On April 1st the festival of Venus Verticordia known as the Veneralia celebrates the chaste Goddess Venus who changes the human heart. On this day Roman women asked Mater Venus Verticordia for assistance in affairs of the heart, sex, betrothal and marriage.
There are two legends for the Veneralia: In the first, as already noted, it was a time when there was a rash of licentiousness of Roman women and in hope of turning matrons and unmarried girls hearts to embrace chastity a vow was made in response to advice from a Sibylline oracle to Venus as the Changer of Hearts to dedicate a statue and a day, April 1st, in her honor. Much later in 114 BC Venus Verticordia was given her own temple to expiate the crimen incesti of the Vestal Virgins who broke their vows of chastity . Here the second legend comes in. On the journey home to Apulia after the Roman Games the virgin daughter of a Roman knight was struck by lightning and killed while on horse back. The state of her body, her tongue protruding and tunic pulled up to her waste and the accessories and body parts of her horse scattered about her was a dire prodigy. The Sibylline oracle was also consulted in this matter. The meaning became clear as three Vestals were guilty of unchaste conduct in collusion with many Equestrians. All, both male and female, were punished and a Temple to Venus Verticordia was built. The second legend however has more severe implications because the Vestals not only had to be chaste but also Virgins and the loss of virginity of even one Vestal could mean the collapse of the Roman state. A Vestal who broke her vow could not conceal it forever because the Gods would reveal the transgression through prodigies. The foundational story of the Temple of Venus Verticordia tells us that three of the six Vestals were found guilty of crimen incesti, in addition one of the Vestals had one lover but the other two had relations with numerous knights.
Both legends according to Ovid resulted in both the statue and the Temple (and keeping of the festival) being offered in fulfillment of a vow to Venus Verticordia to assure correction of the wanton ways of Roman Matronae and unmarried women making them chaste with positive implications for the welfare of the Roman State. In this respect Venus is the Changer of Hearts. The statue of the Goddess was taken from her sacullum at the Temple to the baths, all accouterments removed and bathed in the warm waters as part of the ritual during the sacrificium, Her statue was dried, the gold necklaces restored, a wreath of myrtle to adorn her, and lavished in flowers, esp. roses. This assured the patronage of the Goddess and as Changer of Hearts the pudicitia of the matronae and umarried daughters of Roman citizens. Both women and men of all classes, married or unmarried, invoked Venus Verticordia for Her assistance in affairs of the heart, sex, betrothal and marriage. Venus Verticordia persuaded Romans to cherish the traditional sexual proprieties and morality known to please the gods and benefit the State The chaste matronae and brides of the cultus of Venus Verticordia revered the Goddess each year with festivals and rituals. The women drank a libation of crushed poppies with milk and honey: the potion that Venus drank on her wedding night.
The Veneralia festival was an all-female affair; however there is no evidence that males were excluded as no explicit ritual prohibition existed in the all matronae Cult of Venus Verticordia. The purpose of the rituals of Venus Verticordia centers around the importance of both male and female in the physical relationship, so although males did not participate in the rituals they contributed to the fundamental ideology of the cult. As far as we know Vestals, while foundational for the cult, did not participate in the rite. Venus Verticordia ensured that the Vestals and Roman women obeyed the rules assigned to them by the Roman society. The Vestals returned their focus to their duties and as keepers of the flame guaranteed a flourishing society and Roman women set to the task of being chaste (faithful) wives, mothers and daughters.
“Linguis animisque favete”
(Call for Silentium and to be mindful)
- “Iane pater testem te testor mihi. Te hoc ture obmovendo bonas preces precor, ut sis volens propitius
Populo Novo Romano Quiritibus, Reique Publicae Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, mihi, domo, familiae!
- (Father Janus, I call on You to witness. I make this offering of incense to you and pray that you will look kindly and favorably upon the Populace of Nova Roma and her Citizens, the People and Respublica of Nova Roma, the Quirites, to me, to my home, and to my family)
- “Iane pater, uti te ture ommovendo bonas preces bene precata sum, eiusdem rei ergo macte vino inferio esto.”
- (Father Janus, as in offering to you the incense virtuous prayers were well prayed for the same reason, for the sake of this may You be honored by this inferior wine offered in libation.)
- “Venus Verticordia, te hoc ture obmovendo bonas preces precor, ut sis volens propitia Populo Novo Romano Quiritibus, Reique Publicae Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, mihi, domo, familiae.”
- (Venus, Changer of Hearts, I make this offering of incense to You and pray with good prayers that You will look kindly and favorably upon the Populace of Nova Roma and her Citizens, the People and Respublica of Nova Roma, the Quirites, to me, to my home, and to my family.)
- “Venus Verticordia, uti te ture commovendo bonas bene precata sum, eiusdem rei ergo macte vino inferio esto.”
- (Venus, Changer of Hearts, as in offering to you the incense virtuous prayers were well prayed for the same reason, for the sake of this may You be honored by this inferior wine offered in libation.)
- “Venus Verticordia, te, Dea, adoramus tuumque nos numen invocamus. Veneris, uti tibi in illis libris scriptum est quarumque rerum ergo quodque melius sit populo Novo Romano Quiritibus tibi sacrum fiat. Te, Dea, quaeso precorque te his donis obmovendis bonas preces precor uti sis volens propitia Populo Novo Romano Quiritibus, Reique Publicae Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, consulibus, praetoribus Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, tribunis Plebei Novae Romanae, Senatui Novo Romano, quaestoribus et magistratibus omnibus Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, Ludis Romanis nostris, nobis, domo familaeque nostrae.”
- (Venus Verticordia, you, Goddess, we invoke and beg your presence among us. . Venus, as it is prescribed for you in those books – and for this reason may every good fortune attend the people of Nova Roma, the Quirites – let sacrifice be made to you. In making this offering to you, I pray with good prayers, that You look favorably upon the Citizens of Nova Roma, on the Republic of Nova Roma, on the consuls and praetors of the People of Nova Roma Quirites, on the tribunes of the Plebeians of Nova Roma, on the Senate of Nova Roma, on the quaestors and on all magistrates, of the People of Nova Roma, the Quirites, our Roman Games and (finally) on us and our households and on our homes)
- “Venus Verticordia, te hoc ture obmovendo bonas preces precor, ut sis volens propitia Populo Novo Romano Quiritibus, Reique Publicae Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, consulibus, praetoribus Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, tribunis Plebei Novae Romanae, Senatui Novo Romano, quaestoribus et magistratibus omnibus Populi Novi Romani Quiritium, Ludis Romanis nostris, nobis, domo familaeque nostrae. Macte his donis.”
- (Venus, Changer of Hearts, In making this offering to you, I pray with good prayers, that You look favorably upon the Citizens of Nova Roma, on the Republic of Nova Roma, on the consuls and praetors of the People of Nova Roma Quirites, on the tribunes of the Plebeians of Nova Roma, on the Senate of Nova Roma, on the quaestors and on all magistrates of the People of Nova Roma, the Quirites, our Roman Games and (finally) on us and our households and on our homes. May this offering strengthen and honor You.)
At the edge of lake shore: “ Rite deam colitis, Latiae matresque nurusque
- et vos, quis vittae longaque vestis abest.
aurea marmoreo redimicula demite collo,
- demite divitias: tota lavanda dea est.
aurea siccato redimicula reddite collo:
- nunc alii flores, nunc nova danda rosa est.
vos quoque sub viridi myrto iubet ipsa lavari:
- causaque cur iubeat, discite, certa subest.
litore siccabat rorantes nuda capillos:
- viderunt satyri, turba proterva, deam.
sensit et opposita texit sua corpora myrto:
- tuta fuit facto, vosque referre iubet.
discite nunc, quare Fortunae tura Virili
- detis eo, gelida qui locus umet aqua.
accipit ille locus posito velamine cunctas
- et vitium nudi corporis omne videt;
ut tegat hoc celetque viros, Fortuna Virilis
- praestat et hoc parvo ture rogata facit.
nec pigeat tritum niveo cum lacte papaver
- sumere et expressis mella liquata favis:
cum primum cupido Venus est deducta marito,
- hoc bibit; ex illo tempore nupta fuit.
supplicibus verbis illam placate: sub illa
- et forma et mores et bona fama manet.
Roma pudicitia proavorum tempore lapsa est:
- Cumaeam, veteres, consuluistis anum.
templa iubet fieri Veneri: quibus ordine factis
- inde Venus verso nomina corde tenet.
semper ad Aeneadas placido, pulcherrima, voltu
- respice, totque tuas, diva, tuere nurus.
Dum loquor, elatae metuendus acumine caudae ” Ovidus Fasti IV
(Duly do ye worship the goddess, ye Latin mothers and brides, and ye, too, who wear not the fillets and long robe. Take off the golden necklaces from the marble neck of the goddess; take off her gauds; the goddess must be washed from top to toe. Then dry her neck and restore to it her golden necklaces; now give her other flowers, now give her the fresh-blown rose. Ye, too, she herself bids bathe under the green myrtle, and there is a certain reason for her command; learn what it is. Naked, she was drying on the shore her oozy locks, when the satyrs, a wanton crew, espied the goddess. She perceived it, and screened her body by myrtle interposed: that done, she was safe, and she bids you do the same. Learn now why ye give incense to Virile Fortune in the place which reeks of warm water. All women strip when they enter that place, and every blemish on the naked body is plain to see; Virile Fortune undertakes to conceal the blemish and to hide it from the men, and this she does for the consideration of a little incense. Nor grudge to take poppy pounded with snowy milk and liquid honey squeezed from the comb; when Venus was first escorted to her eager spouse, she drank that draught: from that time she was a bride. Propitiate her with supplications; beauty and virtue and good fame are in her keeping. In the time of our forefathers Rome had fallen from a state of chastity, and the ancients consulted the old woman of Cumae. She ordered a temple to be built to Venus, and when that was duly done, Venus took the name of Changer of the Heart (Verticordia) from the event. Fairest of goddesses, ever behold the sons of Aenas with look benign, and guard thine offspring’s numerous wives.) Taken to the Lake edge Her sacellum statue was ritually bathed in the moving water, rinsed with pure rose water, then Her image was adorned with a necklace of pure gold and a garland of green myrtle.
Honeyed Milk offering:
- “Venus Verticordia, macte hac libatione pollicenda esto, macte lacte inferio esto. ”
- (Venus, Changer of Hearts, may You be strengthened by this libation, may You be honored by this portion of milk.)
Pray softly over Libum, preparing it
- “Huc ades, Venus Verticordia, uti te ture comovendo bonas bene precata sum. Macte hoc ferto.”
- (Come, Venus, Changer of Hearts, as in offering to You the incense virtuous prayers were well prayed for the same reason. May You be honored in this.)
Offer pieces of Libum with honey into the focus
- “In tua, Mater Carissima, in tua sumus custodia. Carmentis, te hoc popano obmovendo bonas preces precor uti sis volens propitia Ludis Romanis nostris, nobis, domo familaeque nostrae. Macte his donis.”
- (In You, dearest Mother, in Your hands we place our safekeeping. In offering to You this cake of cheese I pray good prayers in order that, pleased with this offering of popana, You may be favorable towards our Roman Games and (finally) on us and our households and on our homes. May this offering strengthen and honor You.)
- “Iane, Venus, Vesta
Omnes Di Immortales quocumque nomine, si quidquam vobis in hac caerimonia displicuit, hoc ture et vino inferio dato veniam peto et vitium meum expio.”
- (Janus, Venus, Vesta
All Gods Immortal by whatever name You are called, if anything in this ceremony was displeasing to You, with this incense and sacrificial wine I ask forgiveness and expiate my fault.)
Incense and Wine sacrificed.
Brief meditation and observation:
- Bright golden rays of sunshine briefly broke through the clouds, various birds attended and sung. The rest of the libum was left on the rough hewn stone.
- “Di Immortales Romae civibus Novis Romanis et praesentibus et futuris faveant!
- Di me teque semper servent.”
- (May the Immortal Gods of Rome bless the citizens and future Citizens of Nova Roma. The Gods keep you and me always.)
- (It is permitted to go, the ritual is over)
Di Immortales Romae civibus Novis Romanis faveant! May the Immortal Gods of Rome bless the citizens of Nova Roma
L. Iulia Aquila
Sacerdos Veneris Genetricis
Pontifex Novæ Romæ
Sacerdos Prima A.Æ
Securum in tenebris me facit esse Venus