This month: May

It is commonly believed that May was named after Maia, a goddess of the inner warmth of the Earth who was sometimes paired with Volcanus. Ovid’s Fasti, however, suggests a different etymology by linking it with the maiores or elders, which is also not an unreasonable explanation considering the month’s holidays in honour of the dead: the Rosalia and the Lemuria. To be exact, the latter was more of an exorcism and probably contributed to May’s inauspicious fame with regards to weddings.

The Calends, sacred to Juno, are on the first day of the month, the Nones on the 7th and the Ides, sacred to Jupiter, fall on the 15th. The first Wednesday is dedicated to Mercury, the 19th of May to Minerva and the 21st to Ingui.

May 1: Dominalia
The Day of the Lady is my annual festivity to the Norse goddess Freya, twin sister of Ingui. Just as Freyr is a title meaning Lord, so does Freya mean Lady. She’s known by other names in Scandinavian sources – Gefn (Giver), Sýr (Sow) or Mardöll (Shinning One from the Sea? Check here for more). Yet only Her title appears to encompass all of Her aspects, so, following my Latinization of Her brother, I often call Freya the Dea Domina, though I’m still in the process of creating specific ceremonies.

The choice of date was easy: Freya is a lustful Lady of Passion, Mother of Treasures, Mistress of Magic and Battle who takes a portion of the fallen to Her halls. Since the last night of April has long been associated with witchcraft, the lustful Beltane is celebrated on the first day of the month and May was when the Romans payed tribute to those who died on the battlefield (the Rosalias on the 10th and 31st), it seemed like an excellent time to honour the Lady. The name Dominalia obviously derives from Latin domina.

May 7: Rosalia
A festival in honour of the dead, who were given roses and lighted candles. Ideally, I visit one or more cemeteries where I have family members buried to leave the aforementioned offerings on their graves. I also decorate my Lararium with roses and candles and light an extra one or more by a window (or on the outside of the house).

May 15: Mercuralia
Because Hermes is the son of Maia and because Rome had a goddess with the same name, the latter was identified with the former after Mercury was added to the Roman pantheon. It is therefore appropriate that His temple on the Aventine Hill was dedicated on the Ides of May of 495 BCE, hence known as the Mercuralia. How could I resist having it in my religious calendar?

May 21: Dies Natalis
My birthday and a time to pay homage to my genius, my ancestors and, because I was born at home, my Penates or housewights. The genii loci of my hometown also get their share and if the weather allows I should pay a visit to the sea-side village where I partly grew up. This year I may take the opportunity for a first ritual contact with local gods.


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