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Bona Dea

Bona Dea

[boh-nuh dee-uh, dey-uh]
Bona Dea, in Roman religion, ancient fertility goddess worshiped only by women; also called Fauna. She was said to be the daughter, sister, or wife of Faunus. No man could be present at her annual festival in May.
In Roman mythology, Bona Dea (literally "the good goddess") was the goddess of fertility, healing, virginity, and women. She was the daughter of the god Faunus and was often referred to as Fauna.

Bona Dea was the perpetually virginal goddess, associated with virginity and fertility in women. She was also associated with healing, with the sick being tended to in her temple garden with medicinal herbs. She was regarded with great reverence by lower-class citizens, slaves and women who went to her seeking aid in sickness or for fertility.

Bona Dea was invoked for healing and for freedom from slavery; many of her worshippers were freed slaves and plebeians, and many were women seeking aid in sickness or for fertility.

She was worshipped in a temple on the Aventine Hill, but her secret rites were performed in the home of a prominent Roman magistrate. The rites were held on December 4, and only included women. Even paintings or drawings of men or male animals were forbidden, along with the words "wine" and "myrtle" because she had once been beaten by Faunus with a myrtle stick after she got drunk. The rites were conducted annually by the wife of the senior magistrate present in Rome and were assisted by the Vestal Virgins. Very little is known about the ceremony, but the worship seems to have been agricultural in origin. The most famous event to do with this festival was its desecration by Publius Clodius in 62 BC by secretly attending the ceremony at the house of the pontifex maximus, Julius Caesar. During the ensuing trial, Clodius' alibi was destroyed by Cicero, which caused the animosity that would define their relationship from then on.

Bona Dea is usually depicted sitting on a throne, holding a cornucopia. The snake is her attribute, a symbol of healing, and consecrated snakes were kept in her temple at Rome, indicating her phallic nature. Her image frequently occurred on ancient Roman coins.

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