Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Flora is the Roman Goddess of flowering plants, especially those that bear fruit. Spring, of course, is Her season, and She has elements of a Love-Goddess, with its attendant attributes of fertility, sex, and blossoming. She is quite ancient; the Sabines are said to have named a month for Her (which corresponds to our and the Roman April), and She was known among the Samnites as well as the Oscans, where She was called Flusia. She was originally the Goddess specifically of the flowering crops, such as the grain or fruit-trees, and Her function was to make the grain, vegetables and trees bloom so that autumn's harvest would be good. She was invoked to avert rust, a nasty fungal disease of plants that causes orange growths the exact color of rusting iron, and which was (is) an especial problem affecting wheat. Hers is the beginning of the process that finds its completion with Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and the Harvest; and like Pomona, Flora had Her own flamen, one of a small number of priests each in service to a specific Deity. The flamens were said to have been instituted by Numa, the legendary second King of Rome who succeeded Romulus; and whether Numa really existed or not, the flamens were undoubtedly of ancient origin, as were the Deities they served.

In later times Flora became the Goddess of all flowering plants, including the ornamental varieties. Her name is related to Latin floris, meaning naturally enough "a flower", with the additional meaning of "[something] in its prime"; other related words have meanings like "prospering", "flourishing", "abounding", and "fresh or blooming". In one story, Flora was said to have provided Juno with a magic flower that would allow Her to conceive with no help from a man; from this virgin-birth Mars was born. A late tale calls Flora a courtesan and gives Her a story similar to Acca Larentia: Flora was said to have made a fortune as a courtesan, which She bequeathed to Rome upon Her death, and for which She was honored with the festival of the Floralia. As Flora was originally a Sabine Goddess, and as the Sabines were a neighboring tribe whom the Romans conquered and assimilated into Rome, perhaps this is an acknowledgment of the land so acquired, put into legendary terms.

Flora had two temples in Rome, one near the Circus Maximus, the great "stadium" of Rome where chariot races were held, and another on the slopes of the Quirinal Hill. The temple on the Quirinal was most likely built on the site of an earlier altar to Her said to have been dedicated by Titus Tatius, King of the Sabines, who ruled alongside Romulus for a time in the very early (hence legendary) days of Rome. Her other temple was built quite near to the Circus Maximus, though its exact site has not been found, and was associated with a neighboring temple dedicated to the triad of Ceres (the Grain Goddess) and Liber and Libera (God and Goddess of the Vine). These Deities and Flora were all concerned with the fertility and health of the crops. Flora's temple by the Circus was dedicated on the 28th of April in 241 (or 24 BCE in response to a great drought at the command of the Sybilline books, and this day became the starting date of Her great festival, the Floralia. In Imperial times (1st century CE) this temple was rededicated (I assume after some restorations were made) on the 13th of August, and this date was given to a second festival of Flora, coinciding with the ripening of the grain, whose flowers She had set forth.

The Floralia of April was originally a moveable feast to coincide with the blossoming of the plants, later becoming fixed with the dedication of Her temple on the 28th (or 27th, before the calendar was reformed--I mention this because holidays were almost always held on odd-numbered days as it was considered unlucky to start a festival on an even-numbered day), though ludi or "games"--horse-races or athletic contests--were not held every year. By the Empire the festival had grown (or should I say, blossomed) to seven days, and included chariot-races and theatrical performances, some of which were notoriously bawdy. It was given over to merriment and celebrations of an amorous nature, much like that northern flower-and-sex festival Beltaine whose date neatly coincides. Prostitutes considered it their own special time, and the Floralia gained a reputation as being more licentious and abandoned than the Saturnalia of December, whose name is legendary even now.

At the chariot-races and circus games of the Floralia it was traditional to let goats and hares loose, and lupines, bean-flowers and vetch (all of which have similarly-shaped blossoms and are a sort of showier version of wheat in bloom) were scattered, symbolic of fertility. Brightly colored clothes were a must, as were wreaths of flowers, especially roses; and the celebrations drew great crowds. Of the two nationalized chariot-teams who shared a deep rivalry, the Greens and the Blues, the Greens (of course) were Hers, and She had been invoked at chariot-races from ancient times. The last day of the festival, May 3rd, was called Florae; it may be a special name for the closing day of the Floralia, or it may refer to a seperate ceremony conducted in Her temple on the Quirinal.

Flora was depicted by the Romans wearing light spring clothing, holding small bouquets of flowers, sometimes crowned with blossoms. Honey, made from flowers, is one of Her gifts, and Her name is said to be one of the secret (holy) names of Rome. She is sometimes called the handmaiden of Ceres. Ovid identifies Her with the Greek flower-nymph Chloris, whose name means "yellow or pale green", the color of Spring. The word flora is still used as a general name for the plants of a region.

Alternate names/epithets: Flora Rustica, "Flora the Countrywoman" or "Flora of the Countryside", and Flora Mater, or "Flora the Mother", in respect to Her ancient origins. Among the Oscans She was known as Flusia.

From: The Obscure Goddess Online Directory: Flora
In Roman mythology, Flora was a goddess of flowers and the season of spring. While she was otherwise a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, being one among several fertility goddesses, her association with the spring gave her particular importance at the coming of springtime. Her festival, the Floralia, was held in April or early May and symbolized the renewal of the cycle of life, marked with dancing, drinking, and flowers. Her Greek equivalent was Chloris. Flora was married to Favonius, the wind god, and her companion was Hercules. Due to her association with plants, her name in modern English also means plant life.

Flora achieved more prominence in the neo-pagan revival of Antiquity among Renaissance humanists than she had ever enjoyed in ancient Rome.
One of the fairies in the Sleeping Beauty (1959 film) is named Flora after this goddess.

From: Wiki
The goddess of blossoming flowers of spring. She had a minor temple on the Quirinalis and was given a sanctuary near the Circus Maximus in 238 BCE. The festival of the Floralia, celebrated on April 28 -May 1, existed until the 4th century CE. Flora is identified with the Greek Chloris.

From: here
The worship of Flora, an ancient Italian goddess of spring and flowers, was said to have been introduced by Numa. Following a drought in 241 or 238 BC, a consultation of the Sibylline Books prescribed the building of her temple. It was located on the lower slopes of the Aventine hill, in the vicinity of the Circus Maximus, and was dedicated on April 28. (She had a second temple on the Quirinal hill.) Games in her honor (Ludi Florae) were also instituted, but they were not held every year until 173 BC, when frequent damage to crops led to their annual performance. They were financed from fines exacted from encroachments on public lands and were overseen by the plebeian aediles.

Under the empire, the Floralia, or Florifertum, lasted for six days (April 28 - May 3), starting with theatrical performances and ending with Circus games and a sacrifice to Flora. The worship of a goddess of fertility naturally led to increasing licence and indecency. Prostitutes claimed the Floralia as their feast, and according to Juvenal, they performed naked and even fought in gladiatorial contests. During theatrical performances, audiences expected to be entertained with bawdy language and strip-tease acts.

Two special items marked the usual sports in the Circus: goats and hares were set loose and beans, vetches, and lupines were scattered among the crowd. All were symbols of fertility. Ovid mentions two other aspects of the Floralia. The festival was well lighted, and people wore multi-colored garments.

From: here
Flora was the Roman Goddess of flowers and all plants. She symbolized the flowering of nature and was celebrated during the Floralia, which started on April 27th and lasted six days, by women honoring their bodies in their natural state. She was considered the clandestine patron of Rome since, without her, the city would not grow and thrive. She is wearing an earring from Pompeii, 1st century BCE-1st century CE; a Roman ring from the 3rd century CE; and a Roman bracelet from the 1st-2nd century CE. In the background is a Roman statue of an earth Goddess.

From: here
Flora, a goddess of Sabine origin, who presided over flowers and gardens. The poets, in order to enoble her history, represented Flora as a nymph under the name of Chloris, and married her to Zephyr, the son of Aurora. The worship dedicated, in earlier times, to this divinity, took place some days before the beginning of May; as Ovid sings (Fast. iv 947):
"Incipis Aprili, transis in tempora Maii" (You commence in April, and are adjourned to May).

During the beautiful days of the latter month women and maidens are said to have assembled by themselves to enjoy the gay and probably then harmless pleasures of such a spring-tide celebration. The festivals of Flora received additional splendour, but lost their modest and inoffensive character, when a courtezan named Acea Martius left immense riches amassed during a life of prostitution to the Roman people as her heir. From that period, the Floral games were renewed each in her especial honour, and it was to this meretricious benefactress, that the people affected to apply the name of the goddess, to defray the expenses of whose yearly feasts, she had bequeathed her ill gotten wealth.

In Flora, no longer regarded as a presiding deity over the most lovely and innocent of natural objects, the profligate multitude saw only the patroness of harlots; and seizing on this pretext for authorizing exesses, they at legnth converted her worship into a source of public scandal. It was not however until the year 174 BC that the Floralia were celebrated every year. In these popular sports, obscenity and libertinism were carried to the highest pitch. This festival was frequently kept up by torch light, when night lent to indecency of gestures, her aid to cosummate its provacatives by deeds of debauchery.

From: Old book article about her, scanned in to see
Other sites:
A statue/figurine of her
CHLORIS : Nymph of the Elysian Islands, goddess of flowers
Flower Goddess | the fanlisting for the Roman goddess Flora
May Day and Floralia info
Blessed Bee! ~ Goddesses: Flora
A statue of her
Midnight Muse Art Gallery: Goddesses: The Spring Maiden
Flora, by de Morgan

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