Nemoralia 2011

For those who did not see the note, I have pushed back Karneia until September 11th, for the next full moon, which may also appropriately incorporate those who heroically died during 9/11. It had turned out that I had my calendar figured wrong for Karneia, but that is ok because now I was able to do Nemoralia.

It may seem strange that a Hellenic polytheist has one Latin festival participated in. Yet aside from of some dinstinctive local Latin characteristic in their portrayal of the goddess at Nemi, the site has rich Hellenic mythic tradition, and the laws of the temple itself were written in the Hellenic language. Tradition had it that it was to here that Hippolytus, having been slain and resurected by Asklepios (which Pausanias more or less collaborates by mentioning a city in Hellas where Hippolytus was said to have given Asklepios horses before departing for Italy—a not unheard of destination for exiles and colonies by no means) retired to the woods here and served his goddess. Later Roman tradition also says that the Nemi was the final destination of the statue of the Taurian Artemis, and therefore a reason why the position of priest was so brutally acclaimed through a duel of one fugitive with the current priest. However, the myth of Iphigenia in Italy seems to have been a later Roman invention, though the Carytide-like three-formed representation of the goddess at Nemi would have an interesting connection to the temple at Brauron where three prominent cult statues of the goddess stood with the temple : an upright Artemis, a seated Artemis, and an archaic Artemis if memory serves me. And while this can *possibly* suggest a connection between the Taurian Artemis and the goddess at Nemi, it is more likely something more widly recognized character of Artemis that is not disinclusive to her early migration into Italy.

So it is important now to look at what is important for this festival…this is *the* known major festival of Nemi, and though it was originally believed to have figured into the Latin League (not unlike the Delia for the Ionian League), the very character of Nemoralia is the seeking of the light of birth. Or Artemis as the goddess of the portal as she was known at Eleusis. Women traveled in great procession to Aricia, crowned with garlands, to give thanks for children born, and by those who prayed to have children. On the premises of the temple a great number of votary lamps were found which have caused scholars to relate the lamp to an association between Diana and Vesta, but yet we known from Pausanias that Artemis in the temple of Despoina was depicted carrying a lamp. So this is not uncommon imagery at all. The light manifestation was carried out further by boats on the round lake (that has been referred to as Diana’s mirror) that were lit  up. Considering that the fullmoon was the original time of the Nemoralia before the Roman calendar established it on the Ides of August, we can consider the moon itself, likewise reflected in the shape of the lake, as being symbolic of the portal of the goddess, the portal of birth/rebirth as the moon is the mediatory point between the earth and the heavens (and some believed that the light of the moon was in part due to the fact that the moon was a nurse gathering up departed souls until rebirth).

So then where does Hippolytus come in? Well he is a soul that has died, and was “resurrected” and deified (by which name he was called Virbius bythe people at Nemi), which qualifies as a kind of birth of the soul from one state into a higher one. Therefore Nemoralia can potentially signify the birthing of the soul into a higher form, a soul born through the gateway of light (the principle of Apollon). This makes Nemoralia a festival mostly of thanksgiving of the past and hope for the future….which is further revealed by the fact that Romans believed that the Nemoralia was essential for securing their crops against storms that would ruin the autumn harvest…harvest being another indicator of death and rebirth principle. So it is in the spirit altogether that i have celebrated the Nemoralia.

I held Nemoralia in the following fashion. I placed by oil-warm in the center where I place all liquid offering to rise to the goddess in vapors. This sets before the statue of Artemis. Around this I placed nine tealight candles (nine being the number of Apollon, and derived from the number of Artemis which is 3). These more or less represent the souls gathering to her. I libate with clean water and oil during the course of the ritual. The only thing that Idid not have but would have liked to have had (and recommend to anyone who wished to follow this idea) is a boat (like what was on the lake at Nemi and as a symbol of the vessel of the soul) with a small candle set in it set ona round please of glass to represent the lake. I have a peice of glass like this that is packed in a box that has yet to have arrived. Thus representing the soul passing through the gate of Artemis.

The following is a poem that I wrote for Nemoralia that I read during the ritual, you will see the points that I have mentioned above referred to in some respect within the body of the poem:

Sing now for Artemis of the portal,

Bright queen, fierce and indomitable,

Lamp-bearing, dragon-charming maid

Whose illustrious torch shall never fade.

Draw the luminous soul through your gate

Gathering the numinous lights that wait

Into your broad arms, like so many a torch

Dancing across your lake onto the porch

Of your door.  And Hippolytos is there

At the steps, your gold-bright charioteer,

Acclaiming to each soul that passeth near

And to each upraising his victorious spear,

“Hail and be blessed you the dying and reborn

You the living of one breath, and the torn.”

To your great grotto you usher them forth

In that wilderness to raise and show worth.

So harken Artemis to the mothers who pray

And send for the souls to the light of day.