Faunus - Encyclopedia

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FAUNUS (i.e. the "kindly," from Lat. favere, or the "speaker," from fari), an old Italian rural deity, the bestower of fruitfulness on fields and cattle. As such he is akin to or identical with Inuus ("fructifier") and Lupercus (see Lupercalia). Faunus also revealed the secrets of the future by strange sounds from the woods, or by visions communicated to those who slept within his precincts in the skin of sacrificed lambs; he was then called Fatuus, and with him was associated his wife or daughter Fatua. Under Greek influence he was identified with Pan, and just as there was supposed to be a number of Panisci, so the existence of many Fauni was assumed - misshapen and mischievous goblins of the forest, with pointed ears, tails and goat's feet, who loved to torment sleepers with hideous nightmares. In poetical tradition Faunus is an old king of Latium, the son of Picus (Mars) and father of Latinus, the teacher of agriculture and cattle-breeding, and the introducer of the religious system of the country, honoured after death as a tutelary divinity. Two festivals called Faunalia were celebrated in honour of Faunus, one on the 13th of February in his temple on the island in the Tiber, the other in the country on the 5th of December (Ovid, Fasti, ii. 193; Horace, Odes, iii. 18. io). At these goats were sacrificed to him with libations of wine and milk, and he was implored to be propitious to fields and flocks. The peasants and slaves at the same time amused themselves with dancing in the meadows.

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