Monday, April 1, 2013

Pagan Festival Shout Out! Veneralia & All Fool’s Day

Today in modern times it is April Fool’s Day! In ancient times the Roman’s celebrated Veneralia. The Festival of Bold Fortune in honor of  Venus Verticordia one of the aspects of the goddess Venus. The worship of the goddess Fortuna Virilis ("Bold fortune") was also part of this festival. April 1st was also known as All Fool’s Day which also correlated with worship of the goddess Venus.

Venus_Verticordia-2Venus Verticordia was invented in 220 BC, during the last years of Rome's Punic Wars, in response to advice from a Sibylline oracle, when a series of prodigies was taken to signify divine displeasure at sexual offenses among Romans of every category and class, including several men and three Vestal Virgins. Her statue was dedicated by a young woman, chosen as the most pudica (sexually pure) in Rome by a committee of Roman matrons. At first, the statue was probably housed within the temple to Fortuna Virilis (Virile or strong Good Fortune). This cult, much older than any cult to Venus but possibly perceived as weak or gone to seed, may have benefited from the moral and religious support of Venus as a relatively new but senior deity; for Ovid, Venus's acceptance of the epithet and its responsibilities represented the goddess' own change of heart.

In 114 BC Venus Verticordia was given her own temple. She was meant to persuade Romans of both sexes and every class, whether married or unmarried, to cherish the traditional sexual proprieties and morality known to please the gods and benefit the State. During the Veneralia, her cult image was taken from her temple to the men's baths, where it was undressed and washed in warm water by her female attendants, then garlanded with myrtle. At the Veneralia, women and men asked Venus Verticordia for her help in affairs of the heart, sex, betrothal and marriage. Fortuna Virilis was given cult on the same day.

shipfoolIt's a great day for fun and trickery (at least up to midday) but did you know the festival of the April Fool (April 1st) is celebrated throughout most of Europe and the former colonial outposts of European rule. It is an ancient festival, deriving from pre-historic times, which has been traditionally dedicated to Venus. The Fool is also the pivotal point in the Tarot pack, as the journey through the major arcana can be construed as the journey from folly to wisdom. And back again, as Bilbo Baggins might have said...
Ship of Fools

The calends of April (April 1) in ancient Rome was sacred to Venus?as was the entire month?and this day was called the Veneralia (the Kalendae, or calends, was the first day of the month in the Roman Calendar). Public games, ludi, would be held in her honour. Apollonius Sophistes tells us that some ancient authors actually derived the month's name from Aphrodite (perhaps via a conjectured Etruscan form, Aprodita); others derive it from aperire (to open), since it is the time when, according to Cincius and Varro, ?fruits and flowers and animals and seas and lands open.?

The Veneralia, on the first day of Venus?s month, honours Venus Verticordia (Changer of Hearts) and her companion Fortuna Virilis (Bold Fortune). In ancient times all the women, married and unmarried, went to the men's baths, as today they might go to swimming pools. Upon arriving they offered incense to Fortuna Virilis and prayed that the men would not see any blemishes the women might have had. They made a libation and drank the potion Venus drank on Her wedding night: pounded poppy with milk and honey. An ancient commentary (probably by Verrius) says they go to the baths to view the men's virile members. The women, crowned with myrtle wreaths, bathe and pray that Venus will bring them concord and a modest life. Ovid says, ?beauty and fortune and good fame are in Her keeping.?

In addition, the women would remove the jewellery and other ornaments from the statues of Venus and Fortuna so that they could be washed, after which they were redecorated and adorned with roses (Venus?s flower).

This day was also known as All Fools Day to the ancient Romans, and they would spend the entire day celebrating, laughing, playing tricks, doing things backwards, wearing women's clothes, dancing in the streets, and generally carrying on like fools and pranksters. It is one of the few Roman holidays that has preserved some of its original character, under the modern name April Fools' Day. The Lord of Misrule…(more here!)

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