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Tellus Mater

Tellus Mater

Tellus is one of Roma's most ancient goddesses, dating to remotest antiquity. Later She was identified with Greek Gaea and Phrygian Cybele.

In her role as mother She watches over marriage and the begetting of children. As an agricultural deity, She protects the fruitfulness of the soil and all the stages that the seeds pass through when they are sown.

Her temple dated back as far as 268 BC, situated on the Esquiline Hill.

Each year Tellus is honoured with three festivals:

  1. Feriae Sementivae or Paganalia a.d. IX. Kal. Feb.
    This is the Festival of Sowing (Sementivae) after the seed has been sown and the land fertilized. Villages celebrate a purification ritual and dedicate cakes of spelt and sow's meat to Tellus Mater.
  2. Fordicalia held the Ides of Aprilis. On this date, XXXI pregnant cows (fordae) were sacrificed in separate temples, and the calf fetuses burnt to ensure fertility for the growing crops.
  3. Feriae Sementivae, the second festival of Tellus, held on the Ides of December.

O Mothers of Fruitfulness, Earth and Ceres, please,
With salted spelt cakes offered for Your mother's woe,
In kind service have Earth and Ceres nurtured wheat,
She who gave grain life, She who gave us room to grow.
Pray then before the sheep are shorn their winter's fleece.
Consorts in labour who antiquity reformed,
Oaken acorn have You replaced by useful meal,
With boundless crops satisfy those who fields farmed
O that they may by their tillage their reward seal.
May You grant tender seed abundant increase.
Let not icy cold enwrap our new shoots with snow,
While we sow let cloudless skies and fair winds blow.
When the seed lies sprouting, sprinkle with gentle rains,
May You ward off the feasting by birds from our grains.
You also, little ants, spare the grain we have sown,
ore abundant will be your harvest when 'tis grown.
Meanwhile may our grain not blight by rough mildew,
Nor foul weather our seed blanch to a sickly hue.
Never may our grain be shriveled nor may its well,
Without eye-stinging cockle, not by wild oats held.
Crops of wheat, of barley, of spelt grow on the farm,
Look now, Good Mothers, guard well the field,
The seasons change, the earth by Your breath grows warm,
With Your gentle touch may You increase our yield.
By Peace Ceres nursed, Her foster-child live in peace.

—Ovid, Fasti I XXIV