Sixteen Vestal Virgins

Sixteen Vestal Virgins by Diane Hause
“One of sixteen vestal virgins, who were leaving for the coast…”
-Whiter Shade of Pale, Procol Harum

In ancient Roman religion, the Vestal Virgins were the priestesses of Rome’s oldest Goddess-matriarch, Vesta. They were chosen in childhood from prominent Roman families to serve for thirty years. They were sworn to chastity as they were the brides of the spirit of Rome. Vestals underwent the same ceremony that was later applied to nuns. Their duties were to prepare the sacrifices, draw water from the spring, and to guard the sacred fire in the temple that was the mystic heart of the empire. Rhea Silvia was called the First Vestal.According to Roman legend, she was the goddess Rhea who was raped by the god Mars and gave birth to the twins Romulus (which means “Roman”) and Remus who were the founders of Rome. The twins were exposed to die by being placed in a basket that was set out on the river Tiber, but the basket washed ashore on the bank near a cave called the Lupercal, or “The Place of the Wolf.” A she-wolf found the babies and suckled them until they were eventually rescued by a shepherd.

The Vestal Virgin artworks were created in 1997 in Acrylic, sized 24″ x 72″

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