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As soon as man becomes self-conscious, he feels that anything different from himself is potentially, if not actually, dangerous: it contains a strange power to do him harm, and he must, if this be possible, force it to do him good. If experience teaches him that it can only do him harm, he must shun it, or, if this be impossible, he must rid himself of the evil effects of the contagion. We have given the name mana to this mysterious force, whether actually helpful or harmful or potentially so. Mana which has been found to be harmful we call negative mana; mana which has been found to be good is usually called simply mana; to this we have given the name positive mana. For example, with the growth of agriculture, rain is found necessary for the success of crops, and so a magic process, imitating the overflowing of the heavens, is performed to induce rain. This is rain in its positive or helpful aspect (positive mana). But rain sometimes has the power to harm (negative mana), and so the savage uses a magic act to avert rains which are flooding his fields.

Negative mana has been considered a form of negative magic. Just as in homoeopathic or in contagious magic (as we shall see in our chapter on magic acts) 1 man performs certain actions in accordance with the laws of similarity or contact that certain results may ensue, so, in accordance with the same principles, he will refrain from certain acts, or things, or persons, for fear that evil may result. It would be better, as we have suggested, to consider taboo as negative mana; for certainly all cases of taboo cannot be classified as negative magic. Positive and negative mana, then, are mysterious powers--good and evil--and magic (magic act and incantation) is the means used to secure the good and to avoid or ward off the evil.

Whatever the origin of taboo, the feeling in the mind of the person involved is that certain objects, actions, or persons are, for some reason unknown to him, possessed of a mysterious power which makes them dangerous. They should, therefore, be avoided. If, for some reason, contact is unavoidable, purificatory rites must be performed to wipe out the contagion--usually by the use of water. This involves magic action. There is scarcely a person, for example, unless he be a physician or an employee in an abattoir, who does not shrink from the sight of blood. Again, foreigners cause feelings of fear, as does a strange food, a new system of medicine, or a novel religious cult; but when one has eaten the strange food and found it palatable, when one has adopted the new system of medicine or the religious cult, the fears vanish.

The dread of danger inherent in things arises from several causes: it may, as some think, be instinctive, or it may arise from the savage's ignorance of the things which surround him in his struggle for existence. This ignorance may be due, as we have already indicated, to the fact that his brain is not developed enough physiologically for him to make proper associations and to come to right conclusions. Coupled with this is an unusually active imagination. From these ultimate causes spring certain specific causes of taboo: the thing may be strange, or new, or abnormal, and hence dangerous. One may have had unpleasant associations with something which resembles the thing feared; the taboo may have been deliberately made by the priest or chieftain for selfish or even for social reasons; or the taboo may have arisen from trial and error, until the mana has been found to be positive or negative. However, taboo goes so far back into the dawn-twilight of the race and contains so many complex elements that it is difficult to explain every case satisfactorily.


We now return to the story of Torquatus with which we introduced our first chapter. Torquatus, it will be recalled, tore a bloody necklace from a Gaul whom he had killed in a hand-to-hand combat, and placed it, still reeking with blood, about his own neck. The feeling, vague and undefined though it was to the mind of the Roman, seems to be that, by wearing the Gaul's necklace about his own neck and by coming in contact with his blood, Torquatus might possess, in addition to his own personal strength, the strength of the Gaul.

A striking parallel to this incident is recorded in a much later day. The Emperor Commodus Antoninus often appeared before the people as a gladiator. According to the story, shortly before his death he plunged his hand into the wound of a slain gladiator and wiped the blood on his own forehead. He apparently had the feeling that he could thus, by contact with the blood of the gladiator, acquire from him bravery and skill, which he most certainly lacked, for the Roman people often snickered at his pretense of gladiatorial prowess. 2

The interpretations of these actions may become clearer through a somewhat detailed study of the attitude of the Romans toward blood. But first let us examine the statements of two modern scholars on this subject. W. Warde Fowler writes thus about the taboo on blood among the Romans: 3 ". . . at Rome, so far as I can discover, there was in historical times hardly a trace left of this anxiety in its original form of taboo." Again, H. J. Rose says: 4 " . . . as the late W. Warde Fowler has repeatedly pointed out, the Romans had very little, if any, superstitious horror of blood."

That the Romans had little superstitious horror of blood seems a natural inference to make when we consider the fact that the Roman citizen was primarily a soldier, hardened to the shedding of blood on the battlefields, and that the blood of sacrifice at the altars and at the gladiatorial combats was an everyday sight. Despite this, a considerable body of evidence can be brought forward to show that the Romans did have an uncanny feeling about blood. Seneca, for example, writes: 5 "Some say that they themselves suspect that there is actually in blood a certain force potent to avert and repel a rain cloud." It was dangerous to have the blood of a living person over one's head. 6 Tibullus curses with these words a woman whom he hates: 7 "May she eat bloody food." The skeptical Ovid refuses to believe that mere water can wipe away bloodstains. 8 Some Romans believed that blood was the seat of the soul. 9 The ancient Hebrews also believed that the life resided in the blood. 10

The dangerous character of blood is further suggested by the common accounts of rains of blood. 11 There is at least one reference to a rain of flesh. 12 Among the prodigies recorded during the Hannibalic War, we read that at Praeneste shields sweated blood, that the waters of Caere were mixed with blood, that both water and blood gushed from the springs of Hercules, and that bloody ears of wheat were garnered at Antium. 13 Again, later in the same war, reports reached Rome that statues sweated blood, and that again the waters of Caere were mixed with blood. 14 Tullia, the daughter of Servius Tullius, drove her carriage over the dead body of her father, and she was, in consequence, spattered with blood. Some of this blood accidentally contaminated her Penates and those of her husband. Soothsayers who were consulted predicted that, because of this bloodstain, the last of the Tarquins was doomed to suffer the same fate as Servius Tullius. 15 Once, while Flaminius was sacrificing, a calf broke away, spattering several spectators with its blood. This was considered terrible and ominous by the people present. 16 In 460 B.C., during the quarrels between the plebeians and the Senate, a large number of slaves and exiles seized the Capitol and the Citadel. After they had been driven out, the temple was purified, since many of them had desecrated it with their blood. 17 On one occasion, while the Emperor Caligula was sacrificing, he was spattered with the blood of a flamingo. Again, toward the end of the reign, during a performance of a broad farce, an actor, playing the part of a brigand, vomited blood. At the conclusion of the piece, a group of actors entertained the audience with such a vigorous burlesque of the brigand's vomiting that the stage overflowed with blood. These prodigies, among others, were believed to forebode the death of Caligula. 18 The Emperor Domitian abhorred blood; and once he proposed an edict that oxen should not be sacrificed. 19

We recall the horror of Sallust in recounting the gruesome story that Catiline and his followers drank human blood to seal their covenant of crime. 20 A similar charge was made against the early Christians. Minucius Felix, the first of the Christian Latin writers, in his Octavius, a work written to defend his faith, writes (IX):

"What men say about the initiation of the novices is as abominable as it is well known. A baby, covered with spelt to deceive the unwary, is set before the person who is to be initiated into the sacred rites. The initiate, roused to inflict blows which, because of the covering of spelt, seem harmless, kills the child with hidden, secret stabs. Then--shocking to tell--they thirstily lick up the baby's blood and eagerly distribute its limbs. Through this victim they are linked in covenant; through complicity in the crime they are pledged to mutual silence."

This mystic association with blood finds curious expression in a story recorded 21 about the mutiny of the Roman soldiers under Germanicus. Later, realizing their crime, they felt that, by shedding the blood of the ringleaders, they might atone for their sins of rebellion. A bloody massacre took place in the camp. When Germanicus appeared on the scene, the soldiers repented but, still "seeing red," they wanted to cross the Rhine into Germany, again to atone with their blood for their murdered comrades. A Roman would vow vengeance by the bloodstained sword of a murderer. 22 A curious bit of military lore is recorded in Gellius. 23 According to the old military laws, when a soldier had committed an offense involving dishonor, a vein was opened, and the "bad blood" was let out. Gellius has suggested that the procedure may have been medicinal at first and may have been applied later to all soldiers for a variety of offenses. The reason goes deep into the past of the Romans. The blood contained the life principle of the man; and as he had shown by his actions that his life-blood was bad, it was drawn off to allow better life to enter his body.

It would seem that the earliest Roman sacrifices were bloodless. 24 Ceres was said to have been the first to receive animal sacrifice--the pig. 25 Only bloodless sacrifices might be made to Genius on birthdays, though it is probable that animal sacrifices were permitted on other days. 26 The first day of the Festival of Minerva had to be free from blood. 27 No animal sacrifice was made to Venus nor to Terminus on the Capitol. 28 Originally there was no animal sacrifice on the Festival of Pales; and the reason, as given by Plutarch 29 was that the festival might be free from bloodstains. Fowler remarks  30 the absence of the mention of blood in sacrifices, but he fails to recognize that this very absence is an indication that blood was taboo.

The Priest of Jupiter (Flamen Dialis) was not allowed to mention raw meat. 31 Plutarch suggests 32 that the repulsive appearance of meat and its likeness to the flesh of a wound may be the reason for the taboo. This uncanny aversion which the Romans felt for raw meat is further shown by a story told about the Emperor Maximus (238 A.D.). It seems that at the time of his birth an eagle dropped a large piece of beef into the house through the opening in the roof and that no one would touch it because of superstitious fear. 33 The Priest of Jupiter was forbidden also to pass under a vine which was trained on an arbor. 34 Frazer suggests a possible explanation of this taboo. 35 The juice of the grape was considered blood because it was red and looked like blood; and it was believed to contain the spirit. Moreover, wine was intoxicating, and so the soul of the vine could be felt actually at work in the person who drank the wine. There is another possible interpretation of the prohibition: the intertwining tendrils of the vine would make it dangerous to a priest. 36

Ovid represents Numa performing sacrifice, before which he had to refrain from the pleasures of love and from flesh, and he might wear no ring. 37 A priest who had been splashed with the blood of a sacrificial animal was unclean until he had changed his dress. 38 We recall that AEneas could not touch his home-gods until he had cleansed the bloodstains from his hands with pure water. 39

Blood, too, had a magic part in religious rites. We shall describe its use in three of these.

On October fifteenth, the Field of Mars witnessed a chariot race. The right-hand horse of the pair which won the race was killed, and blood from his tail was allowed to drip onto the sacred hearth. 40 This blood, together with the blood from his head, was mixed with sulphur and with bean straw, and with the ashes of unborn calves which had been sacrificed at the Festival of the Slaying of the Pregnant Cows (Fordicidia) on April fifteenth. The mixture was dispensed by the Vestals as a fertility charm at the Festival of Pales (Palilia) on April twenty-first. 41 Farmers and flocks at this festival leaped through bonfires into which some of the mixture had been thrown. It is not my plan to attempt, at this juncture, an explanation of these rites; for our purpose it is sufficient to note that in this rite blood had a peculiar magic property--probably the transmission of life, by sympathetic magic, from the prolific cow through the blood of her calves to the people who used the mixture.

Again at the Festival of the Lupercalia on February fifteenth blood from the sacrificial goats was smeared with a knife on the foreheads of two youths by some of the priests called Luperci, and then was wiped off with wool by other priests. 42 Much has been written in attempted explanation of this element in the rite. We shall return to the subject in a later chapter; here again we must be satisfied with pointing out merely the fact that blood was believed to possess some strange property.

Once more, at the Festival of Terminus, the god of boundaries, in the county districts at least, blood from the sacrificial victim, together with its bones and ashes, incense, and various products of the farm, was lowered into a hole in the ground and the boundary stone was rammed into it. 43 The worship of such stones was doubtless fetishism at first; but let us apply the rule for distinguishing a fetish from a god, as given by Dr. Jevons: 44 "If the object is the private property of some individual, it is fetish; if it is worshipped by the community as a whole, it, or rather the spirit which manifests itself therein, is a god of the community." The stone, in historical times, certainly was by this definition a god, or, to be more exact, a numen, worshiped by the farm community for the good of the farm. But it is hard to believe that the worship of such stones and of Terminus in the Capitol had developed far beyond the fetish stage.

The blood of foreigners, especially of enemies, was felt to be dangerous. The spear which the war-herald (fetial) threw into the enemy's country as a declaration of war was dipped in blood. 45 The blood, being taboo from the point of view of the enemy, was calculated to do harm to him. The head of the spear might be of iron, which, as we shall presently find, had magic force. The soldiers who followed the general's triumphal car wore garlands of laurel, that they might enter the city with the stain of human blood removed. 46 A priest, known as the verbenarims, accompanied the war-heralds, carrying with him for purificatory purposes the sacred herbs, probably the modern vervain which is commonly believed to possess magic properties. 47

On March nineteenth occurred the lustration of the sacred shields of the Leaping Priests of Mars (Salii), and probably of the whole army before it went forth to war. There was a procession in which these priests performed ceremonial dances, beating their shields and brandishing their spears--originally a magic ceremony to drive away malevolent spirits. Again, after the war season was over, the shields and, doubtless, the whole army were again lustrated and the shields were put away for the winter. 48 It has been suggested that the lustration in October was to disinfect both arms and men from the double stain of blood and of contact with foreign influences. 49 We meet with a similar ceremony at the conclusion of the war against Fidenae in the reign of Tullus Hostilius, when the king performed purificatory rites to rid the army of the taint of blood and of contact with the enemy. 50 All people at all times have believed that the spirits of the slain haunt their slayers. 51 The spirits of enemies killed in battle would naturally haunt the soldiers who slew them; hence the need of such purificatory rites for armies.

There is a curious story recorded in Tacitus  52 which seems to involve the taboo on blood. It appears that Arminius, the chief of the Cheruscans, in order to facilitate his escape from the Germans, "disfigured himself by smearing blood over his face." This, on the principle that "like cures like," would drive away blood and death from himself. Perhaps he smeared his face with blood so that the malevolent spirits of the men whom he had killed might be unable to recognize and haunt him. The practice of smearing the face and body with paint of clay (particularly if it is red) is common among savages. Prospective brides in the Congo region of Africa parade before the men who desire mates. These girls are covered with red clay, which is washed off in the river as soon as they are chosen as wives. 53

Sufficient evidence has been presented thus far to show that the Romans, despite their putative indifference to blood because of the daily association with it on the battlefield and at the altars, did actually have a superstitious horror of blood. It was used in magic, and in religious rites with magic force. Blood was considered the seat of the soul of man; it was dangerous to have the blood of a living person over one's head; bloodstains were considered dangerous; prodigies involving blood were held to be especially ominous; blood was believed to have a mystic power to wipe out blood-guilt and to seal covenants of crime. If a soldier's actions were bad, his blood was believed to be bad, and hence it might be drawn off to allow good blood to take its place. The earliest sacrifices of the Romans were bloodless: even in some rites in historical times blood sacrifice was forbidden. In certain other rites, the blood of sacrifice was thought to possess magic properties. At least one priest was not allowed to mention flesh, much less touch it. The blood of foreigners was dangerous, and purificatory rites had to be performed to remove contagion. We shall presently see that the presence of blood at the birth of a child may also possibly account for the danger which was characteristic of that period.

How did the taboo on blood arise? According to some scholars the fear of blood is instinctive. A horse, for example, will shy at blood. Antiquity furnishes at least one example of this. 54 To our thinking, the taboo in many cases arose in some such way as this: when the savage shed his blood, suffered and died as the result of a wound, either accidental or from the blow of an enemy, his fellows associated the blood with the idea of pain and death--a familiar principle of similarity--and hence thereafter avoided blood.


We know that women, under certain conditions, are considered dangerous by savage peoples. This may be due to the fact that they are physically weak or to the fact that they differ physiologically from men and, on that account, are potentially dangerous; or the taboo may be due to the superstitious horror of blood--particularly the blood of menstruation and of childbirth--common to all peoples.

The Laws of Moses say that a woman who had given birth to a boy was unclean for seven days; 55 if she gave birth to a girl, she was unclean for two weeks; 56 and she was not allowed to touch anything sacred or to enter the sanctuary until after that period. 57 Furthermore, if she had an issue of blood, she had to be put apart for seven days, and anyone who touched her was unclean until night. 58

According to Pliny the Elder 59 a woman in her menstrual period will sour must, make grain barren, kill grafts, wither vegetables, dull mirrors, and do a host of other harmful things.

"During certain periods," writes Lafcadio Hearn 60 of Shinto worship in Japan, "women must not even pray before the miya, much less make offerings or touch the sacred vessels, or kindle the lights of the Kami."

A rather amusing incident involving the feeling of danger in the presence of women occurred recently. Sailors on board the American liner George Washington laid the buffeting which wintry storms inflicted upon their ship to the presence of a woman stowaway in the coal bunker. A woman, they said, had no place where men only were allowed. Her presence had caused all their woes during the voyage. 61

The taboo on women was prevalent in Rome. At the country rites of Mars Silvanus no woman was allowed to be present or to see how the rites were performed. 62 Women were not allowed to swear by Hercules, and were forbidden to take part in his worship at the Greatest Altar in the Cattle Market. The story goes that Hercules, while driving through Italy the cattle which he had stolen in Spain from the three-headed monster Geryon, came upon women celebrating the rites of the Good Goddess and, being thirsty after the defeat of the fire-monster Cacus, he asked for a drink from their sacred spring. Now men were rigidly excluded from these rites, and so the women refused his request, for it would have been sacrilege for a man's lips to touch the spring. Hercules, in anger, burst open the door of the temple and drained the spring dry. In consequence of this refusal, he ordered that all women be excluded from his rites at the Greatest Altar which he erected in celebration of his victory over Cacus. 63 The tale, of course, was invented to explain the exclusion of women. Fowler has suggested 64 an explanation of the taboo, on the ground that the cult of Hercules had been superimposed on an older cult of Genius or the male principle. From this cult, quite naturally, women would be excluded. However, the presence of the Leaping Priests of Mars in the rites seems to suggest Mars, rather than Genius, behind the later Hercules. We know, too, that women were excluded from the worship of Hercules at Lanuvium. 65 Frazer retells  66 from Aelian a story which so humorously indicates the antipathy of Hercules for women that we shall introduce it at this point.

"Cocks were kept in the temple of Hercules [he writes] and hens in the temple of Hebe, and they had the run of a yard, in which, however, the plots assigned to the two sexes were strictly divided by a stream of pure running water. No hen ever presumed to trespass on the ground sacred to cocks and to Hercules; but whenever the cocks desired to mate they crossed the stream and coupled with the hens, and when they returned the running stream purified them from the pollution they had incurred by contact with the other sex."

Festus mentions the fact that in certain rites, undefined by him, women and girls were bidden to depart. 67 There has survived a law, traditionally attributed to Numa, to the effect that no kept mistress might touch the temple of Juno, and that if she did so, she must, with flowing hair, offer up an ewe lamb to the goddess. 68

That the Romans early overcame their uneasiness about the presence of women in religious rites is shown by the fact that the overseer's wife on a farm had certain minor religious duties to perform. 69 Again, the farmer's wife at the Festival of the Boundary Stone brought fire from the home hearth for use on the altar erected at the boundary of the farm. 70 On the day of the Liberalia, old women crowned with ivy, called priestesses of Liber (sacerdotes Liberia), made sacrificial cakes on portable hearths, which, with honey, were bought and offered to Liber in the interest of the buyers. 71


One of the most arresting studies in the religious and superstitious life of any people is the part played in it by the child. The fairest festival of the Christian Church centers about the birth of a Child; the most finished art of the Church has as its subject the Mother and Child; much of the charm of the Christian ritual is due to the presence of altar and choir boys. So, too, in ancient Rome, children played an important part in many rites, both in the State religion and in rites which were performed in secret, outside the pale of religion.

It will be our purpose to study, somewhat in detail, the part played by children in the superstitious and in the religious life of the Romans. We shall have something to say about their place (1) in witchcraft, and more especially in murder rites of witches; (2) in prehistoric rites of child sacrifice; (3) in divination, both inside and outside the recognized religion; (4) in connection with taboos and superstitions; (5) in religious rites, (a) at birth, (b) at puberty, and (c) at death; then (6) we shall indicate some of their functions as acolytes in the home and in the fully developed State religion; and, finally, (7) we shall seek to explain, somewhat more fully than has hitherto been done, the reasons for the place of the child in witchcraft and in religion.


It is a well-known fact that Roman parents would consult astrologers in order to learn the future of their children. Then, too, as we shall see, women regularly worshiped divinities whose special province was assistance at childbirth and prophecy concerning children. Credulous mothers, would often consult witches about these matters.

It was probably the mother of Horace who first introduced him to witchcraft by taking him to a local witch in order to secure foreknowledge of her son's career. At least this is suggested in a childhood reminiscence of his association with witches, in the well-known passage which constitutes a part of Horace's famous description of his encounter with the bore in the Sacred Road. 72 Though the story is doubtless fanciful-told to heighten the effect of the satire--it is probably based on fact and shows that fortune-telling by witches was prevalent in the country districts. Horace, we recall, when vainly trying to rid himself of the bore, asks the latter if he has any relatives who are interested in his welfare; if the bore answers "Yes," Horace will tell him that he is on his way to visit a sick friend who has a contagious disease. The bore, however, answers: "I have no one. I have laid them all to rest." "Happy they!" replies Horace. "Now I remain. Finish me. For the sad fate is pressing close upon me which a Sabellian hag, having shaken her holy urn, once prophesied to me when I was a boy. 'Him neither dire poison nor hostile blade will carry off, nor pleurisy, nor cough, nor crippling gout. A garrulous fellow will sometime do him to death. If he be wise, let him avoid the talkative when once he has grown to manhood.'"

The Romans commonly believed that witches murdered children to secure parts of their bodies for use in their gruesome rites. Horace  73 gives us a picture of certain witches murdering a boy to use his entrails in plying their art. The poem opens with the cries of the boy, who is being spirited away from his home by four witches. One of them, Canidia, orders wild fig trees to be uprooted from the tombs, the eggs and down of a screech owl to be smeared with toad's blood, and poisonous grasses and bones snatched from the maw of a hungry bitch to be consumed in magic flames. Sagana sprinkles the house with waters from Lake Avernus, and Veia, with her hoe, digs up the earth to bury the boy with only his head protruding, that he may die there of starvation in the sight of food changed again and again during the day. Canidia, as she gnaws her long nails, prays to Night and to Diana that the charms which she has already used may work on her aged lover, Varus. But some other witch has worked a stronger counter-charm: so Canidia, too, will prepare another. The poem closes with a curse from the boy who cries that he will, as an avenging spirit, hound the witches.

Witches would steal babies for use in their rites and would leave bundles of straw in their place. We have an illustration of this practice in Petronius. 74 Trimalchio relates that when he was a boy, the favorite of his master, a mere child, died; and while the boy's mother was bemoaning his death, witches were heard screeching outside. A husky Cappadocian, one of Trimalchio's household, rushed out to slay them, returning, however, black and blue from the encounter. He later died--a raving maniac. The mother, on returning to her child, found merely a bundle of straw. The witches had carried off the dead child for use in their nefarious business.

Witches, probably midwives in some cases, occasionally removed unborn children by unnatural means from their mothers' wombs and placed them on magic altars. 75 The entrails, urine, caul, teeth, liver, marrow and other parts of boys were used in these rites. The caul of a child, for instance, was often seized by midwives and sold to superstitious lawyers, for it was believed to have the power to bring them luck while pleading. 76 It is not difficult to credit this when we recall that Regulus, a lawyer contemporary with Pliny the Younger, would daub paint around his right eye if he was to plead for a plaintiff and around the left eye if for a defendant, and would transfer a white adhesive plaster from one eyebrow to the other, depending on the nature of the case which he was pleading. 77

Not only were professional witches and wizards accused of murdering children for magic purposes, but sometimes men in public life were also charged with these practices. Cicero, for example, in a speech attacking Vatinius, a political adventurer and henchman of Julius Caesar, charged him, among other things, with using the vitals of a boy in questionable rites. 78 Justin Martyr in a much later day accused the Romans of practicing divination from murdered children. 79 Such heinous crimes were in later times committed even in the emperor's palace. One of the horrible deeds of Heliogabalus, recorded by AElius Lampridius, was that he sacrificed beautiful children of noble birth whose parents were still living. For this purpose he kept magicians in his household; and he himself would torture his victims and examine their vitals. 80


It may be possible that the murder of children in witchcraft was a survival from a period when children were actually sacrificed in accordance with the rites of accepted religion. With the growing revulsion of feeling against taking human life, substitutes were offered in place of the child victims in recognized religious rites, while murder itself was relegated to the darkness of forbidden witchcraft. Be that as it may, there is a gruesome suggestion of human sacrifice in the tradition that boys were sacrificed to Mania, the mother of the Lares, at the Festival of the Cross-Roads (Compitalia)--an offering calculated to guarantee the welfare of families. At the expulsion of the Tarquins, the custom was abolished by Brutus, who ordered that heads of garlic and poppies be sacrificed in place of boys. 81


The ancients commonly used boys in rites of divination both privately in magic and in forms sanctioned by the State. Thus, one of the charges brought against Apuleius of Madaura in Africa, in the famous trial under the proconsul Claudius Maximus of Sabrata, was that he used a boy in certain magic rites. 82 According to the charge, he spirited a boy away to a secret spot and there, in the presence of a few witnesses, at an altar under the flickering light of a lantern, performed magic rites, after which the boy collapsed, falling to the ground--as his enemies declared, bewitched, but, according to Apuleius, in a fit of epilepsy. On regaining consciousness, he was found to be out of his mind. That boys were thus used in magic rites for divination and prophecy Apuleius asserts on the authority of Varro who, he says, tells how at Tralles a boy was used to determine the probable outcome of the Mithridatic War. The boy gazed into a vessel of water at an image of Mercury there reflected and proclaimed his prophecy in verse. Apuleius relates also that Fabius, after losing a large sum of money, had consulted Nigidius who, by means of incantations, so bewitched certain boys that they were able to reveal the spot where a part of the money was concealed. The remainder had been dissipated, and one coin had come into the hands of Marcus Cato the Philosopher, who, on being questioned, acknowledged possession of it. Apuleius apparently credits such prophecies and believes that the human soul, especially when it is young and innocent, can, by means of music and sweet perfumes, be lulled to sleep--hypnotized--and in that state can predict what will happen in the future. Boys who perform such functions must be beautiful, without physical blemish, quick-witted and ready of speech. We may compare, in this respect, the requirements for the girls who presented themselves as priestesses of Vesta. 83 They must, among other things, be free from impediments in speech, must possess good hearing and must, like animals offered in sacrifices to the gods, have no bodily defect.

An interesting instance of unconscious divination by a child is recorded in Cicero's treatise On Divination. 84 When Lucius AEmilius Paulus, having been chosen to wage war against Perseus, King of Macedonia, returned home, he noticed that his daughter was sad. On inquiry, he found that her pet puppy Persa had died. The father--he had been an augur--took this as a prophecy that King Perseus was doomed to death. It is not difficult to believe that this incident actually happened; but it takes a stretch of the imagination to credit the story recorded by Livy  85 that in the fifth year of the Second Punic War a baby called out from its mother's womb, "Io Triumphe!"

The Emperor Didius Julianus, assisted by magicians, performed certain rites in which boys, with bandages over their eyes, gazed, as it seemed, into a mirror while charms were muttered over their heads. While in this state one of the boys declared that he saw in the mirror the coming of Severus as emperor and the departure of Julianus. 86



Many superstitions concerning children at birth have been preserved for us in Roman writers. Thus both the new-born child and its mother are considered uncannily dangerous. This may be due to their physical weakness and to the presence of blood at birth. 87 It is for fear that the weakness of the child may bring a corresponding weakness to the father that an English gypsy father to-day will not touch his child until it is several months old. 88 It was for the same reason, perhaps, that a Gallic father, in Caesar's day, would not allow his son to come into his presence until he had grown up and could endure military service. 89 The feeling that mother and child were surrounded by evil forces survived among the Romans of historical times. It was natural, then, that they should seek means not only to shield the child from evil influences but to protect those who came in contact with it as well.

The danger surrounding the mother and her child is well illustrated in the superstition that they were liable to be tormented by evil spirits from the woodland--Silvanus, as the later Romans believed--until a curious ceremony was performed. I quote St. Augustine: 90

". . . After the birth of the child, three protecting divinities are summoned lest the god Silvanus enter during the night and harass mother and child; and to give tokens of those guardian divinities three men by night surround the threshold of the house and first strike it with an ax and a pestle; then they sweep it off with a broom, that, by giving these signs of worship, the god Silvanus may be kept from entering. For trees are not cut nor pruned without iron; nor is spelt powdered without a pestle; nor is grain piled up without a broom. Now from these three objects are named three divinities: Intercidona from the intercisio of the ax; Pilumnus from the pilum; Deverra from the sweeping (verrere) of the broom; and by the protection of these divinities new-born babies are preserved against the violence of Silvanus."

The objects used in this rite are charms against evil influences: the iron of the ax and the iron tip of the pestle are familiar objects for averting evils. The ceremonial sweeping drives away evils from the child.

The Roman child up to the age of puberty needed the protection of a special purple-bordered dress which has been shown to have possessed religious significance. 91 Again, boys and girls wore about their necks amulets of gold or of skin, usually containing a representation of the phallus, but occasionally a green lizard or a heart and perhaps also other objects. These were believed to ward off baleful influences, especially the evil eye. When the child doffed his boyish dress, he hung up his amulet on the Lares. 92

Children were liable to be harassed by bloodsucking vampires in the form of owls. The rites of riddance, described by Ovid  93 in the case of the infant Procas, are as follows:

"Immediately she (Crane) touches the doorposts three times in succession with a spray of arbutus; three times she marks the threshold with arbutus spray. She sprinkles the entrance with water (and the water contained a drug). She holds the bloody entrails of a pig, two months old, and thus speaks: 'Birds of the night, spare the entrails of the boy. For a small boy a small victim falls. Take heart for heart, I pray, entrails for entrails. This life we give you in place of a better one.'"

Having killed the sow, the witch placed the vital organs in the open air and forbade those attending the rite to look upon them. Then a whitethom branch was set in a small window which furnished light for the house. After that the child was safe and the color returned to his pallid face.

The principle of similarity in this magic act is evident: the vital organs of the child which, in early Roman times, were under the care of the goddess Carna, are to be saved by the vicarious offering of the vitals of a sow. The pig was frequently so used. A similar substitution is to be seen in the ceremony of treaty-making, preserved by Livy. 94

The child, too, was liable to be harmed by the evil eye. Persius satirizes the old woman--an adept at averting the evil eye--who takes a baby from its cradle and applies spittle to its forehead and lips with the middle finger. 95 The goddess of the cradle (Cunina) was believed, in popular superstition at least, to have the power of averting the evil eye. 96

Several superstitions with regard to the luckiness or unluckiness of children at birth are recorded by Pliny the Elder. Thus, inasmuch as it was contrary to nature for a baby to come into the world foot-foremost, such a birth was considered unlucky. 97 The child who at birth had caused the death of its mother was believed to have been born under happy auspices. 98 For a girl to be born with teeth was considered ominous. 99 It would seem that the birth of triplets caused parents no uneasiness, but that when four children were born it was considered ill-omened. 100 So when, in the principate of Augustus, a certain woman of low origin gave birth to two boys and two girls, it was believed to presage a famine which took place shortly afterward. 101

Savages believe that blood and anything that looks like blood has the power to drive away evils. A survival of this superstition may account for the custom which obtained in the family of the Emperor Albinus (196 A.D.), requiring that new-born children be wrapped in bandages of a reddish color. 102

The Romans, in common with many other peoples, ancient and modern, often identified the lifetime of a particular tree with the duration of the life of the person at whose birth it was planted. So on the country estate of the Flavians stood an ancient oak which sent forth a branch on each of three occasions when Vespasia gave birth to a child. 103


a. At Birth

Tertullian  104 acquaints us with a whole series of divinities which looked after the interests of the child before and after birth. Among these Fluviona cared for the child in its mother's womb; Candelifera was the spirit of the light--equivalent magically to the life of the child--which was placed in the room where the baby was born; Cunina, in addition to having the power of averting the evil eye, supplied quiet; Levana presided over the ceremonial lifting of the child from the ground by the father. It has been suggested  105 that the new-born baby was placed on the ground that it might receive a soul from Mother Earth; for among savages even to-day the belief prevails that babies at birth are not possessed of souls.

Ovid  106 distinguishes two goddesses of birth, Postverta and Porrima, the former for children born foot-first, the abnormal posture, and the latter for the child born normally. Other names for Porrima were Prorsa and Antevorta. In all likelihood they were names of two carmentes. We know that the names Porrima and Postverta were mumbled by the priests. This explains the uncertainty of the names of the divinities and leads one to suspect that they originated in magic. And indeed the worship of the Roman Carmenta (Carmentis) may have originated in magic; for, in old Latin, prophetesses were called carmentes and the scribes who copied out their prophecies were called carmentarii. These carmentes, as W. Warde Fowler has pointed out, 107 may well have been wise women whom prospective mothers consulted. But it is more likely that Carmenta was an old Italian divinity. In her rites, leather, except perhaps for the skins of the sacrificial animals, was taboo. The reason for this, as Ovid rightly indicates, 108 was to prevent the contagion of the dead animal from communicating death to the mother or to her child.

The goddesses most commonly invoked by mothers at the time of parturition were Juno Lucina, Diana, and Mater Matuta. These divinities seem to have displaced the carmentes in historical times. 109

Springs were commonly worshiped by expectant mothers. Such a spring was that of Egeria in the sacred grove not far from the Capene Gate on the Appian Road. 110 Certain springs at Sinuessa were believed to possess, among other powers, that of preventing childlessness. 111

The Romans, as we have seen, sought, by means of magic rites, to shield their children from evil influences. It was for this reason, doubtless, that the child was purified and given a name in accordance with religious forms--the boy on the ninth and the girl on the eighth day after birth. A goddess Nundina, it would seem, presided over the rites of purification. 112

b. At Puberty

Another dangerous period in the life of the child was that of Puberty. At that period--usually on the day of the Festival of Liber (Liberalia)--the boy ceremonially put on the white dress of manhood (toga virilis) and laid aside, in the presence of the Lares, his amulet (bulla) and his magic boyhood dress. 113 This ceremony may have descended from a prehistoric rite of initiation of the lad into the clan. 114 According to the unknown author of a work De Praenominibus, the boy received a name on this day. If this be true, the child probably discarded the name which had been given to him on the dies lustricus. 115 I suggest that if the name given to him in infancy had proved magically lucky, he retained it; but if he had suffered disease, accident, or other misfortune, the name was changed at his "coming of age" ceremony.

c. At Death

The Romans both buried and burned their dead; but archaeologists have shown that the largest numbers of Roman burials were those of children--a fact which suggests that some superstition prohibited their cremation. 116 This archaeological evidence corroborates a statement in Pliny the Elder that it was not the custom to cremate children whose teeth had not yet appeared. 117


Children, among all peoples, have definite roles assigned to them in religion, often in connection with rites of purification and of divination. For instance, according to an early Christian writer, Barnabas, 118 it would appear that in the popular religion of the Jews the most wicked men of their number would slay and burn a heifer. Boys would take the ashes and place them in vessels, and, with a stick bound with purple wool and hyssop, would sprinkle the people severally to cleanse them of their sins. As there is no mention of this rite in the Old Testament, it is reasonable to suppose that it belonged to the popular religion.

The employment of children as acolytes in Roman religion originated in the primitive home where children alone, because of their purity, were allowed to handle the food in the storeroom. 119 After the first course of the meal had been removed, silence was enjoined, and an offering made on the hearth. Then the son of the family, according to the custom, announced whether the omens were favorable. 120 In certain rites in the fields, too, both boys and girls acted as assistants. At the Festival of Terminus in February each member of the family took part: the boy carried the basket containing products of the farm, which he threw into the fire on the altar; his sister offered honey cakes. 121

Hence the Romans, because of childhood associations, often grew up with great affection for the gods of the home. Tibullus, for instance, describes  122 how he used to run as a child about the feet of the Lares, protected by their kindly influence.

Boys and girls called camilli and camillae, wearing the toga praetexta, often took part in Roman State rites. 123 They had to be free-born and both of their parents must be living. Hence the names patrimi and matrimi were also given to them. Three such boys took part in the procession which escorted the bride to her new home. One carried the whitethorn torch in front of the procession and the other two held the hands of the bride. 124 Even in our day in far separated parts of the world boys and girls take part in magic and religious rites, and both their parents must be living. 125

At the request of the Emperor Augustus, Horace composed the "Secular Hymn"  126 which was sung on the third day of the religious festival of 17 A.D., first at the temple of Apollo, then at the Capitol, by a chorus of twenty-seven boys and a like number of girls, whose parents were living. It seems that the Sibylline oracles had commanded that the boys and girls sing a hymn to the Roman divinities; and we suspect that the oracles were inspired by Augustus.

To summarize: We have seen that credulous Roman mothers would consult witches to secure assistance in childbirth and to learn the future of their children. The Romans commonly believed that witches murdered children--especially boys--to obtain parts of their bodies for use in their art; and that they would steal children for this purpose, leaving bundles of straw in their place. Occasionally, witches removed unborn children by unnatural means from their mothers' wombs. The vitals, urine, caul, teeth, liver and other parts of boys were used in their rites. The cauls of children were sold by mothers to superstitious lawyers, because they were believed to bring them luck in pleading. Persons in public life were occasionally charged with murdering children for questionable ends.

The murder of children in witchcraft may be a survival of actual child sacrifice in regular religious rites. In religion, substitutes were sacrificed in place of the children in historical times, and actual child murder was driven to cover in witchcraft.

Children were employed in divination both in the State religion and in private rites. Sometimes boys prophesied by gazing into water or into mirrors; sometimes under the influence of hypnosis. Such boys had to be physically perfect, intelligent, and ready of speech. Occasionally, accidental events involving children were believed to have the force of divination.

The new-born baby and its mother were considered magically dangerous, and rites had to be performed to protect them and anyone who came in contact with them. They were, for example, liable to be harassed by evil spirits from the woodland, and a set ceremony was prescribed to remove these evils. Children, too, might be tormented by vampires, and rites of riddance were performed to dispel these. Up to the age of puberty, the child was protected by a magic dress, and by an amulet which contained objects calculated to ward off the evil eye. These were discarded when he came of age.

The position and condition of the child at birth had much to do with his subsequent luckiness or unluckiness.

The Romans, like so many other peoples, believed that the life of a person was dependent on the duration of the life of a tree which had been planted at his birth.

Numerous divinities presided over the child from the time of conception to puberty. There was a divinity to care for his every action. Carmentes--originally prophesying witches--were also consulted by mothers. Women worshiped springs which, as they believed, assisted in parturition and prevented childlessness.

The name of the child had magic import; if it was found to be an unlucky one, it might be changed at puberty when children, at the Festival of Liber, doffed their magic dress and their amulets.

It seems that children who died in infancy, especially if they were still toothless, were buried, not cremated as was the case with adults.

In regular religious rites children were employed as acolytes. This originated in the primitive home where none but children were allowed to touch the sacred stores. The son announced omens in the home, and both boys and girls took part in State rites. Such children must be of free-born parents who were both living. Boys took part in wedding processions.

It is interesting to seek an explanation for the fact that children at certain times were considered magically dangerous, and for their use in religious rites. The presence of blood at birth was sufficient to make the child dangerous at that time. Again, the helplessness of the child made it possible for stronger forces of evil--vampires, the evil eye, and the like--to get control of him. On the other hand, the weakness of the child might have a dangerous influence on others, particularly on the father. Children were used in rites of divination because there was no possibility of their being influenced by experience. In rites where hypnosis was employed, their greater susceptibility to suggestion made them valuable agents. In religious rites, as we have seen, only the children of parents who were free-born and still living were employed. If the parents were not living, the loss in magic strength which the child suffered would be communicated to the religious rite, to say nothing of the evil effect of contact with death. That the child must be physically perfect is to be explained in the same way as the requirement that animals in sacrifice be unblemished: the defects of the child would be communicated magically to the rites. Again, sexual intercourse tends to weaken the effect of religious rites. Hence the effectiveness of children, who were still innocent and naive, for the performance of these rites.

Death and Corpses

In all ages, corpses have been looked upon as uncanny and as needing purificatory rites. "Primitive thought," writes Crawley, 127 "has no definition of the nature of death, but the usual attitude toward it, as may be inferred from mourning customs, is a mystic terror." Thus, among the uneducated Japanese of modern times, a corpse is felt to be dangerous, and precautions must be taken against infection. "One must not sleep, for example," says Lafcadio Hearn, 128 "or even lie down to rest, with his feet turned toward it. One must not pray before it, or even stand before it, while in a state of religious impurity,--such as that entailed by having touched a corpse, or attended a Buddhist funeral, or even during the period of mourning for kindred buried according to the Buddhist rite." The same feeling of danger arising from contact with death or corpses was common among the ancient Hebrews. For instance, any person who had been defiled by contact with the dead was debarred from the camp. 129 The person who had touched a dead body, the bones of a man, or a grave was unclean for seven days. 130

We turn again to Rome. We have seen that witches, to effect their secret ends, would cut off parts of a dead body. 131 Cemeteries, then, would be their favorite haunt. Horace describes 132 the magic rites of four witches, by which one of them hopes to win back the affection of an aged lover. A boy is captured. He is buried up to the neck in the ground, in the heart of the witch's house, and there left to die of starvation. The object of this murder is to secure the marrow and liver, which are to be cut out and dried for use in a love potion. Unfortunately, there is reason to suspect that witches actually committed such gruesome crimes in Rome. But is it so strange that witch-murders occurred in ancient times, when to-day, in our own country, one may read about similar murders for magic purposes? 133

It was believed that one's strength could be impaired by treading on a corpse. 134 A boy who had been performing acrobatic stunts on a ladder for the amusement of the guests at Trimalchio's dinner slipped and fell. Uproar ensued--not, as Petronius assures us, 135 because the boy had fallen, but because his death, especially since he was a slave, would have been ill-omened. Scipio Africanus the Elder was found one morning dead in bed. No inquest was made, 136 and we may readily believe that this omission was due to superstitious horror of the corpse. The Romans once refused to hazard battle because they discovered that the mound from which their general had addressed them was a burial place. 137 In 509 B.C., the dedication of the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol fell by lot to one of the consuls, Horatius. The friends of the other consul jealously tried to hinder the dedication. They concocted a scheme which, they thought, would play on Horatius' fear of contagion from death. When Horatius was already holding the door-post, praying to the gods, his enemies interrupted the rites, announcing "that his son was dead, and that he could not dedicate a temple when his household was thus tainted with death. 138 The consul, however, proceeded with the ceremony.

In 459 B.C. the regular five-year expiatory sacrifice at Rome was not held, because the Capitol had been stained with the blood of exiles and slaves and because a consul had been slain. 139 Germanicus, having arrived at the spot beyond the Rhine where the Roman general Varus and his legions had been annihilated by the Germans, helped with his own hands in the burial of his country's soldiers of an earlier day. The Emperor Tiberius, however, misinterpreted his actions, thinking "that a general, invested with the office of augur and other ancient religious functions, ought not to have assisted at the performance of funeral rites." 140

A day was regularly set by the Roman consul for the enrollment of raw recruits in the army. The soldier was bound by oath to appear, unless prevented by specified reasons: among them the necessity of his presence at a funeral in his family, or at a rite of purification from contact with the dead. 141 Those who attended a Roman funeral procession, "on returning, were sprinkled with water and walked over fire. . . ." 142 After a dead body had been taken out of a Roman house, a ceremonial sweeping of the house took place, performed probably by the heir, but possibly, as Ovid intimates, 143 by an officer, an assistant of the Priest of Jupiter.

Frazer furnishes a parallel to this custom. He writes: 144 " . . . in Thuringia three heaps of salt are placed on the floor of a house in which a person has died; the room is then swept out, and the sweepings and the broom are carried to the churchyard or to the field; sometimes the mattress is burned in the field. The reason assigned for all these customs is to prevent the ghost from returning." The ceremonial sweeping in such rites is to brush the ghost of the dead man out of the house. Salt was regularly used in purifying rites among all peoples; and salt and spelt are also regular offerings to the souls of the dead. 145

The boy who carried the whitethorn torch in the wedding procession to the house of the bridegroom had to be the child of parents who were still living. 146 This requirement also applied to boys who sang in the chorus at the Secular Games. 147 The taboo on death doubtless caused this restriction; for if the parents were dead, the boys might have adversely affected the rites. The Priest of Jupiter was not allowed to set foot on a grave or touch a dead body. 148 It was the custom of the Romans to place a cypress before the house where a person had died, that the Chief Priest (Pontifex Maximus) might avoid contamination by shunning it. 149

Not only were corpses considered dangerous, but so also were days on which the Romans celebrated the Festival of the Dead, when temples were closed, the altars were cold, and it was unpropitious for girls to marry. 150 The Laws of the Twelve Tables forbade the cremation or burial of a dead body within the city walls. 151 A law passed in 260 B.C. forbade burials in the city of Rome. Victorious generals and Vestals, however, were exempt from this prohibition. 152

The nearest equivalent, perhaps, to the word taboo in Latin is religio; and it seems that the Romans at times used this word in the sense of taboo on death. 153 Varro, for instance, uses the term religiosa, with this connotation, of certain personal belongings of King Numa which, according to tradition, were believed to have been placed after his death in jars at a spot near the Cloaca Maxima in Rome. 154

The origin of the feeling with regard to the dead seems to lie in man's instinct for self-preservation. We may give as an additional reason one of the principles of negative mana--that, among all peoples, things which are strange are to be avoided. Man must certainly at a very early time have noticed the agonies which his fellows suffered when mangled by wild beasts or pierced by the spear of the enemy. These agonies were accompanied by the shedding of blood, which was in itself felt to be dangerous. Furthermore, there was an observable cessation of all the man's normal actions. Hence early man associated pain, blood, and the cessation of action with the strange dead body and avoided it.

Curiously enough, the Romans, who deified almost everything, had no god of Death.


Leather, unless it were the skin of a sacrificial animal, was often considered dangerous by ancient peoples. Thus leather was prohibited in the worship of Carmentis, a goddess popular with prospective mothers; and the reason for this prohibition was, according to Ovid, 155 the fear that it might pollute the pure altars of the goddess. A woman would naturally fear that any part of a dead animal might cause death to the child or to herself. The taboo on leather seems to have applied also in other rites. 156 The wife of the Priest of Jupiter (Flaminica Dialis) might wear shoes or sandals made only of the skin of the sacrificial animal, or of an animal that had not met death naturally; for animals that had died natural deaths were considered unlucky. 157 The Jews were forbidden to eat a beast which had died a natural death:  158 "And if any beast, of which ye eat, die; he that toucheth the carcass thereof shall be unclean until the even."

At the Lupercalia the youthful priests wore skins of the sacrificial animals about their loins and used lashes made of them. They were otherwise naked. 159 We have seen that in the ceremony of rain-making women walked barefoot. 160 According to the testimony of Ovid women were also barefoot at the worship of Vesta. 161 The taboo in these cases may be ascribed both to the fear of knots and of things which bind and to the fear of leather.

The taboo on leather is certainly related to the taboo on corpses and death. A dead animal's skin would be dangerous to a sacred rite; and this would be particularly true (to repeat) if the animal had died a natural death. Hence the use of the skin of the sacrificial animal in religious rites. Since sandals were made of leather and were bound with thongs, the wearing of these would be forbidden, for the additional reason that they would bind up the rites as they bound up the feet--a principle which we shall note in our treatment of the taboo on knots.


The days following the Kalends, the Nones, and the Ides of every month were called black days (dies atri) by the Romans. On these days no battle might be fought, no sacrifice made, no business, public or private, undertaken. 162 Occasionally, however, the taboo on sacrifice was waived, as, for example, after the defeat of the Romans at Lake Trasimenus when Hannibal threatened Rome. 163

The Romans themselves explained black days as instituted by a decree of the pontiffs in 389 B.C., made because on these days they had suffered severe reverses in battle--notably on the eighteenth of July when over three hundred members of the Fabian family were defeated at Cremera (477 B.C.) by the people of Veii, and at the Trebia where Hannibal was victorious over the Romans (217 B.C.). The generals in both cases had taken the omens and followed them with disastrous results; hence the prohibition of sacrifices on that day in later times.

The taboo on these days, if the historical explanation is correct--as well it may be--was artificial and not truly primitive. However, there is a possible explanation in another direction. 164 The Hindoos call the days when the moon is waning the "dark half" of the month, and when it is waxing they call it the "bright half." Now in Latin the word quinquatrus, the fifth day after the period when the moon is full and at its brightest--the Ides--may possibly be a compound of quinque and ater, thus making it the fifth of the black days when the moon is waning. By this etymology, the Tusculan terms triatrus, sexatrus, septematrus, and the Falernian decimatrus would be respectively the third, sixth, seventh, and tenth black days after the Ides, when the moon was on the wane. When the original meaning of the "black day"--that is, referring to the darkness of the moon--had been forgotten, the popular mind interpreted ater as meaning unlucky or tabooed.

The twenty-fourth of August, the fifth of October and the eighth of November were termed dies religiosi. On these days the spirits of the dead (manes) were believed to issue forth into the upper world through the mundus--the name given to a trench or entrance to a vault in the city of Romulus which was believed to be the gate of hell. 165 On these days, again, no public business might be undertaken, no battle fought, no army conscripted. This taboo is ascribable to the taboo on death and corpses. So, too, the taboo on death accounts for the fact that the days of the Parentalia in February and those of the Lemuria in May were religiosi. On the days in February known collectively as the Parentalia no temple might be open, no fire might burn on the altars, and no marriages could be performed. The magistrates laid aside their official dress for the day and wore that of ordinary citizens. 166

June seventh, when the temple of Vesta was allowed to remain open, was religiosus. Fowler ascribes  167 the taboo on the day to ". . . some mystical purification or disinfection preparatory to the ingathering of the crops." It was considered unlucky for a Roman girl to marry on the Kalends, the Nones, or the Ides of any month. The pontiffs had decreed them "black" because, whenever on these days Roman generals petitioned the gods for success in battle, disasters followed. 168


1 Chapter IV, pp. 124-126.

2 Aelius Lampridius, Commodus Anioninus XVI. 6.

3 The Religious Experience of the Roman People, P. 33.

4 Primitive Culture in Italy, pp. 193-194.

5 Naturales Quaestiones IV(b). 7, 2.

6 See Frazer, The Golden Bough, Vol. II, pp. 253-254.

7 I. 5, 49.

8 Fasti II. 45-46.

9 Servius on Vergil's Aeneid V. 79.

10 Genesis IX. 4; Leviticus XVII. 11-14.

11 Livy XXIV. 10; Plutarch, Romulus XXIV; Vergil, Georgica I. 485; Apuleius, Metamorphoses IX. 34; Cicero, De Divinatione I. 98.

12 Livy III. 10. 6.

13 Livy XXII. 36.

14 Livy XXII. 1.

15 Livy I. 48, 7.

16 Livy XXI. 63.

17 Livy III. 18, 10.

18 Suetonius, Caligula LVII. 4.

19 Suetonius, Domilian IX. 1.

20 Sallust, Bellum Catilinum XXII. 1-2.

21 Tacitus, Annales I. 44.

22 Livy I. 59, 1.

23 Noctes Atticae X. 8.

24 See Ovid, Fasti I. 349-350; Vergil, Georgica II. 536-537; Plutarch, Numa XII. 1.

25 Ovid, Fasti I. 349.

26 Varro in Censorinus III.

27 Ovid, Fasti III. 811.

28 Tacitus, Historiae II. 3; Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae XV.

29 Romulus XII. 1; Solinus I. 19.

30 The Religious Experience of the Roman People, p. 33.

31 Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae X. 15, 12; see Frazer, Taboo, Vol. II, p. 239; Leviticus VII. 26.

32 Quaestiones Romanae CX.

33 Julius Capitolinus, Maximus et Balbinus V. 3-4.

34 Festus: Ederam (Mueller, p. 82) ; Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae CXII.

35 The Golden Bough, Vol. II. pp. 259-264.

36 See Chapter III, Knots, pp. 109-112.

37 Fasti IV. 657-658.

38 Tacitus, Annales II. 14.

39 Vergil, Aeneid II. 717.

40 Festus: October equus (Mueller. p. 178).

41 Ovid, Fasti IV. 721-862.

42 Plutarch, Romulus XXI; Fowler, The Roman Festivals, p. 311.

43 Siculus Flaccus in Gromatici Veleres I. 141.

44 The Idea of God, p. 5.

45 Livy I. 32, 12.

46 Festus: Laureati (Mueller, p. 117).

47 Servius on Vergil's Aeneid XII. 120; Pliny, Naturalis Historia XXII. 5.

48 Festus: Armilustrium (Mueller, p. 19); Charisius I (Keil, p. 81); Varro, De Lingua Latina V. 153, VI. 22.

49 Fowler, The Religious Experience of The Roman People, pp. 97 and 217.

50 Livy I. 28, 1.

51 Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II, p. 235.

52 Annales II. 17.

53 Fred Puleston, African Drums, p. 95.

54 Aelius Spartianus, Septimius Severus XI. 8.

55 Leviticus XII. 2-4.

56 Ibid. XII. 2-4.

57 Ibid. XII. 4.

58 Ibid. XV. 19.

59 Naturalis Historia VII. 63.

60 Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, p. 126.

61 The Herald Tribune (New York City), February 4, 1930, p. 2.

62 Cato, De Agricultura LXXXIII.

63 Macrobius, Saturnalia I. 12, 28; Propertius V. 9 (Lucian Mueller) ; see Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II, p. 215.

64 The Roman Festivals, p. 143.

65 Tertullian, Ad Nationes II. 7.

66 The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II. p. 217.

67 Festus: Exesto (Mueller, p. 82).

68 Gellius, Noctes Atticae IV. 3. 3.

69 Cato, De Agricultura CXLIII. 2.

70 Ovid, Fasti II. 645-646.

71 Ovid, Fasti III. 725-726; Varro, De Lingua Latina VI. 14.

72 Horace, Sermones 1. 9.

73 Horace, Epodi V.

74 Satyricon LXIII.

75 Lucan, Bellum Civile VI. 557-558.

76 Aelius Lampridius, Diadumenus Antoninus IV. 2.

77 Pliny, Epistulae VI. 2, 2.

78 In Vatinium XIV.

79 Apologia I. 18.

80 Aelius Lampridius, Heliogabalus VIII. 1-2.

81 Macrobius, Saturnalia I. 7, 34-35.

82 Apuleius, Apologia XLII-XLIII.

83 Gellius, Noctes Atticae I. 12.

84 De Divinatione I. 46, 103.

85 XXIV. 10.

86 Aelius Spartianus, Didius Julianus VII. 10-11.

87 See Eli E. Burriss, in Classical Philology, XXIV (1929), pp. 151-153.

88 T. W. Thompson, Journal of the Gypsy Folklore Society VIII (1929), pp. 33-39.

89 Caesar, Bellum Gallicum VI. 18.

90 De Civitate Dei VI. 9.

91 See W. Warde Fowler, in Classical Review, X (1896), p. 317.

92 See Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. III, p. 139.

93 Fasti VI. 155-162.

94 I. 24, 8.

95 II. 31-34.

96 Tertullian, Ad Nationes II. 11; Lactantius, Institutiones I. 20, 36.

97 Naturalis Historia VII. 6.

98 Ibid., VII. 7.

99 Ibid., VII. 15.

100 Ibid., VII. 3.

101 Ibis., VII. 3.

102 Julius Capitolinus, Clodius Albinus V. 9.

103 Suetonius, Vespasianus V. 2.

104 Tertullian, Ad Nationes II. 11.

105 By H. J. Rose in Primitive Culture in Italy, p. 133.

106 Fasti I. 629-633. See E. S. McCartney, Sex Determination and Sex Control in Antiquity, in American journal of Philology, XLIII, pp. 62-70.

107 The Roman Festivals, p. 292.

108 Fasti I. 629.

109 See Frazer. The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II, p. 181.

110 Festus: Egeriae nymphae (Mueller, p. 77).

111 Pliny, Naturalis Historia XXXI. 9.

112 Festus: Lustrici (Mueller, p. 120).

113 Ovid, Fasti III. 771-777; Persius V. 30-31; Suetonius, Divus Julius LXXXIV. 4; De Rhetoribus I; Festus: Bulla aurea (Mueller, p. 36) ; Macrobius, Saturnalia I. 6, 16; Plutarch, Romulus XXV. 5, Quaestiones Romanae CI.

114 H. J. Rose, Primitive Culture in Italy, p. 135.

115 Incertus Auctor, De Praenominibus III (text at the end of C. Kempfe's edition of Valerius Maximus).

116 See Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. IV, p. 186.

117 Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia VII, 72.

118 Epistulae V. 8.

119 Horace, Carmina III. 23, 17; see Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People, p. 74.

120 Servius on Vergil's Aeneid I. 730.

121 Ovid, Fasti II. 650-652.

122 I. 10. 15-16.

123 Servius on Vergil's Aeneid XI. 543; Festus: Camillus (Mueller, p. 43).

124 Festus: Patrimi et matrimi pueri (Mueller, p. 245).

125 See Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II, pp. 200-201.

126 Carmen Saeculare, passim. See E. S. McCartney, "The Role of the Child in Supplications," in The Classical Weekly, XXII, p. 151.

127 Ernest Crawley, Studies of Savages and Sex, p. 178.

128 Lafcadio Hearn, Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan, p. 125.

129 Numbers V. 2.

130 Numbers XIX. 11-16.

131 Apuleius, Metamorphoses II. 21-26; see also Lucan, Bellum Civile Vi. 529-537.

132 Epodi V.

133 See Theda Kenyon, Witches Still Live, Chapter XXV.

134 Petronius, Satyricon CXXXIV. 1.

135 Satyricon LIV.

136 Velleius Paterculus II. 4, 6.

137 Plutarch, Flaminius VII. 4.

138 Livy II. 8. 6-7.

139 Livy III. 22. 1.

140 Tacitus, Annales I. 62.

141 Gellius, Noctes Atticae XVI. 4. 4.

142 Festus: Aqua et igni (Mueller, p. 2).

143 Fasti II. 23; see Festus: Everriator (Mueller, p. 77).

144 Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II, p. 279.

145 Frazer, The Fasli of Ovid, Vol. II, pp. 279-283.

146 Festus: Patrimi (Mueller, p. 245).

147 Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. 11, p. 197.

148 Gellius, Noctes Atticae X. 15.24.

149 Servius on Vergil's Aeneid III. 64.

150 Ovid, Fasti II. 557-564.

151 Cicero, De Legibus II. 23-58.

152 Servius on Vergil's Aeneid XI. 206.

153 Gaius, Institutiones II. 4.

154 Varro, De Lingua Latina V. 157. On sacer as equivalent to taboo see Frazer's article on "Taboo" in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. xxiii.

155 Ovid, Fasti I. 627-629.

156 Varro, De Lingua Latina VII. 84.

157 Festus: Mortuae pecudis (Mueller, p. 161).

158 Leviticus XI. 39; see also Leviticus VII. 24.

159 Ovid, Fasti II. 283-284.

160 Petronius, Satyricon XLIV.

161 See Fasti VI. 397.

162 Ovid, Fasti I. 57-58; Festus: Religiosus (Mueller, p. 278); Varro, De Lingua Latina VI. 29; Livy VI. 1, 11; Macrobius, Saturnalia I. 15, 22, I. 16, 21-25; Gellius, Noctes Atticae V. 17, 1-2; Festus Nonarum (Mueller, p. 178); Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae XXV.

163 Livy XXII. 10.

164 I owe this explanation to Frazer, The Fasti of Ovid, Vol. II, pp. 79-82.

165 Festus: Mundus and Mundum (Mueller, pp. 154 and 156) Macrobius, Saturnalia 1. 16, 16-18 (quoting Varro).

166 Joannes Lydus, De Mensibus XIV. 29 (Wuensch): see Ovid, Fasti II. 557-558. 563-564.

167 The Religious Experience of the Roman People, p. 40.

168 Festus: Nonarum (Mueller, p. 178).

Next: Chapter III: Miscellaneous Taboos