History for the Rest of Us

Vestalia – Festival Honoring Vesta

Vestalia – Festival Honoring Vesta

Jun 7, 2012

The Vestalia was eight days of festivities honoring Vesta, the roman goddess of the hearth, fire, and guardian of virginity. Vesta was one of the major deities of Ancient Rome, and one of the 12 Olympian Gods. Her symbol was the sacred eternal flame. She was sacred to women, and along with Juno was considered a protector of marriage.

The Festivities
The Vestalia began June 7 and ended June 15. The first day of festivities was the only day of the year on which the temple was opened for women to offer sacrifices. Women would enter to sacrifice barefooted and the sacrifice was most typically simple food on a platter. Only women (and the Pontifex Maximus) were allowed in the temple of Vesta.

Sacred Cake
The Vestal Virgins would make a sacred cake for the celebration. The cake was made using water carried from a sacred spring. The water was not allowed to be set down on the ground (because it would destroy its sacred nature) until the cake was made. The water would be carried in narrow-bottomed containers to prevent setting the container on the ground. The cake also contained salt made from ritually prepared brine. The salt was ground into a mortar and baked in a jar. It was cut using an iron saw and used on the flour in the creation of the hard-baked cakes. The cakes were cut into slices and offered to Vesta.

Vestal Virgin

Vestal Virgin

Cleaning
At the end of Vestalia, the temple was thoroughly cleaned by the Vestal Virgins who would carry away the dust and debris to be disposed of in the Tiber River.

Day Off
On the final day of Vestalia, June 15 (the Ides of June), those who worked with grain (for example the bakers) would take the day off and would hang flower garlands from their shop stalls.

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