This series of posts has simple goals: provide some basic history on a holiday/event from the past and use that history to spring board potential writing prompts and themes. For some, the history on its own will be enough to come up with some story ideas. For others, I offered some starting points with themes, scenes, and possibilities I see for the holiday at hand.
Happy writing and please share a snippet or link to your inspired works ^_^ I’d love to read them.
Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of fortune (both good and ill). Her name translates to “she who brings.” The common people and the slaves found her cult appealing because she offered an escape from poverty. They offered small works of bronze to her in hopes she would “change their fate.” Her popularity extended to the Middle Ages where Saint Augustine wrote “How, therefore, is she good, who without discernment comes to bother the good and to the bad?…It profits one nothing to worship her if she is truly fortune…let the bad worship her…this supposed deity.” (except from City of God).
Her popularity preserved her image. They depict her with a ship’s rudder, a ball or Rota Fortunae (wheel of fate) and a cornucopia. In ancient times they sometimes represented her as veiled or blindfolded, but these associations where handed over to Justice in the modern era.
Very little lore or worship knowledge remains of Fortuna’s holidays. I suspect that the popularity of the commoners, that kept her imagery and idea in circulation long after the fall of Roman aristocracy but we’ve lost her rituals and lore somewhere in their oral traditions.
Fortuna’s rein included Roman leaders. One of her aspects was the Fortunat Publica (the official good luck of the Roman People). On April 5th this term meant “everyman’s luck” and how each man has his own access to his fate (male idea). But it had reaching impact on Roman leaders. Fortuna in this guise became chance events tied to the virtus (strength of character), so public officials who lacked this virtue invited ill fortune on themselves and all of Rome.
On June 24th (or perhaps Midsummer), a celebration on the anniversary of her temples’ completion took place. Followers would float downstream on decorated boats and barges (or walk along the river) from the city to Fortuna’s temple. When at the temple they would drink, play games of chance and place bets. Scholars believe this was a holiday filled with mirth and joy.
As the day closed, followers would row back home drunk and adorned in garlands. Some speculate that Fors Fortuna was sacred to gardeners and florists. They would go into market on this day with songs and prayers for Fors Fortuna and those celebrating her day would buy the flowers to decorate themselves, the boats, and her temple. Minimally, it seems a lucrative time for gardeners and florists.
1. We all have lucky habits or superstions that bring good/bad luck to us. Write a story that incorporates these newer superstions with the older practices of Fortuna.
2. Luck is an ambiguous term. Some people believe it’s the capricious nature of life and others believe one “makes their own luck”. Which way do your characters lean? Write an event that changes their minds.
3. What would a character look like with maxed out luck stats? Would that mean they had good or bad luck? Would their life be full of extremes? Would they have a relationship with Fortuna or another luck goddess? Write an origin.
4. Are casinos and gambling spaces modern shrines to Fortuna? Would a day playing poker or roulette mirror the joviality said to happen on the 24th? And if a casino is Fortuna’s temple and “the house always wins” what does this say about Fortuna and her relationship to her worshipers?
5. How would Fortuna judge a modern leader’s virtus? Or any leader’s virtus throughout history? Does she have a hand in the rise and fall of empires or has she slacked on her duties?
6.Fortuna’s name means “she who brings,” it’s an evocative start to any story. What has she brought you or your character?
7. St Augustine makes an interesting implication in his writing regarding Fortuna. He implies to be a god one must be “good” or at least to be a god worthy of worship one must be “good”. But Fortuna, like God is capable of good and ill. She has a code where the ill she offers men comes from their own weakness, much like the God Augustine worships. Explore this dissonance further in a fictional story.
8. In her time, Fortuna was a lesser known, less powerful goddess, yet her name recognition today is stronger than many of the more common gods of the time. “Wheel of fate” is still a common expression. What themes transcend time and space? Write a story set in the future, the present, or the past and connect it to far-flung time relatives. OR connect a theme across species.
9. What happened at the temple on June 24th? Write “A Day in the Life” story regarding the celebration or worship.
10. Did Fortuna ever change someone’s fate? Write a “rags to riches “story.