06 May 2008

Bona Dea

Around this time of May sacred rites in honor of Bona Dea, the Good Goddess, were celebrated in Rome. The Bona Dea is a goddess of fertility and healing who was especially loved by women and slaves. As the daughter of Faunus she is sometimes called Fauna. She is also sometimes called Fatua, or Fate. Her temple on the Aventine hill included a medicinal herb garden and something of a doctors office as well. Like Diana, or the Greek Artemis, her rites were for women only and even images of male animals were removed from the area of the sacred rites. Not much is known about her rituals. We do know that during her May rites a sow was sacrificed to her and Ceres and that wine, since it was officially off-limits to women, was called milk and drunk by the celebrants. History also tells us that decorations of vines and flowers were used with the exception of the myrtle since one story held that Faunus had beaten his daughter with myrtle branches, perhaps in the course of a purification ritual. Juvenal, the hilarious Roman satirist, claimed that the rites of the Bona Dea were orgiastic and wild but this is not to be taken as literal truth as he often exaggerated to make his point. She is ususally portrayed on a throne with a cornucopia in hand and often appeared on coins. Snakes, as symbols of healing, are sacred to her and consecrated snakes were kept in her temple in Rome.

I am just getting to know the Bona Dea. She is a Great Goddess and I would so love to know more about her ancient rites. I can't find much about her online and am feeling rather stymied. Her close ties to Diana and Ceres means her interests include animals, agriculture as well as virginity and I'm determined to learn more about her. I will seek to learn more of her through deep meditation and further study.

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