Meet the Gods: Faunus
As part of the festival of Lupercalia, held on February 15, the ancient Romans honored Faunus, the god of forests, fields, and plains. One of the oldest Roman deities, he epitomizes the reproductive force intrinsic in the universe. He is the essence of wild male sexual energy and the urgent biological need to procreate.
Similar to the Greek god Pan, Faunus is typically depicted as an attractive man from the waist up and a goat from the waist down, with human feet and goat horns. He kept company with similar creatures, known as fauns, in the woodlands. While delicate and humble, they were also mischievous and sportive creatures.
Lupercalia was celebrated at the Lupercal, the sacred grove where the mythical she-wolf nursed Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. To assure shepherds’ flocks were fertile in the coming year, Luperci priests would sacrifice goats and dogs — both chosen for their strong sexual instincts — to the god Lupercus. And as a fertility rite, the festival was also associated with Faunus.
Like Pan, he was associated with merriment; his festivals were full of revelry and abandon. Priests or young men dressed in goat skins ran through the streets wielding strips of goatskin. To be hit by one was believed to bring fertility, and women would line up with their hands outstretched.
On December 5, the peasants would honor Faunus, bringing him rustic offerings and celebrating with dancing and merrymaking.
According to an entry on Occult-World.com by Judika Illes, “Faunus is a giver of oracles, a bestower of psychic ability. People once slept in his sacred groves in order to have their future revealed. He is petitioned to improve human fertility: his sexual vitality is so powerful that just being in his presence may have a positive effect. He is petitioned to heal infertility, male and female.”
He was worshiped as a bestower of fruitfulness on flocks and fields. He can be petitioned to guard wolves from attacking people as well as protecting livestock from wolves.
“If you petition him for fertility and he visits you in a dream and hits you, consider yourself blessed,” Illes stated. “Faunus hits women with tree branches or leather thongs to help them conceive. (If he arrives and doesn’t hit you, hold out your hands, palms up, so that he will.) He’s not gentle; he’s violent. He’s the force of untamed forest growth, but he is benevolent and protective.”
Eventually, he became primarily a woodland deity so primordial he is nonverbal, and does not talk; his voice is the sounds of nature.
The goblet and wreath are associated with Faunus. His sacred animals are goats and wolves. Spring water is the traditional offering. It comes with the warning not to give him alcohol because he is already uncontrolled without it. Offerings on behalf of wolves and efforts to preserve wild places will also gain his favor.
About the Author:
All my life I have known magic was real. As a child, I played with the fae, established relationships with trees and “just knew things.” In my maiden years I discovered witchcraft and dabbled in the black-candles-and-cemeteries-at-midnight-on-a-fullmoon magick just enough to realize I did not understand its power. I went on to explore many practices including Zen, astrology, color therapy, native traditions, tarot, herbs, candle magic, gems, and, as I moved into my mother years, Buddhism, the Kabbalah and Reiki. The first man I dated after my divorce was a witch who reintroduced me to the Craft, this time by way of the Goddess. For 11 years I was in a coven, but with retirement, I have returned to an eclectic solitary practice. When accepting the mantle of crone, I pledged to serve and teach. This is what I do from my skoolie – a 30-year-old school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels that I am driving around the country, following 72-degree weather, emerging myself into nature, and sharing magic with those I meet. Find me at thewitchonwheels.com, Facebook and Instagram.