The image above is not specifically Flora, to my knowledge; it could just as easily be Pomona, Ceres, or some other agricultural goddess of Rome. However, whenever I think of Flora, I think of this image. When I was in Oxford in 1997, we visited a stately manor somewhere in the midlands of England–perhaps on our trip around various parts of the Cotswolds–and I was out of film in my camera, and thus didn’t get any photos of it…which may be part of the reason that I don’t remember the name of the place off the top of my head. It was a museum that had all sorts of oddments in it, and though I can’t now remember if this tapestry was amongst the things adorning the walls, it was most certainly a thing adorning a card in the gift shop. I was entranced by the image, and decided to purchase it and take it back with me as a lovely and appealing image of a goddess, and it hung on my wall and in my shrines as such on many occasions over the next five years or so. I still have it somewhere, I’m certain, but have not seen it for a long time; I was, however, sensible enough to scan it in about 2002 or 2003 so that I could have electronic access to it at all times in the future. I’m glad to share it with you as one of the most long-standing images of a goddess that I have ever venerated, who I am now quite certain–no matter who she was intended to be in the first place–is Flora.
Because my celebration of the Floralia and the goddess Flora this year was not as well-thought-out or pre-planned as many of my other festivals in the calendar are, I did not think ahead in terms of ordering excerpts from Ovid’s Fasti as appropriate for the occasion. So, the excerpt that I should have given yesterday I will give today instead, i.e. the relatively short entry at the end of Book IV for April 28th and the start of the Floralia.
When Aurora’s left Tithonus, kin to Phrygian Assaracus,
And raised her light three times in the vast heavens,
A goddess comes framed in a thousand varied garlands
Of flowers: and the stage has freer license for mirth.
The rites of Flora also stretch to the Kalends of May:
Then I’ll speak again, now a greater task is needed.
Vesta, bear the day onwards! Vesta’s been received,
At her kinsman’s threshold: so the Senators justly decreed.
Phoebus takes part of the space there: a further part remains
For Vesta, and the third part that’s left, Caesar occupies.
Long live the laurels of the Palatine: long live that house
Decked with branches of oak: one place holds three eternal gods.
It’s not perhaps the most beautiful, evocative, descriptive, or auspicious entry for the start of such a festival as this, but as he does promise to return to the subject anon in the next book–and in that we are not at all disappointed–it does the job well enough.
The weather today is much sunnier than it was yesterday, but that is because it is far more windy. The flowers are dancing in this weather as much as our hats are fleeing from our heads. Ah, Floralia!
I’m trying to come up with some idea for games that I can perhaps celebrate properly tomorrow for the occasion, besides just writing a poem. What would be some appropriate Floralia games? Things involving flowers? Perhaps even a “flower hunt” to precede the Venatio Apri on May the 1st? Who knows? ;)
In any case, may the blessings of Flora fall upon you softly, and make you beautiful and prolific in all that you do, on this day and the days ahead, and for the seasons and centuries to come!