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The celebration of the Fordicidia was held in honor of Tellus. Tellus is also called Terra Mater, and is an ancient Roman earth goddess. Probably of great antiquity, she was concerned with the productivity of the earth and was later identified with the mother-goddess Cybele. Her temple on the Esquiline Hill dated from about 268 BC. Though she had no special priest, she was honoured in the Fordicidia and Sementivae festivals, both of which centred on fertility and good crops. The Fordicidia was a festival in Rome, at which a pregnant cow was sacrificed to Tellus in each of the 30 wards of the city to promote fertility of cattle and the fields. The unborn calves were burned and the ashes were used in a purification rite in the festival of the Parilia on a.d. XII Kal. Mai.

"The name Fordicidia comes from pregnant cattle (fordis); a fordi carries an unborn calf in its belly; because on this day pregnant cows are publicly sacrificed in several districts, from the pregnant cows slaughtered (fordis caedendis) it is called Fordicidia." - Varro[1]

"When the third day after the Ides of April dawns, You priests, offer a pregnant (forda) cow in sacrifice. Forda is a cow in calf and fruitful, from ferendo (carrying): They consider fetus is derived from the same root. Now the cattle are big with young, and the ground's Pregnant with seed: a teeming victim's given to teeming Earth. Some are killed on Jupiter's citadel, the Curiae (wards) Get thirty cows: they're drenched with plenty of sprinkled blood. But when the priests have torn the calves from their mother's womb, And thrown the slashed entrails on the smoking hearth, The oldest Vestal burns the dead calves in the fire, So their ashes can purge the people on the day of Pales. In Numa's kingship the harvest failed to reward men's efforts: The farmers, deceived, offered their prayers in vain. At one time that year it was dry, with cold northerlies, The next, the fields were rank with endless rain: Often the crop failed the farmer in its first sprouting, And meagre wild oats overran choked soil, And the cattle dropped their young prematurely, And the ewes often died giving birth to lambs. There was an ancient wood, long untouched by the axe, Still sacred to Pan, the god of Maenalus: He gave answers, to calm minds, in night silence. Here Numa sacrificed twin ewes. The first fell to Faunus, the second to gentle Sleep: Both the fleeces were spread on the hard soil. Twice the king's unshorn head was sprinkled with spring water, Twice he pressed the beech leaves to his forehead. He abstained from sex: no meat might be served At table, nor could he wear a ring on any finger. Dressed in rough clothes he lay down on fresh fleeces, Having worshipped the god with appropriate words. Meanwhile Night arrived, her calm brow wreathed With poppies: bringing with her shadowy dreams. Faunus appeared, and pressing the fleece with a hard hoof, From the right side of the bed, he uttered these words: `King, you must appease Earth, with the death of two cows: Let one heifer give two lives, in sacrifice.' Fear banished sleep: Numa pondered the vision, And considered the ambiguous and dark command. His wife, Egeria, most dear to the grove, eased his doubt, Saying: `What's needed are the innards of a pregnant cow,' The innards of a pregnant cow were offered: the year proved More fruitful, and earth and cattle bore their increase." - Ovid whose translation? [2]


  1. "Fordicidia a fordis bubus; bos forda quae fert in ventre; quod eo die publice immolantur boves praegnantes in curiis complures, a fordis caedendis Fordicidia dicta." whose translation? de Lingua Latina VI.iii
  2. Fasti IV.629-672

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