Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Festival of Diana - August 13th


The Festival of Diana, also known as the Festival of Torches, is celebrated on August 13th. This “Feria” is celebrated during or around the August Full Moon.

This poem by Ovid, from his Fasti, describes the ancient celebration:

In the Arrician valley,
there is a lake surrounded by shady forests,
Held sacred by a religion from the olden times...
On a long fence hang many pieces of woven thread,
and many tablets are placed thereas grateful gifts to the Goddess.
Often does a woman whose prayers Diana answered,
With a wreath of flowers crowning her head,
Walk from Rome carrying a burning torch...
There a stream flows down gurgling from its rocky bed.

In times past, hundreds have gone to Diana's lake, wearing flowers wreathed around their necks and foreheads. Everyone made a special ritual of washing their hair before dressing it with flowers. Garlanded hounds also marched by the side of hunters. Little boats, lit by oil lamps, ferried festive crowds back and forth across the lake. Those gathered there would write small messages on ribbons and tie them to a fence at the sanctuary, in supplication to She Who Provides. Likewise, numerous small statuettes of body parts would have been found there. It was common practice in Italy (and Greece) to bake a small model of an afflicted part of the body and offer it to a God or Goddess as a votive. Also offered were small clay images of mother and child, and tiny sculptures of stags, one of the favored animals of Artemis/Diana. Apples were likewise given to Diana as the Soul of Nature who protects all species, including humans.

Offerings of garlic are made to the Goddess of the Dark Moon, Hecate, during the festival. In Wicca, Diana is often considered the Maiden aspect of the Moon Goddess, Who manifests as Maid, Mother, and Crone. But at the festival of the Nemoralia, Diana is the Mother, and Hecate is the Crone.

So who is the Maiden? Diana has a legendary daughter, Aradia, whose birthday is given as August 13, 1313. Aradia was sent to Earth by Her divine Mother to empower the weak and oppressed, particularly the Pagans and gypsies who were chained in slavery to church and state. She was a sort of female "Robin Hood" of the Alban Hills of Italy. Aradia's Mother, the Goddess Diana, like Robin Hood's Father, Herne (Cernunnos), blessed the oppressed and down- trodden, the peasant, the heathen, all those noble souls and noble "savages" who society despises.

It seems Diana had fewer artificial temples built to Her than any other of the main Deities in the Classical pantheon, which no doubt suits Her, since certainly a Goddess of Nature prefers to be worshipped in Her natural groves. Therefore, it's a good idea to visit a wild and natural area during this festival. Choose a tree to decorate. It may, but does not necessarily have to be, an evergreen. Hang from its branches symbols such as silver moons, bows and arrows, tiny animals, as well as ribbons, bells, and whatever else you think Diana might like. If you are suffering from any kind of illness, you might want to make a symbol of that too, and hang it on the branches in supplication for healing. Imagine Her arrows piercing your pain, discomfort, or disability with a powerful potion of wellness.

The Festival of Torches evolved to become one of those sacred times when the hunting or killing of any beast was forbidden all over Italy. It was a Time of Blessing that extended a truce between humankind and the natural world. Likewise, slaves and women were free from their duties during this Feria. Men and masters did participate in the festival, but they were required to be on equal terms with women and slaves.

Taken, in part, from Festival of Torches, by Helen Park.

6 comments:

  1. How beautiful - I didn't know about this Festival. I'll definitely light some "torches" tomorrow night!

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  2. I hope you don't mind that I have posted this to Seers and Seekers.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/seerseeker/

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  3. hi...just found you and signed on as a follower! check mine out when you have time!!

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  4. This is a lovely blog post. My man is a Monist who honours Diana. :) It's so rare to see someone discuss Her festivals...so thank you!

    Blessings,
    Aelwyn
    http://hedgewitchhollow.blogspot.com

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  5. You're very welcome. Thanks for visiting!

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