Thursday, March 27, 2008

Festival of Hilaria, in honour of Cybele, ancient Rome

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
Today marked the end of the 12-day festival of Cybele (pictured), the Anatolian mother goddess of mountains and fertility, and a life-death-rebirth deity, who was adopted by the Romans as their own Mother of the Gods.

In 204, Cybele's sacred black statue, which was carved from a meteorite from Pessinus in Anatolia (in modern Turkey), was shipped to Rome, where it arrived on April 4. This statue and the cultus that surrounded it became very important parts of the Roman religion.

The Hilaria was a Roman festival of the Vernal Equinox. Today was the final day, the lavatio, on which the Romans performed the ceremonial rites of washing – the tradition that some cultures know today as Spring cleaning. Also today was the annual procession in honour of the Mother of the Gods, and the carriage in which her image was carried was washed in the waters of the Almo, a Roman stream.

The Christian writer, St Augustine, who was born in North Africa in about 345, tells us: "When I was a young man I used to go to … spectacles put on in honour of gods and goddesses – in honour of the Heavenly Virgin, and of Berecynthia [a title of Cybele], mother of all. On the yearly festival of Berecynthia's washing, actors sang, in front of her litter … they performed [rites] in the presence of the Mother of the Gods before an immense audience of spectators of both sexes … And the name of the ceremony is 'the fercula', which might suggest the giving of a dinner-party" ...

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