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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 134

Chapter 21.—Concerning the Shamefulness of the Rites Which are Celebrated in Honor of Liber.

Now as to the rites of Liber, whom they have set over liquid seeds, and therefore not only over the liquors of fruits, among which wine holds, so to speak, the primacy, but also over the seeds of animals:—as to these rites, I am unwilling to undertake to show to what excess of turpitude they had reached, because that would entail a lengthened discourse, though I am not unwilling to do so as a demonstration of the proud stupidity of those who practise them.  Among other rites which I am compelled from the greatness of their number to omit, Varro says that in Italy, at the places where roads crossed each other the rites of Liber were celebrated with such unrestrained turpitude, that the private parts of a man were worshipped in his honor.  Nor was this abomination transacted in secret that some regard at least might be paid to modesty, but was openly and wantonly displayed.  For during the festival of Liber this obscene member, placed on a car, was carried with great honor, first over the crossroads in the country, and then into the city.  But in the town of Lavinium a whole month was devoted to Liber alone, during the days of which all the people gave themselves up to the must dissolute conversation, until that member had been carried through the forum and brought to rest in its own place; on which unseemly member it was necessary that the most honorable matron should place a wreath in the presence of all the people.  Thus, forsooth, was the god Liber to be appeased in order to the growth of seeds.  Thus was enchantment to be driven away from fields, even by a matron’s being compelled to do in public what not even a harlot ought to be permitted to do in a theatre, if there were matrons among the spectators.  For these reasons, then, Saturn alone was not believed to be sufficient for seeds,—namely, that the impure mind might find occasions for multiplying the gods; and that, being righteously abandoned to uncleanness by the one true God, and being prostituted to the worship of many false gods, through an avidity for ever greater and greater uncleanness, it should call these sacrilegious rites sacred things, and should abandon itself to be violated and polluted by crowds of foul demons.


Next: Chapter 22

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