Floralia

Today is the last day of the Floralia, a festival celebrated in Rome from April 27th to May 3rd.

At parties everyone wears crowns of flowers,

and the table is strewn with sweet scented roses.

A guest who drank too much dances with twigs in his hair.

His indiscretion induced by wine.

A drunken lover sings loudly at his girlfriend’s door

with flowers stuck in his hair.

No serious business is conducted by those who wear flower crowns,

Nor do they mix water with their wine.

Bacchus lovers flowers and delights in a floral crown.

Risque shows suit Flora well,

She is not a goddess of the tragic play.

Her rites are open to all, including prostitutes. …

When white robes are worn for Ceres’ festival,

Why brightly colored clothes suitable for Flora?

That is because the harvest whitens when the grain is ripe.

But flowers come in a variety of colors.

Flora nodded in agreement.

As she shook her head, flower petals fell from her hair.

As roses strewn on the table.

— Ovid. Fasti. 5.338-65

An ancient Latin Goddess of flowers, gardens, fertility, and love, Flora was charged with seeing to the flowering of all things, including fields and the flowering of love and sex. the Romans loved her because She helped Juno to conceive Mars, Who would later sire the founders of Rome. She is married to Zephyr, the God of gentle breezes

Sensual Flora is more than the Goddess of flowers and gardens. She patronized not just fertility but a kind of innocent, joyous kind of sexuality. Flora is celebrated in May, an undeniably sensual month. As the sun warms our newly bared skin, as we dig our fingers into black earth, as our spirits run high after a long, cold winter stuck indoors. Flora is not just the Goddess of flowers, but the embodiment of the spirit of spring itself. As May bursts with life, how can the delicately blooming flower not remind one of the flowerings of first love?

“We are not so different from the blossoms, you see. We humans can open up when we are touched with sunshine and properly nourished. We anticipate growth and change to come. But it is in May that we feel the first blush – our “coming out”. A woman does not have to young in age to experience May. This blossoming month is a metaphor for growth of any kind at any age. Macto Esto, “Let it grow,” was an invocation in ancient Latin. It is fitting to invoke the Goddess of May. Macto Esto!

— Frances Bernstein, Ph.D. Classical Living: Reconnecting with the Rituals of Ancient Rome. Page 93.

Flora’s priests, the Arval Brethren, tended to Her sacred grove year round, but Her greatest celebration was the festival of Floralia from April 27th to May 3rd. The temple of Flora was re-dedicated on the first day, and then games and contests in Her honor were celebrated at the Circus Maximus. Women wore bright, cheerful colors to the festivities, and at some time in week rabbits and goats, great symbols of fertility for obvious reasons, were released into the crowds. Beans and lupines were scattered as well, again symbols of spring and fertility.

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2 Responses to Floralia

  1. Stephen Glaser says:

    That was a wonderful post. I may get that Frances Bernstein book soon.

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