30 April 2008
We are smack dab in the middle of the Floralia Ludi, the spring festival honoring the goddess Flora. She is a goddess of flowering plants, vines, olives and fruit trees as well as youth and fertility. In the Circus Maximus the temple of Flora, between the Aventine and Palatine hills, was decorated with, of course, flowers and instead of the usual white the Romans dressed in colorful clothing as they enjoyed the sexual freedom of the festival. Even animals were dressed with flowers and hares and goats were released into the city as they were especially linked with fertility. There were special theater performances, games, stripteases and much feasting and drinking to celebrate the energetic bloom of spring. At one point the games and festivities fell out of favor due to the wildness of the celebrations but were reinstated in 173 BCE as a six day festival after storms and other troubles had destroyed crops. The emphasis on sex and fertility was such that, in the cities, prostitutes claimed the festival as their own. In the country the celebration was much closer to nature and focused less on the party and more on the growth of crops. Beans and seeds featured heavily in the celebrations and were not only planted at this time but also scattered amongst celebrants to promote fertility.
As for myself, I've been celebrating the festival by potting the first of the spring flowers and enjoying the beauty of springs first blush. We started with dianthus, pansies and violas. Violas are my special favorite flowers. When I was a baby I apparently found them, or their fairies perhaps, funny and would laugh at them. So, violas are also called giggle flowers around here. The weather has been weird lately; we had frost the other night. It seems to be warming up again and hopefully this time it'll stay warm. As long as the weather cooperates tomorrow we'll get peas, radishes, lettuce, beets, corn, green beans, pinto beans and cucumber seeds started in the gardens. We've also got red and white onions to get in the ground. So, I've got a full day of planting ahead and am actually looking forward to continuing the Floralia tradition in this way.
Original art by Josephine Wall.