Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pregnant Cows or Pregnant Barley?

Hat-tip Wikipedia
Fordicidia, a Roman agricultural festival in honour of goddess Tellus, known as "Grain Goddess", regularly associated with Ceres in rituals pertaining to the earth and agricultural fertility was held in Ancient Rome every
April 15.

A pregnant cow (forda or horda) was sacrificed to Tellus in each of the 30 wards of Rome and one on the Capitoline Hill. The sacrifice was in hope of promoting fertility (presumably of cattle and crops in the fields). The unborn calves were cut away from the mother, burnt, and the ashes were used by the Vestal Virgins in a purification rite in the festival of Parilia on 21 April. (An archived post on Parilia is HERE)

That's one version of the tale, the most widely reported, and a pretty gruesome one at that! One website has a different take on the Fordicidia/Fordicalia. The writer at suspects that something could have been lost in translation. The theory goes like this:
......the words forda and horda do mean ‘pregnant cows’, that is, ‘cows in calf.’ The two different forms forda- and horda- are dialect forms in which the h- and f- are allophonic (you say tomayto, I say tomahto). There is a similar situation with the words hordeum and fordeum which both mean ‘barley’ ......Furthermore, the name of the festival Fordicidea, the form usually used in classical Rome is questionable. The name in Ovid’s Fasti certainly ends in -cidea which has a meaning ‘slaughter’ (as in ‘suicide, genocide’), but both Hordicalia and Fordicalia are also attested various places as names of the festival and these have the more usual form of the name of a festival in Latin, with a typical -alia ending.....
The writer points out that wastefully slaughtering upwards of 30 pregnant cows was not in the best interests of farmers, and had no sympathetic magical resonance with prayers that there should be a good harvest of grain in the coming season - Tellus being Grain Goddess.

Regarding the alternative explanation, the writer goes on to explain:
How can barley be pregnant, one might well ask? Barley gets pregnant in the spring, when the over-wintered grain (which just looks like lawn grass all winter), shoots up and begins to form ears, inside the stalks. At first it isn’t noticeable, but eventually, a close look shows that the stalks between the nodes are getting “fat” because the ears are forming inside, while they are still covered by the sheaf of one of the blades of the barley. In English, the barley is said to be “in the blade” meaning that it is forming ears. This is a time of great anxiety for grain farmers since they are hoping that everything will turn out right and the ears will eventually shoot above the main part of the plant and then ripen properly. Very widely among the Indo-Europeans, there is a festival to encourage the grain growth at this time, which seems to be the main impetus for these Tellus Mater festivals.
It's hard to say which version is most likely correct, but I'm thinking that, if Roman high authorities had anything to do with it, then I doubt the sensibilities of the farmers for their cows would be taken into account. Slaughter of the pregnant cattle, if ordered from on high, would have to be carried out, regardless. Makes little sense to us, but then, so do many orders of our 21st century governments.


mike said...

Today is tax-return day in the USA, when the tax filer, if owing money to Uncle Sam or their residing state, must take their pregnant bank accounts and slaughter it, forking it over to the government. Much of that money is "burned" like the fetuses of Fordicidia and the alleged unproductive use of a precious resource. Never underestimate the wastefulness of government funding.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Oh nicely done, mike! Very apt! I'd overlooked the Tax Day thing, 'cos we put ours in weeks ago in order to get half-price at HR Block. We've usually been among those at last doors but were on better behaviour this year. Early doors don't make the Taxers any kinder though. ;-(

mike (again) said...

FYI - I utilized "FreeFile" this year. Participation in the Affordable Care Act requires that recipients file a federal tax return, otherwise I only have minimal Social Security income that wouldn't necessitate filing. Due to the ACA, there were extra forms to file and were seemingly complex. Many choices...I chose TurboTax, but H&R Block are providers, too. "FreeFile" is free of fees, online e-filing, and very easy, walking the filer through the steps. This service is free for federal taxes, but there is a small fee for state filing...Texas doesn't have a state income tax, so no problem for me.

For anyone out there in need of immediate federal tax filing:

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~

Thanks for that information - we'll keep it in mind for next year.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Interesting how the cow (a docile creature who provides us with milk) has been an important (even sacred) symbol for so many different cultures throughout history.:)

On a separate subject, you popped into my dream early this morning. I think you were considering switching your support to another presidential candidate but didn't want to say who.

Twilight said...

LB ~ that is interesting, yes.
It's a pity there's no zodiac sign dedicated to the female of Taurus the Bull. :-) Still - I guess without him there'd be no cows.

Oh...hmmmm...I only wish there were some candidate I could be so enthusiastic, and secretive, about.