Gather your girlfriends and get your groove on, December 1-5 is time for the festival of the Good Goddess Bona Dea, traditionally a girls-night-in led by ancient Rome’s priestesses of fire.

Get five top tips for hosting your own Bona Dea goddess party, here.

This mysterious Earth Mother of ancient Rome represents all things goddessy and feminine, from our wild, fierce and flirty to our nurturing, smart and sensual. She loved the forests, and her temples contained herb dispensaries.

In ancient Rome, this secretive celebration was held on 1-5 December (it’s too ancient to know exactly which date and seems to have varied) in the home of the chief magistrate or consul (who was sent away with the boys) and presided by the famous Vestal Virgins. With this privacy, women partied like they were rarely allowed with loads of wine and food, music, blood sacrifice and offerings.

Bona Dea’s festival invites you to reconnect, re-energise and revive all that you love about being woman (sans live sacrifice).

1. Invite guests to dress like a goddess

Explore your nature goddess in whatever outfit feels naturally beautiful, your own way.

This is a celebration of the feminine so encourage guests to wear something that feels fabulous and honors our bodies just the way they are. Roman goddess gowns feel gorgeous but remember Bona Dea is down-to-earth so guests needn’t go ‘woo woo’ if it isn’t comfortable: flirty, flouncy, floral, bling, goth, warrior or onesies all do it too. Anything goes!

2. Set the mood

Keep it feminine with pretty spring colours and florals.

Out under the moon is ideal for this nature goddess. Either outdoors or in, decorate from her forests and gardens: string vines; bunch herbs and wildflowers; scatter cinnamon sticks, seed pods and pine cones; you name it. Nature is abundance so pile the table high with luscious plant and animal foods like juicy berries and grapes, olives, dates, cheeses and cured meats. Red wine can represent the blood of the sacrifice as well as all things living, and the creative powers of women.

In the northern hemisphere December, draw on sensual deep reds and chocolate browns of the forest in late autumn and early winter.

3. Bring fire

Fire is another powerful way to connect to the feminine and our ability to nurture, provide, destroy, and attract. People are always drawn to the fireplace, right!? Who doesn’t want to be that girl!?

An open fire or BBQ also honors the Priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the hearth fire, who originally conducted Bona Dea’s festival. If you can’t do a fire (or even if you can!) bring it with loads of candles, incense and party fave sparklers.

4. Invite your guests to share

What we know of the ancient celebration included votive offerings, which were gifts to the goddess and/or called on her for help. Encourage your guests to share and come away feeling great by asking around the table for affirmations or statements of gratitude. Mix it up with anonymous wishes written on paper or represented by a small item, thrown in your fire or held in a candle flame. Alert your guests before the evening so they can come prepared.

5. Dance!

What better way to celebrate those curves and that mysterious, miracle-creating body than to dance. Shimmy off those stresses! Any music will do. If it’s more your style, a yoga session, drumming and chanting, or even a pre-dinner workout all represent empowering movement.

Most importantly, celebrate together!

More about Bona Dea

Undefined in historical record, Bona Dea is thought to represent all goddesses in one, though is linked most to Fauna for her love of the forests, as well as to healing, women’s issues, divination and the underworld or the darker side of Mother Nature.

It is said that her temple in central Rome on the Aventine Hill is among Rome’s most ancient, and began as an open-air shrine at a cave or rock shelter. It is said, too, that snakes roamed freely about the temple (snakes are symbols of healing), and her priestesses were commoners rather than social elite as were others.

The Priestesses of Vesta

The famous Vestal Virgins lived at the Temple of Vesta which you can see in the Roman Forum today. Mostly aristocrats, they were among Rome’s most powerful, independent and wealthy women but paid a high price, taken into the temple as children and forced to serve and remain virginal for at least 30 years. Breaking their vows was punishable by death.

Their goddess Vesta is goddess of the hearth fire. Her temple housed a sacred fire that burned almost constantly for up to 1000 years and which was considered to represent the hearth of the empire and therefore its prosperity and security. Sitting modestly in the city centre while the Roman armies conquered the known world, her temple honoured the knowledge that a strong foundation and heart remained crucial to worldly success. In this position, the priestesses were often scapegoats for military or political defeats.

Book cover Fire and Sacrifice
Out now on Amazon

Based on a true story, the novel Fire and Sacrifice tells of ancient Rome’s most scandalous trial of three Vestal Virgins; of power, passion, and the fiery slave girl who would do anything to save her priestess.

Click here to read FREE PREVIEW CHAPTERS: Chapter 1 and Chapter 8 when the Vestals preside over the festival of Bona Dea.

The author

Victoria Collins is author of Fire and Sacrifice among other books, and is a communications professional, visual artist, and self-confessed witchy woman based in Canberra, Australia. Yep, she has a black cat.

Bookshops across Australia are throwing a party and we are invited! Love Your Bookshop Day is a chance to celebrate what makes your local bookshop great. Whether it’s for their amazing staff, their carefully curated range or specialisation or a must-see events program, visit your favourite bookshop on 10 August 2019 and share the love.

My top five reasons to love bookshops

  1. Where forgotten stories are breathed life
  2. Where new creations are shared and futures inspired (okay that’s two)
  3. A place you can enjoy being alone and simultaneously among a community of like-minded people (even better in bookstores with armchairs and/or cafe)
  4. Lucky dip books in brown paper packages at Harry Hartog, Woden (brown paper packages AND books… sigh)
  5. A repository of thousands of portals to thousands of worlds

My top five bookstores to date

  1. Waterstone’s Piccadilly, London: seriously, FIVE floors and a wine bar to sit back and digest all the inspiration
  2. Booktique Merimbula, NSW: water’s edge over aqua blue Merimbula inlet + coffee and cake + books (+ loads of loved ones locally AND they stock my work, so extra points)
  3. Australian National Gallery Bookshop: my love of art combined with my love of books + unique and gorgeous gifts (sometimes just for myself)
  4. Berkelouw’s Book Barn, Berrima NSW: it even feels medieval, and its huge, and there’s coffee, and books with carved covers and bronze latches…)
  5. Harry Hartog, Woden, ACT: for putting old leather arm chairs and an overflowing second-hand section in the centre of a shopping mall, aaaahhh (and thanks for stocking my books, too!)

Tag #loveyourbookshopday and #LYBD19 and share why your bookshop is special using the hashtag #whyIlovemybookshop

I just signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019, committing to reading and reviewing a minimum of six books this year by fellow Aussie women.

Please join in! It’s free, and takes just a minute online.

You can set your reading goal at as few as four books or as many as you wish.

Author Elizabeth Lhuede decided to take action in 2012 when recent survey data at the time showed that male authors more likely to have their books reviewed in influential newspapers, magazines and literary journals than female authors, and the issue applied to the USA, Europe and Australia.

From the AWW website: Throughout 2013 over 1,800 reviews were written about books written by Australian women writers. Over two hundred reviewers wrote at least one review for the Challenge in 2013, including seventeen men. Over seven hundred authors had their work reviewed by Challenge participants. The AWW challenge continued in 2014 and, by year’s end, nearly 1600 reviews had been linked to the challenge. In 2015 we were nominated for The Convenors’ Award for Excellence in the Aurealis Awards. In July we moved to this self-hosted site and now have a searchable database, partly funded by sponsorship money from Bookworld. The challenge has continued in 2016 and 2017, consolidating AWW’s place in Australia’s online literary landscape.

My wish list to kick off:

The Blue Cat
The Trauma Cleaner
Cosmo Cosmolino

Rome: City and Empire is now open at the National Museum of Australia, offering a rare opportunity to experience Roman artefacts on loan from the British Museum, London.

The British Museum was a favourite haunt while researching for Fire and Sacrifice, where I got to see everyday implements like hair combs, oil lamps, jewellery and cooking utensils that helped me bring the priestesses’ world of second-century BC Rome to life.

Now more Aussies can too (and if you live in fabulous London, do go explore there!). I’ve collected a few of my favourite pieces here for you to see (thanks to the British Museum website).

Roman blue glass perfume bottle 25-100AD.
Roman blue glass perfume bottle 25-100AD.

 

Roman terracotta oil jug, 120BC - 70BC.
Roman terracotta oil jug, 120BC – 70BC.

Roman gold hair pin, 1st Century.
Roman gold hair pin, 1st Century.

Roman terracotta oil jug, 120BC - 70BC.
Roman terracotta oil jug, 120BC – 70BC.

I can’t wait to meet some of my wonderful readers this Saturday, signing books in store at Harry Hartog book shop, Westfield Woden (ACT, Australia).

Come along 10am to 12pm, and let me introduce you to Secunda and her priestesses, you’re going to love them!

Ask me all your questions about these amazing women and the journey behind this project.

Saturday 6 October.

 

Priestess of the torch flame

Take the fun personality quiz to see which priestess of fire you are, and get insights on your personal powers and inspirations for success in your world.

We’re all priestesses, but are you more like wildfire (Marcia), a volcano (Licinia), or something else…

Brought to you by Fire and Sacrifice, based on a true story, where the priestesses of fire were real.

You would prefer to drink

At a party you are usually

At work or in business you are

In argument you most likely

You most enjoy

Which sounds most like you

Which priestess of fire are you?
Priestess of the hearth fire

You have totally got this! The ultimate domestic goddess, you're as alluring and sensual as you are wise and reliable. You are often the centre of the home, friends group or workplace as people are drawn instinctively towards you just like a fireplace or patch of sunshine. There's a deep, quiet, untouchable passion within you, so when you're at your best and brightest others just can't take their eyes off you. You get that prosperity and success need a solid foundation and constant work, and you know how to nurture yourself and your team to make that happen. You're the mum who keeps the dinner warm until the family comes home, then rocks your partner's world behind closed doors. ... (Brought to you by Fire and Sacrifice, a new novel based on the real life priestesses of the fire goddess, Vesta in ancient Rome. The priestess Aemilia and Ember are the same fire personality as you; you might like to get to know them!)
Priestess of the wildfire

You have every ability to dance from one challenge to the next, dear Wildfire. Spontaneity and whimsy are your thing. Creative and curious, you prefer to stay light-footed because you understand how much else is out there to explore. You do best with variety and space to breathe but happily attract company to your journey. Stronger than others sometimes think, you also understand that change and loss can cleanse the way for regeneration. Your 'windswept and interesting' beauty can turn heads when you breeze into a room at your most energetic. Focus may not be your strongest skill, but like the changeling you are you can be unstoppable if you decide on something with all your passionate heart and soul. ... (Brought to you by Fire and Sacrifice, a new novel based on the real life priestesses of the fire goddess, Vesta in ancient Rome. The priestesses Marcia and Flavia are the same fire personality as you; you might like to get to know them!)
Priestess of the volcano

World domination is on your long to-do list. You're driven by a deep, churning desire but lucky for you, constancy and focus are your superpowers giving you the ability to achieve your goals. You're the 'overnight success' who will burst to the top of your scene, after actually having worked her behind off for years to get where she is. Don't lose patience; being on top is your natural state. Okay, so maybe you lose it occasionally and relationships can be volatile but you're gorgeous when you're furious and we all know you've got a heart of molten goo. ... (Brought to you by Fire and Sacrifice, a new novel based on the real life priestesses of the fire goddess, Vesta in ancient Rome. The priestesses Licinia and Terentia, and their servant Secunda are the same fire personality as you; you might like to get to know them!
Priestess of the torch flame

An ideas girl, your bravery and positivity can effortlessly attract a team to support your initiatives. You're an effective leader because people want to follow you, mostly because you seem to be having so much fun. You may be a hugely successful entrepreneur or just the gal who's always arranging parties and bringing the cake; either way you get how to celebrate life and say yes to opportunity. You know you have a life path to follow and your clarity and positivity will help you stay on it even when things get dark and murky. ... (Brought to you by Fire and Sacrifice, a new novel based on the real life priestesses of the fire goddess, Vesta in ancient Rome. The priestess Pompeia is the same fire personality as you; you might like to get to know her!)

Share your Results:

 

3It’s here! Fire and Sacrifice is now available on Amazon in e-book and paperback.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to finally share the book with you. As an introductory offer, and to share it with as many people as possible, the e-book is available FREE for the first three days.

Get it today, and please share this link with friends and family who might enjoy the story.

Your Amazon links:

Much love, Victoria.