Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Vestalia and the Mola Salsa….

The Vestalia and the Mola Salsa…

I intended to post this nugget of information before now but since it’s still within the duration of Vestalia (June 7th -15th) I’ll post it today!

Looking down towards the House of the Vestals- Nancy Jardine
The 6 full-time Vestal priestesses, the only female 'priests' in Ancient Roman religion, had various duties but one of the important ones, apart from ensuring the eternal flame remained alight, was making the mola salsa. Mola salsa is a cake made from salt, spelt wheat and sacred water.

The concept of mola salsa for use in sacred worship is said to have been first introduced to Rome by the Sabine King Numa. The use of a sprinkled cake during ceremonies replaced the need for a genuine bloody sacrifice, the metaphorical form becoming a popular way to propitiate the gods when a real animal was not offered. Instead of killing the beast the cakes were sprinkled over the head of the ‘sacrifice’ instead.  We get the English word to "immolate" from the Latin word ‘immolare’mola coming from the same root.

Under direction from the chief Vestal, the Vestal priestesses collected water from a nearby sacred spring ensuring the vessel it was carried in was not laid down all the way back to the temple (it would become contaminated if set on the ground). After grinding the spelt it was roasted in an oven, and then mixed with specially prepared salt and the sacred water. The dough was formed into thin wafer-like cakes and baked.
The House of the Vestals- Wikimedia Commons

The mola salsa is said to resemble the flat wafers used by the Catholic Church during ceremonies of the Sacrament.

There is still evidence to be seen of the ritual grinding stone inside the House of the Vestals in the Forum area.  

House of the Vestals is to the right of their Temple at centre of photo- Nancy Jardine
At the end of the Vestalia the temple sanctuary was ritually swept out. There was a short period of time regarded as beign potentially of ill omens and bad luck till the debris was ritually disposed of in the River Tiber or at a nominated site of disposal within the city of Rome.  

The last known Vestalis Maxima, Chief Vestal virgin was Coelia Concordia. The Roman Emperor Theodisius I forced the closure of the Temple of Vesta in AD 391 and Coelia Concordia gave up her post in AD 394, the College of Vestals disbanding and the eternal flame well and truly extinguished…till a recent re-emergence, but that would be another story!


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for reading my blog. Please pop your thoughts about this post in the comment box. :-)