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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Pagan Festival Shout Out: Bona Dea & Festival Of Lares

Bona DeaMay 1st is not only Beltane (May Day), but this date was also special to the Romans and belongs to The Good Goddess, Bona Dea. She was associated with chastity and fertility in women, healing, and the protection of the Roman state and people. The key words here are fertility, healing and protection. So this day is a wonderful time to connect with the goddess spirit to give your Beltane that extra magical energy for protection in this time of renewal. Ask for healing whether spiritually, physically both for outward desires and for those within.

Her rites allowed women the use of strong wine and blood-sacrifice, things otherwise forbidden them by Roman tradition. Men were barred from her mysteries and the possession of her true name. She is identified as the wife, sister or daughter of the god Faunus, thus an equivalent or aspect of the nature-goddess Fauna, who could prophesy the fates of women. Although her festival was mostly a female affair with limited access granted to men, Bona Dea can easily be associated with the feminine in all mankind. Honor and worship of The Good Goddess will help give a greater love and  appreciation for the women in all our lives, our mothers, sisters and daughters.

LaresMay 1st is also the Festival To Lares. Lares were believed to observe, protect and influence all that happened within the boundaries of their location or function. The statues of domestic Lares were placed at table during family meals; their presence, cult and blessing seem to have been required at all important family events. Roman writers sometimes identify or conflate them with ancestor-deities, domestic Penates and the hearth. Because of these associations, Lares are sometimes categorized as household gods but some had much broader domains. Roadways, seaways, agriculture, livestock, towns, cities, the state and its military were all under the protection of their particular Lar or Lares. Those who protected local neighborhoods (vici) were housed in the crossroad shrines (Compitales) which served as a focus for the religious, social and political life of their local, overwhelmingly plebeian communities. Their cult officials included freedmen and slaves, otherwise excluded by status or property qualification from most administrative and religious offices.

The little mythography that belongs to the Lares seems inventive and poetic. With no traditional, systematic theology to limit their development, Lares became a single but usefully nebulous type, with many functions. In Cicero's day, one's possession of domestic Lares laid moral claim of ownership and belonging to one's domicile. Festus identifies them as "gods of the underworld" (di inferi). To Flaccus, they are ancestral genii (s. genius). Apuleius considers them benevolent ancestral spirits; they belong both to the underworld and to particular places of the human world. Pulled into Beltane, and Bona Dea, The Festival Of Lares is a wonderful time to observe those female members of the family who have passed.
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