25 April 2008
25 April is the date of the Roman festival of the Robigalia, a special time to beg the kindness of Robigo, goddess of mildew, mold, wheat rust and similar crop killers. Or it may be meant to honor the god Robigus depending on which source you search. On this day, a procession beginning in Rome left the city by the Flamian Gate, then crossed the Milvan bridge before reaching the fifth milestone on the Via Claudia. At that point the procession entered a sacred grove where a dog and a sheep were sacrificed and their entrails burned on the sacrificial altar. According to Ovid the flamen (priest) then said the following words:
Harsh Robigo, spare the sprouting grain and let the unblemished tops quiver above the ground. Let the crops, nursed by the heaven's propitious stars, grow till they are ripe for the sickle. Yours is no feeble power: the grain on which you have branded your mark the husbandman gives up for lost. Not the winds, nor the showers, nor the glistening frost that nips the sallow grain, harm it so much as when the sun warms the wet stalks; then, dread goddess, is it the hour you wreck your wrath. Spare, I pray, and take your scabby hands from off the harvest: Harm not the tilth; be it enough that you have the power to harm.
While I'm obviously not going to sacrifice any animals I am taking steps to control the mushrooms and fungus that like to grow in my seedling cups. A couple of years ago a very knowledgeable herb lady gave me some advice to curb these kinds of plant killers. She said to mix ash and sand and sprinkle that on my seedlings. I've never tried it before this year but I've been using this mix for the last few days and so far I think it's working. *knock wood* Nowadays only farmers and gardeners care about root rot and similar problems but just think of ancient times, or even just a couple of hundred years ago. As if propagating and planting and weeding isn't hard enough can you imagine your very life rotting away before your eyes? The food for one's family, that produce they barter for other goods, gone and all because of mold. After losing several crops of herb seedlings to root rot I can only imagine what it would be like to lose one's only food source. So, on this day I honor the goddess Robigo as well as those who have gone before me in marking this day.