Carna

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Carna (probably from the Latin caro-carnis, carne) or Cardia was a nymph who resided in an ancient wood called Alerno (or Elerno), near the Tiber river.

Later, Carna was included among the gods and given the responsibility of preserving human physical health, particularly that of children’s internal organs.

In Book VI of the Fasti, Ovid describes how the nymph entertained herself by mocking young men who saw her and started to woo her in between hunting excursions. By seeming timid, she would ask them to follow her to a secret grotto in order to fulfill their arousal. But on the way, Carna never failed to disappear behind a thicket, disappointing her lovers’ hopes.

One day, however, the god Janus himself came to her, with whom the nymph practiced this ruse, but was defeated by the god’s powers. The god, having the ability to see in all directions, notices her hiding place and indulges in intercourse. In return for her lost virginity, Janus grants Carna to become the goddess Cardea who presides over the hinges, thus controlling the opening and closing of everything and banishing evils from the thresholds with a hawthorn branch.

Carna, having become a goddess, is active in other functions as well. She protects newborns by granting them strength and color through a complex ritual.

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