23 August 2011

23 August - Vulcanalia

The ancient Romans celebrated their festival of Vulcanalia (or Volcanalia) today, X Kalends September, to honor the god Vulcan in his attribute of uncontrolled fire.  Storehouses and barns - now holding the newly harvested grains and fruits - were particularly susceptible to fire, especially as the increasingly shorter days meant more work by lamp and candlelight, and the people spent today propitiating the god with sacrifices in order to avert such calamities and all the other mishaps that come from the use of fire.

This was also a day when the Underworld opened and disembodied spirits were allowed to visit the lighted regions.  A heavy defeat of the Roman army on this day in 153 BC led it afterward to be regarded as unlucky; Roman generals would not fight on this day unless compelled.

I'm sure that in AD 79, the festival went on as usual.  However, Vulcan was not to be propitiated... but that is for tomorrow.