The goddess Vesta and her priestesses Vestal Virgins
Unlike other gods in Roman mythology, goddess Vesta didn’t have a statue or image. She was a goddess of female purity, and modesty, but also the Roman guardian of their sacred fire, the house hearth. She was fire.
THE MAGICAL PRIESTESSES
Some records show that this cult was created around 717 BC by king Numa Pompilius who decided that virgin priestesses protect and obtain the sacred fire of all Latins and he even assigned them monthly allowances which were given from the public treasury.
To keep this sacred fire going without it going out, he has chosen 6 virgins of the highest lineage and class. It is believed that the Virgins were from a family originating from Alba Longa, which was the birth town of the forefathers Romulus and Remus.
Future priestesses of the goddess Vesta had to be physically and mentally perfect by their strict standards.
The Virgin girls shouldn’t have any deformation or birthmarks. Skin perfect, but also intelligent.
The young girls were chosen at the age of 6 and taken from their house to the Vestal Temple with the words: “I take you, Amata, to be a Vestal priestess, who will carry out sacred rites which it is the law for a Vestal priestess to perform on behalf of the Roman people, on the same terms as her who was a Vestal ‘on the best terms’ ” Vestals would also collect water from a sacred spring and prepare food for the rituals.
The young lady would take a vow of purity, that she will remain a virgin until 30 years old and that she will never let the flames of goddess Vesta go out. The punishment for the crime of the Vestal priestess who neglected or let the secret fire go out was death by them digging a hole in the ground and placing bread and water and when the accused went in it, they would cover it with dirt. That Vestal Virgin no one seen again.
Besides obtaining the Vesta fire, priestesses enjoyed a little bit of being in modern-day terms, celebrity.
When in public she wasn’t allowed to look at anyone but if she walked right passed by an incarcerated man, for example, they would set him free. Some records show that the Vestals had influence over political and state matters. Politicians would normally consult them before major decisions.
They were so popular that people started stating how they possess magical powers.
To this good and nice side of keeping the flames alive and rituals, there was a bad side. Punishments for the violation of any type of the vow were cruel.
There is a famous case of The Vestal Tuccia where she was accused of fornication and to prove her innocence, she carried water in a sieve saying:” O goddess Vesta, if I have always brought pure hands to your secret services, make it so now that with this sieve I shall be able to draw water from the Tiber and bring it to Your temple.” Her fate is unknown.
In this cult order, the high priestess was called Virgo Vestalis Maxima or Vestalium Maxima, the “greatest of the Vestals.” She was appointed to look over the other Vestals.
After her service to goddess Vesta at the age of 30, Vestal Virgin would retire, and the father of her family would arrange marriage, and a new little girl of 6 years old would replace her.
The most famous among Vestal Virgins were Vestalis Maxima Ocacia who reigned over the Vestals for 57 years the last known Vestalis Maxima’s name was Coelia Concordia, and she closed the temple and college in 394 BC.
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