Let’s celebrate the Matronalia in the 21st century by demanding money from our male relatives, our male religious leaders, and the men in our local, state, and federal governments to support causes that help women—young girls, married women, new mothers, poor and oppressed and abused women, artists and actors and other performers, philosophers and scholars…all of us. Let us seek out and use Juno’s powers to improve the lives of modern women.
Just as each Roman man had his genius, or guardian spirit of masculinity, so did each woman have her juno, or guardian spirit of femininity. Juno rules every woman’s entire life and every feminine occasion. In fact, it’s because she’s in charge, so to speak, of married life that we have our June weddings and our honeymoons. Our modern “honeymoon” dates perhaps back to the fifth century and is based on the custom that the newly married couple sweetening the beginning of their life together by drinking a lot of mead (which is made with honey) and making merry. (Honey is sometimes considered to be an aphrodisiac.)
As Juno Pronuba, this beneficent goddess arranged marriages. As Juno Cioxia, she ruled the first undressing of the bride by the bridegroom. She kept an eye on the honeymooners, too, and as Juno Populonia was the goddess of conception. As Juno Ossipago, the goddess strengthened the bones of the fetus; as Juno Sospita, she assisted laboring mothers; and as Juno Lucina, she presided over childbirth and the opening of newborn child’s eyes to the light. Juno also had an aspect called Viriplaca, she who settles arguments between spouses. This aspect seems not to have been on call during the married life of Juno and Jupiter, which, like the marriage of Hera and Zeus, was filled with his philandering, which led to disharmony.
In the second century BCE, when the RomanRepublic decided to conquer the entire Mediterranean basin (which inaugurated what we call the Hellenistic Period), Roman and Greek divinities were conflated, and Juno became identified with Hera. Long before Zeus and his armies arrived in Greece, Hera, whose name means “Our Lady,” was a sky queen with no consort and no need of one. It was probably her martial aspect (Juno was the mother of Mars, Hera, of Ares) that attracted the Romans, at least the armies and senators. Most of the legends and lore attached to Juno were thus taken over by the conflated goddess, and so it’s hard today to distinguish between them.
In Rome, Juno stood with Jupiter and Minerva as the Capitoline triad that ruled the city. Before she arrived in the city, she was invoked all over Latium, originally as a savior of women and then as a savior of the republic. In one of her civic aspects, Juno was regina, “queen.” In another, she was Juno Moneta, “the warner.” In 390 BCE, the sacred geese of her temple squawked so ferociously that the city was warned of a Gallic army outside the walls. Generals often came to Juno Moneta’s temple for support, both popular and monetary, which is why we find an echo of this goddess’s name in our currency. Both “mint” and “money” derive from her name.
As a daughter of Saturn, Juno was also a goddess of time and the new moon. As the symbol of the twenty-eight day month (and our menstrual cycle), she was worshipped by Roman women on the calends, or first days, of each month. One of her festivals was the Matronalia, celebrated on June 1, when married women demanded money from their husbands to give to the goddess’s temples. This sounds like a good idea to me. Let’s celebrate the Matronalia in the 21st century by demanding money from our male relatives, our male religious leaders, and the men in our local, state, and federal governments to support causes that help women—young girls, married women, new mothers, poor and oppressed and abused women, artists and actors and other performers, philosophers and scholars…all of us. Let us seek out and use Juno’s powers to improve the lives of modern women.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.