Nemoralia – Feast of Torches – Diana’s Feast 1

Ciao a tutti,

August 13 – 15 is the traditional time for the Nemoralia, or Feast of Torches held in the Goddess Diana’s honor.

For those who are unfamiliar with this sacred time, here is a bit of information culled from various sources on the web.

A FaceBook user In a Stregheria group recently posted this bit, found on the web –

“Diana’s main holiday was the Festival of Torches or Nemoralia. Hundreds of women and girls carried torches and candles in a night-time procession through the woods. They wore wreaths of flowers–and even put flowers on the hunting dogs who walked with them. The group hiked a few miles from Rome to a sacred site, the circle-shaped Lake Nemi. The dark waters reflected the moon and the torchlight of the pilgrims. There they left offerings of apples, garlic, statues, and prayers handwritten on ribbons.”  ( – Siwa Al Isis)

Jesterbear has a wonderful resource site and writes:

Picture this. It is the August Full Moon. A long procession of twinkling lights wind down what is now called Via Diana, or, Diana’s Road. The pilgrims forming this procession of torches and candles line up alongside the dark waters of Diana’s Mirror, or Lake Nemi. (2) One of the Earth’s most sacred sites, the lake is just a few miles south of Rome, Italy, and is dedicated to Diana, the Great Goddess of the Moon. The lake, in a volcanic crater, is almost perfectly oval, and from the vantage point where the Temple of Diana once graced its banks, you can see the Moon reflected clearly in the smooth as glass, dark mirror of water.”

Picture again the August Full Moon night. Hundreds have come to Diana’s lake, wearing flowers wreathed around their necks and foreheads. According to Plutarch, everyone there had made a special ritual of washing their hair before dressing it with flowers. Garlanded hounds also marched by the side of hunters. Little boats, lit by oil lamps strung on prow and stern, ferried festive crowds back and forth across the lake, traveling from the south jetty to Diana’s temple on the north bank. La Luna, rising high overhead, gazed down on the pilgrims and on Her reflection in the lake.

Those gathered there would write small messages on ribbons and tie them to a fence at the sanctuary, in supplication to She Who Provides. Likewise, numerous small statuettes of body parts would have been found there. It was common practice in Italy (and Greece) to bake a small model of an afflicted part of the body and offer it to a God or Goddess as a votive. Also offered were small clay images of mother and child, and tiny sculptures of stags, one of the favored animals of Artemis/Diana (and perhaps a symbol of Actaeon, who spied on the Goddess while She was bathing and was turned into a deer). Apples were likewise given to Diana as the Soul of Nature who protects all species, including humans.

And of course, Wikipedia has an entry as well which I will reproduce below:

The festival of Nemoralia (aka Festival of Torches) was celebrated by the ancient Romans either on 13–15 August or on the August Full Moon, in honor of the goddess Diana (see Diana Nemorensis). This festival was later adopted by Catholics as The Feast of the Assumption.

Ovid describes the celebration thus:

“In the Arrician valley, there is a lake surrounded by shady forests, Held sacred by a religion from the olden times… On a long fence hang many pieces of woven thread, and many tablets are placed there as grateful gifts to the Goddess. Often does a woman whose prayers Diana answered, With a wreath of flowers crowning her head, Walk from Rome carrying a burning torch… There a stream flows down gurgling from its rocky bed…”

On this day, worshippers would form a shimmering procession of torches and candles around the dark waters of Lake Nemi (Nemi, from the Latin nemus, meaning sacred wood or sacred grove), Diana’s Mirror. The lights of their candles join the light of the moon, dancing in reflection upon the surface of the water. Today’s festival is held in the Greek fashion.

Hundreds join together at the lake, wearing wreaths of flowers. According to Plutarch, part of the ritual (before the procession around the lake) is the washing of hair and dressing it with flowers. It is a day of rest for women and slaves. Hounds are also honored and dressed with blossoms. Travellers between the north and south banks of the lake are carried in small boats lit by lanterns. Similar lamps were used by Vestal virgins and have been found with images of the Goddess at Nemi.

One 1st century CE Roman poet, Propertius, did not attend the festival, but observed it from the periphery as indicated in these words to his beloved:

“Ah, if you would only walk here in your leisure hours. But we cannot meet today, When I see you hurrying in excitement with a burning torch To the grove of Nemi where you Bear light in honour of the Goddess Diana.”

Requests and offerings to Diana may include: small written messages on ribbons, tied to the altar or to trees; small baked clay or bread statuettes of body parts in need of healing; small clay images of mother and child; tiny sculptures of stags; dance and song; and fruit such as apples.

In addition, offerings of garlic are made to the Goddess of the Dark Moon, Hecate, during the festival. Hunting or killing of any beast is forbidden on Nemoralia.[1]

Notes and references

See also W. Warde Fowler, The Roman Festivals of the period of the Republic, MacMillan (New York, 1899) – available at Questia: see Mensis Sextilis, 198-202: [1]


Near my house, we have a wonderful pond. Due to park rules, we’re not allowed there in the evenings and processing with torches would require quite a few permits that would be difficult to obtain.  Instead of trying to recreate the Nemoralia as described above, we’ve instead created our own version for use by us as individuals and as a coven.  It’s quite simple and folksy.

We make folded, paper votive boats in which we set a tealight (or votive candle) to represent the torches. Before folding the paper into boats, we write our prayers, invocations, petitions, and thanks on the paper.  We write on the side of the paper that will become the inside of the boats so the boats can carry our wishes.  We then make the trek to the pond and process around it in contemplation, sometimes singing or chanting an appropriate prayer to Diana.  We approach the spot where the water of the pond meets the land and reverently place our votive candle into the boat.  With thanks and offerings, we light the candle and set the boat afloat in the pond.  If your boat is large and sturdy enough, you can put in a small piece of bread or clay shaped into human or animal forms.

As the boat travels on the surface of the pond, it is customary to recite a prayer or poem in honor of Diana.  I suggest this one from

Prayer To Diana
Lovely Goddess of the bow!
Lovely Goddess of the arrows!
Of all hounds and of all hunting
Thou who wakest in starry heaven
When the sun is sunk in slumber
Thou with moon upon they forehead,
Who the chase by night preferrest
Unto hunting in the daylight,
With thy nymphs unto the music
Of the horn-thyself the huntress,
And most powerful: I pray thee
Think, although but for an instant,
Upon us who pray unto thee!


Here are a few pictures:

votiveboat1 votiveboat2 votiveboat3 votiveboat4


Have a blessed Nemoralia!



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