Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of Jul 26th - Aug 1st,  2002

The Eternal Flame

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   This week we're once again taking a look at Ovid's Fasti, a correlation of the calendar and traditions associated with each of the Roman holidays through the year. This is part of an ongoing series, and our hypothesis is 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 reaching a crescendo with the Ides, correlating to the Full Moon.

Vesta

Vesta

   Our examination has brought us up to Nones 6th from Book III of Ovid's Fasti, which translates as March 6th, and places the Moon in the sign Taurus. This theme of the holiday for this date is Vesta, and Caesar's role as Pontifex Maximus, whose job was to preside over the Vestal Virgins.

   In contemporary astrology, Vesta is one of the four asteroids which are being increasingly used by astrologers as an additional tool of interpretation in natal charts. It is a very focused and concentrated energy, which often deals with the sacrifice of some personal part of our nature in order to serve the higher good. As a result, at face value, it initially can deal with loss or something that we must relinquish so we can move on to serve the community. One of the chief functions of the Vestal Virgins was to guard and protect the sacred fire of Rome. The Romans believed that this fire represented part of the spiritual soul or essence of the city, and if the flame were to die out, the prognosis for the city's future would not be good. The Vestals job was to forsake marriage, and in effect, be married to the flame in order to protect and preserve it.

Temple to Vesta

Temple to Vesta

   "When the sixth sun climbs up Olympus' steep from ocean, and through the ether takes his way on his winged steeds, all ye, whoe'er ye are, who worship at the shrine of chaste Vesta, wish the goddess joy and offer incense on the Ilian hearth. To Caesar's countless titles was added the honour of the pontificate (Pontifex Maximus). Over the eternal fire the divinity of Caesar, no less eternal, doth preside: the pledges of empire thou seekest side by side."

Aeneas carrying his father from Troy

Aeneas carrying his father from the flames of Troy

   This notion of empire, of an earthly realm which lasts into eternity, is one that is fitting for our Taurian theme, a fixed earth sign. But if indeed this celestial sign is linked to Vesta, it provides an insight which needs to be examined further. That Vesta's rituals are very old is underscored by Ovid, who links it to Rome's Trojan heritage. It was believed that Aeneas, one of the princes of Troy, escaped the destruction and collapse of the city together with his father, and eventually made his way to Italy and helped shape Rome's course.

   "Ye gods of ancient Troy, ye worthiest prize to him who bore ye, ye whose weight did save Aeneas from the foe, a priest of the line of Aeneas handles your kindred divinities; Vesta, do thou guard his kindred head! Nursed by his sacred hand, ye fires live well. O live undying, flame and leader both, I pray."

   This holiday, and this association, provides us with a new look at Vesta and her energy, and we shall watch carefully to see how else she comes to be engaged in the Fasti. Ovid is providing clues for us by re-linking these mythological themes with the zodiac, peering back into a time when many of the images being recorded here were already faint in the memories of the Romans who celebrated them.

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