Cato's 'De Agricultura': Ritual before clearing a grove or tilling land

Translated into English by Quinta Claudia Lucentia Aprica

Cato, De Agricultura 139 - 140

A ritual to be performed before clearing a grove or tilling land

Since the Romans believed that every piece of land had its own deities, or genii, and that each tree had its own guardian spirit which dwelt within it, it was not considered proper either to disturb land or to cut down trees without sacrificing first to the gods who lived within them. Cato gives two versions of this ritual; one to be performed when pruning a grove, and one when digging land. The two rituals are exactly the same, except that Cato suggests adding the words "for the cause of carrying out the work" when digging the land. These words seem grammatically designed to replace the words "for the pruning of this sacred place" in the original prayer, and Cato probably intended a substitution of one phrase for the other, according to which was most suitable, rather than a simple addition of extra words onto the end of the prayer. This ritual could be used in a modern garden, before carrying out jobs such as pruning, mowing or planting.

Latin text:
'Lucum conlucare Romano more sic oportet. Porco piaculo facito, sic verba concipito: "Si deus, si dea es, quoium illud sacrum est, uti tibi ius est porco piaculo facere illiusce sacri coercendi ergo harumque rerum ergo, sive ego sive quis issu meo fecerit, uti id recte factum siet, eius rei ergo te hoc porco piaculo inmolando bonas preces precor, uti sies volens propitius mihi domo familaeque meae liberisque meis; harumce rerum ergo macte hoc porco piaculo inmolando esto."
Si fodere voles, altero piaculo eodem modo facito, hoc amplius dicito: "operis faciundi causa." Dum opus, cotidie per partes facito. Si intermiseris aut feriae publicae aut familiares intercesserint, altero piaculo facito.

English translation:
'It is proper to open out a grove in this way, according to the Roman manner. Offer for atonement a pig, recite words thus: "Be you god or be you goddess, to whom this place is sacred, as it is right to offer for atonement to you a pig for the pruning of this sacred place, on account of these and on account of these things, whether I or whether one ordered by me offered it, in order that it may have been done rightly, for the sake of this thing I pray good prayers to you for the sacrificing of this pig for atonement, that you may be favourable and gracious to me, to my family and house, to my children; for the sake of these things be honoured by the sacrificing of the pig for atonement."
If you wish to dig, offer in the same manner for another atonement, say this in addition: "for the cause of carrying out the work." During the work, offer every day over some area. If you will break off, or public or family festivals will interfere, offer for another atonement.'

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