Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pagan Festival Shout Out: Floralia

In ancient Roman religion, the Floralia was a festival in honor of the goddess Flora, held April 27 during the Republican era, or April 28 on the Julian calendar. In Latin, the festival was known as the Ludi Florae, the Games (ludi) of Flora. Under the Empire, the games lasted for six days. The festival had a licentious, pleasure-seeking atmosphere. In contrast to festivals based on Rome's archaic patrician religion, the games of Flora had a plebeian character.

Floralia began in April, the Roman month of the love goddess Venus, it was really an ancient May Day celebration. Flora, the Roman goddess in whose honor the festival was held, was a goddess of flowers, which generally begin to bloom in the spring. The holiday for Flora (as officially determined by Julius Caesar when he fixed the Roman calendar) ran from April 28 to May 3.

The celebration in honor of Flora included floral wreaths worn in the hair much like modern participants in May Day celebrations. After the theatrical performances, the celebration continued in the Circus Maximus, where animals were set free and beans scattered to insure fertility. A rite called the Florifertum is described by one source as involving the bearing (fert-) of wheat ears (spicae) into a shrine (sacrarium). It is unclear whether the offering was made to Flora or to Ceres, or whether if made to Flora it occurred on April 27 or May 3.Ovid describes a florifertum in honor of Juno Lucina on March 1,  a date also celebrated as the dies natalis ("birthday") of Mars in whose conception Flora played a role.

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