Silvanus, the god of woods and fields

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Silvanus is a tutelary deity in Roman mythology; he is the god of the forests and the countryside.

Silvanus may have been the inspiration for the similarly called Etruscan god Selvans, a protective deity of nature and agrarian activities. The syrinx was holy to Silvanus, and he is listed among the Pans and Nymphs. Silvanus is characterized as enjoying music, like other gods of flocks and woodlands. Like the ancient deities of wilderness, he was considered fearsome and dangerous to infants and parturients. Because he was feared and worshipped by farmers, farmers used to appease the god before clearing land with a triple ceremony invoking his protection over pastures, dwellings, and the land itself. To protect infants from the god’s nocturnal assaults, ancient Romans invoked three tutelary deities, Pilumnus, Intercidona and Deverra.

Related article: Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Rome

In addition to pigs, the offerings made to Silvanus included grapes, grain ear, milk, meat, and wine. An offering to Mars Silvanus is mentioned in Cato’s De Agricultura in order to protect the health of the cattle; it is said there that his link to agriculture only applied to the labor done by men and that women were not allowed to participate in his worship.

Featured image: the Roman deity of groves, fields, and woods. He is linked to Faunus and is a fertility god who guards livestock and herds. He is very similar to the Greek Pan (Silvanus also liked to scare lonely travelers). He was given the first harvest from the fields, together with meat and drink; women were not permitted to observe this rite. His distinguishing features are a pruning knife and a pine tree branch.

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