Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Goddess Pomona

My interest was caught about this Goddess when I read an article about a replica of her statue that is housed in the Pomona, California Public Library: Getty packs up statues, but Pomona stays here.

The following information is gathered from several websites (listed at the end):

Pomona, a uniquely Roman Goddess, is usually associated with abundance. A grove sacred to her was called the Pomonal, located not far from Ostia, the ancient port of Rome. In 19th century statues and building decorations she is usually shown carrying either a large platter of fruit or a cornucopia. The photo of the statute (above) was taken by Don during our visit to Chicago in 2006, the statute is outside the Chicago Board of Trade Building, and probably represents Pomona.

Interestingly, there are ties between some of the practices of the Festival of Pomona and the ancient Celtic celebration of Samhain. Prior to the Roman conquest of Great Britain, the celebration of Samhain included the roasting of apples and nuts in the sacred fire. Samhain was celebrated on October 31st. The feast of the Roman goddess Pomona was celebrated on November 1st. [Note: I also found a date of August 13th as her festival date, in common with her Roman god husband Vertumnus. The actual date appears to be August 23rd and is Vertumnus’ festival. According to Sacred Texts, Pomona’s festival was held on November 1st.]

She was the goddess of the orchards and the harvest, and her feasts consisted of apples, nuts, grapes and other concord fruits. To the Romans, the apple was the symbol of love and fertility. When this was combined with the aura of divination that surrounded the Celtic Samhain, the results were an enchanting mixture of magick and romance. One Samhain ritual is to take an apple before the Sabbat begins and cut it in half. Mentally fill it with all your illnesses and bad habits, then put the fruit together and bury it in the ground. As the apple rots so too will all your misgivings.

Another practice is to bury apples in the earth to feed the souls of passed ancestors while they take their journey between the two worlds. A few more examples of Halloween traditions whose beginnings can be traced to this ancient apple lore: "apple peeling" was a direct result of Roman apple lore. A woman would pare an apple, all the while being very careful to remove the casing in one long strip. She would then toss it over her left shoulder and the peel would land on the floor displaying the shape of the initial of the man she was destined to marry. It was said that to peel an apple at midnight on October 31st while gazing in a mirror would surely cause the face of your future husband to appear. Another way to see who would be the first to marry was to "bob for apples". Apples were floated in a basin filled with water. The first one to take a bite from the fruit using only their mouth would be the next to marry. It was also very popular to brew a strong concoction of apples, sugar and ale on October 31st, which was served as a traditional holiday drink.

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