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Genius / Juno

by Micha F. Lindemans
In Roman mythology, the genius was originally the family ancestor who lived in the underworld. Through the male members he secured the existence of the family. Later, the genius became more a protecting or guardian spirit for persons. These spirits guided and protected that person throughout his life. Every man had a genius, to whom he sacrificed on birthdays. It was believed that the genius would bestow success and intellectual powers on its devotees.

Women had their own genius, which was called a juno. The juno was the protector of women, marriage and birth. It was worshipped under many names: Virginalis (juno of the virgin), Matronalis (of the married woman), Pronuba (of the bride), Iugalis (of marriage), etc. Juno was also the name for the queen of the gods.

However, not only individuals had guardian spirits: families, households, and cities had their own. Even the Roman people as a whole had a genius. The genius was usually depicted as a winged, naked youth, while the genius of a place was depicted as a serpent. (See also: Lares.)


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