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Agricultural deities of ancient Romans

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

The nature of beliefs related to agriculture is well reflected in the fragment of Augustine of Hippo “The City of God”:

They have not even thought that the charge of their lands should be committed to any one god: but they have entrusted their farms to Rusina; the ridges of the mountains to Jugatinus; over the downs they have set the goddess Collatina; over the valleys, Vallonia. Nor could they even find one Segetia so competent, that they could commend to her care all their grain crops at once; but so long as their seed-grain was still under the ground, they would have the goddess Seia set over it; then, whenever it was above ground and formed straw, they set over it the goddess Segetia; and when the grain was collected and stored, they set over it the goddess Tutilina, that it might be kept safe. Who would not have thought that goddess Segetia sufficient to take care of the standing grain until it had passed from the first green blades to the dry ears? Yet she was not enough for men, who loved a multitude of gods, that the miserable soul, despising the chaste embrace of the one true God, should be prostituted to a crowd of demons. Therefore they set Proserpina over the germinating seeds; over the joints and knots of the stems, the god Nodotus; over the sheaths enfolding the ears, the goddess Voluntina; when the sheaths opened that the spike might shoot forth, it was ascribed to the goddess Patelana; when the stems stood all equal with new ears, because the ancients described this equalizing by the term hostire, it was ascribed to the goddess Hostilina; when the grain was in flower, it was dedicated to the goddess Flora; when full of milk, to the god Lacturnus; when maturing, to the goddess Matuta; when the crop was runcated — that is, removed from the soil — to the goddess Runcina.

Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, IV.6

Fresco depicting the god Priapus in the House of Vetti in Pompeii. Its fertility attribute can be easily seen. It is an example of a phallic cult.

Supplementing a fragment of a detailed description of St. Augustine, it should be added that the preparation of the field for sowing was done by three orc deities: Vervacator, Redarator and Obarator, and he looked after the fertilization of the land by Sterculinius, and the sowing itself – Saturn and Lemonia. The goddess Ceres watched over the growth of the grain at various stages of its development. The ripening of the grain, and then it’s harvesting – was the domain of the god Consus. The deity Messia or Messor dealt with the harvest itself.

Several of these deities survived in the Roman religion, which was reflected in the calendar and arrangement of holidays. Saturnalia was celebrated on December 17 in honour of Saturn, the god of seeds. From January, Ceres played an important role in the Roman calendar, whose main holiday was celebrated on April 19, called Ceresalia. At the turn of April and May, when the corn began to bloom, the reign of Flora began and Floralia was organized. God Consus was devoted to two days on August 21, as a harvest festival and on December 15, when grain was brought to the granaries. From then on, it was under the protection of the goddess Ops, who was worshipped on December 19. This is how the agricultural Roman calendar closed.

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