Athena's Web Weekly Column

  Week of May 17th - May 23rd,  2002

Running Around Naked

Columns Archive


The Constellation Virgo

The Constellation Virgo

   This week we're once again taking a look at Ovid's Fasti, a correlation of the calendar and the traditions associated with each of the Roman holidays through the year. This is part of an ongoing series, and our hypothesis is that the original calendar of the Roman Republic was choreographed by the positions of the Sun and Moon, with each month beginning on the New Moon and culminating with the Ides, corresponding to the Full Moon.

   In our last episode we were examining (XV Kal) Feb 15th and determined that the Moon on that date would be in Virgo. We briefly examined the first two myths correlated with that date, and this week we examine two others which Ovid also relates.

Romulus and Remus cast out

Romulus and Remus cast out

   "But to explain why Faunus should particularly eschew the use of drapery (clothes) a merry tale is handed down from days of old."

   Last week we glimpsed a Greek myth discussing why Faunus preferred his ministers to run around nude. To that tale Ovid this week adds a Latin one. Virgo is the sign of health and work. Health can mean either health concerns, such as illness and malady, or it can represent health maintenance, such as exercise and a proper diet. Since the Greeks so loved the physical form, it was not unusual for them to hold many of their athletic contests naked, and this is precisely what we find Romulus and Remus doing on this day, as the priests were offering a sacrifice to Faunus:

   "...the sun then riding in the mid heaven, Romulus and his brother and the shepherd youth were exercising their naked bodies in the sunshine on the plain; they tried in sport the strength of their arms by the gloves and javelins and by hurling ponderous stones."

   While involved in their routines, they are informed that a robber is near in the midst of his crime, and they run in opposite directions to intercept and apprehend him, but...

The Wolf as Wet Nurse

The Moon in Virgo
and the Lupine wet nurse

   "To arm would have been tedious..."

   ...and so they run after him naked. Having caught their man, return, and are so remembered.

   We are then told that Silvia, a Vestal Virgin (Virgo) was the mother of our twins, yet that they were to be murdered by servants. Curiously, they were placed in a little ark and cast adrift on the waves, in a birth combining images of both Jesus and Moses. A wolf wet-nurses the twins, and finally Ovid turns the ritual to honor Juno (Lucina), the goddess, or the divine midwife of childbirth. Ovid closes this act with a plea to the goddess which outlines her role.

   "Gracious Lucina, spare, I pray, women with child, and gently lift the ripe burden from the womb."

   Virgo is a sign that deals with health. It is often strong in the charts of doctors and nurses, or anyone who works in the health field. Midwives, whether wolf or goddess, are among the Virgonian clues being woven into the Web of this mythically complex day, forming the framework around which the story is being spun. Whether through work, such as tools, domestic help or servants, geography, diet, potent herbs, exercising or health, these are all manifestations of Virgo, even if they do reawaken an image of radiance we have lost touch with, strength in purity, running around naked.


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