According to this year’s Pagan/Wiccan calendar, Matronalia also known as the Festival of Women occurs on Friday March 1, 2013. The word Matronalia comes from “mater” the Latin word for mother.
Originally celebrated as an ancient Roman holiday, it was a festival honoring the Goddess Juno, as well as mothers and women in general. Modern Pagans and Wiccans recognize the importance of this celebration even today.
History and Origins
Matronalia or Matronales Feriae, according to ancient Roman religion, commemorated Juno Lucina, the goddess of childbirth. It also celebrated women and motherhood. Feasting and ceremonies were held on the first day of the year which happened to be March 1st at that time. This was prior to the Julian calendar that starts with January instead.
In many ways, the celebration of Matronalia influenced our modern day observance of Mother’s Day.
Juno’s temple foundation was on the largest of seven hills in Rome known as the Esquiline. At this site on Matronalia, husbands and wives would pray for the strength of their marriages and lay flower wreaths. Sacrificial offerings of lambs and cattle were also made at the temple during this time.
Matronalia celebrations were also observed in ancient Roman households. Husbands presented their wives with gifts, while young maidens received presents from their boyfriends. Even slaves participated in the festivities with a day of feasting provided by the lady of the house.
Fertility was also celebrated, as wives were encouraged to loosen their hair and the belts of their garments. This was symbolic of “loosening the womb” so that children could be brought forth. During the rule of Augustus from 27 BC to 14 AD, Matronalia was promoted heavily to help increase a dwindling population.
Modern Day Observances
In many ways, the celebration of Matronalia influenced our modern day observance of Mother’s Day. Recognizing and celebrating the values of motherhood and the contributions of matriarchs is important to any society or culture. Even the tradition of gifting and presenting flowers still remains with us today.
Yet, Matronalia encompasses a broader focus than Mother’s Day. Juno’s roles as goddess, daughter, mother and wife were all to be celebrated and emulated. “I’m Every Woman,” by Chaka Khan could have been Juno’s theme song. The ancient festival honored the goddess and her many roles in all women, young and old alike.
The modern day Pagan/Wiccan observance of Matronalia upholds this tradition as a “Festival of Women.” All women are honored and remembered. While not a large celebration like Samhain or Yule, Pagans and Wiccans may include some rituals along with a special meal to honor this day. Altars are often decorated in white and purple with offerings of candles, white wine and flowers while invocations are made to Juno. Meals usually include white breads and pasta with white sauce.
Inspiration for Women
You can also celebrate Matronalia in your own personal way. Take time out to remember the important women in your life. Honor your female family members, neighbors and friends. Say a special prayer for them or write in your journal about how they have enriched your life. Create a gratitude list or page including all the wonderful things that they have done for you. Better yet, get all your girls together and let them know in person! Have a girls’ night out and share the fun.
Also take this opportunity to commemorate the women who have gone before us, including ancestors and historical figures. Women of the past endured many struggles and hardships in order to pave the way for the rest of us. Think about the suffragettes fighting for the vote or women entering traditionally male oriented careers. Take a moment to appreciate and honor their legacies too. Coincidentally March is Women’s History Month, so what better way to kick it off than with a Matronalia celebration.
Let this year’s Festival of Women inspire you to recognize all the fabulous females in your life. Also let it encourage you to get in touch with your own divine feminine nature.