On 17 March, the ancient Roman world celebrated the Liberalia, dedicated to the god Libero (Liber Pater) and its female counterpart Libera.
Libero had competences similar to those of Cerere (goddess of agriculture); presided over the growth of vegetables, of which it protected the germination and assisted the (free) children in the entrance to adulthood. Furthermore, we find Libero, assimilated to Dioniso, also as a protector of vineyards and wine.
The occasion was really important: the boys of 16 years became adults to all effects acquiring all the rights from Roman citizens and abandoning for ever the state of puer (child).
The long rite included a private and a public part.
In the first the celebrations took place at home where a bulla (gold or leather necklace),
given to the boy when he was still in swaddling clothes, was placed on the altar of the Lares (the protecting spirits of the deceased ancestors).
Then came the moment when the young adult was finally wearing the adult robe (toga virilis), stripping off the one (toga pretesta (praetexta), adorned with a strip of purple) of childhood. Once the private part was over, the whole family moved to the street where honey and oil-based cakes were sold by the priestesses of the Free God - Dio Libero (Dionysus for the Greek).
This ceremony was a rustic event. The procession featured a large phallus which the devotees carried throughout the countryside to bring the blessing of fertility to the land and the people. The procession and the phallus were meant also to protect the crops from evil. At the end of the procession, a virtuous and respected matron placed a wreath upon the phallus.
In Rome, the temple of Ceres, Libero and Libera was on the slopes of the Aventine;
he had been consecrated in 496 BC and dedicated in 493 to this divine triad by the plebs, in response to the dedication in 509 of the temple of the Capitoline triad (Giove, Giunone and Minerva) of patrician matrix.
In the temple in Rome, two depictions of male and female sexual organs were placed, one for Libero and the other for Libera, symbolizing the power of the divine couple on the fertility of human life.
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di Susanna Milani, P.I.11676951004