Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bona Dea

Bona Dea


Bona Dea was an Italian (Roman) goddess, patron of the good of the earth and of chastity and fertility in women. Bona Dea was invoked for healing and for freedom from slavery; many of her worshippers were freed slaves and plebians, and many were women seeking aid in sickness or for fertility. She was also considered a protector from earthquakes.

Also known as: "Good Goddess" - also Feminea Dea, Fauna, Fatua

Bona Dea in Art: Bona Dea was sometimes depicted with a scepter, vine leaves, wine, and a serpent, usually curled around her arm. Sometimes she was depicted seated, holding a cornucopia. Her image appeared on many coins.Sponsored Links

Temple of Bona Dea: The temple to Bona Dea in Rome stood over an overhanging rock, or cave, and both serpents and healing herbs are associated with the cave. Men were not allowed in her temple or at her festivals, nor were male animals. Some men did bring offerings to Bona Dea.

Festivals of Bona Dea: May 1 was the annual, state-sponsored festival to Bona Dea at her temple. In early December, there was another private festival as well.

Julius Caesar divorced his wife over an incident where a man, Publius Clodius, disguised himself as a woman to attend a festival to Bona Dea, December 3, 62 B.C.E.

FROM: "Bona Dea"


Bona Dea ("the Good Goddess") is a Roman fertility goddess, especially worshipped by the Roman matrons. She presided over both virginity and fertility in women.

She is the daughter of the god Faunus and she herself is often called Fauna. She had a temple on the Aventine Hill, but her secret rites (on December 4) were not held there but in the house of a prominent Roman magistrate. Only women were admitted and even representations of men and beasts were removed. At these secret meetings it was forbidden to speak the words 'wine' and 'myrtle' because Faunus had once made her drunk and beaten her with a myrtle stick. Her festival was observed on May 1. Similarly, no men were allowed to be present here either.

She was also a healing goddess and the sick were tended in her temple garden with medicinal herbs. Bona Dea was portrayed sitting on a throne, holding a cornucopia. The snake is her attribute, a symbol of healing, and consecrated snakes were kept in her temple at Rome, indicating her phallic nature. Her image could often be found on coins.

FROM: "Bona Dea"

Bona Dea is the Roman goddess of fertility. She antedates Venus (or Aphrodite) in the true Roman religion. She is also the Roman goddess of chastity. She is a prophetic goddess, and is connected to Faunus as his wife, sister or daughter (depending on the source that one consults). She is sometimes called Fauna and sometimes Damia. Angitia, a deity of the Marsii seems to have been the same goddess. Bona Dea is also identified with Cybele, Maia, Ge, Ops, Semele, and Hecate.

Bona Dea possessed a grotto on the northern end of the eastern part of the Aventine on which a temple was erected which was dedicated to her. The temple was located beneath an overhanging rock. Bona Dea was a goddess of healing, and healing herbs and other medicaments were for sale to the women of Rome at her temple. Sacred serpents resided in the shrine and were allowed to wander freely about the sanctuary. (The serpent was considered to be a symbol of healing, as on the caduceus.) Although sick women were tended in her temple garden, no men were permitted near the temple precincts.

The worship of Bona Dea was restricted to women. Even knowledge of her names was withheld from men. Any contact with men at her ceremonies was considered a serious sacrilege. This rule was so strict, that male animals and even images of men or male animals were forbidden. Roman women held two rituals in honor of Bona Dea annually.

Bona Dia's festival occurred on the Kalends of May at which time a public ceremony open to all the women of Rome was conducted in the Temple of Bona Dea on the Aventine. A sow (called the Damium) was sacrificed in her honor at this time. The ceremony was held at night, and the rituals were conducted by the Vestals. Myrtle, men and wine were forbidden at the ceremony. (Wine was actually employed in the ritual, but it was called "milk" and the wine vessel was called a "honey jar.")

The second great celebration of Bona Dea occurred in December. These rites were conducted at the home of the senior magistrate resident in Rome. This was a private ceremony, not paid for by the state, and entry was by invitation only. The date of the service was not fixed and varied from year to year.

As Rome became corrupted by exposure to the Greek religion, aetiological stories developed to explain the details of the ceremony. Supposedly, Faunus as the father of the goddess, tried to seduce her. He failed, even after getting her drunk on wine and whipping her with a myrtle branch. Eventually, Faunus turned himself into a serpent and in that form succeeded in "having his way" with Bona Dea. (Another story holds that Faunus was her husband and became incensed at Fauna's overindulgence in wine. He killed her, and then deified her.)

When she appeared to humans, it was sometimes in the form of a beautiful young woman and sometimes in the form of an old woman with pointed ears holding a serpent. Bona Dea was portrayed sitting on a throne, holding a cornucopia. The snake is her attribute, a symbol of healing. It also indicates the phallic nature of her cult. Her image was frequently used on coins.

In the year 62 B.C., the December celebration was held in the home of Julius Caesar who was praetor and Pontifex Maximus. His wife, Pompeia Sulla, and his mother, Aurelia, served as hostesses. The notorious Publius Clodius dressed up as a woman and entered the home of the Pontifex Maximus. Ceasar's mother ultimately unmasked Clodius, but the resulting scandal was enormous. The ceremony was declared a sacrilege, all the women present had to perform purification rituals, and the ceremony had to be performed again ab initio. Caesar divorced Pompeia on the grounds that she was a friend of Clodius, and there was speculation in Rome that she was an accomplice to the sacrilege. Caesar stated that his wife must not only be above suspicion, she must be seen to be above suspicion. (However, Caesar indicated his belief in her innocence by returning her dowry and helping to find her a new husband.) Publius Clodius was sued over the matter. At his trial, Cicero confounded Clodius' alibi. The two became bitter enemies as a result, with serious political consequences for both men.

FROM: Bona Dea: The Good Goddess


In Roman mythology, Bona Dea ("the good goddess") was a goddess of fertility, healing, virginity and women. She was a daughter of Faunus and was sometimes called Fauna.
There was a temple to Bona Dea on the Aventine Hill. On December 4, secret rites in honor of her were held in the house of a famous Roman magistrate. It was an entirely female affair; even paintings or drawings of men or male animals were forbidden, along with the words "wine" and "myrtle" because Bona Dea had once been beaten by her father with a myrtle stick after she got drunk.
Her public festival took place on May 1. No men were allowed to participate.
The sick were tended to in the gardens outside her temples, where medicinal herbs were grown by priestesses.
She was associated with the cornucopia, snakes and coins. Her image frequently occurred on ancient Roman coins.

FROM: Wikipedia "Bona Dea"


Suggestions on How to Worship Bona Dea Today
On May 1st, offer sweet gifts to your friends, in order to sweeten your future. Put a glass of wine on your altar as an offering to Bona Dea. Hang up a grapevine wreath with purple ribbons in your home to honor her presence, and invite her abundant blessings into your life.
On December 3rd, burn sweet incense on your altar. Pour a glass of wine onto the earth as a sacrifice, and send Bona Dea to sleep for the winter with a song or poem.


Bona Dea's worship was reserved for women. Her province was fertility and healing, both for humans and for the earth, as well as virginity. At her temple on the Aventine in Rome, healing herbs were grown. Medicines were made from these herbs and distributed by Bona Dea's priestesses. Snakes were kept there and highly regarded, being sacred guardians and symbols of the goddess' mysteries. Statues of the goddess show her with a snake coiling around her right arm, drinking from an offering bowl in her hand. The other arm holds a cornucopia.

"Bona Dea" is actually a title, not a name. It was forbidden to speak her true name aloud. Devotees often referred to her as Fenta Fauna or Fenta Fatua. The names "Fatua" and "Fauna" are associated with oracular cults. Fatuari, to speak for, implies prophetic utterances inspired by the goddess.

FROM: The Temple of the Goddess: Bona Dea


Bona Dea Altar Ritual
Color of the day: Lavender
Incense of the day: Coriander

Ancient Roman women celebrated the good goddess, Bona Dea, today, with festivities dedicated especially to her. Offerings were made in secret, by women only, to benefit the family and the community at large. Create your own Bona Dea celebration today. Invite your women friends to help you celebrate. Decorate your altar with your favorite images of the goddess. (Traditional rites respectfully veiled images of the gods and goddesses; you may choose to do this too.) Place some freshly cut flowers and vine branches around your sacred space. Set bowls of wine, milk, and honey on the altar. Light some scented candles, and play music that inspires you to dance. Together, invoke blessings upon your family and friends, and have each of your friends make a personal offering for the good of all who have gathered. Form a circle, and light a white candle, saying:
Goddess bring peace to the family of nations.

By: Karri Ann Allrich
witches' spell-a-day almanac

FROM: A Greatest Journal entry


"The Good Goddess". She was a primary Women-Goddess. At the Aventin she had a temple. The name "Bona Dea" is also interpreted as a title of the old Roman goddess Fauna. The festival of the Bona Dea was a moveable festival, but it fell in early December (round the 3rd).
Her temple in Rome was situated a little north of the present church of S. Cecila in Trastevere. There are no remains left.
  • The temple was decorated with vine-branches, and other plants and flowers. Wine was served, but it was referred to as "milk" and the jar in which it was served, a "honey-pot." A sow was sacrificed to her at the ritual.
  • A secret ceremony was held in December. The rites were conducted annually by the wife of the senior magistrate present in Rome in his home - assisted by the Vestal Virgins. Men were strictly forbidden. This was unlike the other festival in May: Not celebrated in the goddess' temple, not paid for by the state and the night of its celebration was not fixed. This ritual was unlike the May celebration an invitation only affair and pretty exclusive.
  • The celebrations seem to have been part of a mystery cult. The worship seems to have been agricultural in origin and the careful exclusion of myrtle (associated with flagellation) may actually suggest origins as a purification ceremony.
In the italian city Volterra you can find the remains of a little templebuilt in the III. century A.D. and devoted to the Bona Dea. Behind the roman theatre there are also the remains of the Baths of Bona Dea.
Plutarch, Life of Caesar 9-10:

The Romans have a goddess whom they call Good, whom the Greeks call the Women's Goddess. The Phrygians say that this goddess originated with them, and that she was the mother of their king Midas. The Romans say that she was a Dryad nymph who married Faunus, and the Greeks say that she was the Unnameable One among the mothers of Dionysus. For this reason the women who celebrate her rites cover their tents with vine-branches, and a sacred serpent sits beside the goddess on her throne, as in the myth. It is unlawful for a man to approach or to be in the house when the rites are celebrated. The women, alone by themselves, are said to perform rites that conform to Orphic ritual during the sacred ceremony.

FROM: Roman Realm of the Forgotten Goddess

The Temple of the Goddess: Bona Dea -- more info and background
Bona Dea article
Bona Dea
The Earth, Bona Dea

No comments:

Post a Comment