Liber may well have originated as a native Italian god of fertility, vegetation, and wine. He is also associated with intoxication and was known for throwing wicked parties. The Romans later merged his identity with that of the Greek god Dionysus. Like Dionysus, Liber represented uninhibited freedom and the subversion of the powerful. He was a patron deity of Rome’s plebeians – the largest, least powerful class of citizens – who rejected the civil and religious authority of the ruling class elite.
Before being adopted as a Roman deity, Liber was a phallic deity and a companion to two different goddesses in two different archaic Italian fertility cults: Ceres, goddess of agricultural and fertility; and Libera, his female equivalent.
He protected various aspects of agriculture and fertility, including the vine, grapes, wine, wine vessels, and male fertility and virility. The word libation is thought to be derived from his name.
While Liber was honored in March at the annual fertility festival, Liberalia, in which a large phallus was paraded through the streets, he is also associated with Mabon because it’s the time of the grape harvest.
Liber is reported to have had some secondary functions as well. “For example, he was sometimes invoked as a source of inspiration for poets or as a protector of lovers,” according to Mythopedia, The World Encyclopedia of Mythology.
Liber was most often described as a young, fit lad, “at times effeminate, and other times manly in form. He dressed ever party-ready with accompanying grape bunch(es), a wine cup, and a stylish crown of ivy atop his head. He and his followers usually carried a thyrsus (thyrsos). It was an overtly phallic symbol of pleasure and fertility made from a staff of giant fennel covered in leaves and vines, topped with a pinecone,” according to an article by Kanchan Schindlauer on Wine Folly’s website.
“Liber was accompanied wherever he went by an entourage of revelers and beasts, who were said to engage in orgies at night,” according to Mythopedia.
He had a drunken mentor and was often accompanied by a hard-core entourage of “satyrs, men with goat-like features usually depicted with erections, and female maenads, also called Bacchae, usually portrayed in drunken dance,” Schindlauer stated.
He can be honored in connection with Mabon, or anytime you enjoy a glass of wine. Simply raise your glass to him in gratitude for his gift. Incorporating grapes into your meals and decorations also honors him, as would, I imagine, naming one of your pleasure toys Liber.
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.