In all the Beltane excitement, we mustn’t forget the other gifts of this most magical time, including the ancient Roman rites of the Floralia. Usually celebrated from April 28 till May 3 or so, the Floralia honors the Goddess Flora. She is the Roman Goddess of flowering plants, especially those that bear fruit. Spring, naturally, is Her season, for Hers is the beginning of the process that finds its completion with Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and the Harvest.
Flora has the attributes of a Love-Goddess, with Her gifts of fertility, sex, and blossoming. Researcher Thalia Took writes of Flora that She is quite ancient; the Sabines are said to have named a month for Her (which corresponds to our and the Roman month of April), and She was known among the Samnites as well as the Oscans, where She was called Flusia. She was originally the Goddess specifically of the flowering crops, such as the grain or fruit trees, and Her function was to make the grain, vegetables and trees bloom so that autumn’s harvest would be good.
In later times Flora became the Goddess of all flowering plants, including the ornamental varieties. Her name is related to the Latin floris, meaning, literally, “a flower”, but also referring to being “in its prime.” Other related words have meanings like “prospering”, “flourishing”, “abounding”, and “fresh or blooming.”
In one story, Flora was said to have provided Juno with a magic flower that would allow Her to conceive without help from a man. From this virgin-birth, the God Mars was born. Flora was married to Favonius, the wind God, and Her companion was Hercules.
Tomorrow, I’ll discuss some of the rites that honored Her in Rome, as well as how She can be a powerful ally to all who garden and love the Green Earth today.