On the Palatine Hill, the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome, Italy, archaeologists have discovered one of the most sacred mythological places of Western Civilization: The holy cave. There, as legend has it, Romulus and Remus the two founders of the city of Rome were raised and nourished by the famous lupa (she-wolf) after washed ashore the Tiber River in a wooden basket.
What the discovery of the sanctuary clearly reveals is that the founding myth of Rome undoubtedly contains true stories. The events related in the legend can be precisely located. In ancient times everyone familiar with the places could find and recognize the sites which vouched for the truth of the stories told.
The emperor Augustus (63 BC-14 AD) must have known about the actual existence of the cave. He turned the cave of Romulus and Remus into a sacred place and built his house on top of it, considering himself the refounder of Rome. After times of civil war Augustus wanted to achieve stability based on old traditions and reintroduced ancient customs. One of which was celebrated in honour of the cult of the founding of the city.
Amongst the most famous Roman festivals, originating long before the Trojan War in the remotest antiquity and then observed in commemoration of Romulus and Remus, the kings of shepherds, was the ancient fertility festival, Lupercalia. It was held in a cave on the Palatine Hill. Originally a shepherd festival it was celebrated in honour of Lupercus, the god of fertility. It took place every year in the last month of the early Roman calendar, on the 15th of February (the name of the month is derived from Latin februare which means to purify). The ceremony was probably a symbolical fertilization and purification of the shepherds the city and the land.
The worship at the Lupercalia was led by priests called Luperci who began by sacrificing goats and a dog, animals remarkable for their strong sexual instinct. After a ceremonial meal the Luperci dressed in goat skins and raced around the Palatine brandishing goat-hide whips with which they hit passersby. Women who wanted to have children often stood in the path of the Luperci because their lashings were thought to encourage fertility.
The Lupercalia festivals were celebrated until the end of the 5th century AD when the rites of fertility incurred the strong displeasure of the popes who ended the practice. Nowadays, Rome, the formerly holy site of fertility cults is the ´first seat`, the Roman Catholic Church.
The discovery of the sanctuary certainly, as Andrea Carandini a renown Italian archaeologist states, "is one of the most important discoveries of all time.”
And could turn out to be especially important for the indigenous fight for right and justice.
What about we see the reality and truth in indigenous songs and origin stories for what they are and use more the wonderful and precious knowledge conveyed in indigenous mythology the world over in education, self-determination struggles and the settlement of indigenous claims and disputes?
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