Last night was the Nemoralia, A.K.A. the Festival of Torches, A.K.A. the Festival of Diana. It is a very popular celebration in ancient Rome, but one that is not on the official state calendar. It is a celebration by and for women, and one that took place out in the country at Lake Nemi. It was said one could see the fiery snake of torches for miles away, as the women walked to the lake and made their prayers. I have always been fascinated with this ritual, because it is so powerful and beautiful. This year we did a lot more than last year, and the prayers we made were heartfelt and unplanned.
First we washed each other's hair in water infused with rosemary and mint. This is something I recommend for anyone in this heat-it will cool you right off, but it is also documented in Ovid that they washed their hair together. Then we let my outside cat, Greyboy join us in the fun and wet his head with a little of the hair rinse. He didn't understand, but didn't run away. In fact he stayed with us for the entire ritual.
Then we placed flower garlands on our heads, which we both enjoyed making earlier. It turns out the hippies knew what they were doing, you simply can't be somber or unhappy with a bunch of pretty flowers on your head! Then we walked down to the shrine area, wearing our chitons. I wanted to walk with candles, but there was a breeze last night, and the candles didn't want to stay lit for us (Note for next year-use lanterns!). We made our normal greeting with incense, and then started the invocation, I to Diana, and Rose to Hecate, and then offered an apple and a head of garlic respectively.
Earlier we had written several prayers on slips of paper, and we placed these in a strand of red wool wrapped three times around the altar, something I read in Virgil's Epodes a long time ago, and that seemed to fit perfectly.
It was a lovely ritual and I have pictures! A couple were really washed out because it was nighttime, so I had some fun with them.
( On to the pictures! )