November 26, 2012

Flora: Roman Goddess of Flowers

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , , at 1:35 am by Babs

When spring is here, for many of us, it means a relief from the cold, dark days and snows of winter.  As the days lengthen and get warmer, we are greeted by the rebirth of the earth itself: bulbs come up and bloom, filling the air with their heady, tempting fragrance; birds chirp and sing as they return from their winter migrations to build their nests; cats yowl out their urgent readiness for motherhood.  All around us are symbols of fertility, growth, warmth and light.  It is the perfect time to throw a May Day party or Beltane Festival, to celebrate the end of winter hibernation and to reconnect with your friends and loved ones.

Historic Beltane

Beltane is an old Celtic Fire Ritual which celebrates at the most fundamental level the end of winter and the beginning of the warmer, lighter half of the year.  It is the counterpart to Samhain, which marks the Pagan New Year and celebrates ancestors and the death of the crops (harvest).  Beltane celebrates life.  For the Celts, it was a festival that insured fertility and growth.

May Day, Beltane’s other name, can trace its origin from many pagan sources, its main source is believed to be ancient Roman festival of Floralia.  This festival began around the year 258 BCE.  Pagan Romans celebrated for six days, from April 25th to May 3rd, honoring their Goddess of Spring and of Flowers, Flora.  Flora is known as Chloris to the Greeks, was a beautiful and serene Goddess, the Queen of Spring.  She was married to Zephyrus, the west wind, and her temple is in Aventine.

Floralia was a time a great merriment and rejoicing in ancient Rome.  During the festival, Romans would cast off their habitual white robes for more colorful garments, especially green ones.  They would also deck themselves and everything around them in flowers then engage in all sorts of activities.  There would be feasting, singing, dancing, and gaming.  Offerings of milk and honey were made to the Goddess Flora.  Goats and hares meant to symbolize fertility were let loose in gardens and fields as protectors in Flora’s honor.  Singing filled the air and dancers stomped the ground to awaken nature and bring it back to life.

Ancient Roman prostitutes in particular enjoyed this festival as they considered Flora their patron Goddess.  So Floralia was especially important to them.  They participated in many events, from performing naked in the theatre to gladiatorial feats.

With the occupation of Rome in many countries of the western world at the time, especially in Britain and continental Europe, the festival of Floralia spread, with each country adding its own special touches to the festivities.  And finally, Floralia became May Day.  many countries choose a May Queen to preside over the day’s activities and children dance around the Maypole.  Some collect flowers on May Eve for the next day and some couples even make love in their garden to ensure fertility.  One belief that has been passed on is that oe should wash one’s face with the dew from may Day morn to obtain lasting beauty.

Floralia or May Day is our way of welcoming spring after a long dark winter.  Our senses delight in the warmth and beauty of spring and we are happy that the cycle of nature continues.  Though Floralia began as a festival to ensure fertility in the land, in the animals, and in ourselves, May Day continues as a celebration of renewed life and the joy of the return of spring.  Give thanks for life is in bloom all around you.

Flora & The Birth of Mars (Aries)
Flora tells her story: ‘Mars (Aries) also, you may not know, was formed by my arts.  I pray that Jove (Zeus) stays ignorant of this.  Holy Juno (Hera), when Minerva (Athene) sprang un-mothered, was hurt that Jove did not need her service.  She went to complain to Oceanus of her husband’s deeds.  She stopped at our door, tired from the journey.  As soon as I saw her, I asked, ‘what’s brought you here, Saturnia (Hera)?’  She reports where she’s going, and cites the cause.  I consoled her with friendly words: ‘Words,’ she declares, ‘cannot relieve my pain.  If Jove became a father without using a spouse and possesses both titles by himself, why should I not expect a spouseless motherhood, chaste parturition, untouched by a man?  I’ll try every drug on the broad earth and empty Oceanus and the hollows of Tartarus.’  Her speech was mid-course; my face was hesitant.  ‘You look, Nympha, as though you can help,’ she says.  Three times I wanted to help, three times my tongue stuck: Jupiter’s anger caused massive fear.  ‘Please help me,’ she said, ‘my source will be concealed;’ and the divine Styx testifies to this.  ‘A flower,’ I said, ‘from the fields of Olenus will grant your wish.  It’s unique to my gardens.  I was told: ‘Touch a barren cow; she’ll be a mother.’  I touched.  No delay: she was a mother.’  I quickly plucked the clinging flower with my thumb.  Juno feels its touch and at the touch conceives.  She bulges, and enters Thrace and west Propontis and fulfils her wish: Mars (Aries) was created.  Recalling my role in his birth, Mars said: ‘You, too, should have a place in Romulus’ city.” – Ovid, Fasti 5.229

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