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"The Etruscan Feronia--the Dawn--is also the goddess of trade."--The Etruscans, by JOHN FRASER

"Vividi gaudens Feronia luco."--VIRGIL, Æneid, viii., 800.

"Ora manusque tus lavimus,
Feronia, lympha."--HORACE, Sat. i., V. 24

THERE is a kind of argument very much in vogue among historians of the Mommsen class. It consists in picking a small flaw in a legend or incident, or even offering an unproved conjecture of one's own, as Mommsen does, and then boldly assuming from it that all is false. No heed whatever is taken of the fact that this incident, or narrative, taken with others as a whole, may have a basis of truth--no--all must go at a guess.

I beg the reader to bear this in mind as regards several chapters, of which the following is a type, requiring a broader and more liberal method of judgment.

There is a goddess of whose identity with a modern spirit, or folletto, there can be very little question. Feronia, according to MÜLLER, was

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the ancient goddess of the market-place and fairs. This would, as a matter of course, identify her with, and make her the patron of, all strolling characters who frequent such places. MÜLLER expresses a doubt whether she was really a member of the Etruscan Heiligthum, or mythology, since VARRO claims her as Sabine. But as she had temples in Etruria, he deems it possible that she was common to both races. The ancients were at a loss where to place her among the deities; she appears, however, to be a goddess of the earth, and allied to Mania, "which makes it intelligible how it was in her power to give to the Prænestic Herilus three souls from the lower world." But what is most important of all for my purpose is that she was feared, and that people brought her offerings.

Feronia is at the present day "a strega-folletta--a witch-spirit who goes wandering about the country begging alms in disguise. When the peasants are liberal to her all goes well with them; but should they give her nothing then they suffer for it. She bewitches children, oxen, horses, and all the beasts che tengona nella stalla--which are kept in stables."

A wandering witch, who exacts offerings, and who is rather evil than good, is a very legitimate descendant from a goddess of the markets, and who, as a form of Mania, is prone to mischief and revenge. There can be no question but that the ancient Feronia was Persephonic or chthonic, or a queen of the realm below--therefore a witch now, who, if not propitiated, inflicts on the peasants what they most dread--loss of children and cattle. Sabine or Etruscan, she still lives, and is much feared in Tuscany.

Since writing the last line I have learned that Feronia haunts market-places, specially "Perche e le spirito del mercato." I have, regarding her, also the following, which was attributed to Impusa, but which, I am quite sure, was an error of the copyist:--

"Feronia was an old woman who went about begging in the country, yet she always had a gran pulitica--that is, she was intelligent or shrewd or very cunning in manners--and, as one would have believed, she was a witch. All who gave her alms were very fortunate, and their affairs prospered. And if people could give her nothing because of their poverty, when they returned home after the sun rose (dopo chiaro) they found abundant gifts--enough to support all the family--so that henceforth all went well with them; but if any who were rich gave her nothing, and had evil hearts, she cursed them thus;--

"'Siate maledetti
Da me che vi maladisco
Di vero cuore!
E cosi i vostr 'affari
Possono andare
A rotto di collo
Fame e malattie
Cosi non avrete,
Non avrete piu bene!'


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("'Be ye all accursed
By me who curse you
With my heart and soul
May your lives for ever
Go to utter ruin;
Illness and starvation
Be ever in your dwelling!')


By this they knew she was a witch. But when she was dead she became terrible, and did much harm. However, when those who had wronged her, and knew it, went to her tomb and begged pardon they were always sure to obtain it."

The incident of the begging, and the elegant style and distinguished air indicate a character like that of Juno and Ceres combined. The curse attributed to her has a great strength, and may be of extreme antiquity. The connection of Feronia with Mania explains why she was feared as a witch. And it is very remarkable indeed that while MÜLLER lays stress on the fact that. she had offerings brought to her, the modern Tuscan account makes it a main incident. Taking her altogether, Feronia appears to be exactly what such a goddess would naturally come to be in the minds of the people at a stage while they still believed in and feared her, and before she had sunk to a mere reminiscence in a Märchen. And it is the Märchen, or child's tale, alone which is chiefly sought by folk-lorists who have no conception of the extent to which the, as yet, living myth exists.

The Roman-Etruscan Feronia was very famous for the extent of the offerings made to her. "All who dwelt near brought her the first fruits, and many offerings, so that in time an immense quantity of gold and silver formed a treasure in her temple, which was all carried away by the soldiers of Hannibal" (Livy, xxvi., II; Silius Italicus, Pun. xiii.; Preller, Rom. Myth. 377). This agrees with the modern story of her exacting tribute. Again, she was the special protectress of the freed slaves--that is a friend of the poor--and the Libertini in Rome made offerings to her (Livy, xxii., 1.). This is curiously identical with the legend. If, as MÜLLER asserts, Feronia was a duplicate of Persephone, who was often a counterpart of the charitable Ceres, this would explain the very singular statement that the poor always received their gifts from her "after the sun rose, i.e., they came, or were given, during the night. Her market and temple were also a great resort for merchants and traders, which seems to cast some light on the otherwise uncalled-for statement that she was of gran pulitica--very shrewd. The modern Feronia is also a great friend to the poor.

But there is yet another reason why Feronia may have retained a reputation as a witch or wonder-worker. She was of old especially identified with the great miracle, of which so much was made during the Middle Ages, of walking on red-hot

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ploughshares or glowing coals. As appears by the following passage from Strabo, Lib. 5:--

"Sub monte Soracte urbs est Feronia, quo nomine et Dea quædam nuncupatur, quam finitimi miro dignantur honore. Eodem in loco ipsius templum est, mirificum sacrigenus habens. Nam qui ejus numine afflantur, nudis pedibus prunas calcant. Eò ingens mortalium multitudo convenit, et celebritatis ipsius, quæ quotannis celebratur, gratia, paritur et spectaculi."

The ordeal of hot coals was very commonly applied to witches, and it is not improbable that the accused appealed to Feronia to protect them, owing to some tradition. One thing is apparent both in the ancient and modern Feronia, that she is, or was, a protector and friend of the poor, one of slaves and refugees, as now of paupers. The identification of the elder goddess with the ordeal indicates protection and benevolence. On which interesting subject the reader may consult: I. Roth, De more quo apud plerosque Europæos populos per ferrum candens ardentes prunas rogumque probatur, Ulm, 1676. Lescher, De probatione rerum dubiarum per ignem facto, Leipzig, 1695. Eckard, De ritu antiquissimo per ignes et carbones candendes incedendi, 1791, and Nork, Sitten und Gebräuche der Deutschen.

It will be seen, therefore, that the modern Feronia corresponds to the ancient character of the same name in many ways. And I would call attention to the fact that beyond the name itself (for which I indeed inquired) nothing was by me suggested or demanded.

According to Fraser (The Etruscans), "Feronia in Etruria held an honourable position, for not only was she goddess of Falerii, but she had a sanctuary also at the Etruscan town of Losna, (Latin, Luna). The name of this town, Losna, is another proof that Feronia is the goddess of the Dawn, for it comes from the Greek los or las, light."

Monti has written a very beautiful, though rather feeble poem, called the Feroniade, in which the heroine, as a goddess, approaches much more closely to the same character as set forth in modern popular legend than to the stately goddess Feronia of classic tradition. For she is with him at first only a small sylvan Etruscan deity, the queen of the violets, who wanders through ravines and forests, or "a nymph."

                 "Ella per fiere
Balze e foreste erro gran tempo
Una ninfa già fu delle propinque
Selve leggiadra, abitatrice, ed era
Il suo nome Feronia."

This is altogether our Feronia, and not the great goddess of the olden time,

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which she is subsequently represented as being--the reason for which very evidently was that Monti began with an inspiration derived from the popular Tuscan legend, and, as he wrote, by going back into classic lore for material, entirely changed the character of his heroine. This is absolutely the only explanation which can be offered of this manifest blunder.


"Silvanus"(the god of fields and cattle) "has still dominion in the land."--The Cities of Etruria, by GEORGE DENNIS, vol. i., p. 229.

"Quin et Silvanos Faunusque et deorum genera silvis ac sua numina tanquam et cœlo attributa credimus."--PLINY, Hist. Nat., xii., 2.

"Fama est, Cyparissum puerum ab ipso fuisse amatum, quare ubi in arborem sui nominis mutatus fuisset, Cupressum manibus semper gestasse Sylvanus dictus finit."--De Hermaphroditorum, Monstrosorum, &c., Caspari Bauhini, 1614.

Silviano was described to me, as "Lo spirito dei boschi" ("the spirit of the forests or woods"), and his peculiarities were set forth as follows:--

"Silviano is very fond of annoying the peasants who burn charcoal (che fanno le cataste di carbone--literally, who pile up the heaps and then ignite them). And when all the sticks are piled, then comes Silviano and upsets them, and the contadini begin to quarrel among themselves, accusing one another of the deed. So they have to begin their work over again. Then Silviano roars with laughter, and the men begin to swear and perhaps to fight, every one thinking that the other is laughing at him. And while all this is going on Silviano piles up the wood again--to their great amazement when they return to work.

"This happened once to two men, and they thought it must be a miracle worked by some saint. So they went to the parocco, or parish priest, and told him of it. So he went there and examined, but found nothing remarkable, and told them they were fools for their pains, and so returned with all his precissione (procession), persuaded that nothing wonderful had happened.

"But good-natured as Silviano is, he is altrettanto vendiecativa--tolerably revengeful. And from that day, whether in wood or grove--nella macchia o sia nel boscho--nothing went well with them. Other men found their work all done to hand for them, while theirs was spoiled. And this time they went to an old witch who understood the business, and knew what to do. And she said:--

"'E it folletto Silviano,
Che l'avete contradito,
E ora li vi fa tutti
I dispetti, ma dell'erba
Che vi daro vi fara tornare
In la sua buona grazia.

("' 'Tis the spirit Silviano,
Unto him ye were ungracious,
Therefore he has made these troubles
For you--but I'll give you something,
'Tis an herb which will restore you
Once again to his good graces.')


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Then she took the herb called silvestra and also ginestra, or broom, and made of it a small square, and said, putting it on their backs:--




"'Questo e to spirito
Di Silviano che mi protegge!

("'This is in truth the spirit
O Silviano, who protects me!')


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"So they returned again into his good graces, and never did anything more to offend him. And they learned from this a lesson not to go and call on priests when there had been a spirit present."

Silvianus is plainly enough the old Roman Silvanus, of whom Preller remarks: "He was like Faunus, a good spirit, but now and then a spuk Geist who frightened people. He was identified with everything beautiful, romantic, and rural. Planted pleasant fields, openings in the forest, wherever there was a cool shelter, a shady grotto, or where a murmuring brook attracted the shepherd in the mid-day heat, there was a spot always sacred to Silvanus." So he became very dear to all rural folk; he was like one of themselves, and traces of this love are to be felt in this Tuscan tale.

For reasons, which I have not space to give, I would here say that the ancient identification of Sylvanus with the cypress-tree fully explains his connection with charcoal-burning and burners. And as a spirit who specially haunts such men Silviano is identical with Rubezahl of Germany. PRELLER declares that the Silvanæ, or Silviæ wood-nymphs, belong rather to the German, Celtic, and Slavic races, than to the Latin. But why? May not Rubezahl himself be of Italian birth? Silvanus was the son of a river-god and a she-goat, and everything related of him is far more suggestive of pastoral Italy than of wild Germany.

The utter heathenism of this story and its "moral" cannot have escaped the reader. The narrator was as absolutely a heathen herself as any who ever lived in the time of Tarquin, and never missed an opportunity to show that she considered the worship of the spirits of the olden time, and all its incantations and ceremonies, far superior to the Roman Catholic, for which latter she had a special aversion. With the old strege this religion of ancient times is not folk-lore but a living faith, and I was often as strangely moved by this reality as if I had been taken back two thousand years.

This chapter, and others, therefore suggest the possibility that the Northern mythology of goblins may have been originally of Italian origin, or from a common source.


This deity was described to me in the following words:--

"Paló is a spirit of the fields, vines, meadows, for all kinds of crops, and when men work, be it in planting maize, or in the vineyards, they must never forget to say

'"Lo spirito Paló
Sara quello
Che mi fara
La buona fortuna!'


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("'The spirit Paló
He shall be
The one who brings
Good luck to me!')

And thus the peasant will be sure to ever have good fortune.'

It is not difficult to recognise in Paló the Pales of the Romans, or the ancient deity of agriculture of all kinds. To him or to her--for Pales appears to have been recognised both as male and female--offerings were made by the peasants who also drank much, and leaped over flames. PRELLER writes that in the morning the shepherd uttered four times an invocation to Pales, then drank a mixture of milk and new wine, and then jumped over blazing straw. Therefore the invocation must have been very short, since it was so often repeated. It would be strange--and yet it is not impossible--that in the four lines here given there is an echo at least of the early invocation. There is so much which is unquestionably ancient in these Tuscan traditions that I find it almost impossible sometimes to believe that there is anything modern in them. Critics may very reasonably indicate many errors and inconsistencies in details, but a comparison of the whole must leave the impression of antiquity. A single negro would not absolutely prove the existence of a black race, but a number of them would render it extremely probable.

As was the case with most deities, Pales had a town named after him. It is the modern Palo, half way between Rome and Civita Vecchia. I mention this because it may be thought--as was indeed urged as to Norcia--that the modern Tuscan deity was so called after the town.


"Nec tu aliud Vestam quam vivam intellige flammam,
Nataque de flammis corpora nulla vides."

                                         OVID, Fast. 6

When a light is suddenly and mysteriously extinguished or goes out apparently of its own accord, especially when two lovers are sitting together, it is commonly said in jest that "Esta did it." Esta is supposed to be a spirit who pays particular attention to lights, but beyond this I could learn nothing of her.

Hestia was an ancient name for Vesta, and CICERO thought that Vesta was derived from ?Εστήα {Greek ?Estía}. In any case the sudden extinguishment of a light or fire,

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and the satirical covert allusion to love in the dark, seems to indicate that the goddess of chastity and her light are here alluded to. However, this is a matter which those who are best able to determine must settle for themselves if they think it worth the while. I do but record the fact that Esta put out the light, and then put out the light which was extinguished over Evelyn's bower.


When I asked if the name Carmenta was known it was promptly recognised as that of a spirit who gives, presides over, and loves children, who aids in birth, and who is dear to mothers. Then the following was repeated

Carmenta, Carmenta!
Che tanta bella sei!
E inamorata sei
Tanto dei fanciulli!
Tante spose sono venute
A te a raccomandare
Che dei figli tu gli facesse fare,
E tu buona quanto e,
Bella i suoi voti tu ai,
Ascoltati ti prego pure
I miei di volere ascoltare
Perche sono molto infelice,
Il mio marito non mi ama piú
Che tanto m'amava perche figli crear
Non so, ma date, o bella Carmenta,
Mi vengo a raccomandare
Che un figlio tu mi possa far fare,
E la pace con mio marito possa ritornare!"

("Carmenta, Carmenta!
Thou who art so fair,
Thou who truly lovest
Children, everywhere!
As I come to thee,
So have many others,
Knelt before thy shrine,
Seeking to be mothers!
Thou didst grant their wishes,
Thou as good as fair,
Listen unto me,
Grant my humble prayer!
Once my husband loved me,
Now he loves no more p. 63
Because I bear no children
All his love is o'er,
Make me once a mother,
He will love me as before!")

This corresponds in name and in every detail to the Latin Carmenta or Carmentis, who was another form of the Fauna or Bona Dea. Of her PRELLER says: "The Goddess of Birth, Carmenta, was so zealously worshipped near the Porta Carmentalis, which was named from her, that there was a Flamen Carmentalis, and two calendar days, the eleventh and the fifteenth of January, called the Carmentalia, devoted to her worship. These were among the most distinguished festivals of the Roman matrons. She was peculiarly the goddess of pregnancy.


The boundary-stones which determine the limits of fields are believed in Tuscany to have in or attached to them spirits called Spiriti dei sentieri, which means, however, "spirits of the paths," or lines of demarcation. It was, however, distinctly asserted that they lived in the stones. "And if any one removes them the spirit will quite ruin him." The single spirit is a sentiero.

This spirit is exactly the Terminus of the Romans, or the divinity of the boundaries. Fearful penalties were attached to the removal of such landmarks. The inscription of a terminus reads: Quisquis hoc sustulerit aut læserit, ultimus suorum moriatur ("Should any one remove or injure this stone, may he die the last of his race!"). There is indeed quite a litany of old Latin curses, almost equal to a Roman Catholic excommunication, extant, as applied to these "land-grabbers." That the memory of these has survived is evident from the only comment which my informant made---Il spirito lo guasta (" The spirit ruins them").

Lactantius, heaping ridicule on the heathen for worshipping many deities of small duties, specifies Terminus as one because he was rough and rude.

"He was the stone which Saturn swallowed thinking it was Jupiter. When Tarquin wished to build the Capitol and found these shrines of many ancient gods, he consulted them by augury whether they would yield to Jupiter. All agree to go save Terminus, who was suffered to remain. Hence the poet calls him the immovable rock of the Capitol. And what can I say of people who worship such stocks and stones (lapides et stipites) save that they are stocks and stones themselves?" (Adversus Gentes, book i., chap. xx.)

It is a pity that Lactantius could not have lived to the end of the nineteenth century, when he might have seen among Christians an array of saints of small

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things, compared to whom all the heathen gods whom he mentions as laughable are grave and respectable deities. Terminus, a rock, as the emblem of stability (for he was truly nothing more), is a sound and sensible image, but what shall we think of Antony as the saint of pigs and truffles; Simeon of lotteries, or the Roco-co saint of dogs; or why is the Latin Cunina, who presided over children in the cradle, and whom Lactantius calls on us to laugh at, more ridiculous than Santa Anna who does the same, or even the Madonna herself--the incarnation of nursing motherhood? But the saints--and even the Virgin--had not "come up" as yet in those days! Taking them all through,--the most crushing and terrible condemnations of the later Catholic Church and its Hagiology are to be found in the arguments of the Fathers against the Gentiles, and especially in the vigorous satire of "the Christian Cicero."

Next: Part One: Chapter IV--FAFLON