter, leaving his readers to supply their own wording for the offering to Ceres. Meanwhile, although Juno is named by Cato, she does not seem to feature in the ritual at all; her role is probably mainly that of consort to Jupiter.
The cakes which Cato refers to for the offerings to Janus and Jupiter are cakes made specifically for the purposes of religious offerings. To Janus, he advises offering a strues, which means a pile of small offering-cakes, while to Jupiter, he uses a fertum, a particular type of cake. Unfortunately, a recipe for fertum does not survive, but Cato does provide us with recipes for two other cakes used for religious offerings; libum and placenta.
Although the focal point of this ritual is the sacrifice of a pig to Ceres, appropriate substitutions can be made for modern usage. At harvest time, we may choose to offer some other item of food to Ceres, in order to show our gratitude for her gifts. Something large, such as a pumpkin, could suitably fill the place of the pig, and also has the added bonus that it can be cut open and its seeds offered up to Ceres, where Cato asks us to offer the entrails of the pig.
'Priusquam messim facies, porcam praecidaneam hoc modo fieri oportet. Cereri porca praecidanea porco femina, priusquam hasce fruges condas, far, triticum, hordeum, fabam, semen rapicium. Ture vino Iano Iovi Iunoni praefato, priusquam porcum feminam inmolabis. Iano struem ommoveto sic: "Iano pater, te hac strue ommovenda bonas preces precor, uti sies volens propitius mihi liberisque meis domo familiaeque meae." Fertum Iovi ommoveto et mactato sic: "Iuppiter, te hoc ferto obmovendo bonas preces precor, uti sies volens propitius mihi liberisque meis domo familiaeque meae mactus hoc ferto." Postea Iano vinum dato sic: "Iano pater, uti te strue ommovenda bonas preces bene precatus sum, eiusdem rei ergo macte vino inferio esto." Postea Iovi sic: "Iuppiter macte isto ferto esto, macte vino inferio esto." Postea porcam praecidaneam inmolato. Ubi exta prosecta erunt, Iano struem ommoveto mactatoque item, uti prius obmoveris. Iovi fertum obmoveto mactatoque item, uti prius feceris. Item!
Iano vinum dato et Iovi vinum dato, item uti prius datum ob struem obmovendam et fertum libandum. Postea Cereri exta et vinum dato.'
'Before you will gather in the harvest, it is proper for the porca praecidanea to be offered in this way. Offer to Ceres using a female pig as porca praecidanea, before you store away these crops; spelt, wheat, barley, beans, rape seed. With Janus, Jupiter and Juno having been invoked, make an offering with incense and wine before you sacrifice the sow. To Janus offer a heap of cakes thus: "Father Janus, in offering to you this heap of cakes, I pray virtuous prayers, in order that you may be favourable and gracious to me and my children, to my house and to my household." Offer fertum to Jupiter and honour him thus: "Jupiter, in offering to you this fertum I pray virtuous prayers, in order that, honoured by this fertum, you may be favourable and gracious to me and my children, to my house and to my household." Afterwards give wine to Janus thus: "Father Janus, as in offering to you the heap of cakes virtuous prayers were well prayed, for the sake of the same things be honoured by the humbler wine." Afterwards to Jupiter thus: "Jupiter, be honoured by that fertum, be honoured by the humbler wine." Afterwards, sacrifice the porca praecidanea. When the entrails have been cut out, offer to Janus a heap of cakes and honour him in the same way, as you will have offered to him previously. Offer to Jupiter fertum and honour him in the same way, as you will have done previously. In the same way, give wine to Janus and give wine to Jupiter, in the same way as described previously, for the purpose of offering the heap of cakes and libating the wine. Afterwards, give to Ceres the entrails and wine.'
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