You may remember, if you read my post on Taranis, how the Roman writer Lucan compared his cult to that of the “cruel” Diana of the Scythians. I wondered at the time who Diana of the Scythians was, and what was cruel about her cult.
Although it’s common in popular books on mythology to describe the Roman goddess Minerva as a simple copy of the Greek goddess Athena, Minerva evolved as a native Italian goddess, influenced by the Etruscan Menvra.
The Celtic peoples had many gods of war, if the number linked to Mars is anything to go by. They also had a lot of war-goddesses, whom we would expect to be associated with Minerva, Bellona or Victoria.
Surprisingly, goddesses paired with Victoria are pretty rare (I will look at Minerva in another post), although there are a few. There are also some native goddesses named “Victory”, all from modern France.
When I was researching the story of how the giant Thiazi took the apples of immortality for the giants, one thing that kept jumping out at me was how often the goddess who kept the apples, Idunn, was treated as if she were property as well.
Volunteer archaeologists have unearthed a miniature bronze figure of a Roman goddess from Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields. Helpers from the WallQuest community archaeology project and the Earthwatch Institute dug up the figure of the goddess Ceres which is thought to be a mount from a larger piece of furniture. Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, grain and fertility. Arbeia was a supply base where thousands of tons of grain were stored in granaries to feed the army stationed along Hadrian’s Wall. This is the second goddess that the WallQuest project has found at Arbeia in two years. In 2014, a local volunteer found a carved stone head of a protective goddess, or tutela.
This is a post by a Roman polytheist about Freyja. It has a lot of insights into the nature of the Lady, and how similar she is to Odin. All the Vanir are travelling deities, in one way or another, but I think with Freyja this gets overlooked.
There’s certainly no obvious reference to it in the surviving lore, where She’s…
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Women seem to have had their own form of genius, called a juno. (This is a contested idea: the Wikipedia article on Juno denies it completely, while the Brittanica site and the Dictionary of Roman Religion are for it.) However, enough scholars seem to accept the idea that I’m willing to see it as valid. I’m sure even in a society as patriarchal as ancient Rome women took pride in their children and their lineage, and those feelings found their own religious expression.
Although most of us think of Pluto as the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Hades, it is one of the Greek god’s titles, usually given as Pluton, Wealthy. This referred both to the earth’s fertility and the mineral riches that could be mined from it.
Apollo seems to have made a habit of swallowing up other gods. He took over (or was given, according to later mythology) the oracle of Delphi, which had belonged to his grandmother, Phoebe. He seems to have taken over the healing role of a very early Greek god, Paean, and also an Italian god named Soranus.
We don’t know a lot about Soranus, but he was worshipped at Mt. Soracte in Etruria, an area sacred to underworld gods like Dis Pater. Like most of the Italian gods, he had a partner, Feronia, whose sanctuary stood next to his. Although his cult may have involved the otherworld and the dead, his name is probably connected to that of the Etruscan god Suri, a god of purification and prophecy.