ALSO KNOWN AS:
Sometimes healing springs smell foul; that’s the abode of Mephitis, Goddess of Fumes. She presides over noxious vapors and healing. Mephitis has dominion over emanations, especially those that smell foul or that have some sort of profound effect on the body. Thus she presides over poisonous gas and sulfur springs. Mephitis specifically protects against malaria, once a serious health problem in Italy before its many swamps were drained. She is also petitioned to avert bad smells from sewers. Lakes and grottoes associated with Mephitis may be gates to the Underworld. She is a threshold spirit who lingers between realms.
Mephitis was an Italian goddess, possibly originally Sabine or Samnite, whom the Romans inherited. She was widely venerated throughout southern Italy. A fourth-century BCE wooden statue identified as Mephitis was found near Benevento, later famous for its witchcraft traditions. Mephi tis is now an obscure goddess, but her name is firmly entrenched in modern vocabulary:
• Mephitic is a synonym for malodorous.
• Mephites are lakes, grottoes, or other sources of water that exude poisonous or noxious vapors or steam.
• Mephitis mephitis is the scientific classification assigned to skunks.
Mephitis is petitioned to protect against negative effects of these emissions. She is also invoked to reap their healing benefits where applicable.
Mephitis had a temple near Ampsanctus on the Appian Way. The temple precinct included a cave that gave off suffocating vapors. She also had a shrine in Lucania in southern Italy.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.