About the moon goddess, wife of Jupiter

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The Vestal Virgins and the cult of Vesta

moon goddess

There were a variety of goddesses which at one time or another were associated with the moon and its cycles. Amongst these we can include Juno and Diana, so much so that Diana is often portrayed with a moon on her tiara. Clearly the association with the moon also had close connotations with fertility, likely due to its close association with the menstrual cycle but not only: even today popular farming lore has clear indications regarding farming practices such as sowing, planting, pruning, harvesting etc and appropriate moon cycles to undertake such operations.

The moon goddess wore a cloak representing the starry night and an emblem of a moon on her forehead/tiara and a two horse chariot (biga). The Sun god Apollo had a four horse chariot (quadriga).

The Roman moon goddess was Luna although the moon was also closely associated with Diana. She was sister of Aurora, the goddess of mornings, and of the sun. Daughter of the Titan Hyperion. Her temple the "aedes lunae" in Rome was on the Aventine hill and celebrated on the 31st of March. The Roman writer Tacitus tells us (Annales 15) that the temple was built by Servius Tullus one of Rome’s early kings.

The temple had a variety of important events associated with it; in 182BC a freak wind wrenched one of the doors off and cast it against the temple of the goddess Cerere; it was struck by a bolt of lightning (a very important sign in Roman divination). From a journalistic point of view, Sempronius Gracchus, one of the two revolutionary Gracchi brothers sought refuge here from the irate landowners, he reputedly jumped down from the podium and sprained his ankle.

The aedes lunae was burnt down during the great fire of Rome in 64AD during the reign of Emperor Nero and was never rebuilt. However we have an idea of where it might have been thanks to the blown door event (ie near the temple of Cerere).

The romans dedicated Monday to her and indeed it remains so even today both in romance languages as well as anglo-saxon languages: Lunedì (Italian), Lunes (Spanish), Lundi (French), Montag (German), Monday (English)...

The supposedly magical power of the moon was also believed in Roman times: a strong feel for this can be had from Book 11 of Apuleius’ Golden Ass (aka Metamorphoses) where not only do we get a sense of the deities associated with the moon , but also of her power to transform and shapechange.....

"  So, shaking off my tiredness, I scrambled to my feet and walked straight into the sea in order to purify myself. I immersed my head seven times because, according to the divine Pythagoras, that number is specially suited for all ritual acts; and then, speaking with lively joy, I lifted my tear-wet face in supplication to the irresistible Goddess:
    Queen of Heaven, whether you are fostering Ceres the motherly nurse of all growth, who, gladdened at the discovery of your lost daughter, abolished the brutish nutriment of the primitive acorn and pointed the way to gentler food, as is yet shown in the tilling of the fields of Eleusis; or whether you are celestial Venus who in the first moment of Creation mingled the opposing sexes in the generation of mutual desires, and who, after sowing in humanity the seeds of indestructible continuing life, are now worshiped in the wave-washed shrine of Paphos; or whether you are the sister of Phoebus, who by relieving the pangs of childbirth travail with soothing remedies have brought safe into the world lives innumerable, and who are now venerated in the thronged sanctuary of Ephesus; or whether you are Proserpine, terrible with the howls of midnight, whose triple face has power to ward off all the assaults of ghosts and to close the cracks in the earth, and who wander through many a grove, propitiated in divers manners, illuminating the walls of all cities with beams of female light, nurturing the glad seeds in the earth with your damp heat, and dispensing abroad your dim radiance when the sun has abandoned us - O by whatever name, and whatever rites, and in whatever form, it is permitted to invoke you, come now and succour me in the hour of my calamity. Support my broken life, and give me rest and peace after the tribulations of my lot. Let there be an end to the toils that weary me, and an end to the snares that beset me. Remove from me the hateful shape of a beast, and restore me to the sight of those that love me. Restore me to Lucius, my lost self. But if an offended god pursues me implacably, then grant me death at least since life is denied me."


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"the ancient roman moon goddess" was written by Giovanni Milani-Santarpia for www.mariamilani.com - Rome apartments