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.
The ancient Roman festival of Matralia takes place on June 11th.
Matralia is a lesser-known holiday honoring Mater Matuta. Free women who were single or in their first marriage would bring offerings of cakes or earthen cookware to the temple. Their sisters’ children sometimes accompanied them (but never their own).
While at the temple, the matron may lure a slave in, whom she would abuse (slap and drive from the temple), then she would place a garland around Mater Matuta’s statue and all the women there would pray for the safety and health of their sisters’ children.
Mater Matuta is an indigenous Latin goddess the Romans considered like or the same as Aurora (Goddess of the Dawn) and/or Eos (Greek Titaness of Dawn). Over time Mater Matuta also became associated sea harbors and ports. She was sometimes confused with Leucothea (Greek sea goddess). Considering both Aurora and Eos rise from Oceanus each morning to herald the coming day, it is easy to see how she could become connected to the watery realm.
-Mater Matuta’s celebration centers on asking for favors for others, but the ritual includes cruelty to the most vulnerable in Roman society, what does this imply?
-Write a slave’s perspective on this celebration.
Do they have a supernatural experience or is it more cruelty they endure?
Does this day stand apart from other treatments they’ve received or is this another day in their life?
-Scene: Two sisters who’ve always gone together to Mater Matuta’s temple and brought each other’s children, this past year one of the sister’s husband died in battle and she remarried. The other sister must go alone to the temple, leave her children behind, and take her sister’s children.
Write either sister’s perspectiveWrite from the perspective of one child.
Write from the perspective of one husband.
Write from the perspective of Mater Matuta, why the one sister is lost to her now and how the other sister’s children suffer for it.
-Explore Mater Matuta’s motivation for calling on only single or first marriage women to worshipIs this a purity issue?
Is Mater Matuta looking out for the women and killing husbands (perhaps at sea) who mistreat their wives but she can only intervene once.
Both Aurora and Eos are known for sexual liaisons with mortals, maybe they use these festivals as an opportunity to scout out new bed mates?
-Why does Mater Matuta take in her sister’s children? Is she a patron for the motherless?
-Does Mater Matuta answer all the women asking after their sisters’ children? What does she want for the children she blesses?
-When does Mater Matuta hear these prayers or bless these children? What is the festival like from her perspective?
-Do we have a similar custom in today’s society? While many values family ties, is there a day where you seek only your niece or nephew’s wellbeing and what does that day look like? What would the supernatural force look like?
-If people were to celebrate Matralia today, what is the desired outcome and what are the rules you’d follow?
Do your characters omit cruelty to slaves or substitute it?
Do your characters maintain a temple or do they create a makeshift one?
Do your characters keep the old rules and only allow single women or women in their first marriage to participate?
Do it involve any of the traditional elements of the day or do they transform the practice?