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Bona Dea

by Micha F. Lindemans
Bona Dea ("the Good Goddess") is a Roman fertility goddess, especially worshipped by the Roman matrons. She presided over both virginity and fertility in women. She is the daughter of the god Faunus and she herself is often called Fauna. She had a temple on the Aventine Hill, but her secret rites (on December 4) were not held there but in the house of a prominent Roman magistrate. Only women were admitted and even representations of men and beasts were removed. At these secret meetings it was forbidden to speak the words 'wine' and 'myrtle' because Faunus had once made her drunk and beaten her with a myrtle stick. Her festival was observed on May 1. Similarly, no men were allowed to be present here either.

She was also a healing goddess and the sick were tended in her temple garden with medicinal herbs. Bona Dea was portrayed sitting on a throne, holding a cornucopia. The snake is her attribute, a symbol of healing, and consecrated snakes were kept in her temple at Rome, indicating her phallic nature. Her image could often be found on coins.


Article details:

  • Pronunciation:
    boh'-nuh day'-uh

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