Carmentalia is two separate feast dates honouring the Roman goddess Carmenta. It is said that she could see back in the past as well as forward into the future at the same time, and her history is rife with protests and standing ones ground. At one point the Roman Senate denied certain privileges to women during the Second Punic War but didn’t immediately reinstate those privileges once the war had ended. As a mass of people started to grow to discuss and argue about this inequality, women from all over the countryside joined in, first gathering in the Carmentis gardens at the foot of Capitoline hill. They went as far as refusing to work on their husbands’ stock, and in some extreme cases even inducing abortion as a form of protest until privileges were restored.
They saw what they had, they saw what they lost, and they could see how it would affect them in future. And they did something about it. Celebrating Carmentalia honours the early efforts of these Roman women.
Observing Carmentalia can be for our own hearts as well. What can we do to attract love to our lives? What can we do to improve our sexual relationships? How can we nurture the connections we already have? What can we learn from the goddess of fertility and prophecy who cared for all womankind to in turn care for all mankind? It’s different for everyone.
We’ve see what we have had and if we look hard enough we can see what we’ve lost, and we can therefore prepare ourselves for the future. New Year’s Eve is a time when people make resolutions for change in the coming year. We vow to do better, lose weight, save money, stop smoking, etc, because we can see what we deemed was wrong or bad or off in the past and how it can be better in future – how we can be better in future. The changing of the year allows us to start fresh on a particular day when we would physically or metaphorically be switching out the calendar for a new one. We leave the past behind and focus firmly on the future.
Carmentalia was celebrated on two nights, January 11 and January 15, with a feast and celebration for achieving one’s goals. Two weeks into the New Year we can already see if our New Year’s Resolutions had an impact or if they were just words left spoken.
Start by burning some bay leaves as incense and offer popana cakes (a type of bureka) and milk and think on the following Carmentalia prayer:
With pious rite I call out, I summon, I entice with songs that You come forth, Carmenta,
And look favorably upon the matrons of our families.
In You, dearest Mother, in Your hands we place our safekeeping.
In offering to You this cake of cheese I pray good prayers
in order that, pleased with this offering of popana,
May You be favorable towards our children and to us,
Towards our homes and our households.
May Carmenta be favourable to you, your hearts, and your homes. And may you have a bright and blessed New Year!
About the Author:
Rev. Rachel U Young is a pagan based in Toronto, Canada. She is a licenced Wedding Officiant and under the name NamasteFreund she makes handfasting cords and other ceremonial accessories. She is also the Chair of Toronto Pagan Pride Day.