Sunday, March 6, 2016

Pagan Festival Shout Out: Festival Of Mars

Mars was considered the father of Romulus and Remus, the mythical twin founders of Rome. According to the story, their mother, the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia, was raped by Mars while she slept, and in her dreams she had a vision where she dropped a hairpin to the ground, and from which there sprang two twin trees. Over time one of the trees grew so large that it covered the entire world with its shade, a reference to the ultimate success of Romulus and the growth of the huge Roman Empire.

The month of Martius (March) was named after the god. Important festivals and ceremonies, usually connected to the preparation and closure of military campaigns, were held in honour of the god in March and October and carried out by Mars' specially dedicated priests, the flamen Martialis. These rites may also have been connected to agriculture but the nature of Mars' role in this area of Roman life is disputed by scholars. The first festival of the year was actually on the 27th of February with the first Equirria, then followed a busy March. There was the feriae Martifestival, held on the 1st of March (the old New Year's Day), the second Equirria on the 14th, the agonium Martiale on the 17th, the Quinquatrus on the 19th (in later times Minerva would assume Mars' role), and the Tubilustrium on the 23rd of March (and again on the 23rd of May). The details of these festivals are sometimes sketchy, but most were related to war and the instruments of warfare.

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