On the eastern side of Ara Pacis is a relief of Tellus Mater, the Roman earth-goddess. The attributes of the central figure on this panel of the Ara Pacis mark her as an earth and mother goddess, often identified as Tellus. Picture by Chris Nas.
Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA are two Latin prayers from the post-Augustan era. Here in the careful English translation and notes by critically acclaimed scholar Ɔ. MARTIANA from the text of John I. McEnerney, “Precatio Terrae and Precatio Omnium Herbarum”, who has restored the original prose sections from their abstruse and uncalled-for “reconstructions” as verse in earlier editors.
‘These prayers are meant to be recited when herbs are gathered. The first begins as a hymn in verse, but the actual prayer is in prose, as is the whole second text.’ Ɔ. MARTIANA
Prayer To The Earth
Holy goddess Earth (Tellus), parent of the nature of things,
Who generate all things and regenerate the stars,
Who alone offer yourself as guardian to all peoples,
Goddess of heaven and the sea, and judge of all things,
Through you does nature rest and catch sleep,
And again you bring back light and rout the night;
You cover the shades of Dis and the immense chaos,¹
You contain the winds, rains and storms,
And at your will, you let loose and mix the seas,
And you rout the suns and stir up the gales
And then again, when you wish, you send out a pleasant day.
You deal out the sustenance of life with eternal faithfulness
And when the soul recedes, we escape into yourself,
And whatever you deal out, all things fall back into yourself.
Rightfully you are called the Great Mother-of-Gods
Because you have excelled the powers of the gods² in devotion
And you are truly that parent of peoples and gods
Without whom nothing can die or be born.
You are great and you are the queen of the gods, o goddess!
I pray to you, goddess, and I invoke your divine power (numen),
And may you, gentle one, provide me with what I ask of you,
And I shall return, goddess, thanks with merited faithfulness.
Hear me, I ask, and favor what I have begun.
What I ask of you, goddess, be willing to provide me with.
Whatever herbs your majesty generates, you distribute for the sake of health to all peoples. Make this your medicine licit to me. Come to me with your powers. Whatever I shall make from these (herbs), let it have a good outcome; and to whomever I shall give them, whoever shall receive them from me, keep them healthy. Now, goddess, I demand that (your) majesty shall help me in whatever I humbly ask of you.³
1: The Earth contains the underworld (chaos, the realm of Dis) within it.
2: Divum numina, meaning simply “other gods”.
3: The final part is in prose, and open to adaptation for any given herb and use of the herb.
Dea sancta Tellus, rerum naturae parens,
quae cuncta generas et regeneras sidera,
quae sola praestas te tutelam gentibus,
caeli ac maris diva arbitra rerumque omnium,
per te quiescit natura et somnum capit,
itemque lucem reparas et noctem fugas;
tu Ditis umbras tegis et immensum chaos,
tu ventos imbres tempestates contines
et cum libet dimittis et misces freta
fugasque soles et procellas concitas,
itemque cum vis hilarem promittis diem.
Alimenta vitae tribuis perpetua fide
et eum reeesserit anima in tete refugimus
et quidquid tribuis in te euneta reeeidunt.
Merito voearis magna tu mater deum
pietate quia vieisti divum numina
et illa vere es gentium et divum parens
sine qua nee moritur quicquam nec nasci potest.
Tu magna tuque divum regina es, deal
Te, diva, adoro tuumque ego numen invoco
facilisque praestes hoc mihi quod te rogo
referamque, diva, gratias merita fide.
Exaudi me, quaeso, et fave coeptis meis.
Hoc quod peto a te, diva, mihi praesta volens.
Herbas quascumque generat tua maiestas salutis causa tribuis
cunetis gentibus. Hanc mihi permittas medicinam tuam. Veni ad
me cum tuis virtutibus. Quidquid ex his fecero, habeat eventum
bonumj cuique easdem dedero, quique easdem a me acceperint,
sanos eosdem praestes. Nune, diva, postulo ut hoc mihi maiestas
praestet quod te supplex rogo.
Prayer to All Herbs
Now¹ I pray to all you powerful herbs; and I implore your majesty, you whom mother Earth (parēns Tellūs) has generated and given to all peoples for a gift. She gathered up the medicine of health and (her/your) majesty in you, so that you would be the most useful assistance to all humankind. Therefore I humbly entreat and pray to you. Be present here with your powers, because the one who has created you has himself permitted me to gather you, and he to whom medicine has been entrusted² also approves. So far as your power is able, Furnish good medicine for the sake of health. Furnish favor to me, I pray, through your protection and, by all your powers, may whatever I shall make from you and to whichever person I shall give it take very swift effect and have good outcomes, so that it shall always be permitted to me, by the approval of your majesty, to gather you; and I will deposit produce (frūgēs) for you³ and give thanks in the name of the majesty which commaned you to grow.
1: After the prayer to the Earth.
3: I.e. in the place the herbs have been taken from.
PRECATIO OMNIUM HERBARUM
Incipit precatio omnium herbarum.
Nunc vos potentes omnes herbas deprecor; exoro maiestatemque
vestram, vos quas parens tellus generavit et cunctis gentibus
dono dedit. Medicinam sanitatis in vos contulit maiestatemque
ut omni generi humano sitis auxilium utilissimum. Hoc supplex
exposco precorve. Huc adestote cum vestris virtutibus quia
qui creavit vos ipse permisit mihi ut colligam vos, favente hoc
etiam cui medicina tradita est. Quantumque vestra virtus potest,
praestate medicinam bonam causa sanitatis. Gratiam, precor, mihi
praestetis per tutelam vestram ut omnibus viribus quidquid ex
vobis fecero, cuive homini dedero, habeat effectum celerrimum et
eventus bonos, ut semper mihi liceat, favente maiestate vestra,
vos colligere; ponamque vobis fruges et gratias agam per nomen
maiestatis qui vos iussit nasci.
Leave a Reply