April, the Month of Opening

Our name for this month comes from the old Roman name for it, Aprilis, generally thought to bederived from aperio, a verb meaning ‘to open’, in the sense that the earth is opening up and flowering.  As the Roman poet Ovid said, “Because Spring opens everything and the sharp/ Frost-bound cold vanishes, and fertile soil’s revealed”. [1] However, he himself believed that the name derived from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, whom the Romans called Venus, saying that while the first month (March) was dedicated to fierce Mars, the second month was granted to Venus, because love rules the whole world, bringing together human and animal partners to mate and give birth to young, especially at this time of year. [2]

April showers bring a flurry of new growth, and everywhere, flowers are opening, leaves unfolding, the birds are busy nest building and animals are mating. According to folklore, adders begin mating on April.

In ancient Rome, the whole month was dedicated Venus, originally a goddess of gardens, and also contained festivals in honour of other agricultural deities – since work on the land was in full swing – like Ceres, the goddess of grain crops, and Flora, goddess of flowers. The honouring of female deities of agriculture and fertility continued with sacrifices to placate Tellus, goddess of the earth.  [3] Her Greek equivalent is Gaia, and we often use the name Gaia for Mother Earth in connection with environmental movements suggested by James Lovelock’s book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth in which the Earth is viewed as a single organism with self-regulatory functions.

The Romans also remembered new animal life with the Parilia Festival in honour of Pales, a woodland and pastoral deity. It was mainly observed by shepherds for the protection of their flocks. The sheep pen was decorated with green branches, and at dawn, the  shepherd would purify the sheep by driving them through the smoke of a bonfire composed of straw, olive branches, laurel, and sulphur. Millet cakes and milk were offered to Pales, after which the shepherd would wet his hands with dew, face east, and pray four times for protection for the flock.

The Romans held the Floralia at the end of April and the beginning of May, which gave rise to many May Day custom we still practice today. Flora is a goddess of the spring and of flowers and blossoms in general, as well as youth and its pleasures in this youthful season of the year.

The energies of April are about the year and the earth opening up and blossoming. The magic of the season reminds us to open ourselves to new things, to love, beauty and grace.

[1] https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/OvidFastiBkFour.php, accessed 6.3.19

[2] https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Latin/OvidFastiBkFour.php, accessed 6.3.19

[3] William Warde Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People, London, 1922


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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