In ancient Rome, protecting homes and households was a serious matter. Romans believed that the home was the centre of family life and the foundation of the state and that it should be protected from all kinds of evil spirits and forces. Two deities associated with the protection of homes were Cardea and Carna, two goddesses with similar but different roles.
Cardea was the goddess of hinges and door handles. Her name comes from the Latin “cardo,” meaning “hinge,” and she was believed to have the power to open and close doors, as well as keep evil spirits and thieves from entering homes. Her feast day, Cardeaia, was celebrated on June 1 and involved hanging wreaths of hawthorn leaves (which were sacred to Cardea) on doors to protect homes from harm. It was also associated with the turning point of the year, the winter solstice when the sun begins to turn toward the light.
Carna, on the other hand, was the goddess of doors and thresholds. Her name comes from the Latin “caro”, meaning “body,” and she was believed to have the power to stop diseases and illnesses that could enter the body through the mouth. She was often depicted with a key, which symbolized her power to unlock the secrets of health and vitality. Her festival, Carnaria, was celebrated on June 1 and involved burning bay leaves to purify the air and ward off disease.
Despite their similar roles and festivals, Cardea and Carna were separate goddesses with distinct functions. Together, they represented the importance the ancient Romans placed on protecting the home and the health of its inhabitants. Their cults survived into the Christian era, and elements of their worship can still be seen in modern traditions, such as hanging wreaths on doors to celebrate Christmas.