Posts Tagged ‘Carmenta’

Well, it seems as though the “C” posts for this year’s PBP have a song and chant theme.  First it was on carmina, and, now, the Camenae.

The Camenae are a group of deities, four in number: they are Antevorta/Prorsa, Postvorta, Carmenta, and Egeria.  These are native Italic deities, but later Roman authors identified them with the Muses due to their function of inspiration and poetry.  They preside over childbirth, prophecy, and women, and are said to favor springs, rivers, wells, and fountains.

Antevorta/Prorsa is concerned with two things: aiding in the delivery of children born head-first, and she is also a goddess of the future.  She is quite possibly an epithet or a function of Carmenta, though in later times she became her own deity.

Postvorta is, like Antevorta, concerned with the position of the child in childbirth: though where Antevorta aids with children born head-first, Postvorta deals with children born feet-first.  She is also a goddess of the past.  And, like Antevorta, she is quite possibly an epithet or a function of Carmenta, though in later times she became her own deity.

Carmenta – sometimes called Carmentis – is a patroness of women, and her function is inspired speech – or prophecy.  To her also falls a function of childbirth.  She has her own festival, the Carmentalia, which takes place on the 11th and the 15th of January.  She is also called Nicostrate, the mother of Evander – Evander being an exile from Arcadia who founded the city of Pallantium, which was situated right on the future site of the city of Rome.

Egeria is possibly the most important of the Camenae.  She was a goddess of springs and childbirth, and was the lover of Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, and gave to him the laws and rituals that would form the basis for Roman religion.  After Numa’s death, she became distraught and inconsolable.  According to Ovid, she “went away from Rome and hid her sorrow in the dark forests of Aricia [a town in Latium] where she disturbed the cult of Diana with her moaning and lamentations.  Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, went to visit her and tried to console her by evoking his own misfortunes, which in her view were not comparable to hers – but it was in vain.  Lying sorrowfully at the foot of Mount Albanus, Egeria wept.  Finally, Diana, touched by the sight of her pious grief, turned the nymph into a spring that would never run dry.”


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