Thursday 11 June 2009

Minerva - Goddess of Wisdom

This Saturday, as well as being the birthday of Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, is the date of a Roman festival sacred to Minerva, goddess of war and wisdom, according to

So, I have chosen the Minerva as the Bad Witch's Goddess of the Week.

Minerva was the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena. Both were patrons of warriors, poets, healers, traders, craftsmen and musicians. Their sacred animal was the owl - also symbolic of wisdom, although in reality it is not known to be the brightest of birds.

Minerva was worshipped widely throughout the Roman world. In Rome itself, her warlike aspect was particularly venerated. She was usually portrayed armed and helmeted, ready for battle. In Britain, she was more often associated with Sulis, a goddess of wisdom native to our isles.

Known as Sulis Minerva, Romans dedicated a temple to her in Bath, adorned with a gilt bronze sculpture of her head, which is on display at the Roman Baths museum. The hot springs there were sacred to Sulis Minerva and worshippers would throw votive offerings into the water - as well as curses.

Modern pagans might feel a bit uncomfortable about the idea of cursing, but not pagan Romans. They would inscribe on strips of lead all sorts of unpleasant things that they would like to see happen to those who had pissed them off, then throw the strips into the sulphurous water for the goddess to read and make happen.

Although I wouldn't want to curse anyone, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for Minerva because I believe that if you are going to fight for a cause, it is vital to think carefully about how you are going to go about it. Most of the battles we find ourselves in are best fought with words and wisdom rather than weapons.

Romans celebrated Minerva's main festival on March 19, but June 13 - known as the Quinquatrus - was also sacred to her, possibly because that was the day her temple on Rome's Aventine Hill was consecrated. At the festival, women would consult fortune tellers, men would go hunting and in the evening everyone would enjoy plays and poetry reading.

Hunting doesn't seem a very politically correct activity these days, but I can think of worse things to do on a warm Saturday evening in June than watch a play, preferably at some lovely open air theatre - just like the Romans.

The picture shows an Art Nouveau Minerva Mirror in Faux Ivory wall decoration, which is available from Isis Rising Gifts through Amazon for £24.99.

Art Nouveau Minerva Mirror in Faux Ivory - Wall Décor

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