Saturday, June 21, 2014

What the Heck is a Lunula?

DID YOU KNOW??? – In ancient Rome children were given amulets (worn as lockets) to wear. About nine days after their birth, a baby boy was given a bulla (which was often a phallic shape) and a baby girl was given a lunula  (often in the shape of a half moon) which she would wear until the eve of her marriage.  A boy would wear a bulla until he became a Roman citizen at the age of 16.  Although his bulla would be carefully saved and brought out on some important occasions (like becoming a general) to keep him safe against forces of evil and jealousy, a girl's would be destroyed at the time of her marriage along with her childhood things. It was then she would stop wearing child’s clothes and start wearing women’s Roman dress.  These amulets were made of different substances depending on the wealth of the family (a wealthy child would have one made of gold), but all children wore one to protect them from evil forces.

This is why Tullia’s lunula was so important. Her mother had carefully planned and calculated which particular herbs, flowers, oils and incantations would be needed to go into Tullia's locket to protect her. When the man on the dock tried to snatch her gold lunula it would have meant much more to her than just the theft of a gold locket. He was taking from her the protection her mother was so careful to endow to her. For this reason she stepped up and demanded that the commander find her stolen lunula snatched by the thief (and the would be kidnapper). It is also important to note that this was why the herbs the old crone on the dock gave Tullia to add to her lunula, was so significant.

(5 Chapter Bonus at the end of Pompeii, A Short Story)

The craggy-faced crone beamed a huge, frightening smile. Most of her teeth were missing and the few that clung to the jagged gumline were stained and yellow.

“Ah, Sibylla, you have come to see me?” The old crone pointed at Tullia with a long, crooked finger.

Tullia didn’t answer her. She merely shook her head, no, and took a step backward.

“Don’t be afraid my child, I knew you would come. I have something for your lunula.”

Tullia was wary, but curious. She automatically touched the crescent shaped amulet around her neck. Satisfied that her lunula was safely there, she gave a silent sigh. She’s had the golden amulet around her neck since she was a baby, as was the custom. It warded off evil and was filled with herbs and flowers anointed in sacred oils chosen specially by her mother. She wore it around her neck, always. It hung on a necklace made of twisted Roman glass beads from Cotta Glass, her father’s business.

“My mother filled my lunula.” Tullia was curious and took a small step toward the old woman.

“Yes, your mother is Sibylla too. Like you. Like me.”  The old crone gave a soft little cackle. “Come child, take this. Your mother wants you to have it. It will protect you from the fire rain.”

“The fire rain?” Tullia’s curiosity was now piqued. “You know about the fire rain?” The girl stepped closer to the old woman.

“We know, child, we see. Your mother saw. She sent you here. She is your greatest protector. Take this Sibylla. “She handed the tiny bundle of herbs, bound with twigs and doused in a familiar scent, to Tullia who now approached the woman with more confidence.”

“What do I do with it?”  Tullia looked at the bundle in the palm of her hand, touching it lightly with the fingers of her other hand. She turned her gaze back toward the woman awaiting an answer to her question. The old crone didn’t seem so ugly or scary any more. She just looked like an old woman.

“The crescent moon will rise at mid-morning tomorrow. You must do it then. Not before mid-morning and not after the sun is high in sky. “

“Do what?”

“Invoke a prayer to the maiden goddess Diana. It is she who guards you. It is she whom your mother has called on to protect you. You must call on her out of reverence for her favors. You must ask for her help yourself, in the name of your mother. The goddess awaits your petition.”  She emphasized this statement with a slight back and forth wave of her wrist; right hand raised toward the heavens with middle and forefingers raised to the gods.

“What do I say?”  Tullia asked.

“You will know what to say. Speak from your heart and the goddess will hear you.”

“Tullia!” Phoebe’s shout was anxious and distraught.

Tullia turned to see Phoebe adjusting the belt on Marius’ tunic. She then picked him up into her arms and walked as quickly as she could over to where Tullia and the old woman were talking. Tullia knew she had better get back to Assa. She turned to the woman to thank her.

“Don’t forget, at two hours before meridies. When the sun is at midday, it’s too late. Too early and your prayer will be weakened.” Those were the last words the woman said.

Tullia swung around to run back toward Phoebe who was still shouting her name. Just as she turned away from the old woman a man rushed out from the edge of a group cheering the successful lighting of a huge bonfire. People in colorful costumes were dancing, whooping and shouting around the blazing fire on the dock. No one paid attention as the lone man stepped away from the celebration. He had been watching Tullia and the old lady.

A five chapter preview of THE MERCHANT'S DAUGHTER is available at the end of the story POMPEII: A Short Story by Tina Concetta Marzocca

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