Veneralia is an ancient Roman celebration of Venus that took place on the Kalends of Aprilis, that is, the first of April. Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome, considered Venus to be his ancestor and Mars to be his father, so the ancient calendar of Rome began with the month of Mars (March) followed by the month of Venus, beginning with the celebration of the Goddess to whom it was dedicated.
On this day, Venus was celebrated as Venus Verticordia (changer of hearts). According to Ovid1, this aspect of Venus rules over vows of chastity, morality, beauty and reputation. Honoring her encouraged adherence to social norms with regard to sexuality, for both men and women. (See pudicita.) During the festival, women carried the Venus's statue to the men's baths where it was ceremonially washed and dressed the statue of Venus at the temple near the Circus Maximus and then both the statue and its attendants were covered in myrtle.
Women wore crowns of myrtle and bathed, bathed in the public baths and poured out libations to Venus of pounded poppy with milk and honey and sought guidance from the Goddesses regarding their marriages, romances and sex lives.
The festival is said to have been founded on the advice of the Sibylline oracle in response to a rash of sexual offenses that had shocked Roman society (including vows of chastity broken by not one but three Vestal Virgins) and apparently offended the Gods, resulting in unusual natural phenomena. A woman was chosen based on her purity or virtue to dedicate the statue of Venus Verticordia which may originally have been housed in the temple of Fortuna Verilis before being moved to her own temple some time later.
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