The Vestalia: Celebrating Vesta and Purifying Rome

Vesta was an ancient Roman goddess of the domestic and civic hearth whose annual festival, the Vestalia, was celebrated in this period, between the 7th and 15th of June. The Vestalia marked a pause in everyday life as the Romans honoured Vesta and purified her shrine. It was also a time to commemorate the benefits the goddess had brought to the city, and to ensure the continued safety and well-being of Rome and her people. Vesta was an Italic deity whose cult was popular in Pompeii and Latium before either…

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So, Japan’s 1,000-year-old cheese that’s back in fashion due to COVID-19 pandemic

A year ago, on February 27, 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe requested that all schools in Japan shut down until early April to stop the spread of COVID-19. And of course, by the following week, most schools across the country shuttered their doors. However, one of the biggest buyers of Japanese agricultural products is the school lunch program, which feeds elementary and middle school students across the whole country. To clarify, around 10% of all domestic food production goes to school lunch, which usually emphasizes local or domestic products and,…

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Floralia: the festival in ancient Rome in honor of the goddess Flora

The Floralia was a festival in ancient Rome in honor of the goddess Flora, held April 27 during the Republican era, or April 28 in the Julian calendar. The festival included Ludi Florae, the “Games of Flora” which lasted for six days under the empire. The festival had a licentious, pleasure-seeking atmosphere and, in contrast to many festivals which had a patrician character, the games of Flora were plebeian in nature. The holiday for Flora (as officially determined by Julius Caesar when he fixed the Roman calendar) ran from April…

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The Roman festival of Robigalia

Robigalia were the feasts dedicated to the god Rubigus so that the wheat did not ripen too early, exposing it to the attack of the fungus that caused the so-called “robigine”, that is the “rust of the wheat”, a devastating disease for crops. During the Robigalia, which were held from 25 to 28 April, the Romans prayed to the god and made various offerings to him so that she would protect the wheat from disease and make the crops abundant. Its main ritual was a dog sacrifice to protect grain…

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The Inca legend of Lake Titicaca and other mysteries about its origin

We are in Peru. The history of the creation of some local cities is sometimes based on the Inca mythological legends. One of the best known is the myth of the origin of Lake Titicaca, whose main characters are the inhabitants of Puno, a city in southeastern Peru, not by chance located on the shore of lake. Lake Titicaca is the biggest freshwater lake in the world. It is located in the Andes, on the border between Bolivia and Peru, with a surface elevation of 3,812 metres, and It’s always…

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Roman festival of Cerealia

The Cerealia was one of the most important festivals in Rome. It was held for seven days from mid- to late April, but the dates are uncertain, possibly the 12th-18th, with the actual festival day on the 19th. This was the main festival for Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain and the harvest, associated with bread and farming, as well as being the goddess of fertility, motherhood and women. Fields and crops were sacred to her. Ceres was also one of the patron deities of the common people (the…

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Fordicidia: Springtime Festival To Tellus in ancient Rome

On the Roman religious calendar, the month of April (Aprilis) was in general dedicated to deities who were female or ambiguous in gender, opening with the Feast of Venus on the Kalends. With celebration of Fordicidia on this day, April 15, all those purifying and propitiatory festivities that characterized the month were launched: the Parilia, a feast of shepherds, on April 21, the Robigalia on April 25, to protect crops from blight, and the Vinalia, one of the two wine festivals on the calendar, at the end of the month.…

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The Roman Goddes Luna

Today, March 31, in ancient Rome, the foundation of Luna’s temple, the moon goddess, on the Aventine Hill, was remembered. It was destroyed by the Great Fire of Rome in the year 64 C.E. Luna, was Roman goddess of the Moon, animals, and hunting. Varro and Virgilius describe her as one of the twelve fundamental divinity for agriculture. The Romans recognized three aspects of her, also called the triad. As the Moon-goddess, they called her not by chance Luna, italian for Moon while, as an underworld deity of magic Hekate,…

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Hilaria: the roman festival that commemorated the worship of the Phrygian goddess Cybele and her devotee Attis

In the last several centuries before the fall of the Roman Empire (476 A.D.), Roman devotees of the goddess Cybele celebrated a festival of laughter and rejoicing on this day, March 25. Known as Hilaria, it was considered the day of the resurrection of the god Attis, who had died three days earlier. As the god of vegetation and beloved son and lover of the goddess Cybele, he represented the god-sacrifice who, after dying, rises again (by the hand of the Goddess) as the spirit of spring. Scholars believe that…

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Navigium Isidis: the festival of Isis in Rome

March 5 was the date of an annual, ancient Roman, nautical religious festival called Navigium Isidis, literally “Vessel of Isis”, which was dedicated to Isis, an ancient Egyptian goddess who had been reinterpreted by and for the Greco-Roman world. In the Roman Empire, Isis was identified with various Greek and Roman goddesses, such as Aphrodite, Demeter, Artemis, Tyche, and Fortuna. These complex theological associations were often expressed pictorially, and she was occasionally depicted as a syncretistic deity with the attributes and iconography of one or more of these goddesses. Along…

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Ancient celebrations of March 1st

March, spring month par excellence, marked the beginning of the Roman year, which did not end in winter, like ours. Nothing gives the idea of a new beginning better than the blooming of the first flowers, used to adorn the altars of Juno Lucina, the goddess who protected childbirth and brought light and fertility. March is named after the god Mars: according to the legend, Romulus chose to call the first month of the year this way in order to honor his divine father. The first day of March in…

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Anthesteria: the Greek festival of spring and the dead

The Anthesteria, in Ancient Greek Ἀνθεστήρια, was one of the four Athenian festivals in honor of Dionysus, “dead and reborn”. It was held each year from the 11th to the 13th of the month of Anthesterion, around the time of the January or February full moon. It celebrated the beginning of spring, particularly the maturing of the wine stored at the previous vintage. During the feast, social order was interrupted or inverted, the slaves being allowed to participate, uniting the household. However, the Anthesteria also had aspects of a festival…

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The oldest comic in the world? In a tomb in Jordan!

It was drawn 2,000 years ago and does not depict superheroes, cute little animals or thieves in a luxury car, but the workers of the ancient city of Capitolias, in the north of Jordan, one of the 10 Greek-Roman cities listed by Pliny the Elder as the Decapolis, a group of semi-autonomous Hellenistic cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire, between present-day Israel, Jordan and Syria. The painting, which is the oldest example of modern “comic”, with the phrases pronounced by the protagonists spelled out next to their…

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Februalia: a time of purification

The ancient Romans had a festival for nearly everything and, if you were a god, you got your own holiday. February was dedicated to Februus, for whom the month is named, and it was the time in which Rome was purified by making offerings and sacrifices to the gods of the dead. The Februalia (January 30–February 2) was a month-long period of sacrifice and atonement, involving offerings to the gods, prayer, and sacrifices. In short, If you were a wealthy Roman who didn’t have to go out and work, you…

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January 24 – Paganalia: ancient Rome’s “Earth Day”

In ancient Rome, late January marked the beginning of the agricultural calendar because this literally was the time that the farmers prepared to plant their crops for the new year. This important stage consisted of a multi-day purification period dedicated to Tellus, the goddess of Mother Earth, and to Ceres, the goddess of agriculture. In the city of Rome itself, this feast day was known as the Sementivae, or “the Festival of Seed Sowing” while, in the rural farm-covered countryside, the same festival was known as the Paganalia, literally “the…

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The Carmentalia

The name “Carmentalia” indicates the festivals in honor of Carmenta and her nymphs, the Camene, called Antevorta and Postvorta, in reference to their ability to see the past and the future. Carmenta, who in ancient Rome had her temple atop the Capitoline Hill, was the goddess of everything that comes to light and therefore also of children who are born, for this reason she was considered the protector of childbirth. Her feasts were held from 12 to 15 January, linked not only to gestation, but also to rural worship and…

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January 11: Iuturnalia in honor of Juturna, goddess of the springs

The 11th January is the day in honor of Juturna, born as a nymph of the sources and later became a true goddess of the springs, ponds and streams. On this day the Vestals drew water from her sacred spring which they would then use in lustration rituals. In honor of the nymph, wreaths of flowers were thrown into the springs and fountains, whose waters were considered sacred. According to Plutarch and Gellius, her name derived from the verb “iuvare” (to benefit), because pure waters are beneficial for human beings.…

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January 9 | The Agonalia or Festival to Janus

An Agonalia was an obscure archaic religious observance celebrated in ancient Rome several times a year, in honor of various divinities. Its institution, like that of other religious rites and ceremonies, was attributed to Numa Pompilius, the semi-legendary second king of Rome. Ancient calendars indicate that it was celebrated regularly on January 9, May 21, and December 11. Some thought the Romans had a god named not by chance “Agonius”, who might then have been the god of the Colline part of the city. January 9 was the Agonalia or…

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What were (really) the worst years in history?

2020 is now over, and many have the feeling that it was one of the worst years in history. But are you really sure? We start from Ancient Greece, which could also include 1628 BC among its worst years, with the famous Minoan Eruption, on which, however, science has yet to provide sufficient answers to statistical analyzes to fully understand its extent. Then there are the war years, including both World Wars and, in any case, to make a comparison with the just ended 2020 is absolutely wrong. But the…

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Io, Saturnalia!

Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, whatever your holiday, most of the December holiday traditions that we celebrate today can be traced back to the Ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia (with a healthy dose of inspiration from the Vikings). From tree decorations, wreaths, ornaments, boughs of holly, carolling, gift-giving, and even gingerbread men, most of what we identify as Christmas has roots going back thousands of years. When it comes to celebrations, parties, and downright debauchery, probably no one beats the folks of ancient Rome. And, in this period, around the time of…

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The Stromatolites of Hamelin Pool – Australia

Located within a sheltered bay on the coast of Western Australia, theb Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve appears at first glance to be a regular rock-strewn beach, though the rocks look kind of odd. Those rocks are not actually rocks. Rather, they are active colonies of one of the first life forms on our planet. They are called “stromatolites”, and they are made by a single-celled organism know as “cyanobacteria”. Previously known as blue-green algae, cyanobacteria exist since about 3500 million years ago, well before the existence of any other…

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Kaizō-ji temple and its legends – Japan

Kamakura was the capital and religious center of Japan from the 12th-14th centuries. The city is scattered with medieval Shinto shrines and numerous Buddhist temples, including temple Kaizō-ji, which dates back to 1253. Due to the fact that flowers bloom all year long on its grounds, Kaizō-ji is commonly known as “the Flower Temple”, but it is also popular for its Sokonuke-no-i, a legendary “bottomless well” located in front of the gate. Of course the well is far from bottomless, and it originates from a 13th-century poem written by a…

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Sarmizegetusa Regia: the legendary capital of the Dacians

We are in Romania. Hidden in the dense forests of the Carpathians, Sarmizegetusa Regia is one of the oldest, most surprising and mysterious historical attractions in the country. From the second century B.C., until the first century A.D., the kingdom of Dacia could be found west of the Black Sea and north of the Danube River. When the Romans conquered Dacia in 106, they destroyed its capital, Sarmizegetusa Regia, and established a new city some 40 kilometers away to serve as the capital of their new province. However, in the…

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#April 21, 753 BC: according to tradition, Romulus and Remus found Rome

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, found Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants. Actually, this myth originated sometime in the fourth century B.C., and the exact date of Rome’s founding was symbolically set by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro in the first century B.C. , but the legendary story of the ancient city is know still today all over the world. According to the legend, Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea…

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The “anomalous” burial of a child in a 5th century Umbrian cemetery

Lugnano in Teverina is a small village, located in the region of central Italy Umbria, surrounded by green hills that descend towards the valley of the Tiber river. At the beginning of the first century AD, on one of these hills, an unknown man, probably a wealthy Roman, built his villa (a complex of over 1800 square meters), which however was already in ruins around the third century. For some unknown reason, around the middle of the 15th century, when the western Roman empire was very close to its end,…

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The macabre egyptian “Voodoo” Doll, dated back about 3rd-4th Century AD

A binding spell is a magical formula intended to “bind” or restrain a person’s will or behavior. Examples of binding spells include love spells, attempts to silence enemies, or any other magic intended to force or restrain the behavior or actions of another person. Many binding spells involve the use of knots, pins, or other symbolic restraints. In most ancient spells, it is spirits or ghosts who are symbolically “bound” until they fulfill the demands of the spell caster. The binding spell is probably one of the oldest types of…

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