|Liber Bacchus is ever
And is into their bellies shoved,
By day and by night;
Liber Codex is neglected
And with scornful hand rejected
Far out of their sight.
AAnd as if the simple monastic folk of modern times were deceived
by a confusion of names, while Liber Pater is preferred to Liber
Patrum, the study of the monks nowadays is in the emptying of
cups and not the emending of books; to which they do not
hesitate to add the wanton music of Timotheus, jealous of
chastity, and thus the song of the merry-maker and not the chant
of the mourner is become the office of the monks
by Richard de Bury
Myth, Cult, Art and History
|The growth of art, and of poetic art especially, in
antiquity was intimately associated with the development of national
festivals. The thanksgiving-festival of the Roman community, which had
been already organized in the previous period essentially under Greek
influence and in the first instance as an extraordinary festival, -- the
-ludi maximi- or -Romani-,(1) -- acquired during the present epoch a
longer duration and greater variety in the amusements. Originally
limited to one day, the festival was prolonged by an additional day
after the happy termination of each of the three great revolutions of
245, 260, and 387, and thus at the close of this period it had already a
duration of four days.
government adhered to the practice of allowing the spectacle proper --
namely the chariot-race, which was the principal performance -- to take
place not more than once at the close of the festival. On the other days
the multitude were probably left mainly to furnish amusement for
themselves, although musicians, dancers, rope-walkers, jugglers, jesters
and such like would not fail to make their appearance on the occasion,
whether hired or not But about the year 390 an important change
occurred, which must have stood in connection with the fixing and
prolongation of the festival, that took place perhaps about the same
time. A scaffolding of boards was erected at the expense of the state in
the Circus for the first three days, and suitable representations were
provided on it for the entertainment of the multitude. That matters
might not be carried too far however in this way, a fixed sum of 200,000
-asses- (2055 pounds) once for all appropriated from the exchequer for
the expenses of the festival; and the sum was not increased up to the
period of the Punic wars. The aediles, who had to expend this sum, were
obliged to defray any additional amount out of their own pockets; and it
is not probable that they at this time contributed often or considerably
from their own resources. That the new stage was generally under Greek
influence, is proved by its very name (-scaena-, -- skene -- ). It was
no doubt at first designed merely for musicians and buffoons of all
sorts, amongst whom the dancers to the flute, particularly those then so
celebrated from Etruria, were probably the most distinguished; but a
public stage had at any rate now arisen in Rome and it soon became open
also to the Roman poets
In the 2nd century B.C.
the Greek Gods invaded the Roman Empire and easily conquered the
weary Roman deities. Rome was an early pioneer of
creating syncretic polytheism, gladly absorbing and blending
local gods into their pantheon. The evolution of Dionysianism
continued in the Roman Empire, with the Bacchic Mysteries, as
they were known in Italy. Here Dionysos was merged with
the local fertility god Liber, whose consort Libera was the
inspiration for the statue of liberty, a principle she and her
partner also represented.Yet Rome's strength, like that of
Carnaval today, was its successful multiculturalism where the role of
festivals brought together foreigners and natives in a space devoted to
celebration and joy. Over time the church took over the year end holiday
season with Christmas as well as the spring holiday Easter and gave the
irrepressible Carnaval holiday a space in between just before the
season of fasting and penitence leading up
to the rebirth of Christ. Yet even the church respected the nature
traditions by setting Easter like Passover based upon the first Sunday
following the first full moon following the Spring Equinox where day and
night are equal in time and naming the holiday after the was
moved to a point midway between Christmas and Easter as determined by
the lunar calendar and Spring Equinox which picks Easter's date.
We acclaim Rome not for its
military victories but its role in civilizing the Mediterranean beyond
the trading cities and instilling the best from a myriad of sources on
its subject peoples. Rome represents the agent of change at the beginning of the last great
age. Great ages are defined by the changes in the night sky as brought
about by the 26,000 year
full cycle caused by the earth's wobble as it circles the sun. The
Roman empire was most responsible for the changes in the transition of
the last great age about 2,160 years ago when we moved from the age of
Aries to Pisces.
Rome's last act was to convert it's empire to the monotheism of
Christianity which is symbolized by the fish of Pisces. However, Rome's
reign was most successful under the pagan gods of its conquered subjects
and their unifying festivals.
The Roman Bacchic Cult typically emphasized the
sexual aspects of the religion, and invented terrifying, chthonic
ordeals for it's Mystery initiation. It was this aspect that led to the
cults banning by the Roman authorities in 186 BC, for alleged sexual
abuse and other criminal activities, including accusations of murder.
Whether these charges were true or not is uncertain, there may have been
individual cases of corruption as in any institution, but there is no
evidence of widespread corruption, and the general opinion is that these
were trumped up charges levelled against a cult seen as a danger to the
State. The Roman Senate thus sought to ban the Dionysian rites
throughout the Empire, and restricted their gatherings to no more than a
handful of people under special licence in Rome. However this was never
fully successful and only succeeded in pushing the cult underground.
They gained even more infamy due to the claims that
the wife and inspirer of Spartacus, leader of the Slave Revolt of 73BC,
was an initiate of the Thracian Mysteries of Dionysos, who considered
her husband an incarnation of Dionysos Liber. But they were revived in a
slightly tamer form under Julius Caesar around 50 BC, with his one time
ally Mark Anthony becoming an enthusiastic devotee, and gaining much
popular support in the process. They remained in existence, along with
their carnivalesque Bacchanalian street processions, until at least the
time of Augustine (A.D. 354-430)) and were implanted in most Romanised
There were two allies a December
year end festival is the most often
sited origin for the Carnaval celebration , most do not appreciate its many ties to
Christmas and New Years Day. The Romans feast of Flowers is the best
source for perhaps the most widely recognized official holiday, May Day
on May 1st. Valentine's Day relates to the ritual commemorating the
founding of Rome. Christianity most important ally in its domination of
West culture was Roman civilization whose openness to religious concepts
was ended when the emperor Justinian Mayday and Inherent in the
Christian holidays and customs (Christmas, Shrovetide, Easter, Midsummer
Day, Holy Cross Day, etc.) are different heathen rites and magic
symbols. The pagan pantheon is related to the Christian saints -
The month February is derived from the latin word
Februum, literally, instrument of purification, was the last
month of the Roman year when injustices and ill fortunes of the
old year were purged.
The Vestals were chosen
between the ages of six and ten and served for thirty years, ten
as students, ten in service, and ten as teachers. A violation
of their vow of chastity led to execution by being buried alive.
In Roman state cult, each Vestal
Virgin, one of six virginal attendants to the goddess Vesta's
sacred flame, dressed as a bride to ascend her throne. After she
took her vow, the Pontifex Maximus, or chief priest, embraced
her and called her his beloved, and the two symbolically became
man and wife. Graves sees this as a relic of early Vestals'
coupling in a sacred marriage with the Roman king's attendants;
the resulting children became heirs to the throne.
Temple of Vesta was located in the southwest corner of the Roman
Forum. The most important job of the six Vestal Virgins was to
maintain the fire in a the public hearth of the temple. It was
said that disaster would strike Rome if the fire ever went
out. In addition, the Vestals made a special kind of flour
called mola which was sprinkled on all public offerings to a
They appeared often in
public and had special, reserved seats at banquets and games.
|I'm a path of
Burning under your feet
You're the one who walks me
I'm your one-way street - Bjork,
One of the most ancient festivals at Rome, celebrated several
times in the year. (Var.
Ov. Fast. i.333; Festus, s.v. Agonium),
A ram was slaughtered and presented to the guardian gods of the
state, and the rex sacrificulus and
the regia could be employed only for
such ceremonies as were connected with the highest gods and
affected the wealth of the whole state.
Lemuria | the name Lemuria indicates the time during
which the lemures, or "hungry ghosts", wandered the earth
|March was the first
month of the ancient Roman religious calendar. The month of March was
sacred to the god Mars, father of the founder of Rome, Romulus.
"Because it's always
good to know where your manufactured holidays really
come from. Always healthy to pay homage to the true
origins, realize how much calculated deceit has happened
along the way. Just like Christmas and Easter and
Halloween and any major holiday worth mentioning that
the church gutted and renamed and from whose moist
tremulous soul they tried to suck the pithy throbbing
joy, ya gotta give props to the old gods, throw a karmic
kiss to Lupercus and Juno and the she-wolf. Word.
Whip My Roman Sex Gods
You want the true Valentine's Day? Forget roses and
candy, sweetheart, and kneel before the Lupercalia By
Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, February 14, 2003
Saint Valentine's Day,
All in the morning betime,
and I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
William Shakespeare, Ophelia in Hamlet
on HBO: where the sexes played differently
"Ovid's advice on grooming includes hair removal, and not just men's
beards. Whether this was accomplished by shaving, plucking or other
depilatory practices is sometimes hard to tell. Julius Caesar was noted
by Suetonius to have been meticulous in hair removal. Seems he didn't
want hair anywhere except where he didn't have it (the crown of his
head, hence the famous comb-over).
"Not that hair is inherently dirty or stinks; but there was an aesthetic
of cleanness, of refining the surface. I've read somewhere that
pervasive hair removal was characteristic of Egyptian priests, maybe as
a form of purification; for practical purposes, it reduces
susceptibility to lice, for instance.
|"When on HBO." It's like a free creative pass, is it
not? Violence can be off the charts, the sex can be dirtier, swearing
can buttress both and, when it comes to nudity, well, you've got
full-frontal male nudity here. Several times over. Let's see Fox try
Goodman for sfgate.com 25AUG05
|HBO has picks up Rome for a second 12 episode season, but
which will begin airing sometime in 2007.
with Aphrodite (Venus), Hermes (Mercury) and Demeter is
one of the people's favorite divinities
Fertility and purification were
the goals of the the Lupercalia. Greek
writers and their followers among the Romans represent it as a
festival of Pan. Comparative mythologists would say its greatest
importance was as the creation story for Roman culture.
The festival was held every year, on the 15th of
Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were said to have been
nurtured by the she-wolf; the place contained an altar and a
grove sacred to the god Lupercus (Aurel. Vict. de Orig. Gent.
Ovid. Fast. ii.267).
The Lupercalia was celebrated
to worship the she-wolf who suckled Romulus & Remus. It started
with a group of specially appointed priests gathering at the
Lupercal, a cave at the bottom of the Papatine Hill. The priests
would offer a sacrifice a goat, and anoint the Lupercii (young
male participants) on their foreheads with the blood. The blood
was wiped away with a piece of wool dipped in milk by other priests.
Ovid thought this a reference to an earlier time when human
sacrifice was practiced. The Lupercii them skinned the
sacrificed goat and ripped the hide into strips which they tied
around their bodies which were naked except for the
wreaths on their heads. They then got joyfully drunk, and ran around Rome striking
everyone they met with goatskin thongs. Young women who were
touched in this manner were thought to be specially blessed,
especially in regards to fertility and procreation.
Lupercalia continued to be celebrated in Rome till the very end
of the 5th Century A.D.
All Souls Trinity of Holidays in February
|February was the last month in the "old"
Roman calendar, but strangely enough (from our point of view),
the first day of spring was celebrated on February 5 (the Nones).
It was a month, accordingly of "spring cleaning," i.e.
purifcation and fertility rituals - something akin to the way
Christians think of Lent. According to Ovid, the Latin word
februa, ("the means of purification") derived from an
Etruscan word equivalent for "purgamentum" ["purging"].
The first of three related
festivals in February for appeasing the dead which started on
the Ides and lasted until the 22nd. From noon on February 13
through the 21st (the Feralia, FP or
F, the feast of infernal powers)all temples were
closed, marriages were forbidden, and public officials lay down
their insignia of office.
Although the Parentalia always began with the performance of
ceremonies in honor of dead parents by a Vestal Virgin, Romans
basically celebrated the Parentalia at the family level.
Families walked outside the city to visit the family tombs and
performed private sacrifices in honor of dead kin. The
sacrifices were simple, a little wine, a little corn or bread,
perhaps some votive garlands. It was a quiet, personal,
reflective day, followed by a quiet reflective week or so to
think about loved ones and the importance of the family.
closing ceremony for the Parentalia. A darker, scarier rite
which in Ovid's description has overtones of witchcraft and
magic and at which sheep were sacrificed to the spirits of the
dead. On February 22,and was the last day
of the Parentalia,
a family reunion, where the living, now that they had paid
respect to the dead, gathered to celebrate their own family (and
resolve any outstanding quarrels). It was a potluck dinner and
sacrifices were made to the Lares (every family had
personal gods which Romans referred to as their "Lares and
Penates." If your family didn't invite you to the Carista it
meant that they thought you were unkind or guilty of something
pretty nasty. Also said to be the last day of of the week of
Terminalia: February 23
On this day, landowners would honor the boundaries of their land
at the boundry markers. Garlands were placed over the boundry
stones, and altars were built near them. Offerings of grain and
homey were given by the children, and the adults would offer
wine. Everyone was dressed in white, and were required to keep
silent throughout the offerings. A picnic feast was held at the
end of the ritual.
16th of March
Dionysiac festivals held in honor of the
god Bacchus or Liber. Introduced into Rome (c. 200 BC)
from the Greek culture of lower Italy
While the Bacchanalia was
suppressed, another more simple and innocent festival of
Bacchus, the Liberalia (from
Liber, or Liber
Pater, a name of Bacchus), continued to be celebrated at
Rome every year on the 16th of March
(Ovid. Fast. iii.713). A description of the
ceremonies customary at this festival is given by Ovid (l.c.),
with which may be compared Varro (Varr.
De Ling. Lat. v.55, ed. Bipont.). Priests and aged
priestesses, adorned with garlands of ivy, carried through the
city wine, honey, cakes, and sweet-meats, together with an altar
with a handle (ansata ara), in the
middle of which there was a small fire-pan
in which from time to time sacrifices were burnt.
Old women, acting as priestesses of Liber
Pater, wear ivy wreaths and displaying cakes (libia) made of oil
and honey. They would sacrifice these cakes to Liber Pater for
In the countryside, a large phallus was carted around to
encourage fertility and protect the crops from evil, after which
a wreath was placed upon it by a virtuous matron
BOYS TO MEN: male rites of passage
On this day
Roman youths who had attained their sixteenth year received the
toga virilis Boys took
off for the last time their purple-bordered purple togas (the
toga praetexta) and donned the unbleached woollen toga virilis,
or toga libera that represented their manhood .(Cicero. ad Att. vi.1).This
was a festival of liberation from “the powerlessness of
childhood”. They removed the phallic bullae charms - which had
"Teenage boys, goaded by their
surging hormones run in packs like the primal horde.
They have only a brief season of exhilarating liberty
between control by their mothers and control by their
protected them in youth - from around their necks and offered
them to the household gods. Their fathers took them to the Forum
in Rome and presented them as adults and citizens.
Liberalia were celebrated with various amusements and
great merriment, might be inferred from the general character of
Dionysiac festivals; but we may also see it from the name
Ludi Liberales, which is sometimes
used instead of Liberalia; and
Naevius (ap. Fest.) expressly says that persons expressed
themselves very freely at the Liberalia.
Dionysos leading the Horai (Seasons). Roman artwork of
the Imperial Era, c. 1st century C.E. copy of a
Location: Louvre (MR 720), part of the Albani
Photograph: Jastrow (2005)
St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, vii.21) speaks of a high degree of
licentiousness carried on at this festival in the south
of Italy, for a very long time Liberalia
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