The Nemoralia
by Jonathan Sousa

Jonathan Sousa is a Priest of Diana, Stregone, and Benedetto.

August 2015

Nemoralia, also known as Diana's Feast of Torches, occurs on the Ides of August. Per lunar reckoning, this is the first full moon in August. Per the solar reckoning, this was fixed to August 13-15th.

This festival commemorates the foundation of Diana's temple upon the Aventine Hill on the shores of Lake Nemi. In antiquity, Roman matrons would decorate a cake with candles/lamps. Then, they would march with hunting hounds, attended with their husbands and children, to the shores of the Lake by torch light. There, they would sacrifice to Diana and honor the Rex Nemorensis (King of the Wood) and Egreria (Lady of the Lake). {Incidentally, the Golden Bough tied to the King was possibly the original behind Excalibur/Caliburnius.. but I digress}

Italian Witches keep this festival as well. Many from Southern Italian traditions view it as an ideal time to renew one's vows and oaths to the Goddess.

The date has also become associated with the Goddess Hecate (or Hekate per the Greek spelling). In Greek religion, Hekate was appeased during the height of summer to protect the crops against blight and detrimental storms. Because the Romans associated Hekate with Diana (especially as respective Queens of Witches and other subversive roles), they began to include propitiation/veneration of Hecate (the Latin spelling) during Diana's Nemoralia. Diana was/is only to happy to share a Feast with Her kinswoman (sister/cousin/alter ego) - though a distinction can be made between celebrating Diana's mysteries and appeasing Hecate to keep the bad things at bay.

In some lines of Southern Italian and Greek Traditionalist Craft, it is common for both Goddesses to be honored in a nod to solidarity i.e. Witches are all of one tribe and family... and - past, present, and yet to be born - all were/are One during the Feast of Torches.

However, as is popular with many modern Neo-Pagans, these roots have gotten twisted, so much so that sheer stupidity abounds. One self-styled authority in particular has written (and appeared on youtube stating) that (paraphrased) "Since Diana and Hekate were so intimately linked, Diana should just step down from Her feast... and it should really be all about Hekate."

And this is why I issue a yearly rant. I love Hekate dearly... and Hecate too. Reportedly, they love me as well. (One can hope). However, Diana is the Lady who hath stamped Her seal of ownership upon mine astral arse. Ergo, when I encounter the hubris and sheer stupidity epitomized by this self-styled authority (that, despite several attempts to back-pedal, still insists the August Ides should belong to Hekate.. and Diana should fade off)....

copyright 2015 Jonathan Sousa. This "rant" first appeared on his FB page and is reprinted here with his permission.

During the Nemoralia, the head of the family would walk around their house with a lit lamp whilst whispering Diana's praises. So long as the fire remained burning during this circumambulation, it was held that no evil spirit, no mortal thief, no disaster or poverty, could enter for one year hence (until it was renewed the next Feast of Torches).

This private observance was also held to have the same merit as physically processing around Diana's Mirror (Lake Nemi), if you could not make it to the actual woods in Aricia.

In my own Craft lineage, we tie this in with Diana's charge to us to be channels of Her Wisdom, conduits of Her Power, vehicles of Her Love, and beacons of Her Light.

copyright 2015 Jonathan Sousa. This information about the Nemoralia appeared on his FB page and is reprinted here with his permission.

Public Message: Nemoralia 2015
"Take this message to your brethren: They are welcome at my Table, mindful of broken bread and shared drink and the Bond they embody. Create a safe place, open the door for all who wander. I welcome all into the sanctuary if they seek it, and my Priesthood must carry forward as torches guiding my Children home. Too long have they tarried. Their Mother is waiting."
Receiving Oracular Priest/ess: Jonathan Sousa
Permission granted to share this message, provided the following is met: This notice should be attached, some credit is given to the Goddess Diana (who relayed it) and those sharing it should either donate to charity or do a good deed for a stranger in Diana's name.

Jonathan Sousa is a long time correspendent-friend of mine.

I posted in response to his Facebook-posted "rant" to express my dismay that a Wiccan would imply that Diana should be expected to bow out of the celebration Nemoralia.

Let me clarify my postion: If any Helenic Greek Reconstructionist practitioner, Polytheist, Neo-Pagan, or Wiccan chooses to focus on Hecate for personal reasons around a mid-August celebration, s/he may certainly do so. That is the beauty of the freedom of our many multi-paths. However, it seems quite improper to dictate who others ought be venerating on any holiday. Indeed one of the beauties of modern Polytheistic Paganism is that people can worship/venerate/honor (pick your prefered verb) different deities and spirits together as it was quite common to do that with sundry deities and spirits in the ancient past.

Aside from the reasons above, the celebration of the Nemoralia has been associated with Diana for quite some time.

In any case, I wrote Jonathan, and thanked him for his "rant," which I did find informative.

I also thanked him for his other useful bits of info.

I explained--for example--that I had found references in different sources to the Nemoralia being held on August 15, August 13, and/or first full moon in August. Yet, I had never found any one source which claified why it was held during the 13, 15, or the Full Moon. I was delighted to learn that it was held on different dates during different historical time periods. I appreciated very much that he shared this nugget of critical historical information. Indeed, this explanation made quite a lot of sense when I reflected back upon the muddle of the Roman calendar.

I added that I had never read anything about private observance in which the head of the family would walk around their house with a lit lamp murmuring Diana's praises. I only read about someone baking a cake and placing candles around it. That this action would be done by the head of the family or household is a very old idea going back to ancient Roman religion. [There seem to have been several Roman rituals that were presided over by the paterfamilias (male) or materfamilias (female).]

I took the opportunity and politely asked him some other questions about the Nemoralia.

I wrote:

I am delighted to learn that some strega now have a tradition acknowledging Hecate at this same time period. I would like your thoughts on the following points.

Jonathan replied:
The Ides were the full moon before solar calendar was ironed out... hence why the Nones is at the start of the month.

Some American Streghe, when and if they use an age based system for the Triformis, will use the correspondences you cite - not wrong, just most of us prefer the older "three realms" association.

I found this comment extremely illuminating, and replied:
AHHH, so applying "daughter," "mother," "grandmother" isn't totally goofy.
Jonathan elaborated:

But each goddess can fulfill each aspect. Hence why maid - mother - crone is really a ninefold schema in Italian mindset.

This insight was also illuminating, and I heartly agreed:
Yes, I have noticed that each Goddess can fulfill each aspect of age, and I also noticed the three can become the nine...
copyright August 2015. This conversation is copyrighted by Myth Woodling and Jonathan Sousa. You may certainly quote me if you make clear the context of my statements. I wish to restate something I have stated on before on my Aradia Goddess website. I do not claim to be a strega, benedetta, or maga. Heck, as far as I know, I'm not even a little bit Italian. I was not raised Catholic (though my mother was). I have received no formal training in any of the Italian paths. My knowledge has all come from books and helpful correspondence like the above with many kind and wonderful people. I got into this journey, because I tumbled to the fact that Aradia seems to be my patrona. And so here I am.

As I finish up this bit of recently acquired information, I will also share here what I wrote in my ABC of Aradia and Other Subjects about the Nemoralia:


The Romans had a festival of Diana held on August 15, some sources state August 13 or the full moon of August. The feast was held in the grove of Lake Nemi and was known as the Nemoralia or Diana's Feast of the Torches. The holiday was considered to be the birthday of the Goddess.

Reportedly Roman women would each bake a cake for the household in Diana's honor, around which white candles were set. A procession of women with hounds on leashes would journey to the town of Aricia. The women would offer thanks in Diana's sacred grove and request the Goddess's continued aid and a harvest free of storms.

Diana's festival in mid-August was a holiday for Roman slaves.

In modern Italy, August 15 is a feast day of the Virgin Mary. The feast is known as the Ferragosto. It celebrates the Virgin Mary's assumption into heaven and her coronation as Queen of Heaven. Whole villages participate or watch the procession in which the image of the Virgin is carried through the streets.

August 2015

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