Vergilius & Dea Venatus

(Vergilius and the Goddess of the Chase)

There was an old, distinguished family that had fallen on hard times; although they maintained their elegant villa, they were often short of food. In their gardens was a statue of Diana, dressed in a short tunic, running with a hound. Once, when the children, a boy and a girl, had collected a bouquet of spring flowers, they thought that the Goddess should have some of them, so they placed an offering at Her feet and wove a garland for Her head. Vergilius, who was passing by at the time, was very pleased by their piety, and taught them this prayer:
Bella Dea arci!
Bella Dea sagittarum,
venatus et canium!
Tu vigilas cum stellis
quando Sol obdormivit,
Tu cum Luna in fronte,
venas de nocte melius quam die
cum Tuis Nymphis ad sonum
cornus - Tu Regina
Regina Noctis!
Tu ipse venatrix
potentissima omnibus
venatoribus - Te precor
ut cogites paulo de nobis!

Bella Dea arci caelestis,
stellarum et Lunae!
Regina potentissima
venatorum et noctis.
Ad Te decurrimus
et petimus Tuum auxilium
ut Tu des
semper bonam fortunam!

Si nostrum cantum
et bonam fortunam nobis dabis,
unum signum nobis dabis!

That is,

Beautiful Goddess of the bow!
Beautiful Goddess of arrows,
of hunting and of dogs!
You watch with the stars
when the Sun has gone to sleep,
You with the Moon on Your forehead,
hunt by night better than by day
with Your Nymphs to the sound
of the horn - You Queen
of Hunters,
Queen of the Night!
You Yourself the huntress
most powerful of all
hunters - to You I pray
that You think a little on us!

Beautiful Goddess of the rainbow,
of stars and of the Moon!
Most powerful queen
of hunters and of the night.
To you we run
and seek Your help
that You might give us
good fortune always!

If ever our spell
You hear,
and will give us good fortune,
then give us a sign!

They had it memorized soon, and after Vergilius left, they told their parents what they had learned. The next morning, the family found a freshly killed deer at the foot of the statue, and thereafter never lacked for food. For many generations the family was well provided in this way, for they never forgot the Goddess.

Many years later a Christian priest was passing down their street and saw the gaily garlanded statue. He became furious to see the Old Religion was still practiced, and began to curse and scream, calling it a foul idol of a demon; then he picked up a rotten cabbage from the road and threw it at Diana. The earth rumbled, and from it came a stern voice which said, "As you have given, so shall you receive!" - Ut dedisti, dabitur tibi!

The priest became very frightened and ran back to his home, where he was kept awake by guilt and shame into the small hours of the night, until he finally dropped into a nightmare-haunted sleep. Before long he awoke again and felt something heavy on his chest, which rolled off when he got up. Groping about in the dark he found it, and holding it up in the moonlight saw a half-decayed human head. The priest was dead within a week.

Return to Table of Contents

Return to Biblioteca Arcana page

Send comments about this page
Last updated: Sun Oct 27 11:20:32 EST 1996