Lupa Romana and Hruomwulfa: A Reconstruction, Part II

Part II. The Frankish Context: Hruomwulfa

Link to Part I

Reconstructed Frankish theonym:
Hruomwulfa 

Based on the name elements Hruom (PGmc *hrōmiz, “glory,” and “fame,” which also came to be associated with the homophonic “Rome”) and wulf (PGmc *wulfaz “wolf”) 

Introduction

The she-wolf’s relevance at the provinces shows that the motif of the she-wolf was a way of reflecting Romanness even from a peripheral context (see Part I for discussion of the she-wolf motif on provincial grave markers). Moreover, scholars note that the destruction of Rome was the end of “central Romanness,” enabling greater “local Romanness” for the Franks and other Roman and Roman-adjacent provinces (Reimitz 15 citing Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom, xxvi).

Frankish Romanitas is well documented, particularly in its founding myth, which positions Francia as a cousin to Rome through Antenor’s lineage. Hence Frankish identity has always relied on Romanness and would certainly accommodate the worship of a God embedded in this complex ethos. 

The wolf’s role as Roman–Frankish cultural broker is demonstrated by the use of the “wulf” name element. Among the descendants of Lupus, originally of a stirps Romana, naming elements had double meaning:

This had already been the case for Lupus’ brother, Magnulf, where the two parts of the name could have been interpreted as *Magan-wulfa—‘power wolf’—or as a combination of Germanic wulf with the latin magnus—‘great.’This tradition was passed on to the next generation as Lupus’ son was named Romulf, which could be interpreted as consisting of two Germanic parts as Hrōma-wulfa―‘glory-wulf’—or as a combination of the Germanic wulf with Roma. […] show its members as cultural brokers between Roman and Germanic worlds.”(Reimitz 211)

The particular example of Romulf draws a parallel between “glory” and “Rome,” and brings in the “wolf” as mediator of these properties.

In Frankish sources, we can also see a parallel to Romulus and Remus in the clash of the brothers Theuderic and Theudebert:

At the climax of the conflict between [the brothers Theuderic and Theudebert], Theuderic moved against his brother with a large army. The first major clash was decided in his favour, and Theudebert fled to Cologne. When Theuderic was chasing after him, he reached Mainz and encountered the city’s bishop, Leudegarius. Leudegarius, “who appreciated the virtues of Theuderic as much as he despised Theudebert’s folly,” seems to have confirmed the Burgundian king’s pursuit of his brother by telling him a fable:

Finish what you have begun…There is a rustica fabula that tells how a wolf went up into the hills with his cubs, and when they had started to hunt he called them and said: “As far as your eyes see and in what direction, you have no friends except the few who are from your own family. So finish what you have begun.”[…] Theuderic triumphs decisively over his brother. (Reimitz 207)

In this excerpt, it is unclear whether the fabula is a sign of Leudegarius’s approval or disapproval. Ehlers (17) notes that Theuderic did not believe that Theudebert was his biological  brother, so the censure against killing kin would not necessarily have applied. Regardless, Leudegarius seems to preach decisiveness. The fabula itself focuses on wolves as mediators of kinship, emphasizing the motif of “the pack” as symbolic of family loyalty.

In another example, wolves are tied to kingship:

Childeric saw animals that looked like lions, leopards, and unicorns. When he returned, Basina sent him out again. That time he saw bears and wolves. The third time he went out to look, he saw dogs and other smaller animals, which were dragging each other through the mud and writhing around. Basina interpreted these visions and suggested that her own son would have the appearance and bravery of a lion, their grandsons of leopards and unicorns, and their great-grandsons the bravery and truthfulness of wolves and bears. But [according to Basina,] “What you saw the third time will be the shame of this kingdom, as they will rule just like dogs or smaller beasts: their bravery will be like that of these animals. The multitude of other despicable beasts who were dragging each other around signifies that under their rule, the people [populi] will destroy each other without their rulers [principes].” (Reimitz 206)

The excerpt suggests that wolves, while not necessarily the highest animal ideal, are associated with kingship and the positive qualities of truthfulness and bravery. It is also worth noting that unicorns and lions are established Christian symbols in lore (see Physiologus), so wolves and bears may have been displaced from their preeminence in the pre-Christian hierarchy.

In full, the wolf is a mediator, a designator of kingship, and a bold warrior.

Conclusion

Wolves represent heroism, bravery, and truthfulness in early medieval Frankish thought. Therefore, Hruomwulfa would likely have martial associations. This bravery, “exploited to the full” by Theuderic, also demonstrates the power of wolfish qualities in acquiring kingship. Hruomwulfa can also be seen as a cultural broker between Romanitas and Frankishness.

In TFA, she should be celebrated at Wargbiskirmerfol, a Frankish cognate to Lupercalia.

Sources

Ehlers, J. (2004). The Birth of the Monarchy out of Violent Death: Transformations of Kingship from Late Antiquity to the Tenth Century. Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, London26, 5-34.

Reimitz, H. (2015). History, Frankish Identity and the Framing of Western Ethnicity, 550–850 (Vol. 101). Cambridge University Press.

Hêtan

Hludmilukgabis (She who gives the glory milk)

Notes


Special thanks to Ingruoda for pointing me in the right direction and providing invaluable feedback and support.

*A Disclaimer on the Identities of Dea Lupa and Hruomwulfa:
Are these Gods the same being?
My reconstruction does not intend to suggest that these Goddesses are objectively the same being, nor that They are different. Personally, I see Hruomwulfa and Dea Lupa as being interrelated but not necessarily interchangeable.

Lupa Romana and Hruomwulfa: A Reconstruction in Two Parts

Part I. The Roman Context: Dea Lupa

A link to Part II

Introduction

This is the first of a two-part reconstruction of a she-wolf Goddess, whom I have explored in both Roman and Frankish contexts. This part describes the Roman background and main identity of the Goddess, while the second part will present a Frankish interpretatio.

Though the Capitoline she-wolf, or Lupa, is well-known as a mythological figure, little attention has been given to Her potential as a figure of cultus. I attempt to reconstruct Lupa’s domains and to refigure Her as a Goddess deserving of Her own cult.

I posit that Lupa is partially identified with Rumina, Faunus Lupercus, Roma Aeterna, Silvanus, and Victoria, in addition to Her well-known association with Mars. Likewise, She may also be understood through traits shared with Iuno, particularly in Her roles as Lucina,1 Populona,2 Februus,3 and Sospita.4 While I won’t be exploring all of these associations, I do explicate the many traits which overlap with these Gods.

Background

Rissanen (2014) suggests multiple interpretations of the she-wolf in the Augustinian age: “In the first place, the miraculous survival of Romulus and Remus with the help of an animal sacred to Mars was interpreted as a sign of the divine protection afforded to Rome. Secondly, the she-wolf motif served as a symbol of fertility and abundance, proclaiming the beginning of aurea aetas, the new Golden Age.” (337)

In order to unpack these associations, I examine Livy’s account of the founding of Rome:

But the Fates were resolved, as I suppose, upon the founding of this great City, and the beginning of the mightiest of empires, next after that of Heaven. The Vestal was ravished, and having given birth to twin sons, named Mars as the father of her doubtful offspring, whether actually so believing, or because it seemed less wrong if a god were the author of her fault. But neither gods nor men protected the mother herself or her babes from the king’s cruelty; the priestess he ordered to be manacled and cast into prison, the children to be committed to the river. It happened by singular good fortune that the Tiber having spread beyond its banks into stagnant pools afforded nowhere any access to the regular channel of the river, and the men who brought the twins were led to hope that being infants they might be drowned, no matter how sluggish the stream. So they made shift to discharge the king’s command, by exposing the babes at the nearest point of the overflow, where the fig-tree Ruminalis—formerly, they say, called Romularis—now stands. In those days this was a wild and uninhabited region. The story persists that when the floating basket in which the children had been exposed was left high and dry by the receding water, a she-wolf, coming down out of the surrounding hills to slake her thirst, turned her steps towards the cry of the infants, and with her teats gave them suck so gently, that the keeper of the royal flock found her licking them with her tongue. Tradition assigns to this man the name of Faustulus, and adds that he carried the twins to his hut and gave them to his wife Larentia to rear. Some think that Larentia, having been free with her favours, had got the name of “she-wolf” among the shepherds, and that this gave rise to this marvellous story. The boys, thus born and reared, had no sooner attained to youth than they began—yet without neglecting the farmstead or the flocks—to range the glades of the mountains for game. Having in this way gained both strength and resolution, they would now not only face wild beasts, but would attack robbers laden with their spoils, and divide up what they took from them among the shepherds, with whom they shared their toils and pranks, while their band of young men grew larger every day. (Livy 1.4)

In this account we see particular emphasis on the act of suckling the infants. The fig-tree itself parallels this imagery, as it is named ficus Ruminalis, derived from the  word rumis, or “mamma/(lactating) breasts” (Hadszits 307). The tree is also sacred to Rumina, Goddess of suckling. Varro indicates that She had a cult site near the Lupercal, in which milk was offered in explicit preference to wine (ibid., 309; Vukovic 115). This suggests that Rumina may have been syncretized with Lupa through the myth of Romulus and Remus.  Additionally, Faunus bore the epithet Ficarius, “of the fig tree,” suggesting His relationship to the myth (Vuković 120). Luperca, often portrayed as a counterpart to Faunus, might then be related to the Lupa Romana as well.

Livy also addresses an alternate interpretation of the myth, in which lupa as slang for prostitute is considered (see Mazzoni 117). Christians Tertullian and Lactantius would come to criticize Lupa’s alleged harlotry, but we see from Livy that Romans likely held ambiguity on this interpretation (ibid). From the perspective of the modern polytheist, a crucial understanding of this Goddess is more likely to be found in Her representation as a nurturing she-wolf, regardless of whether She was in fact considered a human prostitute at some point.

Wolves are a complicated figure in Roman thought. They were considered to be divine messengers, but also held negative associations (Rissanen 2012: 120). As quoted in Rissanen (2012: 119), Servius describes wolves as “living by plundering,” suggesting their particular negativity within a pastoral context:

Mount Soracte is located in the territory of the Hirpini next to Via Flaminia. It was on this mountain that a sacrifice to Dis Pater was once performed – because it is devoted to chthonic deities – as wolves suddenly appeared and plundered the entrails from the fire. The shepherds chased the wolves for a long time, until they arrived at a cave emanating pestilential gases that killed people standing nearby. The reason for the emergence of this plague was that they had chased the wolves. They received a message that they could calm it down by imitating wolves; that means, living by plundering. They did so, and since then these people have been called Hirpi Sorani.

Yet, in the cult of the Hirpi Sorani (wolves of Soranus), ecstatic mimesis of wolf behavior (i.e. lycanthropy) is a holy rite (see Rissanen 2012). The passage from Servius also demonstrates wolves’ chthonic powers, quite explicitly through the connection to Dis Pater. The cave which “emanat[es] pestilential gases” is another element of the chthonic encounter (Rissanen 2012: 119 quoting Servius).

Lupercalia

Though the titular God of the Lupercal is Faunus Lupercus, there is strong evidence to suggest that Lupa was also honored at Lupercalia. According to Varro, the Lupercalia was celebrated at the Lupercal, Her cult site (Wiseman 1). Varro also “refer[s] to a Goddess Luperca, whom he identifies with the she-wolf of the foundation legend; he explains the name as lupa pepercit, ‘the she-wolf spared them'” (ibid).

Though Lupercalia is typically thought of as a fertility festival, Rissanen (2012:127-128) suggests that Lupercalia’s primary purpose is chthonic, relating to purification through the ancestors. I find this to be somewhat dismissive of Iuno’s association with the festival. However, I agree with the evidence that the Lupercalia was at least partially of chthonic association. Moreover, Vuković explores the foundation myth reenactment involved:

A certain Butas, writing on mythical aetiologies of the Romans in elegiac verse, says that followers of Romulus having defeated Amulius, came running with great joy to the place where the she-wolf offered them her dug when they were babies, and that the festival is conducted as an imitation of that run and that those of noble birth run “striking passer-bys, as then carrying swords Romulus and Remus ran from Alba.” And (he says that) the blooded sword is applied to their forehead as a symbol of the slaughter and danger that happened at the time, and the purification by milk is a memorial of their food… If the sacrifice is a purification, one could say that the dog is to be sacrificed as it is used as a purificatory animal. For the Greeks carry forth puppies in their purifications and often make use of these aforementioned ‘periskylakismoi’ rites. If these things are done as a thank offering to the she-wolf and to the nursing and salvation of Romulus, then the dog is not slain unreasonably for he is an enemy to wolves. Unless, indeed, the animal is being punished for annoying the Luperci as they run around. (Vuković 61, citing Plutarch)

This account is reminiscent of the wolf’s dual pillager-protector nature, as mentioned by Mazzoni:

Specifically, the she-wolf was an apotropaic totem because the early Latial peoples were shepherds: The she-wolf idol, to whom they prayed and sacrificed, placated other wolves who might ravage these shepherds’ flocks; the she-wolf’s prolific nature, indicated by the fullness of her udders, amplifies the danger inherent in her fangs (Mazzoni citing Levi 36–37)

Here, Levi suggests that the she-wolf motif’s protective power is directly related to her role as mother and nurturer.

Victory and Romanitas

In addition to protection and fertility associations, evidence suggests that victory would also have been in Lupa’s domain, if not for Her association with Mars alone. For instance, “We know from Dionysius that there was a clear conceptual and topographical relationship between the Victory temple and the Lupercal.”  (Wiseman 4). Additionally, “in one version of the story of the twins, Mars ravishes their mother inside the Lupercal cave,” suggesting “on the one hand, sex and conception; on the other, war and victory” (Wiseman 4). As a messenger of Mars and key participant in the twins’ salvation, and as a surrogate mother, Lupa seems to amplify these dual implications. Her relationship with victory suggests some shared traits with the Goddess Victoria, who would undoubtedly be paired with Mars in the context of war.

Another essential association of the Goddess Lupa is Her ability to bestow Romanitas, thus Her partial identification with Roma Aeterna. According to Rissanen (2014), the she-wolf, with or without the twins, was “an identifying symbol in visual representations of the […] Goddess Romana” (336). Additionally, the she-wolf motif appears on gravestones and funerary monuments in the provinces, notably Belgica and Germania, suggesting its use as an identifier of Romanitas (ibid., 347-348). This suggests that Lupa, while an essentially Roman goddess, could be propitiated as a patroness of provincials seeking to embody Romanness as well as of Roman citizens in the provinces.

Conclusion

Dea Lupa’s associations are multifarious yet interconnected. She can be seen as a messenger, protector, and tutelary who straddles the relationships between birth and death, offering victory to those who glorify her name. For the modern practitioner, She could also be seen as a guide in achieving Romanitas through praxis.

Modern Epithets*

Alma Mater
Lupa Genetrix
Lupa Romana
Lupa Capitolina
Lupa Ruminalis
Lupa Ficaria
Nuntius Martis
Mater Salutis
Lupa Sospita
Lupa Victrix
Lupa Invicta

Sources

Hadzsits, G.D. 1936. “The Vera Historia of the Palatine Ficus Ruminalis.” Classical Philology  Vol. 31, No. 4: 305-319. The University of Chicago Press.

Livy, Ab urbe condita, 1.5

Mazzoni, Cristina. 2010. She-Wolf: The Story of a Roman Icon. Cambridge University Press.

Rissanen, Mika. 2012. “The Hirpi Sorani and the Wolf Cults of Central Italy.” Arctos: Acta Philologica Fennics, Vol. 46: 115-135.

Rissanen, Mika. 2014. “The Lupa Romana in the Roman Provinces.”  Acta Archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 65: 335–360.

Wiseman, T.P. 1995. “The God of the Lupercal.” The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 85: 1-22. Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

Varro, De Lingua Latina, Volume I: Books 5-7.

Vuković, Krešimir. 2015. The Roman Festival of the Lupercalia: History, Myth, Ritual and Its Indo-European Heritage. D.Phil. Thesis in Classical Languages and Literature, University of Oxford.

Notes


1  “she that brings to the light,” relating to childbirth
2  “she who increase the number of the people,” “of the people”
3 “of February,” relating to the Lupercalia celebrations
 4 “the savior,” compare to lupa pepercit, “the she-wolf spared them”

*Special thanks to Dagovis for checking my Latin grammar

On Passive Ancestors

Ancestor worship is typically considered to be a staple of Heathenry. Yet, many Heathens struggle with this—some have ancestors who committed terrible acts in life, others have ancestors who reject their own veneration. But what about when the ancestors are silent?

Up until recently, I had no insight into my ancestors’ relationship to me and my practice. I often gave cultus to the ancestor collective, but it always felt like a hollow act.

It was only through divination that I learned that my ancestors, while invested in my personal development, are not involved in my practice. It’s not that they disapprove—they just prefer that my Heathenry be a lone endeavor.

I wanted to discuss this finding to explore what this revelation has meant for me and whether it might provide insight for other polytheists.

I still believe that it’s important to worship our ancestors (unless they are actively against it), but that doesn’t have to be at the forefront of cultus. While I experience some sadness in the knowledge that my ancestors are not interested in being involved in my practice, I am also liberated from certain expectations. I’ve accepted that it’s okay to worship my ancestors once or twice a year.

This also has implications for the “Gods of limited access” line of thinking, which I have long opposed. We should not assume that our ancestors will be our best spiritual guides. Every relationship with the divine is different. Recognizing that even our ancestors can be passive allows us to accept that whatever divine relationships we have are important in and of themselves. At the same time, we do not benefit from imposing our own expectations onto a relationship.

As practitioners, we should be open to all forms of devotion—with Gods, with local spirits, and with our ancestors, but we must also accept that we are not the only ones shaping the relationship.1

Notes


1. I want to clarify that I don’t believe the Gods reject respectful devotion. However, the Deity-devotee relationship takes many forms.