A week long Minervalia

March 19th marks Minerva’s birthday and the start of the Minervalia, a five-day festival in honour of the Goddess of Crafts that overlaps with the Quinquatrus, which honours Mars. This is how it was in ancient Rome: in my modern-day personal calendar, I tend to downplay the latter, for no reason other than the fact that I have no motive to worship Mars, and link the length of the former to the date of March’s half-marathon. Since this year’s takes place on the 25th, my Minervalia will last for almost a week and I plan to do a stream of daily devotional acts.

I should say that I have a sort of mixed connection with Minerva. When I was a child, I had a thing for Athena and I can honestly say she was probably one of the first ancient gods for whom I had a “leaning”. But then things changed, my quest took me elsewhere for several years, and the connection died out. When I became a cultor I tried to rekindle it, but it didn’t last long. For one thing, because I’m not as sure as I used to be about Athena and Minerva being the same deity: it may simply be a case of two goddesses sharing the same artistic conventions by reason of close cultural contacts and, just like having the same job doesn’t make two people one, the same may well be true for the Gods. And then we just don’t seem to click, at least not as much as I do with other deities, which perhaps is part of the reason why. I mean, I already connect other gods with the things on which me and Minerva could relate: teaching, writing, and scholarly work with Mercury, clay-working with Khnum. I used to weave and knit as a hobby, after my grandmother taught me when I was a kid, but it’s been years since I last did it.

Still, I regonize Her dominion over many things I do and learned in the past, so despite the lack of emotional link, I keep Her cult on a monthly basis. I guess you can say me and Her have a “professional” relationship, with more business and less hugs, which is not out of tune with ancient polytheism: cult practices often came literally with the job, so if I’m an academic in training, a teacher, writer, and crafter, there’s a sense of duty in acknowledging Minerva’s blessings.

As such, this year’s Minervalia includes two daily devotionals and a major event at the end. As today, every day until Sunday will start with the offering of a candle in front of the goddess’s small clay altar, which has been decorated with a beads’ wreath. In the afternoon, I’ll take a portion of olive oil and pour it by an olive three on one of Lisbon’s highest hills. In-between, I may occupy myself with crafts, studying, or writing and, Sunday morning, I’ll be running Lisbon’s half-marathon, dedicating my physical effort to Her (and Mercury) and giving Minerva my medal, just like I gave last year’s.

Simple, largely informal offerings, but enough to focus the next six days on the Goddess of One Thousand Crafts.

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