Etruscan religion

Etruscan religion comprises a set of stories, beliefs, and religious practices of the Etruscan civilization, originating in the 7th century BC from the preceding Iron Age Villanovan culture, heavily influenced by the mythology of ancient Greece and Phoenicia, and sharing similarities with concurrent Roman mythology and religion. As the Etruscan civilization was assimilated into the Roman Republic in the 4th century BC, the Etruscan religion and mythology were partially incorporated into classical Roman culture, following the Roman tendency to absorb some of the local gods and customs of conquered lands.

Etruscan mural typhon2
Etruscan mural of Typhon, from Tarquinia
Villa Giulia ricostruzione del tempio etrusco 03
Reconstruction of an Etruscan temple, Museo di Villa Giulia, Rome, which is heavily influenced by studies of the Temple of Apollo at Portonaccio (Veio)

Beliefs

The Etruscan system of belief was an immanent polytheism; that is, all visible phenomena were considered to be manifestations of divine power, and that power was embodied in deities who acted continually on the world but could be dissuaded or persuaded by mortal men.

Long after the assimilation of the Etruscans, Seneca the Younger said[1] that the difference between the Romans and the Etruscans was that

Whereas we believe lightning to be released as a result of the collision of clouds, they believe that the clouds collide so as to release lightning: for as they attribute all to deity, they are led to believe not that things have a meaning insofar as they occur, but rather that they occur because they must have a meaning.

Spirits and deities

0 Mars de Todi - Museo Gregoriano Etruscano (1)
The Mars of Todi, a life-sized Etruscan bronze sculpture of a soldier making a votive offering, most likely to Laran, the Etruscan god of war, late 5th to early 4th century BC

Around the mun or muni, or tombs, were the man or mani (Latin Manes), the souls of the ancestors. In iconography after the 5th century BC, the deceased are shown traveling to the underworld.[2] In several instances of Etruscan art, such as in the François Tomb in Vulci, a spirit of the dead is identified by the term hinthial, literally "(one who is) underneath".

A god was called an ais (later eis), which in the plural is aisar. The abode of a god was a fanu or luth, a sacred place, such as a favi, a grave or temple. There, one would need to make a fler (plural flerchva), or "offering".

Three layers of deities are portrayed in Etruscan art. One appears to be lesser divinities of an indigenous origin: Catha and Usil, the sun; Tivr, the moon; Selvans, a civil god; Turan, the goddess of love; Laran, the god of war; Leinth, the goddess of death; Maris, Thalna, Turms and the god Fufluns, whose name is related in some unknown way to the city of Populonia and the populus Romanus.

Ruling over them were higher deities that seem to reflect the Indo-European system: Tin or Tinia, the sky, Uni his wife (Juno), and Cel, the earth goddess.

As a third layer, the Greek gods were adopted by the Etruscan system during the Etruscan Orientalizing Period of 750/700-600 BC.[3] Examples are Aritimi (Artemis), Menrva (Minerva; Latin equivalent of Athena), and Pacha (Bacchus; Latin equivalent of Dionysus), and over time the primary trinity became Tinia, Uni and Menrva.

Seers and divinations

The Etruscans believed their religion had been revealed to them by seers,[4] the two main ones being Tages, a childlike figure born from tilled land who was immediately gifted with prescience, and Vegoia, a female figure.

The Etruscans believed in intimate contact with divinity.[5] They did nothing without proper consultation with the gods and signs from them.[6] These practices were taken over in total by the Romans.

Etrusca Disciplina

The Etruscan scriptures were a corpus of texts termed the Etrusca Disciplina. This name appears in Valerius Maximus,[7] and Marcus Tullius Cicero refers to a disciplina in his writings on the subject.

Massimo Pallottino summarizes the known (but non-extant) scriptures as the Libri Haruspicini, containing the theory and rules of divination from animal entrails; the Libri Fulgurales, describing divination from lightning strikes; and the Libri Rituales. The last was composed of the Libri Fatales, detailing the religiously correct methods of founding cities and shrines, draining fields, formulating laws and ordinances, measuring space and dividing time; the Libri Acherontici, dealing with the hereafter; and the Libri Ostentaria, containing rules for interpreting prodigies. The revelations of the prophet Tages were given in the Libri Tagetici, which included the Libri Haruspicini and the Acherontici, and those of the prophetess Vegoia in the Libri Vegoici, which included the Libri Fulgurales and part of the Libri Rituales.[8]

These works did not present prophecies or scriptures in the ordinary sense: the Etrusca Disciplina foretold nothing itself. The Etruscans appear to have had no systematic ethics or religion and no great visions. Instead they concentrated on the problem of the will of the gods: questioning why, if the gods created the universe and humanity and have a will and a plan for everyone and everything in it, they did not devise a system for communicating that will in a clear manner.

The Etruscans accepted the inscrutability of their gods' wills. They did not attempt to rationalize or explain divine actions or formulate any doctrines of the gods' intentions. As answer to the problem of ascertaining the divine will, they developed an elaborate system of divination; that is, they believed the gods offer a perpetual stream of signs in the phenomena of daily life, which if read rightly can direct humanity's affairs. These revelations may not be otherwise understandable and may not be pleasant or easy, but are perilous to doubt.

The Etrusca Disciplina therefore was mainly a set of rules for the conduct of all sorts of divination; Pallottino calls it a religious and political "constitution": it does not dictate what laws shall be made or how humans are to behave, but rather elaborates rules for asking the gods these questions and receiving answers.

Cicero said[9]

For a hasty acceptance of an erroneous opinion is discreditable in any case, and especially so in an inquiry as to how much weight should be given to auspices, to sacred rites, and to religious observances; for we run the risk of committing a crime against the gods if we disregard them, or of becoming involved in old women's superstition if we approve them.

He then quipped, regarding divination from the singing of frogs:

Who could suppose that frogs had this foresight? And yet they do have by nature some faculty of premonition, clear enough of itself, but too dark for human comprehension.

Priests and officials

Etruscan temple Orvieto.jpeg
Rare Etruscan fanu located at Orvieto.

Divinatory inquiries according to discipline were conducted by priests whom the Romans called haruspices or sacerdotes; Tarquinii had a college of 60 of them.[8] The Etruscans, as evidenced by the inscriptions, used several words: capen (Sabine cupencus), maru (Umbrian maron-), eisnev, hatrencu (priestess). They called the art of haruspicy ziχ neθsrac.

A special magistrate, the cechase, looked after the cecha or rath, sacred things. Every man, however, had his religious responsibilities, which were expressed in an alumnathe or slecaches, a sacred society. No public event was conducted without the netsvis, the haruspex, or his female equivalent, the nethsra, who would read the bumps on the liver of a properly sacrificed sheep. We have a model of a liver made of bronze, whose religious significance is still a matter of heated debate, marked into sections which perhaps are meant to explain what a bump in that region would mean.

Afterlife

Etruscan beliefs concerning the hereafter appear to be an amalgam of influences. The Etruscans shared general early Mediterranean beliefs, such as the Egyptian belief that survival and prosperity in the hereafter depend on the treatment of the deceased's remains.[10] Etruscan tombs imitated domestic structures and were characterized by spacious chambers, wall paintings and grave furniture. In the tomb, especially on the sarcophagus (examples shown below), was a representation of the deceased in his or her prime, often with a spouse. Not everyone had a sarcophagus; sometimes the deceased was laid out on a stone bench. As the Etruscans practiced mixed inhumation and cremation rites (the proportion depending on the period), cremated ashes and bones might be put into an urn in the shapes of a house or a representation of the deceased.

Banditaccia Tomba Dei Capitelli

Funerary home at Banditaccia with couches

Populonia - Necropoli etrusca

Funerary home at Populonia

Etruscan sarcophagus SMS n1

Sarcophagus from Siena

Terracotta sarcophagus in shape of an etruscan woman

Sarcophagus from Chiusi

Sarcophage étrusque

Sarcophagus

British Museum Etruscan burial

Burial urn

DSC00432 - Statua cineraria etrusca - da Chiusi - 550-530 aC

Urn from Chiusi

In addition to the world still influenced by terrestrial affairs was a transmigrational world beyond the grave, patterned after the Greek Hades. It was ruled by Aita, and the deceased was guided there by Charun, the equivalent of Death, who was blue and wielded a hammer. The Etruscan Hades was populated by Greek mythological figures and a few such as Tuchulcha, of composite appearance.

Roman conquest

After the Etruscan defeat in the Roman–Etruscan Wars, the remaining Etruscan culture began to be assimilated into the Roman. The Roman Senate adopted key elements of the Etruscan religion, which were perpetuated by haruspices and noble Roman families who claimed Etruscan descent, long after the general population had forgotten the language. However, in the last years of the Roman Republic the religion began to fall out of favor and was satirized by such notable public figures as Marcus Tullius Cicero. The Julio-Claudians, especially Claudius, who claimed a remote Etruscan descent, maintained a knowledge of the language and religion for a short time longer[11], but this practice soon ceased. A number of canonical works in the Etruscan language survived until the middle of the first millennium AD, but were destroyed by the ravages of time, decree of the Roman Senate, and by fire.

Sources

The mythology is evidenced by a number of sources in different media; for example, representations on large numbers of pottery, inscriptions and engraved scenes on the Praenestine cistae (ornate boxes; see under Etruscan language) and on specula (ornate hand mirrors). Currently some two dozen fascicles of the Corpus Speculorum Etruscorum have been published. Specifically Etruscan mythological and cult figures appear in the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae.[12] Etruscan inscriptions have recently been given a more authoritative presentation by Helmut Rix, Etruskische Texte.[13]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Seneca the Younger. "II.32.2". Naturales Quaestiones.
  2. ^ Krauskopf, I. 2006. "The Grave and Beyond." The Religion of the Etruscans. edited by N. de Grummond and E. Simon. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 73-75.
  3. ^ Dates from De Grummond & Simon (2006), p. vii.
  4. ^ Cary, M.; Scullard, H. H. (1979). A History of Rome (3rd ed.). p. 24. ISBN 0-312-38395-9.
  5. ^ The religiosity of the Etruscans most clearly manifested itself in the so-called 'discipline', that complex of rules regulating relations between men and gods. Its main basis was the scrupulous search for the divine will by all available means; ... the reading and interpretation of animal entrails, especially the liver ... and the interpretation of lightning. (Pallottino 1975, p. 143)
  6. ^ Livius, Titus. "V.1". History of Rome. ...a people more than any others dedicated to religion, the more as they excelled in practicing it.
  7. ^ Maximus, Valerius. "1.1". Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilia.
  8. ^ a b Pallottino 1975, p. 154
  9. ^ De Divinatione, section 4.
  10. ^ Pallottino 1975, p. 148
  11. ^ Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 42
  12. ^ "An illustrated lexicon about the ancient myths". Foundation for the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC). 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2009.
  13. ^ Rix, Helmut, ed. (1991). Etruskische Texte. ScriptOralia (in German and Etruscian). Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag. ISBN 3-8233-4240-1. 2 vols.

References

  • Bonfante, Giuliano; Bonfante, Larissa (2002). The Etruscan Language: an Introduction. Manchester: University of Manchester Press. ISBN 0-7190-5540-7.
  • Bonnefoy, Yves (1992). Roman and European Mythologies. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-06455-7. Translated by Wendy Doniger, Gerald Honigsblum.
  • De Grummond; Nancy Thomson (2006). Etruscan Mythology, Sacred History and Legend: An Introduction. University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology. ISBN 1-931707-86-3.
  • De Grummond, Nancy Thomson; Simon, Erika, eds. (2006). The Religion of the Etruscans. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70687-1.
  • Dennis, George (1848). The Cities and Cemeteries of Etruria. London: John Murray. Available in the Gazetteer of Bill Thayer's Website at [1]
  • Pallottino, M. (1975). Ridgway, David (ed.). The Etruscans. Translated by Cremina, J (Revised and Enlarged ed.). Bloomington & London: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32080-1.
  • Richardson, Emeline Hill (1976) [1964]. The Etruscans: Their Art and Civilization. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-71234-6.
  • Rykwert, Joseph (1988). The Idea of a Town: the Anthropology of Urban Form in Rome, Italy and the Ancient World. MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-68056-4.
  • Swaddling, Judith; Bonfante, Larissa (2006). Etruscan Myths. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-70606-5.
  • Thulin, Carl (1906). Die Götter des Martianus Capella und der Bronzeleber von Piacenza (in German). Alfred Töpelmann.

External links

Artume

Artume (also called Aritimi, Artames, or Artumes) was an Etruscan goddess who was the mistress of animals, goddess of human assemblies and hunting deity of Neolithic Origin. She was associated with the Greek goddess Artemis in later history. Aritimi was also considered the founder of the Etruscan town Aritie, which is today the Italian town Arezzo.

Calu

Calu is an Etruscan chthonic deity, often equated with the Etruscan equivalent to the Greek Hades, Aita. He is identified by his wolf attributes, such as a wolf-like appearance or a human with a wolf-skin cap. The visual representations of the cult of Calu seem to contain common elements with the Roman cult of Lupercalia and the Faliscan cult of the Hirpi Sorani ("wolves of Soranus", from Sabine hirpus "wolf").

Fufluns

In Etruscan religion, Fufluns or Puphluns was a god of plant life, happiness, wine, health, and growth in all things. He is mentioned twice among the gods listed in the inscriptions of the Liver of Piacenza, being listed among the 16 gods that rule the Etruscan astrological houses. He is the 9th of those 16 gods. He is the son of Semla and the god Tinia. He was worshipped at Populonia (Etruscan Fufluna or Pupluna) and is the namesake of that town.His Greek equivalent is Dionysus (Latin Bacchus), whereas his Roman equivalent is Liber. For this reason he was also called Fufluns Pachies or Pacha. He was adopted by the Romans but was quickly meshed with Bacchus and his rituals were changed heavily by the influence of Dionysian frenzies.

Haruspex

In the religion of Ancient Rome, a haruspex (plural haruspices; also called aruspex) was a person trained to practice a form of divination called haruspicy (haruspicina), the inspection of the entrails (exta—hence also extispicy (extispicium)) of sacrificed animals, especially the livers of sacrificed sheep and poultry.

The reading of omens specifically from the liver is also known by the Greek term hepatoscopy (also hepatomancy).

The Roman concept is directly derived from Etruscan religion, as one of the three branches of the disciplina Etrusca. Such methods continued to be used well into the Middle Ages, especially among Christian apostates and pagans, with Thomas Becket apparently consulting both an aruspex and a chiromancer prior to a royal expedition against Brittany.The Latin terms haruspex, haruspicina are from an archaic word haru "entrails, intestines" (cognate with hernia "protruding viscera", and hira "empty gut"; PIE *ǵʰer-) and from the root spec- "to watch, observe". The Greek ἡπατοσκοπία hēpatoskōpia is from hēpar "liver" and skop- "to examine".

Hercle

In Etruscan religion, Hercle (also Heracle or Hercl), the son of Tinia and Uni, was a version of the Greek Heracles, depicted as a muscular figure often carrying a club and wearing a lionskin. He is a popular subject in Etruscan art, particularly bronze mirrors, which show him engaged in adventures not known from the Greek myths of Heracles or the Roman and later classical myths of Hercules.In the Etruscan tradition, Uni (Roman Juno) grants Hercle access to a life among the immortals by offering her breast milk to him. Hercle was the first man elevated to a godhood through his deeds and Etruscan aristocrats tried to identify with this ascension, as reflected in artwork and literature.

Laran

In Etruscan mythology, Laran was the god of war. In art, he was portrayed as a naked youth wearing a helmet and carrying a spear. As with numerous gods of war, Laran is associated with fire and the sun. However, among his attributes is his responsibility to maintain peace. Laran's consort was Turan, goddess of love and fertility, who was equated with the Latin Venus. Laran was the Etruscan equivalent of the Greek Ares and the Roman Mars.

Lucus Feroniae

Lucus Feroniae was an ancient sacred grove ("lucus") dedicated to the Sabine goddess Feronia. It was located in Etruria, across the ancient Via Tiberina, in what is now the territory of the modern commune of Capena, Lazio, next to the border with the neighbouring comune of Fiano Romano.It was visited both by Latins and Sabines even in the time of Tullus Hostilius and was plundered by Hannibal in 211 BCE. In Imperial times it became an independent community receiving a colony of Octavian's veterans (Colonia Iulia felix Lucoferensis) and possessing an amphitheatre, capable of housing up to 5,000 spectators, a basilica, a forum, baths and numerous other edifices. See Feronia (Etruria).

A museum houses parts of statues, some of them with interchangeable hands and heads, depending from the current emperor ruling.

The villa of the Volusii Saturnini is located nearby.

Maris (mythology)

Maris (or Mariś) was an Etruscan god often depicted as an infant or child and given many epithets, including Mariś Halna, Mariś Husrnana ("Maris the Child"), and Mariś Isminthians. He was the son of Hercle, the Etruscan equivalent of Heracles. On two bronze mirrors, Maris appears in scenes depicting an immersion rite to ensure his immortality, possibly connected to stories about the centaur Mares, the ancestor of the Ausones, who underwent a triple death and resurrection.Some scholars think he influenced Roman conceptions of the god Mars, but this is not universally held.

Nethuns

In Etruscan mythology, Nethuns was the god of wells, later expanded to all water, including the sea. The name "Nethuns" is likely cognate with that of the Celtic god Nechtan and the Persian and Vedic gods sharing the name Apam Napat, perhaps all based on the Proto-Indo-European word *népōts "nephew, grandson." In this case, Etruscan may have borrowed the Umbrian name *Nehtuns, (Roman Neptune, who was originally a god of water).

Nethuns is mentioned on the Piacenza liver, a third-century BCE bronze model of a sheep's liver used for the divinatory rites called haruspicy, as Neθ, an abbreviation for his full name. As a patron god his profile, wearing a ketos (sea monster) headdress, appears on a coin of Vetulonia, circa 215 – 211 BCE; he is accompanied by his trident between two dolphins.NETHUNS is engraved on a bronze Etruscan mirror in the Museo Gregoriano in the Vatican.

Persipnei

In Etruscan mythology, Persipnei or Phersipnai (later Ferspnai) was the queen of the underworld and equivalent to the Greek goddess Persephone and Roman Proserpina. Persipnei was the consort of the divine ruler of the underworld, Aita. Together, both of these deities ruled the Etruscan underworld, which was guarded by Mantus and Mania. Indeed, her name was borrowed by the Etruscans from the Greeks.

Selvans

In Etruscan mythology, Selvans was god of the woodlands, cognate with Roman Silvanus. His name is 10th on the list of 16 gods on the outer rim of the Piacenza Liver (a bronze model of a sheep’s liver used as a reference or teaching tool for divination).

Sethlans (mythology)

In Etruscan mythology, Sethlans was the god of fire, the forge, metalworking, and by extension craftsmanship in general, the equivalent, though their names share no etymology, to Greek Hephaestus, Egyptian Ptah and the Roman Vulcan. Sethlans is one of the indigenous Etruscan gods. In Etruscan arts Sethlans may be identified by his tools, the hammer and tongs of the blacksmith, and by the pileus or conical cap he wears.

By what appears to be a curious omission, his name does not appear on the bronze liver of Piacenza.

Tages

Tages was a founding prophet of Etruscan religion who is known from reports by Latin authors of the late Roman Republic and Roman Empire. He revealed a cosmic view of divinity and correct methods of ascertaining divine will concerning events of public interest. Divination was undertaken in Roman society by priestly officials called haruspices. Political officials also, such as the augures, were constituted with some responsibilities for divination. While the religion flourished, these priests accompanied public officials, including generals in the field, and were consulted on everything of interest to the senate and people of Rome.

The religious texts recording the revelations of Tages (and a few other prophets, mainly a female figure known as Vegoia) were called by the Romans the Etrusca Disciplina at least as early as the late republic. They were written in the Etruscan language, despite their Latin titles. None presently survive. The last author claiming to have read elements of the disciplina is the sixth-century John the Lydian, writing at Constantinople. Thus, knowledge of Tages comes mainly from what is said about him by the classical authors, which is a legendary and quasimythical view; John the Lydian suggested Tages is only a parable.

Thalna

In Etruscan religion and myth, Thalna was a divine figure usually regarded as a goddess of childbirth. Determinate gender, however, is not necessarily a characteristic of Etruscan deities, and Thalna is also either depicted as male, or seems to be identified as a male figure because of the placement of names around a scene. Her other functions include friendship and prophecy. Her name may mean "growth, bloom." She appears in Etruscan art in the company of Turan, Tinia, and Menrva.On Etruscan bronze mirrors Thalna is present and looking on in scenes pertaining to birth and infancy.

Thesan

In Etruscan mythology, Thesan was the Etruscan Goddess of the dawn, divination and childbirth (as well as a love-goddess) and was associated with the generation of life. She was identified with the Roman Aurora and Greek Eos.

Tinia

Tinia (also Tin, Tinh, Tins or Tina) was the god of the sky and the highest god in Etruscan mythology, equivalent to the Roman Jupiter and the Greek Zeus. He was the husband of Thalna or Uni and the father of Hercle.

The Etruscans believed in Nine Great Gods, who had the power of hurling thunderbolts; they were called Novensiles by the Romans. Of thunderbolts there were eleven sorts, of which Tinia, as the supreme thunder-god, wielded three. Tinia was also part of the powerful "trinity" that included Menrva and Uni, and had temples in every city of Etruria. Tinia was sometimes represented as seated and with a beard or sometimes standing and beardless. In terms of symbolism, Tinia has the thunderbolt and the rod of power, and is generally accompanied by the eagle and sometimes has a wreath of ivy round his head, in addition to the other insignia of Jove.

Some of Tinia's possible epithets are detailed on the Piacenza Liver, a bronze model of a liver used for haruspicy. These inscriptions have been transcribed as Tin Cilens, Tin Θuf and Tinś Θne. There have been a number of suggestions as to their meaning, but the Etruscan language is poorly understood and there is no scholarly consensus for the translation.

Uni (mythology)

Uni was the supreme goddess of the Etruscan pantheon and the patron goddess of Perugia. Uni was identified by the Etruscans as their equivalent of Juno in Roman mythology and Hera in Greek mythology. She formed a triad with her husband Tinia and daughter Menrva.

Uni appears in the Etruscan text on the Pyrgi Tablets as the translation of the Phoenician goddess Astarte.

Livy states (Book V, Ab Urbe Condita) that Juno was an Etruscan goddess of the Veientes, who was adopted ceremonially into the Roman pantheon when Veii was sacked in 396 BC. This seems to refer to Uni. She also appears on the Liver of Piacenza.

In the Etruscan tradition, it is Uni who grants access to immortality to the demigod Hercle (Greek: Heracles, Latin: Hercules) by offering her breast milk to him.Uni was likely worshipped as a fertility deity and mother figure by the people of northern Etruria, Italy.In 2016 an ancient Etruscan stone slab dated to the 6th century BC, was found at the Etruscan archaeological site Poggio Colla, located near the town of Vicchio in the Mugello region of northern Tuscany. This inscription contains the name of the goddess:

"The mention of the goddess Uni is included as part of a sacred text that could be the longest Etruscan inscription of its kind ever discovered on stone, and one of the three longest sacred texts to date, according to lead researcher, P. Gregory Warden, from the Mugello Valley Archaeological Project and the Southern Methodist University in Texas".The archaeologists have tentatively linked Uni's mention to the existence of an underground cult at the sanctuary, based on the way the stele was placed in the foundations of the temple:

"The centre of worship was an underground fissure that was ritually treated after the destruction of the temple," he said. "Underground cults of this type were often associated with female divinities."

Voltumna

In Etruscan mythology, Voltumna or Veltha was the chthonic (relating to or inhabiting the underworld) deity, who became the supreme god of the Etruscan pantheon, the deus Etruriae princeps, according to Varro. Voltumna's cult was centered in Volsini (modern-day Orvieto) a polis of the Etruscan Civilization of central Italy.

The bond of the twelve Etruscan populi was renewed annually at the sacred grove of Fanum Voltumnae, the sanctuary of Voltumnus sited near Volsinii (present day Bolsena), which was mentioned by Livy. At the Fanum Voltumnae ludi were held, the precise nature of which, whether athletic or artistic, is unknown.

In the Roman Forum, near the Temple of Castor and Pollux stood a shrine dedicated to Voltumna in the Vicus Tuscus.He was the equivalent of the Roman Vertumnus.

Wreath

For the wreath used in heraldry, see torse.

A wreath () is an assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, or various materials that is constructed to form a ring.In English-speaking countries, wreaths are used typically as household ornaments, most commonly as an Advent and Christmas decoration. They are also used in ceremonial events in many cultures around the globe. They can be worn as a chaplet around the head, or as a garland around the neck. Wreaths have much history and symbolism associated with them.

They are usually made from evergreens and symbolize strength, as evergreens last even throughout the harshest winters. Bay laurel may also be used; bay laurel wreaths are known as laurel wreaths.

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