1 March – Matronalia

In keeping with this month’s theme of life emerging from the darkness into the light, in ancient Rome, the beginning of March was the Matronalia, day of Juno Lucina or ‘Juno the light-bringer’, who brings children into the light. the goddess who watched over pregnancy, childbirth and mothers. It was a day that celebrated motherhood and women in general, when men gave presents to their wives of sweets, flowers and jewellery, as well as offering prayers for them, and children would give gifts to their mothers.   Women would go to the temple of Juno Lucina to offer a cake out of very fine white flour (similla).

As the Church did with many Pagan feasts and customs, the Matronalia was adopted and evolved into Mothering Sunday in Europe, its day remembered by counting the Sundays of Lent – “Mothering Sunday, Care Away, Palm Sunday, Easter Day”.   It was meant to honour ‘Mother Church’, and some Anglican churches still keep up the old custom of ‘clypping (i.e. greeting) the church’ on Mothering Sunday, walking around the church in a big circle and singing a hymn. [1] However, Mothering Sunday was also a permitted break from the Lenten fast, so servants were given the day off to visit their mothers, taking flowers and a basket of treats that often included a simnel cake, the name perhaps dating right back to the Roman simila cake. This is still Mother’s Day in Europe, when mothers are given flowers and chocolates, and simnel cake is traditional. [2]

© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Year, Llewellyn, 2021

[1] Joanna Bogle. A Book of Feasts and Seasons, Gracewing, Leominster, 2002

[2] This day should not be confused with the peculiarly American ‘Mother’s Day’, which is held on the second Sunday in May, and was initiated by Anna Jarvis in the nineteenth century to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.


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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